Spicy bean burgers for Live Below the Line

Spicy bean burger

This is my second dish for Save the Children and the Live Below the Line challenge.

From 29 April, thousands of people will be getting sponsored to live below the extreme poverty line for five days, with just £1 a day to spend on all their food and drink. I’m not sure I could do it. But I’m playing my part, in a very tiny way, by trying to come up with some vaguely tasty dishes that cost less than 40p a serving to prepare from scratch. My first offering was a Virgin Bloody Mary soup made from cheap tinned tomatoes and a red pepper, costing less than 34p a bowl.

I’ve managed to save an extra halfpenny (not that they exist anymore) with these spicy bean burgers. Based on cheap tinned kidney beans pimped with garlic, cumin and paprika, this recipe creates four burgers costing just 33.5p each. You could probably even allow yourself a dollop of mustard or tomato ketchup. What luxury! But no skinny fries on the side I’m afraid.

spicy bean burger

Spicy bean burgers

2 tbsp vegetable oil (30ml)
ASDA sunflower oil £3 for 3 litres = 3p

1 small onion (80g), chopped
ASDA Smartprice brown onions £1.16 for 2kg = 4.64p

1 tsp (2g) ground cumin
ASDA 57p for 41g = 2.78p

1 tsp (2g) paprika
ASDA 58p for 46g = 2.52p

4 cloves garlic, crushed
ASDA loose garlic 30p for approx. 8 cloves = 15p

1 x 400g tin kidney beans
ASDA Smartprice kidney beans 400g = 27p

Breadcrumbs made from 1 slice of white bread
ASDA Smartprice medium sliced white bread 50p for 22 slices = 2.27p

Pinch of salt (1g)
ASDA Table Salt 29p for 750g = 0.04p

Grind of pepper (1g)
ASDA Smartprice Ground Black Pepper 25g for 20p = 0.8p

1 tomato, sliced
ASDA salad tomatoes £1 for 6 = 16.66p

Lettuce leaves (40g)
Sainsbury’s Basics young lettuce leaves £1 for 75g = 13.33p

4 soft bread buns
Sainsbury’s sesame seed burger buns 70p for 6 = 46.66p

Total cost = £1.34. Cost per serving = 33.5p

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a frying pan and gently fry the onion until soft and golden. Add the cumin, paprika and garlic and fry for a couple more minutes but don’t let the garlic brown.

Remove from the heat and leave the onion, garlic and spices to cool a little before you add them to a food processor. Next add the drained kidney beans, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper. Blitz but not for too long – you want a fairly chunky texture. Shape by hand into four patties.

Heat the remaining oil in the frying pan and fry the burgers over a medium heat until cooked through and crispy on the outside. Turn them over gently to prevent crumbling.

Serve in toasted buns with a slice or two of tomato and some lettuce leaves.

Spicy bean burger

As with my last Live Below the Line dish, I’m also entering this into April’s Credit Crunch Munch co-hosted by Helen from Fuss Free Flavours and Camilla from Fab Food 4 All. If you’re looking for frugal food ideas, this is a very good place to start.


Virgin Bloody Mary soup – a recipe for Live Below the Line

virgin bloody mary soup

When Save the Children first invited me to contribute some frugal recipes for the Live Below the Line challenge, I knew immediately I had to get involved. Trying to eat good food on a budget is what I’m all about after all. But as soon as I started pulling together possible recipe ideas, it dawned on me this was going to be really rather difficult.

People taking part in Live Below the Line are getting sponsored to live below the poverty line on a measly £1 a day for five days from Monday 29 April to Friday 3 May. That’s just £1 for all their food and drink. No foraging or gifts allowed. £1 wouldn’t buy you a cup of coffee in your average cafe. It’s harsh, but it’s also the reality 1.4 billion people around the world wake up to each and every day.

Everyone taking part in Live Below the Line for Save the Children will be doing their bit to raise awareness of the plight of people facing extreme food poverty, while raising vital funds to help change the lives of vulnerable children everywhere.

Save the Children has challenged food bloggers to devise dishes that cost less than 40p to make from scratch. Every single ingredient has to be costed; every grind of salt and every splash of oil.

As I was thinking up ideas, it quickly became painfully clear just how difficult it is to eat well on such a low budget. Fresh vegetables and meat are practically out of reach, making tinned and frozen foods so much more attractive. While sliced, white bread might offer virtually no nutritional value, it does has the advantage of being cheap, and fills you up for a short time at least.

