I’m going to embark on an epic culinary challenge. Cooking through a cookbook. A whole one.
I’ve been reviewing restaurants and writing about food for a few years now, but I’ve often joked that I’m a weirdo food blogger who doesn’t actually cook. People usually take this to mean that I can’t cook, which is not strictly true.
I’m a perfectly capable cook. Herein lies the problem. I might not be having ‘beef in the trifle’ disasters like Rachel Green, but I’m no Monica either. I can get dinner on the table, but I don’t get much joy from cooking, don’t have much in the way of chef skills, and am not a creative or imaginative cook.
Despite the fact I don’t cook much, I own quite a few cookbooks. I’ve been given quite a few as gifts from well-meaning people who assume my food blogging days means I’m a whiz in the kitchen. I’ve been gifted some at events, and others I bought for myself on a whim. Most of them have never been used.
I have a few old favourites, and food writers whose recipes I trust (I cook a lot from Jack Monroe’s recipes, and am quite partial to a Joe Wicks recipe too), but most don’t get used. Usually, because I open the book, find a tasty recipe and then get put off. It requires six hours of cooking, 900 pans, and some rare ingredient I cannot buy in Bearwood, and of course, the whole thing will cost so much in ingredients I might as well just order takeout.
That said, there are obviously some great cookbooks out there. The ones that people return to again and again, that are splattered with food, or have the pages stuck together. The ones the covers are falling off of.
I asked Twitter for which cookbooks they swear by, the ones that have really earned their place on the kitchen shelf and that get used over and over. The answers were pretty varied. The expected classics were there; Delia, of course, and Nigella. Nigel Slater. Ottolenghi. There were some surprising picks too, like Thug Kitchen, and Dishoom’s book.
Why the research? Well, because I’m a glutton for punishment. I’m going to pick a cookbook and cook the whole thing. Every recipe. Yes, like that Julie and Julia film. Except hopefully, my experiment won’t involve having to debone a duck or do anything with a pig head.
Why in the hell do I wanna do this? Well, for several reasons. I like a challenge. I like to try new foods. To expand my skills and my recipe repertoire. To push myself to try recipes I wouldn’t normally try. And just for fun.
Hopefully, by cooking through a cookbook I’ll learn some handy skills, and figure out why cooking is meant to be stress-relieving.
I put a lot of the thought into the cookbook I wanted to tackle, before deciding on Nigella Lawson’s first book, How To Eat. I bloody love Nigella. I like her approach to food, and I like her recipes. Most of How To Eat isn’t too alarming, but there are enough wild cards in there (grouse, anyone?) to deliver some chaos to the challenge.
- I’m allowing myself to skip the recipes for children. I don’t have any, so why waste the food?
- I’m not approaching the recipes in any particular order. I’m choosing as a I fancy things, and have the time to make them, aiming for at least one recipe a week.
- I’ll be reporting my results here. Even the disasters.
Wish me luck! Which cookbook would you cook all the recipes from?