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would you be willing to make the 5 ingredients pledge?
[5 ingredients]

mash zucchini, bangers & mash

Since I finished my latest ebook, 5 ingredients | 10 minutes, a funny thing has happened.

While I was writing the book, there were many days of cooking, testing and photographing. So pretty much everything I was cooking and eating was made from only 5 ingredients. Now this might sound that dinner at my place was a pretty Spartan affair, but reality couldn’t be father from the truth.

I can’t tell you how many times I’d come up with an idea and think to myself, ‘surely this will need something else’. But the amazing thing is that I was almost always happy with the dish in its simplicity. Night after night my Irishman and I would have the same conversation.

GB: ‘Wow baby, this is lovely. Are you sure there are only 5 ingredients?’

Me: ‘Yep. Only 5.’

I’d then proceed to rattle off said 5 ingredients. And we’d both be quite excited about how good this minimalist home cooking thing could be.

When I finished the book, I found that unless I was testing out an idea to share on stonesoup, the number of ingredients in each dish would creep upwards. Now I’m not saying I turned into some crazily complicated cheffy type of cook. I just found myself slipping in a few extra things, even though I knew they weren’t really necessary.

The funny thing was, things weren’t tasting as good as they had when I was on a strict 5 ingredients policy. Then the other night I had decided to make some chickpeas with wilted greens for dinner. An easy 5 ingredients recipe. But for some reason I decided to brown some onions first.

And what happened? I got sidetracked on Twitter or something and my onions burned. And then I got sidetracked again and the chickpeas turned into a blackened mess. Not a great kitchen moment.

Thinking about it on my run the next day, I realised I needed to start walking my talk. If I was going to write about 5 ingredients recipes, then I should be willing to cook 5 ingredients recipes. Always.

So I’ve decided to take the 5 ingredients pledge. From now on, every dish* I make is going to have a maximum of 5 ingredients. Yep, every dish. Forever.

Would you be willing to make such a pledge? Am I being crazy? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

*Just to clarify. I’m only talking per recipe, not each meal. So it’s fine to make the dish below and then serve it with a 5 ingredient side salad and finish with my 4 ingredient chocolate cake.

zucchini, bangers & mash

[5 ingredients]
zucchini, bangers & mash

serves 2

The thing I love about this dish is that you still get the whole comfort food vibe of bangers and mash, but it feels a little more healthy with the zucchini. And dare I say it, more delicious?

If I was making this for vegetarians, I’d substitute about 200g (7oz) crumbled smoked tofu for the sausages.

Sage is slightly unexpected here, but it works really well with the porkiness. I know it can be hard to procure, so feel free to substitute in your favourite herb. Rosemary would be a classic choice, as would thyme. Or you could stir a handful of mint in at the end for added freshness.

I like my mash nice and buttery, but understand that is a little too much for some. Feel free to tone down the butter or even use olive oil instead if you’re not keen on dairy.

If you happen to find yourself cooking for an Irish person on a regular basis, I highly recommend investing in a potato ricer for making mash. Pictured below, it’s kinda like a giant garlic press. And not only does it give almost effortless mash, it also saves you from having to peel the spuds first. The skins stay magically inside. So clever. Of course you can peel and mash the old school way if you prefer.

3-4 medium floury potatoes, scrubbed
1 small bunch sage
2 large good quality pork sausages
4 medium zucchini (courgettes), sliced into 5mm (1/4in) thick coins
2 – 4 tablespoon butter

1. Place spuds in a medium saucepan. Cover with water and a lid and bring to the boil.

2. Simmer for 40-50 minutes, or until potatoes are very tender when tested with a butter knife.

3. Meanwhile, heat a few tablespoons olive oil in a large frying pan. Add sage and cook for about 30 seconds.

4. Remove sausage skins and crumble the meat into the frying pan with the sage.

5. Cook over a medium high heat for a few minutes, or until golden brown.

6. Add zucchini and cook over a medium heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally until the zucchini are melting and tender and the sausage is cooked. Taste, season and keep warm.

