Have you ever stood in the Supermarket, stared down into your basket of ingredients, and realised you’re preparing to cook the same old dishes for the billionth time? I do this pretty much every week.
That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with my old favourite dishes: a rich lasagne with a creamy béchamel, juicy roast chicken with a crispy skin, roast potatoes with golden skins and white, frothy innards .. these recipes come from my parents’ kitchen, and boy, they’re lovely. They must be, or I wouldn’t insist on making them to death, right? But it’s turned into one hell of a food rut. One great big Groundhog Day of dinners.
There’s no real reason for it. I have so many cookbooks that if I stacked them all up they’d be taller than me many times over, and I haven’t stopped buying them yet. (Two new ones arrived this week – do I need to see somebody?) The kind I like the best contain all the weirdo ingredients that I have exactly zero clue on how to use: rose water, semolina, saffron, black treacle, artichoke hearts ..
I buy these books. I read them. I croon over the pictures, and I put them away. What I barely ever do is actually cook anything from those buggers. Well, no more! No more food rut, no more auto-pilot food shopping. More rose water, more saffron, more new flavours and new recipes!
Before I get too carried away here I should confess that, old faithful recipes aside, I’m not a very good cook. I mean not terrible, but not good. I can follow a recipe (though I recoil from anything without an end-result photograph), but I cook with precisely no instinct or daring and, if I’m honest, not a great deal of confidence.
The phrases you will never hear from me include: “I just made a little marinade from some left over spices I found in the cupboard, and whaddya know? It’s perfect!” and “Oh, this banquet? Yes, I just whipped it together with stuff that needed using up in the fridge!”
I know some people just have a good pallet and a natural feel for food, but what I’m hoping is that I can teach myself some of that. So this is my attempt. To cook more widely, to blow the dust off all these cookbooks. To find new flavours and to build for myself a library of tried and tested recipes that numbers more than 15 pages. To give myself (and my long suffering boyfriend) a little freaking variety. This is my attempt to finally capture my kitchen.
Here we go!