Friday, May 27, 2005

Recipes I've Already Tried

Well, I've had the book for a whole month... I couldn't resist trying a couple of recipes first. These are mainly from the Low Fat chapter. But I am going to remake them during my How To Eat year, so that I actually do cook all the recipes in the space of a year... (not that I wouldn't repeat them anyway, they're delicious!)

-Thick Miso Dressing for Beans
-Vegetable Curry in Vegetable Sauce
-Fine Pasta with Crab
-Canned Pulses (a fabulous suggestion in the Fast Food chapter, p. 182, which I did with cannellini beans and chickpeas, and replacing the bacon with anchovies)

PS, having miso (fermented bean paste) for lunch, and a vegetable curry for dinner before going to a pilates class is DANGEROUS!!!

The Parameters

This is a bit exciting, my counter (look right) has gone up significantly since last night! That's fast. I wrote a post about this little project on the forum, and got lots of very encouraging responses from the lovely people who post there. This is good, because now that lots of people know about this project, I won't be tempted to throw in the towel if it all gets too much.

FYI, I'm using a paperback edition of the book, published in 1999.

OK, so I made a list of all the recipes in the book, and came up with 340 recipes. There are more, if you count all the suggestions in the sidebars of text, but so far I've just done the recipes with headings, and the more instructive sidebar suggestions. For instance, the Mushroom Steak Sandwich (p. 136), has made the list. whilst Twiglets in 25g packets (p. 415), has not. But I do think that I will end up trying most of the sidebar suggestions, even the ones that haven't made it on the list... they all just sound too good. (Not the Twiglets, though).

It's divided into the following chapters:

1. Basics etc.
2. Cooking in Advance
3. One & Two
4. Fast Food
5. Weekend Lunch
6. Dinner
7. Low Fat
8. Feeding Babies and Small Children

I'm going to work pretty randomly through the book, depending on what's in season and what we feel like eating. I'd also like to cook in context as much as possible. In Fast Food, Weekend Lunch, and Dinner, Nigella suggests entire meals - main, sides, desserts etc, and I'd like to try all the suggested menus. For instance, her "Bolstering Saturday Lunch for 6" is a golden root-vegetable couscous followed by coconut crème caramel. Mmm...

Also, many of the recipes in Basics etc make appearances in other chapters, such as Bernaise sauce in a Steak Bernaise, stock in risotto, pastry in pies and so on. So it shouldn't be too difficult (fingers crossed) to get through a lot of the recipes in the one go.

Now, to tell you about us. There are four of us at home, my parents, my brother and I. We live in Melbourne, Australia. My dad is a teacher (Monday-Wednesday) and a singer (weekends), my brother and I are university students and we both do part-time jobs. My brother Daniel works at a cinema and as a waiter, and I work in a kitchen at Crown on the weekends (don't worry, I'm just a casual... not a real professional cook by any stretch of the imagination). So we all work weird hours and don't get to eat together a lot, and definitely not during the weekends! A Sunday lunch on Sunday is definitely out of the question as my father and I both work. Basically, the current plan is to do at least one full menu from Weekend Lunch, Fast Food and/or Dinner each week, and fill the rest of the week with recipes from other chapters. (Especially from the Low Fat chapter, for the sake of my waistline!)

Luckily for me, my family are very adventurous when it comes to food, and are willing to try anything! They're also super-supportive of any my culinary endeavours, which is good for me. (Thanks Dad for the KitchenAid! And the Nigella Cake Tins!) And my mum's already asking me when she can invite her friends over! Fab. And Daniel, bless him, is happy to just eat what I'm cooking, regardless of its source.

Me: Hey Dan, I wanna cook all the recipes from this Nigella book this year, what do you think?
Daniel: Yeah Ok. Isn't that what you normally do anyway?
Me: Uh yeah, kinda. Ok yeah, you just eat.
Daniel: OK.

One thing though, I don't eat pork - ICK! (This includes bacon, lardons, pancetta, anything from a pig). My familiy does though, and I have many pig-happy friends who I'd love to cook for. I haven't totally decided what to do about the recipes that have pork in them... I mean, for some of them it'd be easy to just leave out the pork, but what about a loin of pork without the pork? Pointless much? I might just make them for my family/friends and go and sulk in the corner with a low fat vegetable curry. Because even though I wouldn't want to eat the pork ones, I'd still like to know how to cook them, and see how they turn out. And I'm definitely doing the Caesar Salad and Spaghetti Carbonara - two of my brother's favourites!

But if I come across any porky recipe that I really, truly cannot handle making, I think I'll delegate them to a friend overseas with a digital camera... hmm... we'll see.

Can't wait to start!!

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Ooh, a new project!

‘If you could have just one food book this year, make it How To Eat.’ Time Out

I've started a new blog to document my new culinary project - this year I'm going to make all the recipes in How To Eat. 340 recipes in 365 days. Of course, that quote from Time Out was written back in 1998... but I'm sure it will still be fine. Especially seeing as it's Nigel Slater's 'book of the decade'.

Let me explain. For my 21st birthday in April this year, I received Nigella Lawson's first book, How To Eat: The Pleasures and Principles of Good Food. I am a huge, huge fan of Nigella, and have been since 2002, when I found Forever Summer at Readings and would spend many an afternoon flicking through its gorgeous pages before I finally took the plunge and bought it. Since then, I gradually added all of her other books (bar How To Eat) to my collection, which I love to pieces and cook from over and over again.

I think the main reason why I hadn't gotten How To Eat earlier was that I wanted to enjoy the other books first, and not be totally innundated by recipes and culinary advice. I also knew that once I got my hands on this book, many hours would be devoted to reading and cooking from its gargantuan 526 pages, and any hope of concentrating on university work (hah!) would be lost. And yes, I do know that exams start in 10 days... but I'm not going to let that bother me at this stage.

This project also is indicative of my rampant desire, nay, compulsion to try everything that this world has to offer.

But... what do I hope to achieve?

Well firstly, there are no pictures of the recipes, despite the fact that it won the British Book Award for Illustrated Book of the Year in 1998. I mean, there are pictures, but they are of random kitchen objects - a tupperware container, a cabbage, a stick of rhubarb, a jar of rice etc. With no photos, descriptions of the food are left to Nigella's considerably literary prowess, much like Macbeth performed without props. I'm curious and excited to see what form these recipes will take once I have cooked them. And of course, I will be posting photos up here for your viewing pleasure.

Hopefully, by forcing myself to cook a wide range of different recipes and foods, including some that I normally wouldn't, I will improve my cooking skills and vastly increase my repertoire.

‘The domestic bible for the millennium generation.’ Spectator

So perhaps, this will completely revolutionize our eating lives and our dramatically change our approach to food, cooking, eating and entertaining.

Or of course, we could just end up eating very well for a year. And how could I say no to that?

On June the 1st it begins... brace yourselves!