7. When the spuds are cooked, drain and mash through a potato ricer back into the pan.

8. Whip in butter and season well. Serve a big dollup of mash with the zucchini & sausage mixture on the side.

potato ricer


Stonesoup has had a bit of media coverage in the last week. There’s an interview on Kiwi radio that’s now on YouTube. Evidence that I’m not a morning person.

And a lovely interview on my friend Tresna’s wonderful new blog: foodhands.com.


{ 54 comments… add one }

  • Belinda 14 October, 2010, 4:44 pm

    Im up for the pledge. With 2 small kids, i dont have (or want) to spend hours in the kitchen. The simpler the better. I just love your recipes. I made the 4 ingredient cake last week for a few people and they couldnt believe it had no flour in it. Love it.

  • jules 14 October, 2010, 4:56 pm

    wow. thanks belinda.
    I didn’t think I’d get any takers.
    appreciate the support!

  • Jennie in Alabama 14 October, 2010, 5:10 pm

    Yep, I’m up for it also! I tend to cook this way anyway being single and on a budget. LOVE your new ebook!!! Perfect for me. Totally love it. I have my grocery list made out right now after picking out about 7 recipes to try. I’m thrilled to have found your website.

  • WP 14 October, 2010, 5:10 pm

    Hehe, I wouldn’t make the pledge…’cos I don’t want to be limited. But I’m so lazy that most of the time I already use few ingredients anyway. :P

  • Wendy 14 October, 2010, 5:32 pm

    Hi Jules, I love this series of recipes and have tried lots of them (the broccoli and mince is my favourite) but I’m with WP on this one. Can think of so many favourite recipes that don’t fall under the “5 ingredient” limit that I’d feel really restricted. Plus, as much as enjoy simplicity in food, I also love the magic of many ingredients combining to make something complex but complete. :)

  • Alex 14 October, 2010, 5:43 pm

    Hi there Jules – 5 ingredient pledge is something I would adhere to during the week. Your eBook is fantastic, and I can’t wait for my hardcover copy to arrive!!!

    It helps with preplanning meals for the week and the weekly shop is planned and executed with minimal fuss.

    More than 5 ingredients will only occur on experimental weekends (though the 5 ingredient/10minute meals are actually brilliant for when random people drop in unexpectedly, and for all of our mountain-hut-minimalist-kitchen dinners and quick-we-are-going-skiing-all-of-a-sudden-on-the-weekend-and-will-be-too-tired-to-think-but-want-to-eat-a-tasty-meal trips too!)

    The recipe one this page is lovely – we make something similar and use either fennel/rocket/leeks if there is no zuchini to be had, and pasta if someone forgot to buy potatoes or if no one wants to hike with an extra kilo of weight in their pack….sausages though – no one argues about carrying those (unless we take a HUNK of bacon)!

  • jules 14 October, 2010, 5:46 pm

    awesome – so glad you’re enjoying the new cookbook. yay

    I thought most people would be like you. Completely understand!
    I’m struggling a little with the idea of being limited but I’m also inspired by the challenge.

    wonderful wendy –
    I’m not actually expecting anyone else to restrict themselves – just me!

  • M Ryan Taylor 14 October, 2010, 6:41 pm

    I’m currently working on a recipe for a sugar and gluten free brownie. I’ve got it down to 6 ingredients (ground cashews, dates, dark chocolate, egg, vanilla and baking soda), but honestly don’t know what I would cut if I went down to 5. Any ideas?

    Been following for a few weeks now with great interest. Thanks for a wonderful blog.

  • Marius Loots 14 October, 2010, 6:45 pm

    I often refer to your soupstone cookbook. One problem with five ingredients is that many of my favourite recipes involve a lot more. Could go for making a fiver-day once/twice a week…

  • Kavey 14 October, 2010, 7:00 pm

    I love the idea for some dishes/ meals (and have a few dishes already which would fit the limit) but I’d never pledge to do it all the time, forever.

    There are simply too many dishes where there is good reason for more ingredients… still simple to make but the flavours simply wouldn’t work without the blend of spices and the various ingredients. I’m thinking of some of my mum’s Indian curries, for example, even those that are very very simple and quick to make have more than 5 ingredients.

