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Mushroon Chasseur Risotto (72p)

Just found a couple more old. Here’s the first, to be followed shortly by Jack’s signature Carrot, Cumin and Kidney Bean Burger. That will be the last for now, I promise.


Facebook post 12 Oct 2016.

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Based on the Cooking on a Bootstrap recipe.

Chasseur, I learned from Wikipedia, is a thick sauce, typically made of mushrooms, onions and tomatoes, with a sprinkle of mixed herbs, served in generous amounts with meat dishes (‘hunters’ meats, like rabbit, pheasant, venison, etc.), or these days with rice, mashed potatoes or cous cous – what a bunch of wimps we’ve become!

I began with:half a punnet of mushrooms, 2 garlic cloves, 1 onion, a chicken stock cube and a big pinch of mixed herbs.

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The onion, garlic cloves and mushrooms went in put into a saucepan with 2 tablespoons of oil, at first on a high heat for 5 minutes to soften the onion. Then in went the tomatoes, herbs and crumbled stock cube. (Also 100ml red wine theoretically, but I’m allergic to the sulphites in wine so I added just water – I wanted to taste the dish without the wine anyway.)

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Jack’s recipe left it at that, but this looked more like lumpy soup than solid food, so after 40 minutes I threw in 100g long-grain rice to turn it into a risotto – it needed constant stirring for 20 minutes and quite a bit of extra hot water from the kettle to stop it going solid as the rice absorbed the juices. Served with one of my plus-sized slices of bread with butter, it was VERY filling.

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A real ‘winter warmer’. There was enough for four servings. The costing is a little complicated – adding for electricity, including re-heating for future meals, washing up, bread, butter and a cup of Earl Grey, something like 72 pence a meal..

Lamb and Chili Bean Casserole (80p)

Facebook post 23 Oct 2016.

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I was very kindly donated a lamb breast joint to experiment with. After meticulously removing as much fat and connective tissue as possible from the raw joint, was left with ½ kilo of meat. Wore surgeon’s gloves to dissect the meat. Took 45 minutes with a very sharp knife, but it’s really worth it for the quality. Browned it off in a pan.

2016-10-23-lamb3Soft-fried two onions. This went into the slow cooker, plus a tin each of chopped toms, kidney beans and garden peas, ½ teaspoon each of oregano, thyme, mint and parsley and a mug of chicken stock. On ‘high’ for 4 hours.

My slow cooker simmers at that setting, different makes vary so may need shorter or longer – just make sure the meat is cooked. (Thanks, Anna, who gave me the thing. I’m a convert already.)

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It worked! The lamb was tender, not chewy. I’d accidentally used ‘beans in chile sauce’ (not the usual red kidney beans that have to be rinsed) and they worked really well.

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I boiled the potatoes separately to preserve their flavour and visual appeal. Pleasantly surprised that this came in at under £1 – at equivalent Tesco price for the meat and including electricity, four servings at something like 80p each.

Bacon, Pea and Mint Casserole (75p)

Facebook post 12 Oct 2016.

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Bacon, Pea and Mint Casserole, based on https://agirlcalledjack.com/…/16/ham-pea-mint-casserole-30p.

  • 300 g bacon.
  • Tin of peas.
  • Teaspoon each of dried mint and parsley.
  • 12 new potatoes.
  • 2 white onions.
  • Chicken stock cube.

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Really struggling to get close to Jack’s claimed prices, this coming to 94p a serving (£1.11 including electricity, bread & butter and a cup of tea). One reason is that being in a semi-rural area, prices are hiked and choice limited. The bacon I used, for example (http://www.tesco.com/groceries/product/details/?id=292312017), is £1.50 a pack, not even the £1.35 they claim online.

Fried the bacon and onion separately. The bacon shrank down to less than half its original size on cooking through water and fat loss. It’s one-seventh added water! They add water!! They’re charging us for water!!!

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Boiled the potato with the herbs and stock, adding everything else when it was almost done, and kept it bubbling until the potato was cooked through – needed to add extra water from the kettle.

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It was really tasty and there was enough for four. Even though full, I felt I could eat another lot.

