Wherever you are reading this, I hope that you’re finishing this year with a clear mind and a glimpse of positivity. This year, eh. I could go on about the shit show that it’s been, but there isn’t much point.
I hope that all of you had a chance to reset and set up for 2021, write down your dreams, your goals and your ambitions. No, I am not talking about “New year, New me” bollocks. Personally, for me, it’ll be “new year, better habits”. Habits that make my life better and keep my body and mind happier.
But anyway, I digress. This is a newsletter about food and I am here to talk about just that. I decided to do a round up of the best things I made/ate in 2020. I hope that scrolling through this list you’ll find something you’ll love in 2021.
Let's begin by saying that we all spent a lot more time at homes this year, which means a hell of a lot more cooking for ourselves. Some days it felt like bliss and smooth sailing and on some days, I wanted to pull my hair out and break every single plate in the house (those are the days when we opted for takeaways or frozen beige food). Helen Rosner put it much more eloquently here; The Joylessness of Cooking.
So this list is fairly long, and for that, I won’t apologise. Use this as your mood board, to get some inspiration for the next few days ahead.
Warning: Pasta is going to feature heavily.
2020 is the year of Shallot pasta. Using a WHOLE tin of anchovies. Caramelising the shallots for a very long time. Enjoying a glass of rich red and a Nashville soundtrack playlist (other playlists available). Sign me up. Not only is it therapeutic to make, but the leftover sauce is so moreish you’ll be spooning it over everything. Thank you Alison Roman.
I hate dried fruit. Except when it’s sultanas soaked in booze. Yes, I’ve been turned (I am sorry, Ayala). So I had a go at Milli Taylor’s BBBB Brown Butter Banana Bread. I left my banana bread making to the latter part of the year. My sultanas were soaked in amaretto and the loaf was unleashed out of the tin too soon/too warm, so I had mountains of beautiful edible mess. Second time round I was a lot more patient and it turned out beautiful.
My Cheesy Garlic spread. On bread, on crackers, on jacket potatoes, in toasties.
Nigella’s Chicken Sandwich. The key is to get the oil hot enough and marinade the chicken in advance. Would happily eat this every day.
Maple Pecan buns from Black Cat Bakes Wivenhoe. If you’re not local then this might tickle your craving.
Chrissy Teigen’s Spicy Miso Carbonara. I made this countless times and each time I tweaked it. There was one really bad time when I scrambled the eggs. We still ate it.
Leftover roast chicken. In a tortilla wrap. Slathered in mayo. Topped with kimchi and spring onions. Eaten very quickly. Debated whether to have a second wrap for an hour.
Thunnock’s Dark Chocolate Caramel Wafers. They also do Dark Chocolate Teacakes, send me a pack please if you get your hands on one of those.
Aubergine butter. One thick layer slathered on toasted sourdough. The recipe I used was from Olia Hercules’ Summer Kitchens. Basically burn the aubergine on an open flame til it collapses, mix in with some soft butter and add seasoning to taste.
My neighbour Lauren gifted us a box of homemade Italian cookies for Christmas. And oh my god, Amaretto truffles! I’ve never had a truffle so good in my life… So I found this recipe to try and recreate them.
Latkes from Cherish. I ate the first batch as soon as it cooked and then had to stop myself from eating the next batch. There are so many version of latkes online, you don’t need much besides some potatoes, onion, seasoning, an egg or two and some oil for frying.
Von Diaz’s Chicken in Adobo, adapted by Diana Henry for the U.K. market. The chorizo and vinegar sauce is something else; sweet, tangy and just a touch spicy. Save it and pour it over potatoes, pasta, eggs and whatever else.
Tuna sandwich. Sometimes I really crave the simplicity of a tuna sandwich. Here’s my take: tinned tuna (duh), mayo, Dijon, sriracha, LOTS of black pepper, a dash of balsamic vinegar, cucumber and spring onions.
Ottolenghi’s mushroom soup. My favourite part of making this is the stock. You end up with the best, most umami-rich stock. I always swap mushroom types for whatever is available at Tesco (that’s where our weekly shop comes from) so don’t feel deflated if you don’t have all the mushrooms available to you.
Bulgarian Tarator. Thanks, Alex for introducing me to this soup. It got me through the heatwave. Super easy to make and only needs a few ingredients.
Borscht. Borscht. Borscht. Weekly urn of borscht.
Tiptree’s Bloody Mary Chutney. It’s out of stock everywhere and nothing tastes as good.
Sauerkraut soup. My first one in a VERY long time this year. Growing up it used to be a regular on our lunch menu. Mum would cook a huge pot on a Sunday and I’d warm up a portion after school for my lunch. My dislike for the weekly soups was unassailable. Now I miss them - it’s there, it’s ready, the decision has been made for you. No agonising over “what’s for lunch”. Use this recipe to get you started.
Fitzbillie’s Buns, delivered through post. Long story short: sometime in April, I cried a lot because “what the actual fuck was going on and the lockdown” and I thought that ordering a Cambridge classic would cheer me up. It did. They were delightfully sickly sweet. And shopping therapy is an issue that I’ll be addressing next year.
Strawberries from the allotment. They TASTE JUST LIKE REAL STRAWBERRIES. There were very few of them and I have a tub of strawberry sorbet to see us through the winter.
Rav Gill’s Chocolate Chip cookies (they happen to be gluten-free!). If you don’t know Rav, you must follow her. She’s the IT girl of the patisserie world and beyond - she’s the new judge on Junior Bake Off, Telegraph Columnist, sock maker, industry shaker, Puff School teacher and more. Serious girl crush situation over here.
Turnip Salad from Summer Kitchens. Never thought I would enjoy turnip so much. It’s just grated turnip mixed with cream fraiche, salt and pepper. That’s it!
Too many cookies. Based on this BBC Good Food recipe. But more often finished off with pecans and sea salt. Or a special appearance of chocolate mini eggs at Easter. Basically, throw in your favourite nuts and toppings, you can even skip the peanut butter in the dough, it’ll still work.
Tahini and Miso Blondie from the Miso issue of Appetite
Pork dumplings from Kitchen Pan's Dumpling Workshop. Xinyue runs brilliant dumpling workshops (meat and vegan options available). Give yourself a gift of a new skill and some laughs. My pleating was so dreadful, I couldn't stop laughing.
I am sure there are so many dishes that I completely missed off, despite my huge love for them. Maybe next year I’ll start compiling this list in January and I have to pick 3 top dishes for each month. So I guess, I’ll see you back here in 12 months time for a round up of 2021.
What to watch: re-runs of all any Nadiya's Hussein programmes on iPlayer. Watching that woman is like being cuddled by a good friend.
A podcast to listen to: Home Cooking with Samin Nosrat and Hrishikesh Hirway
Discovery of the year: PenPalooza (currently in the process of writing my second letter to my pen pal in the U.S.) Snail mail is cool.
Something to do in 2021: ‘‘come’’ to my Cookbook Club with MiMi Aye. MiMi is a food writer, MSG podcast co-host and a supper club host. We'll be cooking from her book Mandalay and ticket holders will be able to ask questions.
Hope you enjoyed this issue. If there are particular things you'd like to see here next year, give me a shout. I am creating a consistent schedule for Appetite, cutting my fringe, getting into candle making (LOL) and working on a few other bits and bobs.
Frank wishes everyone a prosperous 2021! Whatever we may end up doing or not doing.
Coming up next: hibiscus, the fragrant flower native to many cuisines (no really, it's happening)
If you enjoyed this issue of Appetite, you can buy me a Ko-Fi to help fuel the next issue.