Welcome to the January Food Watch Monthly

Top chefs deliver the best advice they've ever had and we have a collection of delicious recipes to feed four people for £8 or less

The advice I often give new cooks is to invest in a cheap, flexible spatula, the softest they can get their hands on. The ones to look out for are the types with a rubber head that bends heavily rather than the firmer, less flexible silicone variety – which is fine for some tasks but nearly useless for scraping every bit of mixture from the bowl. The lean version, if you can find it, is invaluable for getting the last mustard or jam out of the jar.

We've asked some of our regular contributors, who cook day in and day out, for the best advice they've provided: from the wise words of Gennaro Contaldo to Jamie Oliver – “restraint is the most important ingredient” – to Sam and Sam's wonderful Clark reminder. it's good to use a pinch of salt when crushing the garlic, "so it breaks down completely into a soft cream". In this new year issue we have a whole list of valuable tips for you.

In addition to my vegetarian and vegan recipes (including grilled eggplant with rice and yogurt; cauliflower with chickpeas and tahini; and creamy rice pudding with oranges), we have a collection that is very budget-friendly and will feed four people for eight pounds or less. These recipes include Joe Trivelli's lentil and endive pie, and Fuchsia Dunlop pork and pak choi noodles — both delicious and value for money too, and I also have plans for Joe's Woodhouse chives and cheese soufflé.

Also this month, Jay Rayner has discovered what his family chooses to eat when he's not at the stove. And David Williams has found some of the best value wines – he has a list of more than 20 wines that cost under £10 a bottle. Welcome to the first Food Monthly of the year.

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