If you’re going to try to eat anything vaguely tasty or interesting while on the Live Below the Line challenge, as opposed to surviving solely on beans on toast, it pays to cook in bulk to get your money’s worth. Team up with others as it’s pretty much impossible to cook cheaply for one. And plan your meals. For instance, to get the cheapest onions you need to buy a big bag of them. So then you need to plan a whole list of meals to make sure you get your money’s worth. That’s why the three dishes I’ve come up with for Live Below the Line all revolve around onions, oil, garlic and spices to make sure I made the most of them.

Coming in at just under 34p a serving, the first of my dishes is a spicy tomato and red pepper soup, flavoured with celery, Worcester sauce and hot pepper sauce rather like a Bloody Mary, but alas without the Vodka. You really couldn’t sneak that in on this budget! I did intend to use Tabasco but found I couldn’t afford that either, so had to find a cheaper alternative. The soup is served with crispy garlic croutons, which I reckon is a pretty good use of cheap white bread, and helps bulk it out.

virgin bloody mary soup

Virgin Bloody Mary soup with garlic croutons

Serves 4

1 tbsp vegetable oil (15ml)
ASDA sunflower oil £3 for 3 litres = 1.5p

1 onion, chopped (around 100g)
ASDA Smartprice brown onions £1.16 for 2kg = 5.8p

1 celery stick, sliced (around 35g)
ASDA celery sticks £1 for 350g = 10p

1 red pepper, chopped
ASDA red pepper = 40p

1 400g tin chopped tomatoes
ASDA Smartprice chopped tomatoes 400g = 31p

500ml vegetable stock (made from one stock cube)
ASDA Chosen By You vegetable stock cubes 12 for 78p = 6.5p

Dash Worcester sauce (5ml)
ASDA Lea & Perrins £2.16 for 290ml = 3.72p

Dash hot pepper sauce (5ml)
Tesco Frank’s Red Hot Cayenne Pepper Sauce Original 148ml for £1.00 = 3.37p

Salt (2g)
ASDA Table Salt 29p for 750g = 0.07p

Pepper (1g)
ASDA Smartprice Ground Black Pepper 25g for 20p = 0.8p

2 tbsp olive / vegetable oil (30ml)
ASDA olive oil £1.98 for 500ml = 11.88p

4 slices white bread, cubed
ASDA Smartprice medium sliced white bread 50p for 22 slices = 9.09p

3 cloves garlic, crushed
ASDA loose garlic 30p for approx. 8 cloves = 11.25p

Total cost = £1.35. Cost per serving = 34p.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large pan and cook the onion, celery and red pepper until soft. Stir in the chopped tomatoes and vegetable stock. Add a dash of Worcester sauce and hot pepper sauce and season with salt and pepper to taste. Leave to simmer gently for 10 to 15 minutes while you get on with the croutons.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive or vegetable oil in a frying pan and gently fry the garlic until it has just turned golden. Throw in the cubed bread and stir well so all the pieces are coated in oil. Turn the bread out onto a baking tray and cook in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes. When the croutons are looking crispy on the top, use a spatula to turn them over and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes depending on how just how dry and crunchy you like them.

When the soup is cooked, blend in a liquidiser until you achieve a fairly smooth consistency but not completely – it’s good to have a little texture. Serve in bowls and sprinkle a handful of garlic croutons on each. Grub’s up!

virgin bloody mary soup

As this dish is so utterly cheap and cheerful, I’m entering it into April’s Credit Crunch Munch, a wonderful blog challenge celebrating the very best in fantastically frugal food. This month it is co-hosted by Helen from Fuss Free Flavours and Camilla from Fab Food 4 All.


Round-up: February’s Recipes for Life Challenge

Thank you to everyone who took part in February’s Recipes for Life and got this new challenge off to such a brilliant start.

The idea behind the challenge is to come up with tasty, wholesome and easy-to-cook recipes that revolve around just three main ingredients and that can be cooked by members of SWALLOW’s cookery club. Each month we have a different set of ingredients and one winner will be named. The best of the recipes submitted will be included in a new charity cookbook  SWALLOW is planning to publish later this year.

The theme in February was sausage, onion and tomato, and we received a fantastic assortment of recipes. I knew you lot wouldn’t let us down.

