By Shelley Marsden
IN A Girl Called Jack, sassy Essex-based food writer Jack Monroe’s low-cost cooking ideas and refreshing honesty are as handy as they are moving.
The 25 year old Guardian columnist has taken the food-writing world by storm, but tends to have a Marmite effect on people, and since her career took off not long ago, she has already delivered a speech to parliament, fronted an ad campaign for Sainsbury’s and went to battle with Edwina Currie on Channel Five’s Big Benefits Row Live.
The blog-post which launched her however, Hunger Hurts, is hard to argue with and is as raw and compelling to read now as ever. “Today has seen fourteen job applications go in,” it begins, ”painstakingly typed on this Jurassic mobile phone, for care work, shop work, factory work, minimum-wage work, any kind of work, because quite simply, this doesn’t work.”
At this point, Jack was on the dole, raising a young child alone and pawning everything she owned so she could feed him (on a budget of £10 a week). She only started blogging her “austerity recipes” in 2012, and now Penguin has published a book full of her genius tips on how to save money but still create flavoursome food.
There are some fantastic recipes in here, such as the one for gnocchi, which uses tinned potatoes rather than baking the real thing yourself; a recipe for her signature carrot, cumin and kidney bean burger (which she blogged for Great British Chefs last year); a peach and chickpea curry; school dinner style jam Swiss roll and a plethora of tasty soups.
Every recipe is accompanied by the heart-warming story of exactly how it came to light, and her knack for throwing a few ingredients together and making something wonderful. Her courgette, tomato and brie gratin, for instance, “was born of a sad-looking courgette in my fridge…”
For readers wanting to get their bargain cook’s hat on, A Girl Called Jack has a very ballsy attitude of making-do and getting on with things. This is certainly not the last we’ve heard of Jack Monroe.
A Girl Called Jack- 100 Budget Recipes is £12.99 and is published by Penguin.