When I decided to start a food blog at the start of 2014, my original intention was to document my adventures cooking as much from my cupboards as was possible. I had lots of cupboard staples – I’ve always been a sucker for being tempted by new ingredients that are reasonably shelf stable – and I thought it would be a fun way to work through the back log, while hopefully saving some pennies at the same time. The blog has drifted in focus over the last few – six! – years that I’ve been writing it, but in the current circumstances, it feels like a good time to bring the blog back to basics. It might even be helpful, entertaining to other folks stuck in their houses right now.
I should add at this juncture, that I’m not actually in quarantine at the moment, of all things I was supposed to be on holiday this week – my parents were coming up for mother’s day and a friend was supposed to be visiting from Oz – so I had done a certain amount of pre-stocking up and meal planning ahead of time. I’m just trying to be a good citizen and only go food shopping once a week so that means less perishables and no ‘popping out’ for things I’d forgotten.
The idea of bringing the blog back to basics came about as I was making my beloved beetroot risotto, having found some leftover red wine that needed used up I was excited to discover that I actually had everything I needed for the meal already in the cupboard. I’m going to need to do more of this, I thought, and at least I’ll get through some of that pile of beans and pulses in the cupboard.
It’s been a good opportunity to inventory my cupboards to see what I actually have in there. Since I’ve lived in my new flat I’ve been pretty decent about rotating my cans so that things get used up in something approaching date order – just the other day my stir-fry was enlivened by a tin of water chestnuts I’d forgotten about – and the plan of putting the little extras – cashew nuts, pine nuts, flaked almonds and sesame seeds – in pretty little mini kilner jars on my work-top has been great at both reminding me to use them and preventing me finding sad musty packets when I go looking for something else in the cupboard. I must confess I was surprised by how few cans of tomatoes I have – why do I always end up with either 6 tins or 1? And having seen Jack Monroe’s intriguing recipe for sweet and sour beans, I’m mystified as to what happened to my jar of dried black beans…
So I think we can call last year on the blog a reasonable success. I wanted to blog twice a month, I wanted to cook 2 things a month from my new recipe book and most of all I wanted to stop myself from being all feast and famine in writing terms. I didn’t entirely succeed, I only made 20 posts last year, but that was an improvement on the previous year’s 15 and while I didn’t cook two things from the cookbook every month, I did cook something from the book almost every month. And most importantly, for the first year ever, I managed to write at least one thing each month! Hopefully I can keep that up, along with writing – and much, much more importantly cooking – more.
This year, I have decided on two separate challenges to keep me writing (and cooking for that matter) on a regular basis. First up, I want to bake something new each month this year, sweet or savoury, it doesn’t matter. Despite us now having a better oven, I’ve barely baked in it. I want to master baking in this oven. I miss it and its an important part of how I relate to my colleagues – I like being the kind of workmate that appears sporadically with home-baking. Secondly, I plan to work my way through the other recipe book I got last festive season – How to be a Better Cook by Lorraine Pascale. As I’m going to be doing two different challenges, I’m only going to try and cook one recipe a month from the book – unless the thing I’m baking that month is also from that book!
November is almost upon us and as such, Nablopomo has rolled around again. I started last year’s challenge, late but with good intentions, but only managed four posts in the end. As I’ve not been writing very much over the last six months, it would be great if this challenge got me back into writing regularly, but honestly as long as I write more than four posts this month I’ll consider it a victory. To make things hopefully go better, I’ll be dividing my posts for the challenge between here and my film blog. The idea being that when I don’t want to make posts about films I’ll write about food and visa versa.
I am slightly more confident about my chances of success this year, due to having actually made a plan this year. Last year I just had some vague ideas of some themes that might work but this year, I’ve made a list of the posts I’ve been thinking about writing lately with titles and wee descriptions. (14 of them! That’s nearly half the days accounted for.) So my real target will be to get them all written by the end of the month. Anything more than that will be a bonus.
I’ve got a plan: let’s do this.