So without further ado, here is the all-important round-up:

I kicked off the challenge with these incredibly easy Sausage Meatballs, based on a recipe from Nigellisima – a perfect meal to cook when the children have their friends home for tea. Because who doesn’t like meatballs?


Next up was this wonderfully versatile and frugal Sausage Meat Sauce for Pasta Bakes or Sloppy Joes from Fuss Free Flavours. Skinning your sausages helps make a little go a long way and this dish sees just two sausages feed four people, plus you can use whatever veggies you happen to have in. The end result is a scrummy sauce to serve with pasta or as the filling in a sandwich for a seriously good Sloppy Joe.


Thankfully Under The Blue Gum Tree has broken her resolve of not taking part in any new blog challenges in 2013 and entered this delicious Sausage Lasagne into Recipes for Life. Admittedly making a lasagne takes a little time and there are quite a few steps, but for something so satisfyingly tasty, we reckon it’s well worth the effort.

Now don’t these Slow Cooker Turkey Sausages and Veg in the Red look good? This is what you could end up with if you use up what you happen to have in your fridge. Or at least if you live in On Top of Spaghetti’s house anyway! A fabulously warming dish featuring turkey sausages, aubergine (egg plant), peppers, herbs and spices.

I’m a big fan of pearl barley as a tasty, cheap and cheerful way to fill empty tummies on a wintry day. And they are absolutely perfect in stews, casseroles or hotpots, such as this Thrifty Sausage, Vegetable and Pearl Barley Hotpot from Utterly Scrummy Food for Families. Michelle from Utterly Scrummy says it’s also an ideal way to use up leftover cooked sausages or cooked chicken.

Lentils are another popular ingredient for the frugal cook, and don’t they look rather good in this Sausage Casserole from Matt and Corpy, the two foodie dads who comprise The Good Stuff? The perfect winter warmer served with lots of crusty bread to mop up all those lovely juices – waste not, want not!

There’s nothing like a hotpot to warm the cockles on a cold, winter’s day, and this Sausage, Bean and Veggie Hotpot from Chez Foti looks like it would take some beating in the cockle-warming stakes. Made with one pack of sausages and stuffed full of vegetables and beans, it’s hearty enough to feed a family of four, twice!

Puff pastry tarts are great, aren’t they? They’re superbly versatile and you can get all creative trying out different toppings. As with this Sausage & Onion Tart from Sarah at The Garden Deli, or rather Sarah’s son actually. He came up with this tart as their entry for Recipes for Life after making something similar in his food technology lesson at school. We never cooked anything half this tasty when I was at school! Can’t wait to see what Sarah’s son comes up with for March’s challenge…

pastyCheck out this Jumbo Mediterranean Sausage Pasty from The Crazy Kitchen – now doesn’t that look the business? Despite the list of ingredients, it’s ever so easy to make and creates hardly any washing up – a real bonus in my eyes! Filled with delicious tastes of the Mediterranean, such as feta cheese and olives, and of course some good meaty sausages, I know this would definitely keep my family happy.

Next we have this gorgeous Sausage Ragu from Annie at The Foodie Blog, who you might know better from Twitter as @mammasaurusblog. It’s another excellent family-friendly recipe that’s a doddle to rustle up when time is short, and that’s both tasty and wholesome to boot.

soba noodlesThese Quick and Easy Soba Noodles from Fun as a Gran make for such a colourful teatime dish and they also have the additional benefit of being gluten-free, dairy-free, and egg-free. If soba noodles aren’t your thing and you’re gluten-tolerant, then you can use regular spaghetti.

sausage and pepper pasta

Pasta is as much a family-favourite as sausage, which is probably why it’s made so many appearances this month in Recipes for Life. Vanessa at JibberJabberUK teams them up here in her yummy Sausage and Pepper Pasta, which she says is equally good made with vegetarian sausages. I know my kids would adore this for their tea.

And finally, Jacki managed to get her Sausage, Chorizo & Chickpea Stew in by the skin of her teeth, and I’m so glad she did as it sounds absolutely divine. Jacki isn’t a blogger so I can only share a PDF for her recipe but I’m planning on cooking up her stew myself and I promise to feature it on the blog together with photos very soon.

But, of course, there can only be one winner. And so I’m very pleased to announce that first prize in February’s Recipes for Life Challenge goes to… *drum roll* Chez Foti’s Sausage, Bean & Veggie Hotpot.  Tracey who runs SWALLOW’s cookery club said they chose Chez Foti’s dish “because it’s just perfect for the cold weather and they all thought it would be warming, filling, nutritious and it could be half-cooked at the cookery group and then finished off when they got home for dinner.”

