Posts Tagged With: bulk cooking

Revolving Into the New Year

Once again January is upon us and it is time to assess how well last year’s challenges went and pick new ones for the coming year. I can easily sum up how last year’s challenges went in one word: badly. I had some unmitigated successes in terms of trying new things and learning skills in the kitchen but none of them were the ones I started the year planning to do. While some of that can be blamed on the upheaval of moving into my own place, it’s coming up on a year now, I should know by now what that life looks like and adjust my cooking habits accordingly. Instead of just falling back on the easiest option.

The smallest and yet most pressing challenge is to get back into writing regularly hear again. While I was better during the last quarter of 2019 – I even managed the rare endeavour of a December blog post – there were months when I didn’t post at all, largely because I didn’t cook much over those months that was worth writing about, in fact most of my culinary achievements over the autumn – learning to roll sushi and getting back into baking bread in particular – came about largely because I wanted something to write about here. Blogging about food and cooking interesting food have become a self-fulfilling circle, feeding into each other, one hobby encouraging the other. So I want to do more of that this year. I don’t want to set myself any ridiculous targets – life, and my job in particular, has a tendency to laugh in the face of such plans – just get back into the habit of posting at least once every month, ideally twice.

To this end I want to focus on two ideas. First up the long running project for the whole year, I want to get back into batch cooking. Back when I worked my previous job I was much better at doing regular bulk cooks, despite the limitations of my tiny icebox freezer. Now that I have an actual decently sized freezer, I somehow don’t remember that bulk cooking is now a thing that I can do. Occasionally freezing an extra portion of curry to save it from going off when plans change is all well and good, but I’m really not taking advantage of my freezer. Instead I’m relying too much on oven-ready freezer foods, when with a bit of forethought, I could be eating both healthier and saving a whole lot of effort. (And, you know, money!) I’ve got a funky new recipe book out of the library – I’ve already made, and frozen, tasty soup – to get me off to flying start

This leads me onto my second idea. While the cupboard clear outs that came with moving house reset the timer on a lot of things in my cupboards, my general lethargy and lack of adventurous cookery last year means those cupboard staples are building up again. I’m definitely better about circulating my tins after my ‘all the tinned tomatoes in the world’ debacle last January and having a spice rack on the outside of my cupboards means I both keep better track of what spices I have/need replenished and I’m more inclined to remember to use the more unusual ones as they’re right there when I’m cooking. There was a time, before I started this blog, when I kept an actual paper inventory of what was in my cupboard and made actual weekly meal plans based on what needed used up and food shopped accordingly. I don’t think I need to be that anal about it but I do think some accountability in terms of meal planning – instead of nebulous plans based on browsing recipe books when I’m hungry – would not go amiss.

So I want to do a couple of cook-up my cupboards challenges, October already has a tag so that seems a good time for the second one, while there’s no time like the present to do the first one. I need to have a clear out of my cupboards, see what’s actually there, what needs used up soonest and plan what I’m going to cook to achieve that. I bet I find enough ‘new ingredients’ to make another post for the tail end of that challenge while I’m at it…

Categories: challenges, january cook-up, October cook-up | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

New Challenges

I found myself a new cooking challenge to take me through the year. Unsurprisingly I got some new cookbooks other the festivities and one of them made the journey back up north with me. Another Lorraine Pascale effort – I suspect I now have a full set of her cookbooks – Eating Well Made Easy and well I’m trying to eat more healthily. (When I went veggie I seemed to mostly replace meat with cheese, this was…not entirely good for my waistline.) As I’m terrible for looking at cookbooks and not cooking anything from them I had the idea that I could try and cook two things each month from it. It seemed a good plan for making myself try new things – from an already trusted source – and having a subject for one blog post a month. (Accountability!)

So far I’ve been successful in my efforts! It took me until the very last day of January to get my second thing of the month made – banana and peanut butter muffins! But we’re only a week into February and I’ve already made two things out of it! Success!

Anyway, back to January’s adventures.

First up, I went with a tagine. (Leek, aubergine and chickpea tagine to be precise.) I do actually have a tagine, but its lurking in a cupboard at my parents’ house so I ended up making this in a large pot instead – much less exciting. I discovered after I started cooking it that it was actually supposed to be served with buckwheat rather than couscous. As I was making it as a ‘cook up my cupboards’ recipe, that wasn’t really an option, but after having a wee dig about in my cupboards and unearthed some Bulgar wheat so I used that instead. I’ve never used Bulgar wheat before but it’s cooked very similarly to couscous so that was fine. The recipe called for harissa paste which I didn’t have a the time, I’ll have to try that next time I make bulgar wheat, because it doesn’t seem to soak up the flavour of the liquid its soaked in quite as well as couscous does. Anyway, this was a ‘cooking for friends’ recipe so I thought it would do nicely for a bulk cook, keeping me in dinner and work lunches for several days. Now, often when I make these kind of dishes that say serves 4-6, a lot of the bulk of them is the accompaniment – lentils, rice, couscous, whatever – so cut that down and that keeps it manageable. This was…not the case with this recipe. It was tasty; don’t get me wrong, but oh my goodness, so much food. It fed me for three days meals, I froze a portion and I used some excess sauce, as a sauce for gnocchi – surprisingly successful – and still there were leftovers. I’d definitely make it again (ideally in a proper tagine) but, less of it, as by the time I was done I was utterly scunnered of it and still had to throw some out which doubly upsets me.

Second up were muffins. Banana and peanut butter muffins. Healthy ones. I suspect my rubbish oven is partly to blame as I’ve cooked muffins with wholemeal flour previously and they were delicious. I’ve tried to make banana and peanut butter muffins twice now, following two different recipes and both attempts have been thoroughly underwhelming. Which, given that bananas and peanut butter are two of my favourite things, is really rather disappointing. They’re just really dry and tasteless? Admitted this should have contained dates, which I didn’t have, but I presumed that was mainly for the sweetness so I added honey to them – the absence of which I’d previously written of the failure of the last recipe – but even that couldn’t help them. I’m going to try making the lovely pumpkin muffins in this oven (both healthy and tasty) and if they’re rubbish too, I’ll know it’s the oven and if not well I guess I’ll know that muffins that are both tasty and healthy are rare and to be treasured.

Categories: being veggie, challenges, cooking the book | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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