Chicken in a Creamy-mustardy Sauce (95p)

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An important point about the A Girl Called Jack recipe book is that it’s not a gourmet book full of fancy creations. It’s a book about making nutritional food at minimal cost. Some of the recipes do have a touch of genius and are full of flavour, others are more ordinary, although I haven’t found anything that I didn’t like so far. The following lies somewhere in the middle …

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The ingredients I used today:

  • 250 ml chicken stock – can use less if that’s all you’ve got, but no less than 200 ml. (I wouldn’t use stock made from cubes because they ate high in salt, artificial flavourings and palm oil – palm oil production is a major cause of environmental destruction worldwide (although a minority of suppliers manage their crops ethically and sustainably), but unfortunately is in many products you wouldn’t think had it.
  • 1 white onion. (Could also use green beans, peas or any other odd veg lying around.)
  • 1 large carrot.
  • A generous pinch each of dried thyme and parsley.
  • Mustard. I think Dijon on it’s own works best, but use whatever mustard you have around.
  • Several dessert spoons of natural yoghurt.
  • 75 g cooked chicken meat per serving (or more if you are very hungry!).
  • All-purpose seasoning (my favourite is Schwartz ‘Season All’).

I obtained the stock by slow-cooking a chicken, then tipping the contents of the pot into a metal strainer resting on a bowl. When cooled a bit, I transferred the juices to a tall glass and after a few minutes poured off the layer of fat which separated out on top.

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Fine-chopped the onion and soft-fried it. Cooked the carrot (popped it on top of the chicken in the slow-cooker for 20 minutes, but could have just boiled it, of course) and chopped it up a bit. Everything then went into a saucepan and simmered for 20 minutes – the veg, herbs, stock and a couple of generous teaspoons of mustard.

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When it had cooled a little, stirred in yoghurt until it was looking creamy. Could use cream, but yoghurt keeps the calories down. The result was ladled over some broken-up bits of chicken in a bowl.

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With the above quantities there was enough for four servings. Tasted excellent. I actually used English and Dijon mustard in my first batch, but next time I’ll use just use Dijon. Nothing wrong with the English, I just think it goes better with sausages! A sprinkle of all-purpose seasoning on top goes well. With the usual cup of tea and assuming a slice of bread and butter, 95p (not absolutely sure as I played around with the ingredients – somewhere between 85p and £1)..

The cost I originally posted was £1.10 a meal based on three servings, but it proved to serve four. Wasn’t sure how to classify this in the ‘categories’ list, but decided to call it a soup, as that was what the final product reminded me of more than anything else – some home-made croutons (a slice of toast cut into little squares) can be added.

Lentil Bolognese (61p)

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Continuing my exploration of A Girl Called Jack budget recipe book. Today, lentil Bolognese. This is actually a sauce which can be used as part of a pizza topping, pitta filling, or – my choice today – pasta topping.

2017-02-12-artusiDid a little reading on Bolognese sauce first. What is it?

Learned that it is a kind of ragù, an Italian sauce with meat as a main ingredient and served with pasta. The first published example was in 1891 by Italian businessman and author Pellegrino Artusi, and included minced beef, various vegetables, herbs, spices and pancetta bacon – an Italian speciality of seasoned, cured, unsmoked belly pork.

Artusi was able to take an early retirement from his business dealings thanks to a generous inheritance, and his 1891 book is seen as a national treasure as it had recipes from all over the then only recently united country of Italy. His Ragù alla Bolognese was one of these, inspired by dishes he seen when visiting the city of Bologna.

Lacking meat, technically the following recipe is not a ragù at all …

  • 1 onion.
  • 1 carrot.
  • 1 clove of garlic.
  • tablespoon of oil.
  • flat teaspoon each of thyme and parsley.
  • 1 vegetable stock cube.
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes.
  • 100g lentils.
  • tomato sauce.
  • 50g grated cheese.
  • 100g pasta.

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Fine chop the onion. Crush and chop up the garlic clove. Grate the carrot.

Rinse the lentils. Bit of a debate on the internet, to rinse or not to rinse, but it seems a good idea to get any husk remnants or factory dust off.

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Fry the onion, carrot and garlic together until the onion is soft. Add the herbs, stock cube, chopped tomatoes (including the juice), lentils and a generous squeeze of ketchup and simmer for 25 minutes. Put the pasta on the boil while you’re doing this.