So a huge congratulations to Louisa from Chez Foti on winning the first ever Recipes for Life – a small prize will be winging its way in the post to you very soon. And also a special mention to Helen at The Crazy Kitchen whose Jumbo Mediterranean Sausage Pasty came a very close second.

Thanks again to you all for taking part in the first month of Recipes for Life and we hope you all get involved again in March – the next three ingredients will be announced very soon so watch this space for details.

A year of fasting

Every now and then we’ll hear a news item or read an article in the paper that succeeds in making us stop and think. It might surprise us, shock us, anger us even. But generally, give it ten minutes or so, and our life resumes as before. Despite its importance, the news report is added to our ever increasing ‘list of terrible things we can’t really do much about’.

But for Jo Beale, one newspaper article managed to strike such a chord it changed the course of her life, or at least the course of the following year.

I recently had the pleasure and the privilege to meet Jo for coffee and a chat. Jo is one of that select group of people I’ve come to meet through the power of social media. She happens to live just down the road from me in Frome. Last month I published a blog post about the launch of the ENOUGH FOOD FOR EVERYONE IF campaign, and as a result the lovely Abi from Save the Children, via the wonderful phenomenon that is Twitter, put me in touch with Jo, as a kindred Somerset spirit who shares a passionate concern about food poverty.

The timing of this exchange couldn’t have been better. I’d been wondering how to continue featuring the ENOUGH FOOD FOR EVERYONE IF campaign on the blog without coming across all worthy and boring everyone senseless. When I heard what Jo was doing for Save the Children, I knew I had to feature her on my blog.

Jo Beale, fasting one day a week throughout 2013
Jo Beale, fasting one day a week throughout 2013

Jo Beale is a fitness instructor who lives in Frome with her three-year-old son and husband Tim. Back in October, Jo read this article in the Independent, which pretty much turned her world on its head. It was the catalyst to make Jo decide to give up food one day a week for the whole of 2013 in order to get people thinking about food poverty.

Over a cup of coffee, I asked Jo to explain why…

“I know we’re all supposed to pretend that we read the papers every day and we’re all current and up-to-date and know everything about everything in the whole world but I generally don’t,” Jo admits. “I have some people who tweet about news in my Twitter feed and they generally give me my view on the world.

“However since reading that Independent article, my news feed has changed a lot in terms of what I want to know about the world.  But back when I read it I was  just getting on with life, you know? I was just hanging out, getting on with my stuff and not really bothered about anyone else’s.

“I was having my car serviced and it was taking longer than usual, so I picked up a newspaper,” recalls Jo. “I came across this article about people in India and certain African countries who have reached the point where they can’t afford food and so they schedule a food-free day every week.

“I just couldn’t shake the article from my mind; the fact that whole families are having food-free days and that this has become a ‘normal’ thing. I couldn’t imagine waking up one day a week and telling my child he couldn’t eat. It was just so far away from anything I could imagine experiencing.

One year old Shamsia is being treated for severe acute malnutrition at Save the Children funded, inpatient stabilisation centre at Aguie hospital in Niger. Photo: Jonathan Hyams/Save the Children
One year old Shamsia is being treated for severe acute malnutrition at an inpatient stabilisation centre funded by Save the Children in Niger. Photo: Jonathan Hyams/Save the Children

“The worst thing was that I didn’t know. That’s what made me the most uncomfortable. It had reached this point and yet I’d had no idea it was happening. My life is so comfortable and, while we all experience hardship to some degree, you become so wrapped up in your own world you don’t realise just how difficult simply existing can be for others.

“Doing this fast has shamed me because I now realise how much I took for granted”

“Giving up an entire day of eating in order to survive is extreme. That’s 14% of your weekly food. That’s a lot. And you know what? You don’t realise how much it is until you’re not eating it any more,” Jo laughs. It’s clear that giving up a day’s worth of food each week is giving her a very different perspective on food. “The impact it has on the whole week and the way that you feel about every single mouthful you put into your body… Doing this fast has shamed me because I now realise how much I took for granted. Everything I’ve ever eaten, everything I’ve ever given my family to eat, everything we’ve thrown away.”

So what took Jo from that state of shock and horror to setting herself this ambitious, and perhaps slightly insane, challenge?