    So no, I’d never make that pledge.

    I would think about trying to make a 5 ingredient dish on a regular basis, though!

  • jules 14 October, 2010, 7:15 pm

    wow… I hadn’t thought about indian – you’re right – I might cheat on that one and use a spice blend or paste as one ingredient ;)

    M Ryan Taylor
    glad you’re enjoying stonesoup. Ditch the vanilla and use a good quality chooclate that will have a decent amount (and quality) vanilla included… let me know how you get on with the brownie – sounds delish

  • Johanna GGG 14 October, 2010, 7:47 pm

    The pledge is not for me – I too have many favourite recipes with more ingredients and I notice that as a vegetarian I often need more recipes to make something that would be more simple with meat – but also I love lots of veg in dishes.

    However I like Kavey’s idea about making 5 ingredients dishes on a regular basis and wondered if you could have something like meat free mondays!

  • Johanna GGG 14 October, 2010, 7:47 pm

    oops I just saw I said I needed more recipes where I meant I need more ingredients in vegetarian dishes

  • Marie (a.k.a. gardenfreshtomatoes) 14 October, 2010, 8:39 pm

    GAH! Where was this recipe last night when I was trying to figure out how to use-up the last zuccini of Summer? It’s still in the drawer, looking a little sad – maybe tonight…

    As for the pledge, when it’s my night to cook, my recipes are mostly simple – lots of fish and veggies. My husband loves to make more complex dishes, and on those nights when we cook together, we’ve been known to go ‘the Full Julia’… so no permanent pledge here…

    Besides, that would leave-out all my beloved soups and stews…

  • Jennifer Jo 14 October, 2010, 8:49 pm

    Does it count when one of the dishes is only one ingredient and then the other dish is eight (or ten)?

    This pledge sounds really restrictive, but when it comes down to it, many of my dishes are way under 5 ingredients (we eat many of our vegetables and fruits straight up), so it probably all balances out in the end…

  • Wei-Wei 14 October, 2010, 9:23 pm

    Maybe I would when I get to live on my own… Actually, my meals would probably be naturally under 5 ingredients. I’m not a complicated person. There’s a time and place for complicated cooking, and sometimes I’m into that, but for everyday, simple is always best. And economical, too?

  • You bet, I”m on board – great idea.

    I spend way too much time in the kitchen preparing healthy meals for the family. It never occurred to me that good food can be made with less ingredients. Especially baking – the kids like treats but there are days when I cringe thinking about hauling all the ingredients out of the various cupboards, not to mention all the equipment. Less is more! I feel like a load has been lifted off my shoulders.

  • DCAggies 14 October, 2010, 11:50 pm

    Thanks! I often need a kick in the pants to do more of the things I should! While I have been attempting to make this move for a while, this is just the push I needed.

    I am *kinda* on board. M-F 5 ingredient meals only and on the weekends I can go dinner party culinary crazy!

    Thanks again for your site. I love it, and everyone is always amazed when I tell them how few ingredients are in everything!

  • Stephanie 14 October, 2010, 11:57 pm

    i would totally be interested in taking a 5 ingredients pledge! you make it look so easy with all of your delicious recipes. it feels a little bit daunting to consider right now, but i think it would result in some truly delicious and healthy meals. let me know if you start an official pledge drive!

  • Rachel 15 October, 2010, 12:12 am

    A 5 ingredient pledge would be great! I would definitely do it! I’m about to take off to live on a small boat and sail to the Caribbean and simple meals are really the only way to go. I’m really trying to cut down on the processed foods in provisions on the boat so I’ll be making a lot of my own staples.

  • amybeth 15 October, 2010, 1:46 am

    Long time stalker un-stalking to out my two-cents in. I pretty much already do this with a few exceptions.

    For instance, in a lot of my soups I use tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. if we count both as just tomatoes… i think i’d be down to five.

    HOWEVER, does this include spices? So salt and pepper would be two out of five ingredients?

