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?).
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.