2016 has been the first year I have managed to keep a New Years Resolution (aside from an ill-advised Dry January one year) from January to December. I've always been ambivalent towards the concept of New Years Resolutions, never really seeing much point in them. However, last year I looked around me and saw my rapidly expanding cookbook collection, that I really did not cook from enough, and decided to challange myself to do something that would not only help me get to know my collection in a way other than reading them cover to cover, but that I also hoped would make me a better cook: throught 2016, I have cooked one brand new recipe (that I had not tried before, essentially) from a cook book every single week, without fail.
Chef on a Diet by Sophie Michell | Molly On The Range by Molly Yeh | Our Korean Kitchen by Jordan Bourke & Rejina Pyo | A Change Of Appetite by Diana Henry | Simply Nigella by Nigella Lawson | A Bird In The Hand by Diana Henry
Even if you don't really go in for New Years Resolutions, I would really recommend trying to do something like this. It is honestly one of the best things I have ever done just for me in my life. In a crazy, crazy year where I have churned out so many work related recipes and frankly tested some of them half to death, it kept me excited about new food and cooking, helped me discover a whole new world of flavours and techniques, and it actually taught me a lot more about the art of a really great cookbook.
The books you see above are the six books this process really helped me fall in love with. Yes, I cooked from so many other books, and I really loved some certain cookbooks before, but this process really made several cookbooks stand out for me. When I needed to find something new to cook every single week (some weeks I tried about six new recipes, but in others I had so much other work to do it was a struggle to find time for one), certain books always rise to the top. And what to these books all have in common? They're all beautifully written with engaging stories behind the food, where the recipes always work and there is something I want to make on every single page, or they teach me something so new and exciting you keep on coming back for more.
A Change In Appetite is the only cookbook I had in my collection already before Christmas, as I was given it at Christmas 2013 (in our family Christmas Day is basically an excuse for us to just give each other a pile of cookbooks!) and it was the start of my Diana Henry obsession. Her books are so beautiful, her writing so engaging, and the recipes just lend themselves to everyday. This book is divided by seasons (which is great to help narrow down my choices), and is designed so that all of the recipes are naturally lighter - and doing a job like mine where you're cooking at eating literally everything, healthy, light but delicious choices are what I think everyone should gravitate towards. That is also why I've also been so obsessed by Sophie Michell's Chef on a Diet too: the food is quick, easy, delicious which is what I wanted in a year where I both started and finished the year at the same weight, but gained an uncomfortable bit in the middle!
Well, who doesn't want a book written by Diana Henry that is just full of chicken recipes (there is so much more I want to make in there), but my book of the year for 2016 which was at the top of my wish list, I've found so many regular rotation recipes in, and I think I've cooked the most from has to be Simply Nigella. I don't have to tell you how well her recipes work, or how beautiful the book is, or that she is a sublime food writer. But I really adored about this book which I think is why I was so addictive, is that here were exciting, modern, world ingredients used in Nigella's friendly style. I loved it all, but her Asian Mackerel and Homemade Sushi Ginger have changed my easy weeknights.
Finally, two relatively new additions to my kitchen. I've already mentioned a fair bit about Our Korean Kitchen since I was given it at the Observer Food Monthly awards. I fell head over heels for Korean food while I was living in Los Angeles, and since I've had this on my counter, when I'm just home alone, I've found this is the book I cook from just for myself. And out of any other Asian cookbook I've read this year, this is the one that has taught me the most. And finally, Molly on the Range, pre-yesterday, the most recent addition to my kitchen. Everything I have tried so far has been divine (I'm counting down the days until I can make Chicken Paprikash again), but the story this book tells. Yes, I read Molly's blog, but this really is the story of one person's love for food, how it influences their life, and how she uses it to get back to her roots. Buy it.
So, even if you don't believe in New Years Resolutions, think of something that is not to deprive from your life, like quitting chocolate or forcing yourself to go to the gym when you don't want to, but promise you'll do something that won't feel like a chore, which you can look forward to each week. I've got an overflowing Evernote account full of recipes I've bookmarked from food blogs and websites, and don't get me started on my Pinterest account. This year I'm going to cook a new recipe from the internet each week, and the year after that? I'll move onto food magazines, and then in 2019? I'll be back to cookbooks again. I hope that this years resolution will become a habit I never give up, in one form or another.
Enjoy Boxing Day, I hope you're not all too full from yesterday's festivities, and I'm now off to choose my final recipe of 2016 to make out of one of the two most exciting cookbooks I received yesterday: Julia Turshen's genius new book Small Victories, and this year's Diana Henry Simple. And I've got a few New Years Eve recipes coming up later this week, if you are short of champagne cocktail and canapé recipes!