    Without spices I would say, easily doable.

    LOVE your site by the way… and may have to get your book.

  • Jillian 15 October, 2010, 2:03 am

    … I think you just changed my life. My long-time lover is quite Irish, but I’d never even heard of a potato ricer until now! He doesn’t get mash near as often as he’d like because I hate standing there beating forever trying to make the potatoes submit. :) Thank you for sharing!

  • shanna 15 October, 2010, 2:28 am


    I just love what you do! This is a pledge I heartily take. I am always finding ways to streamline and simplify my life and your 5 ingredients approach makes my heart sing!

    I write about, among other things, smallsizing–simplifying, but with style and elegance. I recently created a $100 Wardrobe Challenge and most of the participants are fans of yours now, too!

    Keep on with the good work and more veggie recipes, please :)

    Thank you!

  • Rachel K 15 October, 2010, 2:42 am

    Weeeeelllll . . . no. I am up for simplifying cooking but what about my beloved spag bol or Lebanese kibbeh . . . no can do! But I am fully prepared to give you moral support in your attempt! :)

  • Cara 15 October, 2010, 4:27 am

    Wow – have to admit, I wouldn’t take the pledge for forever. I would definitely try it out for a month or two though to see how I liked it. I do think it’s really important to let each ingredient sing, but there are too many dishes that I love that have more than 5 ingredients (not to mention what it would do to my baking!). So I will just stick with not using recipes (my way to keep things simple and easy).

  • Sara 15 October, 2010, 4:52 am

    I definitely use more than 5 ingredients in most of my cooking, but it’d be neat to have a “5 ingredient Friday” or something that other bloggers could partake in :) For me, 5 ingredient recipes would be perfect for Fridays when I REALLY don’t feel like cooking anymore (I do my best cooking Sunday-Thursday haha).

  • Sara 15 October, 2010, 4:53 am

    Whoops my link up there was totally wrong! I keep doing that!

  • jules 15 October, 2010, 7:48 am

    DC Aggies
    Love the idea of m-f 5 ingred and then dinner party crazy on the weekends.

    Funny, Friday is a favourite day for me and cooking – kinda the end of the week vibe.

    Rachel K
    Wonderful. Moral support would be great. I’m not expecting anyone else to sign up really.

    wow $100 wardrobe would be a tough gig. good on you! and thanks for spreading the word about stonesoup – I really appreciate it!

    pleasure to share the ricer trick. You won’t look back. Just make sure the spuds are really well cooked. You can also serve the ‘riced’ spuds straight up without butter if you feel like something a bit more virtuous.

    thanks for delurking! it’s up to you how you count your ingredients. Salt, pepper and olive oil don’t count for me because they go into everything. And with spices I think it’s cool to make a little custom spice blend and then just count the blend as one ingredient ;)

    wow. wish I were about to live on a small boat. lucky you
    I think there should be one included in a little care package whenever someone shacks up with an Irish person and maybe a box of Barry’s tea and some Kerrygold butter ;)

  • Alex 15 October, 2010, 5:11 pm

    After reading this post – I dug out my 4 ingredient cookbook at home to check some of the dilemmas reagrding indian food and stews and sauces (as I was sure I had seen some in there). They got around ‘restrictions’ by calling for a sauce/stock/spice/dressing that was listed on a a separate page as a separate recipe! Until now, I had not thought of that as cheating….

  • jules 15 October, 2010, 6:08 pm

    thanks for the cross checking. good to have another frame of reference
    If it’s something you can buy as an ingredient elsewhere but could also make your own, I think it’s not stretching the friendship too far.

  • Lynne 15 October, 2010, 6:55 pm

    I will give it a go. It will be an interesting experience since I am still getting used to vegetarianism, and most recipes use at least three herbs and/or spices. But I really do like the concept of paring down.

  • Alison Kerr 15 October, 2010, 9:52 pm

    Hmmm, I’m not willing to take the pledge, though I suspect that most of the things I cook don’t have much more than 5 ingredients anyway. When it comes to cooking I like simple. I tried the lentil burgers from your book last night and they were good, even though I couldn’t find canned lentils and had to use beans instead. I love how quick they were to make.