For a while the piece “just kind of lurked” in her mind, niggling away. “I’m not naturally an activist; I’m very much an I’ll retweet that and that’ll save the world type! So, it just kind of bothered me for a bit,” Jo says. She started reading around the subjects of food poverty and food scarcity, including a book called Full Planet, Empty Plates by Lester R Brown and a report by Save the Children called A High Price to Pay, both cited in the original Independent article.

“It wasn’t going to make a difference simply me knowing it”

“I thrive on statistics and facts and figures,” Jo tells me. “I’d be reading this stuff in bed and my husband would be there reading his book and I’d be like ‘Oh my God! You’ve have to hear this!’ And he’d be like ‘Yes, I know. Yes, you’ve made your point!’ It just felt like it didn’t matter how much reading I did or how much understanding I had, it wasn’t going to make a difference simply me knowing it.”

So for a while Jo was aware she had to do something, but she just didn’t know what.

“I woke up one morning after a few too many the night before. I was in that haze knowing I was going to waste the morning feeling like crap, and knowing I’d go on to waste many more mornings feeling like crap. But I was still thinking about that article and I felt, ‘You know what, I really want other people to have that moment I had when I read it.'”

Jo went through a whole list of possibilities from running marathons to gorging on a record number of hot dogs in an hour – “but I thought that was probably in bad taste” – to doing a 24-hour famine. But none of these were quite right. They just weren’t big enough to do the issue justice.

“I kept coming back to the fact that one day a week people don’t eat. And that happens again, and again, and again. I thought, if I’m going to do something to really make people see how terrible this is and expect them to sponsor me to do it, it has to be something people can relate to as being hard. So that’s how I decided to not eat one day a week all through 2013 starting in January.”

Jo launched her blog, A Fast Year, and her Just Giving page in November, once she’d told the first person. “I didn’t tell anyone other than my husband what I was planning for ages. Once I told someone, I knew there was no turning back.”

The first person Jo told was Gina who runs the fitness studio in Frome where she works. “I knew out of all the people I know she was the most likely to disapprove; that’s why she had to be first so I could gauge the worst possible reaction! But she’s has been 300% supportive. I’m really grateful for that.”

Surprisingly, not one person tried to put Jo off. “There hasn’t been anyone out-and-out disapproving. A couple of people said ‘Oh that can’t be healthy’ or ‘I think you’re mental’ but every single one of those people has sponsored me. But I needed those reactions. Because if everybody was like ‘Oh yeah, you’ll get it done, don’t you worry!’ then I’d have to ask, why I’m going through all of this if it’s really going to be such a doddle?”

January came around very quickly and Jo was amazed at how quickly the campaign gathered its own momentum. By late December, Jo had already raised more than £1,000 – before her year of fasting had even started. But despite all the support and build-up, nothing could really prepare Jo for her first whole day, a whole Friday, without food. This blog post sums up how she was feeling. It’s short and not-so-sweet because as Jo explains, when you don’t eat you have no energy to concentrate on anything, let alone write a cohesive blog post.

“My body literally went into shock when I had food”

“The first ‘next’ day after fasting was hard,” Jo remembers. “My body literally went into shock when I had food again. But it hasn’t happened since. I think as somebody who has never not eaten for a day, ever, I think my body presumed it was never going to eat again! So it was a massive shock. After that, Saturday has been the easiest day of the week so far. I get the Wednesday/Thursday twitch, where psychologically something snaps and I realise it’s coming and I will eat anything. It’s like terror. It feels like actual fear.”

Jo tries to manage what she eats on a Wednesday and Thursday to help her cope on a food-free Friday. One of her friends who is a nutritionist has given her pointers on what to eat to manage her hunger and how to return to normal on a Saturday.

“It’s definitely in my interest to stock up on as much protein as possible,” explains Jo, “but my mind seems to be geared more towards carbohydrates. I don’t think I’ve quite got to the point yet where I’m eating as well as I could on Wednesdays and Thursdays. And that’s simply because of the fear. But hey, I’ve got another 46 weeks to sort it out. I’m sure I’ll get it sorted by the end!”

Jo's made the front page of our local paper in Frome
Jo’s made the front page of our local paper in Frome

When I meet with Jo she’s already managed seven days without food over the past seven weeks. That’s quite an achievement but she’s still got a bloody long way to go. I get Jo to talk me through a typical fast-day.

