If you only read one other article today, please make it this post by A Girl Called Jack. It was typed into an old Nokia phone back in July 2012, when Jack hit rock-bottom as a 24 year-old, unemployed, single mum.
It is a powerful piece of writing. A stark reminder of the half-million people who rely on food banks. A harrowing image of the little boys round the country asking “where’s mummy’s breakfast?” A painful reality that hunger happens in Britain. And Hunger Hurts.
But it’s not all sad, because Jack’s story demonstrates the power of social media. She started cooking ‘Below the Line‘ budget recipes for her blog: baked trout in tomato sauce with lemon and herb rice (33p), red lentil bolognese (21p), spiced spinach potatoes (12p).
The simple, nutritious and cheap recipes landed Jack a book deal with Penguin (out spring 2014). She started appearing on the BBC and Sky News and ITV talking about food poverty. And soon she found herself at the G8 Summit, and speaking in Parliament. Inspirational, to say the least.
One year on, and things are changing for Jack. She still shares a room with her three year-old son, tucking away her single mattress under his bed during the day. She still spends £10 a week on her shop. But there are - what she calls - the occasional indulgences: “a jar of black olives, or some (value range) salted cashews”.
Most excitingly though, Jack has built up a big following, and become a serious campaigner. Hers is a voice to be heard. Around the anniversary of her post “Hunger Hurts”, she launched the idea of #22MealsForACoffee. The simple concept is this - instead of spending £3 on a coffee, you go to a supermarket and spend £3 on the following items, which translate into 22 meals at a food bank.
2 tins of baked beans – 22p each
1 jar of fish paste – 32p
1 can of sardines – 55p
1 tin of chopped tomatoes – 31p
1 tin of carrots – 20p
1 loaf of bread – 50p
1 jar of jam – 29p
1 bag of pasta – 39p
22 Meals: 16 slices of bread and jam + 6 portions of beans on toast + 2 portions of pasta with fish paste + 4 portions of pasta with sardines and tomatoes.
I rarely buy coffee. But who cares. Inspired, I foraged about in Tom’s loose coin tray (thanks Tom!) I looked up my nearest Food Bank (fellow Tower Hamlet residents click HERE). And I walked it over to The Bethnal Green Mission Church, just north of the tube on Cambridge Heath Road.
In honour of Jack’s style of cooking, I wanted to accompany this post with something healthy and happy and cheap. I certainly don’t have Jack’s knack of rustling up an entire main course for the same price of a curly wurly. But I did think that these mini summer puddings made use of the exceedingly cheap frozen fruit you can buy, and £1.39 for 500g of summer berries seemed like a good place to start.
Summer puddings work best with old bread - if it’s dry and stale, it soaks up the juices better. So I bought a loaf of white Warburtons which was reduced to 18p. The only other thing you need is 4 tablespoons of sugar (10p) and optional cream (85p).
If you make individual summer puddings, then you can freeze them quite easily. Otherwise, serve them with a blob of whipped cream, and enjoy a flavoursome but frugal summery classic.
Individual Summer Puddings (makes 8)
38p each without cream (48p each with cream)
1kg frozen summer fruit
120 ml water
1 loaf of white, sliced bread
4 tablespoons of sugar
284ml double cream
Equipment: Silicone muffin tin (prices start around £3).
1. Heat the summer fruit and water in a pan, until it beings to gently simmer.
2. Stir in the sugar. Allow it to bubble away for 3-5 minutes. Remove from the heat and aside to cool.
3. Take one slice of bread, and use egg cup to cut a small circle, and a tin can to cut a large circle (for the top and bottom). Then slice the rest of the bread into small and large rectangles.
4. Dip the small circle into the juice from the summer fruit compote, and put it in the bottom of the muffin tin. Then dip the rectangles in the juices, and wrap them round the sides.
5. Spoon the summer fruit into the bread-lined muffin cases.
6. Dip the large circle into the remaining juice, and put them on top of the muffin cases - this will ultimately form the base.
7. Refrigerate overnight.
8. Pop the summer pudding out of the muffin case, and serve with whipped cream.
Follow ‘Jack’ on Twitter: @MsJackMonroe