Well, 2014 certainly got away from me. There’s no doubt about that. Not that it wasn’t an excellent year in many respects, but I certainly felt as though I was holding it by the tail of its shirt and running along trying to keep up.
There were definitely highlights. Travelling to Europe was amazing, as well it might be, and it also had both its culinary highlights and culinary lowlights. The passionfruit and mango caramels at Jacques Genin remain one of the most beautiful things I have ever put in my mouth. The sour cream porridge at Ersgard… well, let’s call that one an acquired taste and move on.
I loved doing the Live Below the Line challenge in May, both because of the opportunity to reflect on the challenges of food poverty and because it was actually quite reassuring to see how far I’ve come since I last lived with food insecurity. I never, ever want to find myself in that place again – but it was nice to realise that my food-related survival skills are actually pretty good these days. I don’t think I – or anyone – could truly live healthily on such a tiny budget for long, but I could certainly do a better job than my student-self managed!
I discovered some truly amazing cookbooks this year, including my favourite cake cookbook of all time, and I think I fed the entire floor – as well as the electoral office where Andrew worked – with Herman the German cakes for about a month back in November. Herman has now finished his time in my kitchen, but his many offspring live on in the homes of numerous friends and colleagues. Apparently, my constant neglect of Herman provided some pretty intense natural selection for vigorous and hardy strains, and his tendency to escape and rampage across kitchen benches alarmed several of my friends. He has even survived a conversion to a vegan, gluten-free diet, which suggests a decidedly strong constitution.
Looking back at my New Year’s Aspirations from last year… well, they were lovely, but it’s a good thing they weren’t resolutions, because I really didn’t get very far with them. Work, politics, travel, and, pleasingly, quite a bit of singing work rather got in the way. Still, they are nice things to aspire to, so I’m going to put them out there again, and hope for the best for 2015!
- Resurrect the Vegetarian Food Challenge. Starting tomorrow! (And if anyone has an itch to run this challenge for me one month, please, comment below and we will talk. I am evidently not capable of running twelve of these in a year…)
- Participate in at least one food blog challenge a month. I like meeting fellow food bloggers!
- Plan and eat vegan meals more often. I have huge numbers of these recipes – why do I never do anything with them?
- Actually invite my fellow food bloggers to hang out and do food stuff. This shouldn’t be scary. Why is it scary? (Why are people scary? Who knows?)
- The aspiration that dares not speak its name. Still too big and exciting to even admit to thinking about publicly yet, because I don’t know if I can do it. Especially while running eight events at work and having a wrist operation at some point in addition to all my regular commitments. But I shall not forget it, for all that!
To this I think I will also add:
- Re-do the pantry challenge. My pantry is getting entirely out of hand again, and must be tamed.
- Do the Live Below the Line Challenge, or another food justice related challenge next year.
But they are still only aspirations and not resolutions, so if I don’t manage to do all of them every time, it’s OK. Really.
Once again, I’m going to make a gallery for 2014 showing two favourite recipes for each month – one of mine, and one from another blog. While I’ve been awfully quiet and antisocial on other blogs this year, I always love reading what people are up to, and what fascinating recipes they’ve come up with (or how often they have eaten at Smith and Daughters recently, not looking at anyone, Cindy and Michael…) (Actually, that was another highlight for the year – if you like Latin-American inspired food and haven’t been to Smith and Daughters yet, you certainly should. It’s one of my favourite places to go in Melbourne.).
I hope you will, too. And I hope that 2015 brings you everything you most wish for.
On Cate’s Cates…
Raw Zucchini Spaghetti with Sicilian Nut-Meat Balls
I am still inordinately proud of this recipe – it’s one of the most restaurantish-looking dish I’ve ever produced, and it tastes rather amazing, too. And it’s surprisingly quick to make, which is always a bonus in summer. You liked it, too – it was among the top five posts from 2014 in terms of visits.
Chocolate Sweet Potato Ice Cream
With some quite horrendously hot weather due to hit us later in the week, a three-ingredient, easy ice-cream that is actually somewhat healthy sounds incredibly appealing right now. (Though perhaps not to its creator, Kari, who since moved to the Northern hemisphere, and is probably ready for a hot toddy about now…) I love the simplicity of this recipe – it seems very Kari, somehow.
On Cate’s Cates
Gnocchi with Broccoli Pesto and Tomatoes Two Ways
It may not be fancy, but this was one of those meals that just tastes really, really good. I’ve been getting really into broccoli pestos over the last year, too – I love how substantial broccoli makes a pesto sauce, and how it cuts the richness without detracting from flavour. And here, I got to combine beautiful fresh tomatoes with slow-roasted ones. Perfect.
