If there was ever a motto for my 2012 kitchen resolutions, then it should probably be prior planning prevents poor
performance . . . as most of my kitchen foibles seem to be around failing to plan.There are clearly some things I need to do more of and things to actually begin. I need to change my mindset on some things.But most importantly I will have adventures and enormous amounts of fun. It's an opportunity to share the love.
I wonder what your kitchen resolutions for 2012 are? Do tell!
Broaden my horizons (or perhaps just get out of the rut)
I can get stuck in a culinary furrow of my own making and tastes. Every day could be a pasta day for me if I allowed it to be. I need to try new things. It isn't that I lack a sense of adventure, I do. I'm the girl that plays "wasabi pea roulette" for god's sake. It is equally true that I am not unwilling to try new things, I love discovering new ideas, ingredients and recipes. It is just that sometimes the old standbys are what comfort me. This is a paucity of imagination on my part, and I shall definitely confront my comfort zone in 2011.
Be full of beans
There is never a day when I say "mmmn, I really fancy some beans and pulses for supper" . . . which is strange because I do actually like them. So this year, definitely more beans; whether some lentils added to rice for kitchiri, or a salad of cannellini beans or butter beans mashed with lashings of cheese to accompany a warming winter stew.
Waste and definitely want not. I am not going to do this in a World War II "stiff-upper-lip" and "make-do-and-mend" kind of way, more in a "I need to plan better how I cook and eat". Actually, I have been doing this very consciously for the past six months, of which two results are that I have saved money and secondly lost weight. Hurrah for that I say! Not that I am trying to deny myself anything (heaven forbid!) but in thinking about what and how I eat, I can live more sustainably, frugally and am now noticeably much thinner. Who says frugality has to be depressing? Not me, my friends, I say bring on a year of austerity!
Talking of which, an off-the-cuff comment to neighbours before Christmas had me joking about them saving their poultry carcasses for me over Christmas. They were planning on serving up a turkey, duck and a chicken over the festive period. When I came home from my holidays they had actually saved them for me and I now have a vast vat of stock bubbling away.
Be a thrifty shopper
Which in some ways is really a continuation of being frugal, although it is hard to identify which came first. I am not going to shop for the sake of it (as I just happen to be passing a supermarket on the way home from work), because I can't remember what is in the fridge or because I can't face yesterday's leftovers or even because I am feeling too lazy to defrost something. I have started to shop around and will continue to do so. I have also paired up with friends to buy certain commodities in bulk to reduce the cost of staples of such things as rice and bread flour. Another number one rule, is to never, ever go food shopping when I'm hungry. There lies danger.
Eliminate processed food from my diet
Not that there is much and I don't count things like Lea + Perrins Worcestershire Sauce. But I have to confess a weakness for things like processed cheese. I know, it's weird but I do love that plastic stuff that purports to be cheese.
Eat less cheese
And talking of cheese, I need to cut down on the amount of cheese I eat. Cheese is for cooking with. It can be for pleasure but not for me. Well, only on special occasions. I can't be trusted with cheese. Half a wheel of Brie is not a meal replacement, Rachel.
Eat more fish
Sadly I don't have a good fishmongers near me, so perhaps I need to travel a bit further to track down a good one, such as Steve Hatt Fishmongers in Islington. It is just sheer laziness that stops me from making this a mission. Having said that, this doesn't apply when I visit Henry, (my aged parent) who is lucky enough to have a fishmonger who travels to Bingley market three times a week from the fishing port of Grimsby with a wonderful selection of fabulous fish. My dear papa then sends me home to London with a large bag of fish to freeze (I have a massive piece of haddock and some hot smoked salmon tucked away right now) - which just goes to show that you are never too old to have a parent want to make sure you're eating properly. (Let's put it this way, he's nearly 80 . . . you do the maths!)
I need to learn more about foraging and have just signed up with a local group who roam around north London looking for tasty, wild morsels. Again this might mean some travelling, although I think this should be relatively local since any travel costs and carbon emissions doesn't fit in with my ideas of sustainability. However, I think I should have a wide enough locale if I keep either within the limit of my London Oyster travel card or when I visit friends and family in Yorkshire. (I will of course try to eat and buy seasonally, grow my own, be sustainable and cut down on kitchen waste).
Nothing wrong with eating game - wild game in particular is low in fat and high in protein. If you're feeling squeamish about fluffy animals being killed in the wild, well in many cases, for example with herds of deer, the herd needs to be kept to a particular size to maintain the health of all the deer. It's a case of culling to be kind. So why not benefit for this, rather than letting it go to waste. Besides, it tastes good too.