“My son goes to nursery on a Friday, which was a big reason for choosing Friday. My husband Tim takes the dog out in the morning so I deal with Josh before he goes to nursery, including getting him breakfast. That can be tough.

“Around 2 o’clock every Friday, my brain shuts down”

“I find the morning is much easier than the end of the day. In the morning I still have plenty of energy, plenty of focus and concentration. I can be fairly normally up until about 10 or 11 o’clock. That’s when the real hunger hits. Then I have another three hours or so of fully functioning brain power. I try to focus on admin tasks on Fridays because physically moving around just brings that ‘wall’ forward.

“Around 2 o’clock every Friday, my brain just shuts down. Completely shuts down. I can’t think straight; I can’t add up, some days I can’t even speak properly, the words come out all wrong. So I try and get everything done before 2 o’clock and then whatever’s left has to be the really mindless stuff. I try and avoid supermarkets because of the smells. I’d be fine going and doing food shopping, but it’s the smell that I can’t deal with. That’s really hard. Then I pick the guys up around five, bring them back and put my son to bed. Thankfully he eats dinner at nursery, so phew!

“I generally have a pretty early night on a Friday. I usually go up between eight and nine and in the interim I’m capable of nothing but Angry Birds! I can’t watch TV or anything – it’s not enough stimulation to stop me stressing out. I need to engage in something. I can’t even write my blog because all I can do is complain – simply getting across how I feel in that state is really difficult. That’s the part of the day that I just have to get through. I know that once I’ve got to bed it’s OK because then it’s breakfast time. But Friday evening is so hard to manage because it’s got to be filled, but I can’t do anything.”

Bizarrely, something that Jo founds she likes to do on her food-free days is talk about food. Last Friday she even admitted to browsing through this here blog! “It’s like a kind of fantasy situation,” Jo laughs. “I thought talk of food would be a complete no-no. But it’s the thing I talk about the most! I spend the whole day planning what I’m going to eat the next day. The thing is I won’t eat it. It’s just in that moment it’s like eating it mentally.”

Jo’s overall attitude to food has altered significantly as a result of her fasting.

“Now I see every mouthful as precious”

I never realised before how much food we waste; now I see every mouthful as precious. I’ve also started thinking about the cost of meals. I never used to do that before. It just was a case of buy food, eat the food, throw it away if it doesn’t get eaten. There’s a real value to it that I never saw before and attached to that is its nutritional content. One thing might cost more than another, but if the other thing that costs less doesn’t contain any real nutrition then it isn’t ‘real food’. I’m coming around to the realisation that food is a fuel over and above anything else.

But does Jo think it’s right only to see food as a fuel? Surely food can still be something for us to get passionate and excited about?

“Food plays such a big role in our lives and I think that, certainly in our society, maybe that role has expanded beyond our ancestors’ understanding of food. Of course food is celebratory; you take food to somebody when they’re sick, you comfort them with food. It plays a massive social function. But its role has gone beyond that now. We’re not just eating it for these social reasons. We’re just eating it. The process of consumption now doesn’t have any meaning. So I’m not saying we should only eat food as fuel. But we need to think about those meanings a little more. So yes – birthday cake. But not – Tuesday cake! The tradition of ‘feasting’ has somehow leached into daily life. Rather than special foods being for special occasions, we’ve reached a point where special is the norm. And that’s just weird when you take a step back and look at it.”

“I’d rather my lasagne contained horsemeat than beef blastings”

Jo thinks that the horsemeat scandal is a symptom of our expectation of being able to eat what we want all the time without it costing much. “Meat should be seen as a luxury. What surprised me the most about that whole issue was that people were surprised. I don’t understand how people really seem to believe that a £1 lasagne contained steak. I’d rather my lasagne contained horsemeat than beef blastings, you know? So yeah, in this desire to have everything, maybe people are coming round to the realisation they need to have a little less. I don’t think horsemeat is the worst thing that people are eating right now.”

This new-found perspective has had major impact on what Jo and her family are eating the rest of the week.