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Serve mixed in with the pasta and the grated cheese on top.

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It was a filling meal. Not hugely tasty, but good enough, filling and nutritious. I omitted the red wine of Jack’s recipe (allergic to the sulphite in wine and an unnecessary cost anyway). It was enough for three meals. With electricity, washing-up costs and a cup of tea, 61p a meal.

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NOTE: Unlike to previous recipe, which, although initially very tasty, lost flavour in a few hours, this dish had gained flavour after standing. I had a bowl of it the next day for lunch. 13 Feb.

Courgette Crisis Pasta (77p)

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Based on a recipe from Jack Monroe’s cookingonabootstrap.com.

Back to Jack. Had a go at Jack’s Creamy Greek cheese and courgette pasta. One problem, not a single courgette in the shops due to floods and bad weather in southern Europe.

Interesting going shopping. Some people were staring at the vegetable section in Tesco, grumbling about how they were going to cope without courgettes or iceberg lettuces. The shop is bursting at the seams with all kinds of foods, but they could only talk about what wasn’t there. Made me think how much of the world’s population struggles to find even the basics, not to mention how many Mediterranean farmers will be in dire straits. There were plenty of carrots, however, so … Creamy Greek cheese and carrot pasta.

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The ingredients:

  • 1 large carrot (biggest you can find).
  • 100g string beans.
  • flat teaspoon each of dried mint and parsley (or fresh, of course, if you happen to have it).
  • 1 tablespoon oil.
  • Juice and zest of 1/2 a lemon (or a tablespoon of bottled lemon juice).
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped fine.
  • 50g feta (a crumbly Greek cheese).
  • 150g natural yoghurt.
  • 200g pasta of any sort.

Put the carrot, chopped up a bit, and beans with the ends chopped off in a pot of cold water, bring to the boil then simmer. Remove when the carrot’s just soft enough to mash (about 35 minutes from cold). Don’t throw the water away – use it to cook the pasta.

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While the above is simmering, mix the mint, parsley, oil, juice, zest and garlic. Crumble the feta in a saucepan, add the mixture just made and simmer gently for a few minutes, mixing in the yoghurt towards the end.

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I don’t have a ‘zester’, so with a sharp knife I pared the skin off the lemon and chopped it up fine. Do wash the lemon beforehand to get any oils/contaminants off the surface.

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Mash the carrot in the bottom of a dish and put the beans on top, followed by the pasta.

ccbake7Reheat the sauce to make it runny – add more yoghurt or milk if it goes too sticky – and pour it over the top. And there it is! Delightfully colourful. Tasty, tangy and very lemony – could leave out the zest if you think the lemon flavour is going to be too overpowering for you.

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I found this delicious when freshly made, but after a couple of hours, perhaps because the pasta absorbs the moisture, the flavours had diminished and it was less special.

With a cup of tea or coffee, including electricity and washing-up costs, three means for 77p each. No where near Jack’s 28p, so not one for the ultra-budget bracket (< 50p a meal).

Chicken burgers (95p)

Facebook post 22 Nov 2016:

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Mash the meat of a slow-cooked whole chicken to the consistency of breadcrumbs. Mix in a soft-fried fine-chopped onion, a mashed boiled carrot and two crushed garlic cloves. Mix everything together with 2 eggs and a teacup of breadcrumbs. Make burger shapes on a floury board and fry in olive oil. Makes 10 burgers. Two between some buttered bread with a bit of salad, and with a cup of tea (and including cost of electricity), about 95p a meal.

I tried them on their own at first, as in the picture, but later decided better as a proper burger.

This was partly inspired by Yota Nikalau (Γιώτα Νικολάου)  of faghta-giagias.blogspot.com.ta_fagita_tis_giagias_17awho says she gained her love of cooking from her grandma, who advised her at a young age to learn the basic rules and skills of cooking, but then to experiment.

We should not be slaves of recipes, the quantities and the scoop, but let our instincts and, above all, our love lead us. In other words, we must be convinced that cooking is an act of love, a gift, a way to share with others the experiences that simmered in the eyes of our kitchen.

An impressive web site which, thanks to Google Translate, I’ve been exploring.