Cheap and nutritious and fills me with horror. The smell, the texture and just the idea of it. I know it is ridiculously squeamish and if I want to be both frugal and sustainable, then it really is a insult to an animal that has essentially died for us not to eat the whole damn thing. Having said that, I do like black pudding, haggis and liver pate . . . it is a question of educating my palate I suspect. Perhaps if I think of offal as "variety meat" as the Americans call it, then I might have a better chance. I draw a line at tripe though.
Saints preserve us!
Well not the saints exactly, I wonder if there is a Guardian Angel of Preserving though? This year will be the year I really do get my act together, rather than leaving everything too late, so that the glut of tomatoes has finished, my windfall plums and pears are all rotten and the mincemeat made for Christmas isn't ready until New Year's Eve. (Ahem).
Eat more fruit
The comedienne Jo Brand used to have a joke back in the dark days of the '80s about boycotting South African produce because of the apartheid regime. Bear with me, there is a point to this . . . the joke ran along the lines of "I don't buy South African fruit. Actually, I don't buy fruit at all. If it hasn't got chocolate, there's no point". Well, I have to admit (not to a chocolate obsession) that I am not wild about fruit. I mean, I don't actively dislike it, I just have to remember that it tastes good. I used to love fruit as a child and now I love to drink fruit juice. But most of the time I never get a craving for say an apple or a pear. Any cravings I get are more likely to be for tomatoes or onions.
Explore new cuisines
I love trying the food of different countries. Luckily I was exposed to what were considered exotic foods by '70s standards in Britain, partly because my father was well-travelled, my mother's family were well-travelled - all bringing back a love of Asian food to Britain, but I also was fortunate to spend part of my childhood in Malaysia, where curries and spicy Chinese food were the norm. Hally-bloody-loo-yah. Having said all that, there are some cuisines that do not inspire me or I have yet to discover.
For example, Mexican food . . . I have yet to have a good Mexican meal. Now that could be because most of the Mexican restaurants in the UK aren't very good. I haven't been to Mexico, so it is hardly fair. I have spent some time in the States however, and I didn't like the Mexican food there either . . . Not wild about Japanese food either . . . but I realise that there is more to life than cold fish, so perhaps this year I will be more experimental. I know nothing either about Scandinavian or Eastern European tastes either; mine being firmly on the SE Asian, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern end of the spectrum.
I also have to admit that I know absolutely nothing about African food, apart from that at the northern edge, such as Tunisia. I mean that's an entire continent that is just white space on my culinary noticeboard. If this was a school report, it would read "Rachel could do better". 2012 could be the turning point.
Learn more about traditional British food. (That means the entire British Isles to me since I was born in England, my father is of Irish stock, my mother was Scottish and while my father lived in Wales during the last war, my parents also got married there . . . in January . . . and they say romance is dead).
I am thinking of the kind of things that have fallen out of fashion, regional specialities that have faded with the advent of supermarkets and possibly the influx of exciting ingredients from abroad or because people have started travelling more and lost the taste from some old-fashioned standbys. The good stuff obviously. I might have to draw a line at suet puddings as I don't like the texture - sort of chewy, boiled sponge (the kind of sponge that you use in the bath rather than a sponge cake).
No, not a shortcut to eating more fruit, I mean concentrate on what I am doing (actually in all areas of my life). Don't just depend on the egg-timer to ping a reminder that something might need removing from the oven . . . your egg-timer is notoriously unreliable and often stops for no reason other than to annoy you and burn bread and cakes. (I could always buy a new one I suppose.)
But more importantly, I do have a slight tendency to get distracted (by a book, usually a book or people or music or just daydreaming) and have been known to overcook some things . . . sometimes myself. I am notorious for burning myself on the oven door or scalding myself with steam from the microwave. I break things too . . . not deliberately, but often because my mind was somewhere else.
But my brain needs to be firmly back in the kitchen and I need to stay out of Accident + Emergency. Let's face it, the kitchen is the place that I enjoy the most (other than being in the middle of a good book . . . ah you now see my dilemma).
Learn new techniques
I can make sauces but I need to widen my repertoire. I bake bread, but rarely cake. I want to try different cuts of meat too and make more pies, a very traditional British technique if there ever was one.
I will learn to love . . .
Beetroot and bananas, although possibly not at the same time.
I will have singing lessons
What, you may ask yourself, has this got to do with the kitchen? I tend to sing and dance around the kitchen, particularly when I am making bread, although as Joan Cusack's character in Working Girl says, "just because I sing and dance around the house in my underwear, it don't make me Madonna". Thank god (I may be in the minority, but Madge's voice is flat!) However, I do think that if I am going to annoy my friends, neighbours and family while bellowing out a few sassy jazz numbers, then the least I can do is probably have a go at singing in tune. Besides it makes me very happy . . .
Labels: A Kitchen Chronicle