Before we headed out to the Alps I came up with the notion of asking for recipes to cook while we are away. A sort of best of bloggers, or rather a best of those who comment on my blog, which makes them best anyway! Ha, a bit smaltzy? Yup. Anyway moving swiftly on ….
It was I thought something for me to do, after all how was I going to fill my time away from my garden? It was a way of connecting and saying thank you, for referring others to some of my favourite blogs. Besides there is a lot of WordPress food out there and I needed a way to choose.
Lots of the recipes that were suggested are sweet, I’m not a big baker, I don’t have a massive sweet tooth, I’m more of a savoury person. So it’s been a revalation to bake again. Honestly I bake about 2 or 3 times a year, it’s a bit of an event or at least a bit of a rush of blood to the head moment. Reading through the recipe suggestions, looking at the ingredients they were all tempting. I’ve made a fair few so far, a few gaps have appeared, especially over the last couple of weeks – cooking with a busted arm has been more of a challenge than I intended when I first set out!
I thought the Recipe Challenge would be fun, good to share, and get me trying some new and different things. It’s been all of those. The baking has certainly challenged me, along with cooking at altitude, cooking in a different kitchen, without all my bits and bobs around me. It’s meant I’ve had to work out quantities, convert cups and tablespoons to metric. To interpret recipes.
And the last point is probably the most important one. Interpretation. All the recipes I’m trying out are amazing, have been lovingly cooked, noted, photographed, written up, shared and commented on. And when it comes to actually making them it’s been down to me to interpret the recipe, small details, how I think the cook meant it to turn out, trying to interpret taste. How is it meant to taste? I will have noted the flavours, but are they balanced as planned?
And yes it’s been a challenge with a cranky oven, less gadgets and I have realised that I miss my zester more than anything else. The zester my mum bought me turns out to be the one thing I’m missing most from my ktchen. Using a grater just isn’t the same. I had to buy a few bits, but didn’t want to replace my kitchen at home, besides budgets, I didn’t want lots of duplicates. So I have had to be inventive or accept that it will be different.
By making and interpreting the recipes it has been driven home that lots of you are supreme bakers, I don’t have a powerful mixer, the little hand held machine I have isn’t up to the job, it’s simply not powerful enough to mix the doughs and batters and the quantities. But it’s the actual baking that I struggle most with. With a savoury dish, I can taste test it as it cooks, amend and alter, thicken, or sweeten. With baking, I make the mix and hope. Hope it turns out ok – what if it’s stodgy, doesn’t rise, is too crumbly, too sweet, collapses. You name it there are countless things that can go wrong with baking. And by the time you pull it out of the oven it’s too late to make any amendments.
So I’ve come to appreciate those that bake. I can cook ok. I can cook savoury. I know what I like. I know my limitations, but every now and then something winks at me and I try something new. But baking, frankly scares me! You guys must have nerves of steel. That and a lot of patience.
And then to present my efforts literally presents another set of problems. I think it’s a universal bloggers problem. How to make your efforts look good? I battle with natural daylight here in a dark and small apartment. But I think this is where bakers might have it easier. Cakes, biscuits and the like are simply more photogenic than a stew or a curry. Simple! And again I’ve hit up against my tools – the apartment is overrun with green plates and crockery. It’s not particularly pleasant to eat off nor is it particularly good looking when it comes to photographing it. So my tools have limited me, and I’ve taken unfancy, simple photos. No or few dressings. Just as they come out of the oven. But that’s good too isn’t it?
And then onto the ingredients – I realise we are an international bunch, and I haven’t always been able to get all the ingredients, so I’ve had to interpret, amend or tweak. And I know my omissions will affect the outcome of the dish. The dish simply won’t be the same. But then because I’m making it and not you, the dish will by default be different.
It has made me think about how I write up recipes, I’m more of a brushstroke kind of person, or perhaps that’s how I’d like to think of myself. Maybe that’s flattery. But I realise the devil is in the detail – try and describe the consistency of something, how long something is to be cooked, what does it look like during preparation. And so on.
I also use a lot of tried and tested recipes, so I tend to copy out the details and descriptions for any reader to use, where as in reality I skip and miss and add and alter at will. So the Recipe Challenge tells me more about my cooking style, my omissions, my faults and weaknesses, I can rush at things, like a very rushy thing indeed.
But it’s the thought and effort that goes into every single WordPress recipe that is as clear as a bell to me. Every single one is shared with thought, and that includes the ones that don’t work out as planned, or don’t look quite as appetising as the list of ingredients would have you believe.
So it’s told me lots about Blogging too. About how much effort is expanded by bloggers, how much care and attention is paid. And how valuable the little tips and comments that are made truly are.
And when I started to write this I envisaged a short note, a few bullet points maybe and here it is, a slightly tided up stream of consciousness. A realisation. A thank you letter to my fellow bloggers.
I’m off home for a couple of weeks, avoiding the half-term madness that descends on the Alps at this time of year and will be back to sea level, my home, my friends, my GARDEN. I’m planning on continuing the Recipe Challenge, the next likely candidate is another cake, there is a birthday and a book group meet up and I have a St James’ cake in mind, a stunning looking and sounding almond cake, I just hope I can do it the justice it deserves.
Here are the links to the recipes tried and tested so far