I’m pegging myself as something of a Julia Childs here. Forgive me for the lack of humility. I’ll explain. Quickly. And then we can move onto pretty pictures.

A while back Jo invited readers to cook their way through my latest book, Simplicious. All 306 recipes. Which is quite the endeavour. A stack of keen cookers took up the challenge, veritable Julies in this equation (get the reference now?).

Sweet Potato Nachos: I made a giant family tray using pulled pork from the freezer. My 5-year-old loved his ‘sweet potato boats’, and of course, the corn cobs were saved to make corn cob stock.
Erin’s take on my Sweet Potato Nachos. She says: I made a giant family tray using pulled pork from the freezer. My 5-year-old loved his ‘sweet potato boats’ and, of course, the corn cobs were saved to make corn cob stock.

I’ve been sharing results on Instagram. But I reckon Erin’s efforts are so bloody impressive they deserve a full interweb page.

Over to you, Erin.

Why I’m cooking my way through the book:

I love cookbooks. I own nearly 80 cookbooks.  But I have a bad habit of cooking only a handful of recipes from each book, returning to the same, familiar and appealing recipes.

I always fancied the idea of doing a Julie and Julia style challenge – to deliberately cook every single recipe from one cookbook – but I’d never found ‘the’ book to do it. When I started flicking through Simplicious, I immediately felt that it met all the criteria for such a challenge. Based on IQS principles, it aligns with my way of eating; it’s accessible and realistic, using real ingredients that are easy to find and prepare; and it’s MEGA.

Recalibrating Pork Meal
Erin’s take on my Recalibrating Pork Meal: I did indeed make this after a weekend of too much sugar, and it hit the spot (as did the recommended glass of red wine we enjoyed with it).

I knew that if I didn’t push myself to try the more challenging recipes in the book first, like Sweet Tacos with Easy Slaw, made with sweetbreads, I’d go straight to the Cardamom and Sea Salt Ganache Tart, or the fruit gummies, and never look back. Incidentally, I now plan to make to make the ganache tart last (yes, as my ‘reward’)!

Ultimately though, it wasn’t just the appealing recipes that encouraged me to go this far.

 

Pizza Muggins: This was a surprising stand out for me, and has quickly become a favourite. It’s a timesaver, while preparing dinner, to throw some veggie off-cuts into a mug and come breakfast, to crack in a egg, grate over some cheese, and whack it in the microwave. A note on the photo – the ‘props’ were not wasted – this was my husband’s ‘muggin’, and I scooped up the props to make one for myself!
Pizza Muggins: This was a surprising stand out for me, and has quickly become a favourite. It’s a timesaver, while preparing dinner, to throw some veggie off-cuts into a mug and come breakfast, to crack in a egg, grate over some cheese, and whack it in the microwave. A note on the photo – the ‘props’ were not wasted – this was my husband’s ‘muggin’, and I scooped up the props to make one for myself!

Now six months into this challenge, I’d suggest it’s also a subtle segue towards reflecting on our consumer habits more broadly, beyond food, and perhaps even to challenging our society’s materialist values.

Simplicious is a call to action, to examine the way we consume and waste food, and to develop more responsible habits.

Plus, living in a house full of boys, I wanted to reduce my grocery bill!

Caramelised Leek and Apple
Caramelised Leek, Apple and Rosemary Socca: I shared this chickpea pancake with my mother for lunch one Friday, served with a big side salad. It was gorgeous, scattered with pecans and blue cheese.

What I’m learning along the way, so far:

1. I can do more with less

With a well-planned pantry, fridge and freezer stash, my cooking capacity has increased, using fewer ingredients. Pumpkin Spice Mix is a staple that gets used most days. I don’t ‘need’ all the specialty ingredients that only get used once or twice. Further, I can stretch what I have out better. Now and then I challenge myself not to grocery shop for a week. Inspired by Sarah’s challenge to keep making meals from leftovers and fridge door condiments, we take a week to eat through our freezer stash and leftover vegetables, and keep it simple. It’s a great way to save the $150-$200 we would have otherwise spent on new groceries!

