Photo of some baby plum tomatoes, basil leaves, and peeled shallots on a wooden chopping board

As a child, like many children, the only form in which I’d even consider eating tomatoes was ketchup. As an adult, I’m reformed – I was well on the way to liking tomatoes even before I decided to intentionally broaden my tastes – but it took me a little while to get here.

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Six Years

…is a long time to go between blog posts, I guess. In that time, I’ve graduated, I’ve moved city, I’ve got a job, my little brother has both started and graduated from university, etc, etc.

But, let’s pick this back up, shall we? Some things don’t change: I still like having fun cooking, and easy tasty food.

Mushrooms and Friends

For most of my childhood, and a non-zero amount of adulthood, I’ve been a bit of a picky eater. Not the pickiest, by any means, but certainly… limited. And a couple of years ago, I decided, I was Fed Up with this. With so many interesting things to eat in the world, I didn’t want to keep eating the same handful of things just because they were familiar.

All great things start with a single baby step. This was mine: I would – by whatever means necessary – teach myself to like mushrooms.

It turns out, the secret to approaching mushrooms is: lots and lots of garlic and butter.

(Melt butter on mid-high heat. Add mushrooms, and be patient. As they start to brown and crisp up, crush some garlic in. The result is crispy, buttery and garlicky – a far cry from the slithery things I used to pick out of bolognese as a kid.)

The mushroom challenge was followed by others, with varying degrees of success: aubergine (parmigiana is a beautiful thing), tofu (it’s…fine), courgettes (sadly, still just terrible).

This is an ongoing project! I’m planning to tell you about some of it.

Grow-Your-Own (Balcony Style)

One thing about living in the middle of London is: I start to miss plants and earth. My flat doesn’t have a garden, but it does have a balcony, and every so often I go through a burst of enthusiasm about growing things on it.

These things have worked well: the unkillable-but-woody rosemary plant; the handful of tomatoes I harvested two years ago; the series of basil plants that have lived and died and enlivened countless pasta sauces.

These things have not: the multiple thyme plants that have withered and died as soon as they reached my home; the potato I planted, and from which I subsequently harvested a smaller volume of potato than I’d started with; the carrots that didn’t.

I’ve experienced a fresh upswing of balcony gardening enthusiasm this month, and bought a stack of seed packets for some vegetables I like. It’s going to take some staying power on my part, and some kindness on the part of whatever balcony gardening gods or fates exist, but fingers crossed! I’ll let you know how it goes.

Linkspam

I can’t realistically share with you everything I’ve cooked or eaten or everything I’ve read about food in the last six years! But I do want to share some of it, so here’s a small collection of some of the stuff I’ve liked since 2013:

Things I’ve cooked: a decadent Yule log, mushroom Wellingtons, Smitten Kitchen’s amazing pizza dough

Aspirational bookmarks (i.e. things I haven’t cooked): salmon & broccoli tart, chocolate chunk cookies, red onion & brie tartlets

Food & culture: The Fat Nutritionist, this article about the science of fatness, various pieces from Captain Awkward touching on food and how we talk about it, lots of things on James Rebanks and Ursula Vernon’s Twitter feeds about agriculture and gardening

Books: James Morton’s Brilliant Bread, Harold McGee’s The Curious Cook, Julie Powell’s Julia & Julia

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Recently, I came across this recipe by Lottie + Doof for a pasta meal in a single pan, and decided to try it out. It’s a simple enough combination – onions, garlic, tomato & basil – and, I can verify, tastes rather good! You should try it out.

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Recently, I bought some pearl barley on an impulse, and then had to find something to do with it. The obvious choice? Soup!

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Here’s another of those “what did I have in the fridge?” meals. I’ve used cheddar for the cheese, but I reckon there’s probably something else that would suit this better.

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This evening, I got home to find a nearly-empty fridge. Not being in the mood to cycle out in the pouring rain, I decided to deal with it, and see what I could make with what was there. This rather tasty meal was the result.

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The other day, I ‘borrowed’ my mum’s Good Food magazine, and came across this lovely, simply recipe. I didn’t expect to be trying it out so soon afterwards, nor immediately after walking in at the end of a long day at work, but try it I did, and the result was more than satisfying.

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