Please tell us about your current involvement with Samsung
I've been working with Samsung to launch the new limited edition TabPro S, which has been great fun. It's a 2-in-1 premium tablet that features a sleek and lightweight design, long lasting battery life as well as a fully equipped keyboard cover. As part of the project, I have provided some bespoke tips and advice on how to get your creative ideas off the ground, all of which are available with the brand new limited edition device. As a journalist, author and blogger, it's crucial to be able to work on the go. I use a Samsung phone and tablet and having the two linked up makes it easy to work remotely.
There are hugely blurred boundaries in my work life - cooking for friends becomes something I can write about, price changes in the weekly essentials in my food shop are photographed and tweeted to let people know, bargains are shared, cooking tips, questions answered... my work is proactive, reactive, and interactive - but it's mostly a real time documentary of my day to day life. And for that, I need the right tools for the job. Something I can pop in my bag, that's not too ostentatious to take photos on the go or send a quick email on the train, but professional enough to write a book on, or some serious political commentary pieces - the Samsung TabPro S is the perfect piece of kit. I don't work with brands if we don't have a pre-existing, authentic relationship, so my readers know if I'm shouting about something, it's because I genuinely use it and love it. You can check out the new Samsung TabPro S which features my top tips and advice for building a business on the Samsung website.
You built your business from scratch, any tips for budding entrepreneurs?
I was a bit of an accident really - I certainly didn't set out to write a cookbook or three. I didn't have a plan. I was unemployed, writing a blog about local politics and a few recipes, and it was more successful than I could ever have imagined it to be. Nowadays I have to juggle a complex workload, manage a diary that takes me across the UK and beyond, around my six-year-old son, so I have to have some kind of loose guiding principles to keep on top of it all. I often get emails addressed 'dear Jack and team' or 'Please pass this on to Jack' and have to stress - it's just me. I deal with my own emails, do all my own social media, it's important to me to keep in touch with my readers (and detractors) on a real, unfiltered level. It can be exhausting and I only get to reply to a handful of messages, but it feels important and grounding.
My advice would be to know your limits. I can be wildly enthusiastic and want to try to do everything that I feel would be useful and educational and beneficial - but I've crashed and burned a few times. Make time for you. Working 90 hours a week is easily racked up when you're self-employed and rely on portable tech to do your work; your train journeys, toilet breaks, leisurely walks, bedtime, can all become 'working hours'. Reclaim them.
For those who are unfamiliar with your books- please can you tell us a little bit about A Girl Called Jack and A Year in 120 recipes?
A Girl Called Jack was published in 2014 and was a collection of recipes based on my blog of the same name. I was a 24-year-old single mum and local newspaper reporter, cobbling together value tins from the supermarket to make meals for myself and my son and writing about it. I never imagined it could be a bestselling cookbook - I was just documenting what I was doing day to day. 120 Recipes was my next book, about eating seasonally and making the most of what you can buy cheaply in season or grow yourself
You are now writing your third cookbook so what can you tell us about this?
My third book is Cooking On A Bootstrap, a clear clap back to the countless people who, when I was struggling on the dole, would tell me to 'pull yourself up by your bootstraps'. In my past few years of teaching people to cook and eat well on unimaginably tiny handfuls of change, or cooking in kettles, or creating something from a host of ambient goods and tins from a food bank, there is nothing more inventive than necessity, but nothing more grindingly soulless than having the simplest of choices - like what food is in your cupboard - stripped away. Bootstrap feels like a duty, a mission, a handhold for people just needing to get through a day, a week, a term. Food is such a basic need, a fundamental right, and such a simple pleasure.
Please tell us about your personal journey into veganism and why you started cooking on a tight budget?
When I was unemployed and living on an extremely low budget for food, most of my dishes were vegan by default, as meats and fish and dairy products were often priced out of my shopping basket. I would buy occasional 'cooking bacon' (scrappy offcuts at around £1 for 700g) or tins of sardines for 40p, but indisputably, kidney beans were cheaper. But, as with all disciplines, there is a broad church of ideas, and some vegan products are prohibitively expensive to people on tight budgets. I'm not so into falsifying animal products - I'd take butter beans over artificial fish any day, Lentilles Vertes over soy protein in a Bolognese, a hefty dash of paprika and garlic in place of chorizo in a risotto. Celebrate the cheap, excellent foods available, rather than try to replace animal products with pricey substandard imitators, and you'll be okay.
Why do people assume the vegan diet is an expensive one?
I think there is a common misconception that in order to eat vegan you need to buy 'special' ingredients that are costlier. Meat and dairy substitutes are not a must when eating vegan and actually when you consider the cost of meat vs. the cost of items such as broccoli and legumes, you'll soon realise how quickly animal produce can push up the cost of your weekly shopping bill. Items such as beans are a great low cost option - cannellini beans and kidney beans require little preparation and are full of protein!
Do you think people are spending far more on food than they need to?
I think that's quite a broad statement and everyone's perception of 'need' is different. There are definitely areas where a lot of people could save money in the kitchen and on their food bills should they want to or feel they need to, but I am definitely not in the business of preaching to people about what they need to be doing. I err on the side of experience and advice, I'd rather guide someone through some things they could be doing, rather than moralise about what they should be doing.
At what point did you decide that your own experiences could be used to help others?
I'm not sure it was a conscious decision. People were sharing what I was doing, and getting in touch to tell me they found it helpful, and so I carried on.
You are an author, broadcaster, campaigner, journalist and food writer so do you have a preference between any of these disciplines?
They all overlap and intersperse in some way, and I don't really see them as vastly separate roles. My food is political, I seem to always be campaigning, my journalism is generally food and politics, my broadcast work flits between the two. I think they all play a part and I couldn't imagine doing some without the others. Early on in my career I was on the sky news sofa with Eamonn Holmes and he told me that people were always telling him to choose between sport and news, and he refused, because he genuinely wanted to do both. The cameras had stopped rolling and he turned to me and told me to never give up food or politics, because both were as vital as the other. And he was right, over the years I have been pressured to give up one to focus on the other, but I hold Eamonn's wisdom tight. I feel my food would be monotonous without the passionate social campaigns that shape it, and my politics are shaped by my absolute mission that nobody should be hungry in the sixth richest country in the world. It is a complex Venn diagram, but it's mine and I own it.
What is your favourite dish to cook on a budget?
I'm a massive curry fiend and live on Tarka Dal, Chana Masala, Makhani Dal, Lentil Vindaloo, all of which are easy sources of carbs, vegetables and protein and made from a similar base of store cupboard ingredients.
What's next for you?
I love cooking and inspiring others in the kitchen so my biggest focus at the moment is to continue to grow my blog and promote Cooking On a Bootstrap ahead of its release at the beginning of next year!
tagged in Vegan