In fact, this sorbet is from 2009, but since it was submitted to my tomato challenge in February, and it’s super cool, I’m going to count it, because I adore it and have every intention of making it in the next few days. Michael and Cindy are such lovely bloggers, and make my life incredibly easy when I’m trying to decide where to eat out, since they lurk around the same suburbs that I do, review a lot of restaurants and cafés, and have excellent taste.
On Cate’s Cates
Stuffed Baby Pumpkins with Spiced Lentil and Rhubarb Stew
You can tell I was having a busy time early in the year by all the savoury recipes! Clearly, there was no time for baking. This recipe was inspired by a box of tiny little pumpkins that came in from Farmhouse Direct, and a dinner party for which I was under-prepared. The results were far more spectacular than I deserved them to be…
Stuffed Tiny Pumpkin Perfect for One
I couldn’t resist using this recipe of Hayley’s, since we were obviously in sync with our veggies this month – I’m pretty sure it’s even the same breed of pumpkin. Her recipe looks far more decadent and comforting than mine. I’m pretty sure it’s all the lovely, lovely cheese… Something tells me that this will be my stuffed pumpkin recipe of choice next time around.
On Cates Cates
Vegan Choc-Cross Buns with Tahini and Apricots
These were inspired by a truly delightful baking class at Gewürzhaus, where we made all the traditional European Easter breads and biscuits. We were given a recipe for chocolate hot cross buns – something which I normally can’t abide, because they are far too sweet – and then I suddenly remembered the chocolate tahini in my fridge, and my desire to veganise hot cross buns generally…
Vegan Pear Chocolate Cake
Natalia at Naturelle joined my Raw challenge in January, with a glorious raw dessert from the previous December. However, I’m more excited by this Vegan Pear Chocolate Cake, which looks like exactly my sort of food. Natalia does rather a lot of gorgeous raw desserts (I’m also very taken with her raw Stollen), but she also makes some fairly spectacular soaps, and I’ve been enjoying reading about both. She also writes in several languages, including English, French and, I think, Romanian, which makes her blog linguistically very interesting to me!
On Cate’s Cates
Almond Milk Crème Patissière
I was sort of tempted to share one of my Living Below the Line posts here, since this was such a feature of May for me, but in terms of recipes, this was not a project that led to any amazing culinary revelations! I am, however, extremely proud of the almond milk patisserie cream I invented and used for any number of Eurovision desserts.
But for those who want to revisit the Living below the Line experience, the list of posts can be found here.
Wholemeal and Onion Pizza Dough
Jacqui at Tinned Tomatoes is another one of these incredibly prolific bloggers who makes me wonder what I’m doing with my life! She is also an incredible social blogger. She runs the Food Blog Diary, the Pasta Please Challenge, No Croutons Required, and the Bookmarked Recipes Challenge. This wholemeal and onion pizza dough looks so wonderfully appealing, and will definitely be appearing under a pizza or two in my house in the near future…
On Cate’s Cates
Chocolate Birthday Cupcakes with Tofu Mousse and Scream de Menthe
This recipe is so terrible it’s good. It’s a lovely, gluten-free, low-FODMAP, vegan cupcake, with the most indecently green and alcoholic filling imaginable. I am fairly certain it has no redeeming features. I still love it to bits. But if you are after something from June that’s a smidge healthier, you might want to go with the chocolate tahini shortbread instead…
Yellow Zucchini Tarte Fine on a Yoghurt-Based Crust
In fact, I have not interacted with Clotilde online at all, but I bought her French Farmers’ Market cookbook early in 2014 and it quickly became one of my cookbook obsessions. I love her creative way with flavour, and her ability to create very simple combinations that are nonetheless perfectly balanced. This zucchini tart looks utterly perfect for summer – I love yoghurt-based baking, and the combination of zucchini, mint and ricotta is always irresistible.
On Cate’s Cates
Winter Tuna Salad with Fennel, Orange, Chickpeas and Hazelnuts
A rarity on this blog – the non-vegetarian recipe. But sometimes, this is the recipe that best represents the month, and this particular salad was appearing regularly in my lunchbox through winter this year.
Smoky Cheese and Barley Nut Roast
Johanna is one of my oldest blogging friends here, and nut roasts are rather a speciality of hers, so I was delighted when she brought this one to my online Christmas In July party. One of these days, we should do a real-life one…
On Cate’s Cates
Miniature and Inauthentic Croquembouche
Look, you think I’m going to make a Croquembouche, even a little tiny lop-sided one, and not brag about it every chance I get? This also features the famed almond milk crème patissière from May.