2. Re-growing vegetables is ingenious

As a terrible gardener, I felt a huge sense of achievement when my crusty cos lettuce butt started growing fresh new leaves.

 

One Pot Spaghetti and Meatballs
One-Pot Spaghetti and Meatballs: This really works! I loved that the meatballs get dumped in frozen, for minimal effort, and it literally… all cooks in one pot. As I made a family-sized batch, I used half Nomato Sauce and half passata, and I also added the suggested grated zucchini to boost the vegetable content.

3. It’s now harder to ignore the excessive waste I see.

This was a particular eye-opener in relation to food photography. All those Instagram photos with over-filled jars, drips, drizzles, and garnishes made me more aware of the many ways in which we waste food. I often wonder, do they lick the table after taking the photo?

4. Sarah’s corn cob stock is a thrifty and tasty invention.

What a handy way to use old chewed up cobs! I enjoy the delicate flavour and feel virtuous every time I use a few cubes from the freezer.

 

Strawberry Cheesecake Muggin
Strawberry Cheesecake Muggin: Lush and indulgent enough for dessert, and nourishing enough for breakfast. I used a little leftover cream cheese to make mine, and topped it with coconut kefir.

5. Turning old chopped herbs into ice-cubes is a flavour saver.

Although it can seem like a hassle to go to the effort, I’ve always been grateful when I get to melt a cube of chopped chives through my scrambled eggs…

 

Chocolate Berry Blitz
Chocolate Cherry Blitz: The kids didn’t notice the hidden zucchini and baby spinach in this ‘zmoothie’, which tastes like a cherry ripe. My neighbour gave me a giant zucchini, which I grated up and froze into a flexible muffin tray to make giant ‘cubes’, perfect for occasions like this.

6. Being Simplicious means thinking bigger.

Beyond food, I have inevitably started reflecting on the way I consume more generally, and also the ‘stuff’ I hold onto (such as 40 small decorative bowls). While the changes here are more incremental, it is fostering a sense within me about ‘living simply’, and getting better at sharing what we have.

Pretty Spring Risotto
Pretty Spring Risotto with Powerhouse Dressing: I have a fond spot for this dish, the first meal I made from the book back in November. It left me feeling good, not bloated like ‘real’ risotto can. I topped it with leftover chives and used the murky dregs of my bottle of apple cider vinegar for the dressing – which I had previously considered throwing out.

Frankly, Erin’s results put mine to shame. Have you made any of the above? Turned out as good? Be sure to follow the rest of Erin’s efforts. She’s up to recipe #110.

Have your say, leave a comment.

  • Rachel

    Wow, this is super inspiring. I am the same… i love recipes and cookbooks but I tend to stick to the same old same old. Love the diversity! I’ve learned so much from Sarah in the way that I cook and what I eat, but I’ve never considered this. Very interesting and a huge challenge.

    • Thanks Rachel! I’m finding that as I cook my way through, and gain new favourites, I am often returning to some Simplicious recipes frequently too (such as tonight, I cooked up the one pot spaghetti and meatballs again!). But it’s nice to be expanding my repertoire of same old same old meals! 🙂

      • Hannah Cole

        Those sweet potato nachos are constantly my go-to. Anytime I feel like a relatively lazy yet delicious dinner I will whip it up and lasts me days.

  • This is fascinating. Been there, done that. Have all printed IQS books and I usually go for the most appealing ones… until #Simplicious. Loving every single recipe, tricks & tips from it. You are such an inspiration 🙂 Keep it up.

    • Yup i see your pics about the place ! I’m so very flattered. Truly.
      Thank you !!!

  • Sue15cat

    A fascinating challenge, well done Erin. 🙂

  • Michelle Ford

    Great article. Great inspiration 🙂

  • lana

    when you freeze the herbs, e.g. dill in ice cube tray, do you freeze just the leaves alone, or do you put water in the cube to make a ice cube that will have bits of dill frozen into it? If the later, how would you use that in an omlette, wouldn’t it melt and be runny? same with grated veggies. Thank you 🙂