“We’ve started buying much more raw ingredients,” she tells me. “I don’t just mean fresh produce because, do you know what, fresh produce isn’t cheap. Anybody who thinks it is, is rich and deluded. Things like beans and pulses are remarkably cheap and ridiculously filling, and with the right seasoning, are tasty. A mung bean is not tasty on its own,” Jo laughs, “but with a bit of tomato and spice, they are pretty good. Did you know you can buy noodles made out of mung bean? Now, I don’t mean to go on about mung beans too much but I’d never eaten them before and now I’ve got a cupboard full of all kinds of different mung bean products.  And chickpeas! Oh my god – they are amazing! I love a chickpea. So we’re experimenting much more with things that are cheap substitutions for the things we presumed were the cheapest things we could buy. Don’t get me wrong. I also eat a lot of crap! I try not to and I feel bad about it and then I go a bit overboard with the mung beans!”

“You’ve got to keep poking and shouting and doing everything you can because it’s all about hope isn’t it?”

It was the ENOUGH FOOD FOR EVERYONE IF campaign, plus our separate involvements with the charity Save the Children, that led to Jo and I crossing paths.

“IF is an amazing campaign,” says Jo excitedly. “For that many charities and organisations to be working on the same thing…  It just goes to show the level of concern and that the reality behind the problem is so huge, that it can be channelled, into a seemingly small remit, those four ‘ifs’. Because it really is very simple, it does come down to those four factors. The problem is that with all the will in the world they are so difficult to achieve. Sometimes all it takes is one catalyst. That’s why you’ve just got to keep poking. You’ve got to keep poking and shouting and doing everything you can because it’s all about hope isn’t it? You’ve just got to keep trying.”

It’s also helpful that the IF campaign dovetails neatly with what Jo is trying to achieve with her year of fasting. Having raised greater awareness of food poverty issues, she can point people to IF for some practical ways people can make their own noise to tackle global hunger.

“Even if people don’t agree with what I’m doing or the way I’m doing it, or perhaps because they don’t want to support Save the Children directly, then through the IF campaign they can still align themselves with the same issues I care so passionately about.”

I’m publishing this post on a Friday. As you read these words please think of Jo who will be fasting today and send her some positive vibes.

Even better, visit her blog or Facebook page and send her a message of support. Or better still, pop along to Jo’s Just Giving page and sponsor her efforts and achievements.

And once you’ve done all that, do take a look at the IF campaign website for some more ways to make a noise to draw the attention of our world leaders to the scandal that is food poverty.


February’s Recipes for Life challenge: what can you do with sausages, onions and tomatoes?

Take part in the Recipes for Life food bloggers challenge for your chance to see your recipe featured in a new charity cookbook!

I am thrilled to be launching a new challenge for food bloggers called Recipes for Life.

Each month I’ll be calling for your tasty, wholesome and easy-to-cook recipes that revolve around just three main ingredients. The best of these recipes will be included in a new charity cookbook to be published by SWALLOW later this year.

Kicking off the challenge in February, our first three ingredients are: sausages, onions and tomatoes. What tasty dish could you rustle up with those?

SWALLOW is an incredible charity based just down the road from me in Somerset, supporting adults with learning disabilities to lead more independent lives. It runs a wide range of programmes for its members, empowering them with the skills and experiences to live their lives to the full, from therapeutic art courses and drama groups to domestic and work-based training.

As part of its Fit for Life programme, SWALLOW runs cookery courses, helping members learn to prepare simple, inexpensive and nutritious meals. SWALLOW is looking for new recipes for its members to cook on the course, and ultimately to include in its cookbook, that don’t require a lengthy list of ingredients and aren’t incredibly complicated to make.

And so we’re calling on the food blogging community to help us create an exciting collection of cheap and easy recipes, based on readily available, everyday ingredients.

For February we’re looking for recipes that focus on sausages, onions and tomatoes. The sausages can be meat or vegetarian, and the tomatoes can be either the fresh or tinned variety. Any other accompanying ingredients need to be the kind of basic items you’d find in any fridge or store cupboard, such as flour, pasta, rice, milk, eggs and so on. Nothing too fancy like artichoke hearts, preserved lemons or balsamic vinegar please!

Recipes for Life: how to enter

  1. Display the Recipes for Life badge (shown above and below) on your recipe post, and link back to this challenge post.
  2. You may enter as many recipe links as you like, so long as they are based on the three main ingredients selected for this month and accompanied only by basic store cupboard items.
  3. Send your recipe URL to me at vanesther-at-reescommunications-dot-co-dot-uk, including your own email address and the title of your recipe or post. The closing date this month is Thursday 28 February 2013.
  4. If you tweet your post, please mention #recipesforlife, @BangerMashChat and @SWALLOWcharity in your tweet and we will retweet everyone we see.
  5. Feel free to republish old recipe posts, but please add the information about this challenge and the Recipes for Life badge.
  6. As entries come in, links to these will be added to this page and at the end of the month there will be a round-up of all entries received.
  7. SWALLOW staff and members will choose their favourite recipe at the end of each month, and the winner will receive a small prize.
  8. A selection of recipes entered each month will be featured in the SWALLOW cookbook to be published later this year, helping the charity to raise much needed funds for its ongoing work.