    I’m looking forward to Virtual Cookery School.

  • michelle 15 October, 2010, 11:46 pm

    that’s it! I’m buying your book (:
    I love the idea of limiting ingredients to 5. simple, slow food is my new passion.

  • Mary P 16 October, 2010, 3:42 am

    I like simple so I’ve been doing a lot of my meals in the crockpot. After I found your site a few months ago, I downloaded your cookbook and began trying out a few recipes. Didn’t think I would like them cause they seemed they might be too bland but I was wrong. My favorites so far: Shaved Cabbage Salad w/ Parmesan & Balsamic and Couscous w/ Tuna & Cherry Tomato Sauce. I’m willing to make the effort to cook minimalist but I’m not going to take a pledge to do it. Don’t want to make promises I may not be able to keep!

  • Erin S. 16 October, 2010, 6:41 am

    Jules, you are a life saver. I have cooked for a long time and really love it. At times I have made all my own stock and sauces that took all of a weekend afternoon. But I’m at a time in my life now where I do public speaking, take care of an elderly parent, and do some part time work for a research company. My schedule is quite full, but I still prefer home made food, but most days need to whip something up quickly.

    I have been following your site for over a year and love everything I have made from here. It is good wholesome food, that is minimalist to prepare. My husband and Mother really enjoy it also. You are paving a whole new way for working people. Thanks for what you are doing with food now, which is to simplify without loss of quality. You rock!

  • Jennifer 16 October, 2010, 8:45 am

    Just want to tell you that I really like your new cookbook! I was hesitant about buying it at first, not really sure if I needed to spend money to acquire a whole cookbook-worth of recipes that I would only use some of….spent a long time reading the chapter contents in the preview trying to decide if it would be worth it for me (we almost don’t do meat, except for canned tuna, and husband can’t eat nuts or shellfish and is VERY PICKY)…..but I love your five ingredient and simple prep approach (really, extremely simple cooking is all I’m willing to do!), so I decided to buy it anyway to support what you’re doing and the fact that I’ve gotten a number of great recipes from your blog even though I was unsure about how much of the book I’d in fact use. It turned out to be a great thing! There are many more items that I will use than I originally thought when only reading the item names. Every night this week I have made dinner from your cookbook and my picky husband liked ALL of the dishes! This is unheard of! And there are so many more of the things that I want to try! I have never liked or been excited about cooking before, but your minimalist approach is a perfect fit for me and makes it seem so doable! I think as a follow-up, you should do a simple baking book (although including a chapter of simple no-bake cookies would be good, too!) = ). Although I have to say, my idea of simple baking runs more to the 4-ingred choc cake than to the sourdough bread—that sounded like too much for me! = ) Thanks again for what you are doing, and have a great weekend!

  • jules 16 October, 2010, 1:24 pm

    thanks so much for taking the time to share your experience with the book. I’m so glad your husband is happy! And great minds think alike – watch this space for a simple baking book ;)

    thankyou for sharing your stonesoup experience. I really appreciate the support and kind words! and I’m so glad stonesoup is helping real live people like you.

    mary p
    glad you’ve been enjoying the recipes from my free ecookbook. thanks for sharing your experience, and you’re a very wise woman with your attitude to promises ;)

    thanks for the support! really appreciate it.

    completely understand not wanting to commit. I wasn’t expecting anyone else to be as crazy as me;) I’m super excited about the Virtual Cookery School as well. See you in class!

  • Eric LaForest 16 October, 2010, 5:12 pm

    Wow- I just read this and I’m amazed that you’re making a life long pledge for 5-ingredient cooking- best of luck!

    As a self-respecting Irishman myself, I’ll have to try your take on the bangers and mash recipe. It probably wouldn’t be possible for a 5-ingredient Shepherds Pie or Potatoes and leek stew would it?

    I’m definitely intrigued by your commitment and will be watching your posts from now on for simple recipes for my family.

    Thanks Jules!