Kale Chocolate Chip Pancakes
This blog is a new one to me, and one I found after Sudha participated in my Non-Terrifying Tofu Challenge back in March. I’ve been enjoying her quirky approach to cooking, which I think is exemplified in these pancakes. I can’t think of many people who would think putting kale into a choc chip pancake was a good idea, but I’m pretty sure that anyone who would is a friend of mine.
(Also, another scientist! I’m beginning to think that the vegetarian food blogosphere is populated entirely by people who work in the sciences or with scientists….)
On Cate’s Cates
Pistachio Raspberry Muffins with a hint of Roses (and Zucchini)
Remember how I fell in love with Red Velvet, Chocolate Heartache, and baked from it twice a day every day for about a month? (You may not remember this, but my colleagues at work certainly do.). Well this was my attempt to try my hand at Cakes With Vegetables In Them. And it was delicious.
On the Forest Feast
Watermelon Tomato Salad
Another cookbook I fell in love with and cooked from *obsessively* this year was Erin Gleason’s beautiful Forest Feast cookbook. This is the most visually stunning cookbook I’ve seen – the recipes are set out very intuitively, and they are simple enough that you can make four or five at once for a dinner without driving yourself crazy. A great book for people who are not confident cooks (or not confident readers), but who like interesting flavour combinations and beautiful, fresh food. Her blog is equally beautiful – she is clearly as much artist as she is chef, and her food is fresh and vibrant.
On Cate’s Cates
Arden Forest Salad
Speaking of forests, how could I review this year without reminding you of the prettiest thing I’ve made in my kitchen in 2014? This salad was made for one of my Shakespeare Feasts, but was really inspired by several of the bloggers and cookbook authors mentioned in this post, particularly David and Luise from Green Kitchen Stories. I love its combination ofleaves and herbs and broccolini with the tangy yoghurt tahini dressing and the fruit and nuts hidden on the forest floor.
Roasted Cauliflower Salad with Fried Capers and Pickled Currants
I’ve rather fallen in love with brassicas over the past couple of years, and this sort of recipe is why. Janet at the Taste Space is a regular contributor to my vegetarian challenges, and she is scarily prolific – according to her About page, her day job is a physician (thus providing further evidence for my theory that all vegetarian bloggers work in the sciences), which is a not a job that is generally known for its short hours and lack of intensity, yet somehow finds time to blog almost every day, review innumerable cookbooks, and participate in all sorts of online/foodie challenges. I have no idea how she fits all this in. My personal theory is that she doesn’t sleep. Anyway, Janet also writes excellent recipes, especially, or so it seems to me, for things to do with cauliflower. I can’t actually tell whether Janet is particularly prone to wonderful cauliflower recipes or if I’m just obsessed with cauliflower, but I think I may have just decided what we are having for dinner tonight…
On Cate’s Cates
Cucumber Noodles with Gazpacho Sauce and Guacamole
(And look who got a new camera in early November… )
I absolutely love this recipe. It’s cooling and beautiful and packed with flavour – a bit too much flavour the first time I made it, because my hand slipped on the hot sauce and a *lot* went in – and it’s also incredibly fast to make. I expect it to feature heavily on my menu in January and February…
Kingswood Family Scripture Cake
I have to say, one of my favourite things about Nick’s frugal blog is all the really old-fashioned, family recipes he posts – which are indeed frugal, and come from a different culinary vocabulary to my own. This one, of course, is particularly appealing to a church musician such as myself, though it must be confessed that I do not know all the scriptural references off-hand. I do, however, love a good fruitcake, and this looks exactly like the kind I enjoy.
On Cate’s Cates
My new favourite biscuit recipe of all time. These are so good – crunchy and chewy and thin and gingery and sweet and chocolatey and beautiful. Everything you ever wanted from a Florentine. And really quite pleasingly easy to make.
Christmas-Spiced Parsnip Cake
I adore this blog, and I adore the Green Kitchen Cookbook, and most of all, I adore the Green Kitchen App, on which this cake also appears. While it is not strictly true that I bought an iPad in order to be able to use the Green Kitchen Apps more effectively, this was certainly one of the reasons. I love the way David and Luise manage to insert fruit into their salads and vegetables into their cakes. And I just love the way everything they do is something I would never have thought of – and tastes amazing.
Gluten Free Christmas Gingerbread House
This is a bonus recipe, just because it was too adorable to pass up! The Gluten-Free alchemist joined my Pasta Please challenge in November with a rather spectacular gluten-free fettucine. I’m loving everything I see on her blog, and look forward to playing with it more in the new year.
And speaking of the New Year, it is approaching at a very rapid rate indeed! So I’ll sign off now, and just wish you the very best for 2015. See you there!