Here are my easy sausage meatballs, based on a recipe in Nigellisima, to get the ball rolling…

Sausage meatballs

Serves 4

8 large pork sausages
2 tbsp oil (olive or vegetable)
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp dried oregano
100ml chicken stock
2 x 400g chopped tomatoes
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste

Slit the skins of the sausages and squeeze out the meat. Roll the sausagemeat into cherry-tomato-sized balls.

Heat the oil in heavy casserole and fry the meatballs until golden. You may need to fry in batches, depending on the size of your dish. Remove all the meatballs from the casserole and fry the onion for about five minutes until soft and golden. Add the garlic and oregano and fry for another minute before returning the meatballs to the pan.

Pour in the stock and the tomatoes, throw in the bay leaf, and give it all a gentle stir. Bring it to a simmer and leave to cook uncovered for 20 minutes, until the sauce has thickened a little and the meatballs have cooked through. Taste and add some salt and pepper if needed.

Serve with rice or pasta.

I can’t wait to see what dishes you come up with for Recipes for Life. Any questions, please tweet or email me.

February’s entries:

  1. Sausage Meat Sauce for Pasta Bakes or Sloppy Joes from Fuss Free Flavours
  2. Sausage Lasagne from Under The Blue Gum Tree
  3. Slow Cooker Turkey Sausages and Veg in the Red from On Top of Spaghetti
  4. Thrifty Sausage, Vegetable and Pearl Barley Hotpot from Utterly Scrummy Food for Families
  5. Sausage Casserole from The Good Stuff
  6. Sausage, Bean and Veggie Hotpot from Chez Foti
  7. Sausage & Onion Tarts from The Garden Deli
  8. Jumbo Mediterranean Sausage Pasty from The Crazy Kitchen
  9. Sausage Ragu from The Foodie Blog
  10. Quick and Easy Soba Noodles from Fun as a Gran
  11. Sausage and Pepper Pasta from JibberJabberUK
  12. Jacki’s Sausage, Chorizo & Chickpea stew from Jacki Harrison-Stanley

Enough food for everyone IF…

It is an outrageous and downright disgusting fact that the world today has enough food for everyone, yet not everyone has enough food.

Why – when there is enough food to go around – is hunger one of the world’s most shocking problems?

Hunger kills more people than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. One in eight people on our planet lives with the pain of hunger. Two million children die each year because of malnutrition. It’s sickening isn’t it, when it simply doesn’t need to be like this? It’s not just an overseas problem either. Right here, in the UK, many hardworking people struggle to put food on the table each day for their families.

It’s unfair, it’s unjust and it’s totally preventable.

This is why today, Wednesday 23 January 2013, is a momentous day. Today sees the launch of the IF campaign, the biggest ever campaign to tackle global hunger.

More than 100 charities and campaigning organisations, including Save the Children, Oxfam, Christian Aid and UNICEF, are joining forces to make one helluva lot of noise to draw everyone’s attention to the issue of food poverty – in particular those G8 leaders who are meeting in the UK for their summit in June 2013.

Will you lend your voice to the cause too? We all need to shout about THE FOUR BIG IFS…

Enough food for everyone IF… we stop poor farmers being forced off their land and we grow crops to feed people not fuel cars.

Enough food for everyone IF… governments and big companies are honest and open about some of the things that stop people getting enough food.

Enough food for everyone IF… we give enough aid to stop children dying from hunger and help the poorest families get enough food.

Enough food for everyone IF… we stop big companies dodging taxes in poor countries.

If we all shout together, we’ll be too loud for our governments to ignore. As a food blogger, I think it’s important I add my voice to the IF campaign. Will you? The success of the campaign depends upon millions of people, people like you and me, coming together and taking action to demand an end to hunger. We have the power to make politicians sit up and listen.

This short animation sums up the IF campaign in a nutshell. It’s only two minutes long. Please watch it.

Sign up to the campaign and find out other ways you can play your part at the Enough food for everyone IF website.