  • jules 16 October, 2010, 6:08 pm

    hey eric
    you know I think I could do a 5 ingredients shepherds pie and a potato & leek stew would be a walk in the park.. although maybe I should wait until I’ve come up with the goods

  • Eric LaForest 17 October, 2010, 1:56 am

    Really Jules- 5 ingredients shepherds pie would be an awesome addition to the world, just as the pint was!

  • My Restaurants Melbourne 17 October, 2010, 11:38 am

    It’s amazing what only 5 ingredients can do. I agree, simplicity always works

  • Bree 18 October, 2010, 5:14 am

    I don’t think I have a choice on the 5 ingredient thing. I’m a college student who only gets $50 every two weeks for groceries. The fewer ingredients a certain dish takes, the easier it is for me to eat another day! xD

  • Myrna 18 October, 2010, 9:25 am

    Weekdays can be a challenge (and I cooked nightly for a crowd for many years – four kids plus father, husband and me) … so I will make the pledge for weekdays. But I love to cook some of my more complicated recipes for weekends, so I’m going to reserve weekends for those. BTW, I’m also vegan, so I’ll be using your alternate ingredients. Can’t wait to try your butter chickpeas (without cream – might try the coconut milk idea). Tomorrow night, I’m on that one!

  • Hsinya 18 October, 2010, 1:57 pm

    Hi Jules, this sounds very interesting! I will be looking forward to your new 5-ingredients recipes. Also, I have been trying to go on a no-microwave challenge after reading that you don’t use a microwave. The biggest problem for me is I like to cook food in batches and reheat them. How do you do it? Do you cook everyday and don’t have left-overs? Or how do you reheat them?

  • Not quite 19 October, 2010, 2:47 am

    The sausage alone would mean that there are more than five ingredients; smoked tofu (or even regular tofu) also is more than just soy beans. :/

  • JD Jackson 20 October, 2010, 11:26 pm

    I don’t think I’d take the pledge myself, but I’m thrilled you’re doing it! What got me started reading your blog in the first place is the simple, quick recipes you post. :)

  • Cathy 21 October, 2010, 2:10 am

    I am taking the pledge!

    On another note, I really want your cookbook hardcopy, not pdf (I don’t have a computer in the kitchen and I really don’t want to print the whole glorious thing out) but that option is only available with the cooking school. Any chance you might offer it?

  • jules 21 October, 2010, 7:34 am

    I’ll be looking at getting a print version done some time next year so watch this space!

  • jules 21 October, 2010, 7:52 pm

    not quite
    I don’t think you quite get the point…. it’s about keeping things simple – not about being worried about how many ingredients are in your ingredients

    great question. I do have leftovers and I usually either reheat them on the stove or in the oven or eat them cold! It takes a little longer than the microwave but I don’t mind

  • M Ryan Taylor 27 October, 2010, 6:37 am


    Thank you for the chocolate/vanilla tip. It was a great solution. I’ve posted the completed recipe, with a link to this post as an inspiration for taking it to 5 ingredients, here: http://www.mryantaylor.com/2010/10/simply-eating-ultimate-fudge-brownies-iii-gluten-free/

    All the best,

  • Diane 30 October, 2010, 2:34 am

    I cook way too much Indian and Thai food for this ever to be practical for me. Some of the curry pastes alone – before main ingredients are ever added – can have well over 5 ingredients. I do like the concept however, and can appreciate the purity of it.

  • Carole Cromwell 8 November, 2010, 11:52 am

    Stone soup is the most fabulous blog/cookbook in the world! Well, my world.

    Please look into putting it into the Apple online store (ITunes). Your work makes their authors they have look like children.

    I love stone soup!!!!
    Thank you for sharing with us. Carolec

  • jules 3 January, 2011, 3:47 pm

    thanks carolec
    really appreciate your kind words!

  • Corrie 27 March, 2011, 5:05 pm

    I made this zucchini, bangers and mash dish tonight and it was amazing! I used some beautiful free range italian pork sausages and added a little broccoli to the mix as well! Yum! Thank you so much for this recipe.

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