Testing Times


Balancing two recipe books at the moment is fascinating. Recipes from Brixton Village, which I’ve just been doing more edits on, is primarily recipes from professional cooks and chefs that I’ve been testing, editing and writing up while Slow Cooked is all my own recipes, created from scratch.

Both books complement each other beautifully and I’m enjoying the challenge and privilege of writing them. Testing other people’s recipes has improved my skills at testing my own, but that doesn’t stop me having a moment when things just don’t work. I’ve only had two or three total failures in the slow cooker since I started testing but it knocks me when it happens. I feel a momentary wobble in my own confidence and then a sense of guilt at throwing out food.

I mentioned this last week on Twitter and people suggested that I needed the company of a canine who would chomp down on anything to counter that one. Sadly the only furry friends near my house are the local squirrels and I’m not sure how fond they are of risotto…

However someone else made an excellent point about kitchen failures. Your failures make your successes possible. And your anecdotes funnier quite often. This got me thinking. When I first starting blogging, I was following other people’s recipes and generally massacring them as I went. Dan Lepard even had to tweet me to try and troubleshoot me wrecking one of his foolproof cakes. Those mistakes gave me something to write about and they taught me how to cook and eventually how to create my own recipes.

I look back on the slow cooked broccoli or my infamous salt fish and leek stir fry or the celeriac and clove soup that tasted like mouthwash with a celery stalk stirrer with amused fondness. I am immensely grateful to my mum who ate everything I cooked when I was 19 and learning my way round the kitchen, even though most of it was probably awful. I’m even more tolerant of those dim and distant Home Economics lessons with rock cakes you could have used as a door stop and ratatouille that more resembled a chemical weapon than a side dish.

Without all those dishes, I wouldn’t have learned to trust my instincts and skills and understand the formula of a recipe instead of simply following the steps. I may have had to go to bed hungry on several occasions after ruining the only food in the house, but it was well worth it long term. I just have to remind myself that mistakes now are all still part of that process and a way to keep myself focused.

They also make my successes something to feel really pleased about. You’re never too experienced not to feel a frisson when your cake rises perfectly or your roasties are the best ever or something else comes together just the right way. The only better feeling is when people use my recipes and enjoy them. There’s something amazing about sharing those recipes and the way it introduces you to new people, places and influences. It makes up for the moments when you ruin 2 kilos of marmalade for sure!

What about you? Do mistakes in the kitchen give you new impetus or send you back to the ready meals? Can you laugh at your mistakes or do you hide them from everyone else?