This guest blog comes from the wonderful foodie and writer Rachel who tells us about her cookbook challenge…
Hands up if you’re guilty of receiving a cookbook as a gift, making all the obligatory ‘oohs’ and ‘mmms’ as you flick through the photographs, then assigning it – without so much as a grease mark or torn page – to a kitchen cupboard. There is always good intention when it comes to trying new recipes from a shiny new release; but all too often this resolve wears off quicker than you can say ‘Amazon bestseller.’
For a foodie, my cookbook collection is on the small side. A crew of my favourite celebrity chefs in hardback form, offering a stash of go-to recipes (read: simple comfort food). It’s fair to say my collection reflects my personality. Though, even with these select few books, there are still so many dishes left unmade.
And so began my Cookbook Challenge. From my collection I chose Lorraine Pascale’s Fast, Fresh and Easy Food, setting myself the target to make all 100 recipes – yes, even those at the back that I usually avoid.
From meringue to mojitos, fajitas to frangipane, I have chopped, whisked and kneaded my way through the pages, attempting dishes I had never made before and relishing recipes I would previously have skimmed past (who knew making your own custard could be so satisfying?).
I learned a lot, though disasters were inevitable. From Lorraine’s ‘easiest pastry on the block’ pancetta puffs, which were more crêpe than choux, to a tart I made three times over to get unanimous family feedback. Trial and error, these experiences have been part of the fun (so I tell myself) and have taught me to trust my gut (literally) and always, always read the recipe twice!
With the never-agains came the please-make-this-agains. Highlights for me were “The best chocolate cake I’ve ever tasted” and the ultimate, “Like stopping off at a pub on the way home from work – not just any old pub – a real eatery” (cheers, Dad). I have received a fair few amusing approvals which have spurred me to get another recipe ticked off.
The once pristine and glossy cookbook soon became a sauce-splashed journal filled with quotes and iterations. Flicking through the pages you can see dates and occasions that I made each dish, where and who for. A forest lodge, my sister’s kitchen, our garden – it’s a diary of dining for all the people willing to help me eat through my mission.
Scribbling down the remarks that came from contented full-mouths was just as much part of the ritual as the cooking itself: page 65 – a comforting French onion soup I made for my Dad after a job interview, and page 248, a celebration cake for my Nana’s 89th birthday with the whole family. The 100 recipes have become 100 memories – broken whisks, spoon licks, sneaky dogs and all.