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Foodin’ challenges

You might not have noticed, but it recently became a new year. That means we observe the fact that, since 1 January 2011, the planet has done approximately one loop around the sun. It also means bloggers whip themselves into a foam of introspection, self-reflection and planning, usually expressed through lists such as “Top 10 Salad Dressings of 2011!” and “Dreamiest 19 Desserts Ever of the Year!” and suchlike. Since I’ve pretty seriously missed the boat on that kind of list, I’m going to instead use this turning of the calendar to think about things I’d like to learn how to cook and use the comparatively arbitrary timeframe of a year — let’s say, for convenience’s sake, this one — as a deadline.

When I started writing this list, I decided there were two sub-lists, really: Things I Want To Learn How and One-Offs.

Thus, in 2012, I’d like to learn how to make:

  • Raisin bread: full of raisins, dried peel, and spices. For toasting! Raisin toast with fresh figs and blue cheese is one of life’s greatest food things.
  • Pain aux raisins: those awesome sultana-riddled snails of croissant pastry.
  • Fresh plain pasta: this will be a good one to have. Right now, when I want pasta, I have to sit around whining “I wish I had some pasta right now, boy do I ever” until M takes pity on me and mixes up the dough. And frankly that’s hurting my throat.
  • Bread rolls: for lunches! I’ve made bread rolls in the past, but they’re never quite right. Never quite as soft as I’d like them to be. So that’s got to change, DO YOU HEAR ME?
  • Wholegrain bread: I love wholegrain bread, crunchy with seeds. Time I flexed those kneading fingers and got some for myself. Anybody else surprised at how many farinaceous challenges I’ve got here?
  • Crumpets: like the ones you get in the shops, with bubbled-open tops, but without the weird preservative smell and  rubbery texture. WithbutterandhoneyOHGODYES.
  • Polenta: smooth and creamy or baked and firm? Both, I think. I want to get a handle on this stuff. Especially now I’ve read a few blog posts referring to the smooth/creamy variety as a breakfast dish. I can imagine that with cheese and cooked spinach being particularly nourishing; or, better yet, with stewed fruit and toasted nuts. YEAH!
  • Eggplant: it may seem slack (not to mention grammatically questionable) to list a single ingredient as something I’d like to learn how to make, but what I mean is that I want to explore eggplants further. Get me my pith helmet and lab coat! My eggplant repertoire is currently moussaka, baba ghanoush and ratatouille, and while all these are delicious, I think I do more.

I’ve also started keeping a list on Pinterest of my to-cook list: when I see a recipe I like the look of, I pin it. Leading me to the following list. In 2012, I want to try making:

  1. Quince paste
  2. Yoghurt cheesecake
  3. Baked felafels
  4. Cornbread with chilli and corn kernels
  5. Stromboli! (Which I’m fairly sure is traditionally spelled with an exclamation mark and a joyful hand gesture.)
  6. Pickled carrots

Whoa, okay, steady on. If I keep this up, I’m going to have an enormous list and no time to make yoghurt. Let’s draw the line there: I can already tell you this is a long, long way from being an exhaustive list of what I’m going to cook this year. But there are some skills to be learned, and adversaries to conquer (you better believe I’m looking at you, crumpets) and cooking wine to be guzzled wept into sipped while laughing delightedly. Game faces, people. 2012 is on.

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