A daily defrost

This week, meal planning proved fruitful, or perhaps rather veg-full! In a bid to start from a clean sheet with The Pinny Project challenge, I thought it wise to begin with a clean freezer.

Over the Christmas period, we popped a lot of leftovers in there, knowing that come the New Year, they will serve as a supplementary bonus to our weekly shop (thus cheapening the bill and adding an element of surprise!)

Digging through the draws we’ve found Cottage Pie from Christmas Eve, bacon from the butcher that we’d batch frozen, chicken legs and, rather wonderfully, a tub of my homemade vanilla ice-cream!

So other than buying a few fresh veggies and throwing in a spot of the usual fruit bowl and fridge essentials (milk, eggs etc) for good measure, we’re practically on a daily defrost! From roast chicken with salad and couscous to bacon, poached egg and grilled tomatoes, we’ll be enjoying a veritable medley of delights. Most certainly an economical and purse-friendly week!

I also made my first ever loaf of handmade bread at the weekend, leaving my trusty breadmaker untouched and looking on as I mixed, kneaded and shaped, wistfully wondering if I’d ever open its metallic jaws and feed it flour ever again (fear not, my mechanical marvel; you’ve much to accomplish  yet).

So now, with dinners sorted for the week, I can put my feet up, crack open the cook books and start thinking about what I’ll rustle up for the weekend ahead and the days that follow it.

Oh but what a task that is…when you have over one hundred cook books in your kitchen…in their own, exclusive bookcase…in alphabetical order by first name, no less.

A collection of over 100 cookery books in Pinny Girl's kitchen

Ah yes, my true weakness has been revealed. Never a shelf goes untouched in the cookery section of a bookshop. What can I say? I find them hypnotic; almost to the point of being that one step beyond addictive.

With every book I hold, I have a wanton desire to peel open the cover, leaf through the pages, pour over the pictures, stare longingly at the recipes as they hardwire my brain into saying ‘make me’ until finally, I think ‘Well, what’s one more?’ and swiftly make my way to the counter…it’s very rare that I ever put one back.

And so I find myself standing in my kitchen, eyes feasting on the rainbow of spines that face me; an explosion of colour, a cornucopia of ideas waiting to be explored, ingredients crying out to be poached, baked, pickled and devoured, and as I survey the scene each and every day, I can’t wait to read them all.

But of course, with so many, the very thought of reading them all and trying every single recipe that each beholds, feels a nigh-on impossible concept. ‘But they’re all so wonderful; I’ve got to try everything!’ I say to myself. And then the voice of reason mutters something about pipedreams and then I put the kettle on.

But no, it’s time to grab the bull by the horns and build my culinary skills and recipe repertoire – delving deep in to the shelves and pulling out a medley of seasonal, exciting, virgin recipes.

But where to start? Naturally, I have my favourites; my ‘go-to’ guides that I rely on week-in week-out: Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries II (heaven in a hardback), Delia Smith’s Complete Cookery Course (of course!) and Nigella Lawson’s How To Be A Domestic Goddess (because every kitchen needs a Nigella), but there are some real gems in there that don’t often get a look-in, and it’s these lovingly-owned but left-out little beauties that I want to bring to the fore by giving them the attention they deserve.

So my challenge now is evolving. Not only will I be following The Pinny Project pledge, but I’ll be doing so by working my way through the books on my shelf, taking one book in turn each week and picking out the recipes of the season that I’ve never cooked before (and to be honest, there’ll be a lot of them that I’ll most likely have never seen before, or at least have no memory of ever having read – a travesty on my part, but a thankfully now short-lived one).

Like teaching a child the alphabet, it’s often a good idea to start with A. So, Ainsley Harriot’s Low Fat Meals in Minutes, come on down. Now let the challenge REALLY begin!

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