One year on
It’s my birthday this week. Well, actually it is my real birthday, but mostly what I was referring to was that this blog is now one year old. In that year I’ve written 104 posts, encompassing 123,375 words, a lot of which are “chocolate” if the word cloud above is anything to go by, which is enough to fill a decent length book. That’s a ridiculous amount of time spent cooking and writing about it.
In that time I’ve gone back to the earliest recipes in existence, written on three and a half thousand year old tablets in ancient Mesopotamia, and had a go at cooking them and I’ve eaten the most modern cuisine Heston Blumenthal has to offer. I have made dishes with ingredients from allspice to zebra (and that was just in one week). In all I’ve used 270 different ingredients, including onion in 15 recipes, sugar in 14, and tomato in 13. Bacon has been the meat that I’ve used more than any other, in 9 different weeks, but on rarer occasions I’ve enjoyed such exotic and exciting meats as crocodile, horse and reindeer, yet the most “likes” I’ve been given for a recipe I’ve written is for a vegan chocolate tart.
I’ve had readers in 55 different countries, so thank you to the one person in Puerto Rico or Bosnia and Herzegovina who read something I wrote here, more of whom came for a piece speculating on Dr. Who’s love of convenience food than any actual cooking. In fact, whether it’s The Lord of the Rings films or the novel Dracula, it seems that pop culture referencing food is the cooking for which there is easily the most audience (which is handy given my other sideline in writing about such things away from the kitchen).
So, what is the best way to pay tribute to my year of food blogging? By going back to the start, of course. In my first entry a year ago I discussed my love of the game Cluedo and my reasons for naming my blog after its leading suspect/detective/innocent bystander during a country house murder. That week I decided to make a culinary tribute to the beloved mystery board game and its colour coded killers. “Considering this dish was built entirely around a mad conceit, it tasted really good,” Professor Plum commented at the time.
Back then I wrote a recipe for “Roast Mrs. Peacock on a bed of spring Reverend Greens and Colonel Mustard roast red Miss Scarlett potatoes, served with a Professor Plum and Mrs. White port sauce” and posted it the following Sunday. Despite what Professor Plum commented at the time, I haven’t made that recipe since. In fact, in the year of writing this blog I’ve written a number of different recipes and have rarely gone back and tried to follow them again. How can I expect anybody reading this ever to have a go at making a recipe that I’ve written if I don’t go back and try them long enough later to have forgotten how to cook it.
It hasn’t got any easier to acquire an actual peacock to roast since this time last year, so once again I was left with having to use a pheasant as a reasonable substitute for the Mrs. Peacock component of another Cluedo dinner. Consulting my recipe, it turns out that I’d suggested giving the pheasant about an hour and a half, which seemed like an implausibly long time as, after an hour, it was already looking pretty well done. So, I took it out of the oven early and completely ignored the instruction where I’d said to make the sauce first, baste the pheasant in it to stop it drying out and then serve the sauce cold with the final dish. Not a particularly good start for either my original recipe writing or my ability actually to follow a recipe.
The next stage is the potatoes. My original recipe involves 450g of potatoes for two people. I love potatoes, but when serving this up it became pretty apparent that past-me had asked for an awful lot of potatoes, more than was easy to serve with the rest. Otherwise I found my own recipe pretty easy to follow, which is a relief. Having cooked the pheasant for less time than the recipe stated, it was probably less overdone than originally, but still could possibly have done with less roasting.
The core components of the dish are still pretty good together. The mustardy potatoes and sweet plum sauce remain a good combination with the game bird, even if it’s not a peacock. At the end of the day, I’m pleased that my old recipe had a good set of flavours, despite some slightly shaky cooking times and quantities. Hopefully this time next year I’ll be as happy with it!
Professor Plum in the Dining Room: It was interesting to follow the original recipe again, and to see the differences. It shows how many times professional chefs have to cook and recook the same dishes to get weights and timings that will work for a chef at home. Our oven has no numbers on it (thanks, overzealous previous tenants!), which makes judging temperatures difficult. The pheasant definitely came out drier this time, but was it a smaller bird, a leaner bird, or a few degrees difference on the dial? That still doesn’t explain the massive over provision of potatoes. Maybe our plates were bigger last year? We have broken a lot and had to replace them… Still, it was very tasty, and the plum sauce goes really well with such a gamey bird.
Writing two posts a week has been great for the last year, but hard to keep up with. From this week onwards, this blog will now post every other Wednesday. See you in two weeks.