#17 A Simplicious Challenge: A Celebration Meal

The Simplicious Challenge: I’m cooking all 306 recipes from Sarah Wilson’s book Simplicious, to see the impact it has on the way I buy, cook, consume and waste food. Read the first post here, if you missed it.

When the idea for this challenge first popped into my head in late 2015, I mentioned it to my husband. He looked at me like I was mad (I get that look often) and told me to sleep on it for a few days before making the commitment. I didn’t, I was too excited. I jumped straight in – got to eat anyway, right? This past weekend I had a celebration lunch with my family to finish off the final 8 recipes from Simplicious, including the Cardamom and Sea Salt Ganache Tart. And to have a put-Simplicious-on-the-bookshelf ceremony (my husband forced me to, barely able to conceal his delight that the book would no longer live on our kitchen bench).

At lunch, my Mum asked me if I would do it again, if I had known how long it would take. It’s been a slog at times, though not a particularly arduous one. I would definitely do it over again. When I think about mindful consumption, and extracting the full value of the things we buy, I feel like I’ve done that with this book, so well acquainted are we now! The spine of the book is broken (literally), from my endless use. I’ve discovered all its ‘hidden’ recipes and tips, and its mistakes, such as the missing pumpkin puree in the Superfoodie Lasagne Cake (just throw it in with the meat sauce); and the Minted Pea Pistou endearingly masquerading as Quick Zucchini Tzatziki (no wonder my Tzatziki didn’t look like the photo version!).

I started this challenge for a couple of reasons. When I opened it for the first time, I caught myself doing what I always do – frenetically flicking through, bypassing most recipes and marking out the few that I really wanted to make, like the chocolate ganache tart that was popping up all over Instagram at the time. I owned 80 cookbooks back then (now down to around 55, half are eBooks), most of which were also fairly unused, indulging my insatiable appetite (hehe) for looking at pictures of food. This suddenly made me uncomfortable.

That Simplicious is not just a cookbook but a call to action prompted me to act differently. I wanted to see how it impacted on the way I buy, consume and waste food, and it has certainly had an effect. I’m not perfect, by any means. It’s still a work in progress. But I’m much more aware of it than I used to be, and have adopted various strategies. Some of these are simple – the last night of the week before grocery shopping is always ‘scratch night’, when we try to use up our leftover veggies. Some require more effort, like the food scraps which I drop at my office roomie’s house twice a week for her chickens. In fact, after reading the fabulous tips shared by everyone in my Instagram giveaway last week, I mentioned to her that I was thinking of getting a worm farm. She has given me hers, which she no longer uses. And so the flow continues!

The impact has been further reaching than food, however. The process of ‘simplifying’ food has inevitably led to a simplifying of other parts of my life, including the way we consume more generally. We are thinking more intentionally about how we spend our money and trying to be less frivolous. We’ve refocused our spending towards experiences instead of stuff. My ramekin collection has diminished, as I’ve worked on reducing (responsibly) the amount of stuff we own. A commenter on the blog led me towards the Slow Home podcast, which has continued me on this path of reflection, and I’ve met many wonderful people along the way.

I read back through some of my previous posts while writing this one, and I have to laugh at most of them. Particularly the time I started ranting about Sarah Wilson’s period. I used my nerdy spreadsheet right until the end, and have a huge sense of accomplishment that they are now all appropriately colour coded. 😉 And I’m still terrified of talking to the butcher and fishmonger.

Although this is my last food-oriented Simplicious post, I will do one more post (only one, I promise!) in the next week or so. I’ve had lots of questions over time about the ‘best’ dishes from Simplicious: the best family meals, the best desserts, etc. So my very last post (18 posts for 18 months!) will highlight my winning dishes, that I recommend trying out if you’re considering tackling Simplicious too!

The food:

I made the final 8 recipes from Simplicious:

  • Celery Soda (p 171): Actually, my Dad – who owns a juicer – made this one! He said he wanted to add more mint and lime, but my Mum wouldn’t let him until I had ‘critiqued the recipe’. 🙂 He was right though, this would be improved with more mint and lime. And a greater soda water to coconut water ratio. And some vodka or white rum. May as well make it into a mojito…
  • A salad of crushed olives (p 170): I made a huge bowl of this salad, and thought it might go uneaten – but it was a surprise hit. The combination of olives, crunchy celery and mint, with a tangy dressing makes for a delightful side dish.
  • Socettes (p 106): I adore the socca recipes in Simplicious. These little socettes are a fantastic party idea, and very easy to make in a flexible muffin tray. I topped mine with marinated fetta and:
  • Zucchini butter (p 189): This little concoction is a genius way to use up zucchini. I’ve since had the zucchini butter on crackers and as a side dish. It would also be delicious stirred through pasta.
Socettes with Zucchini Butter from Simplicious

Socettes with Zucchini Butter from Simplicious

  • Israeli Whole-Baked Cauliflower (p 316): Since Sarah released this book, ‘whole baked cauliflowers’ have become an incredibly hipster food. Having said that, it was delicious – marinated overnight, easy to whack in the oven – and cheap!
  • Simplicious Smoked Salmon (p 160): This not-really-smoked salmon is more like a gravlax, and it’s so easy and fuss-free to make (just make it ahead of time). And as Sarah points out in the book, miles cheaper.
  • Fridge-Door Tonnato (p 254): This is a tuna/caper/anchovy/mayo sauce which is intense but yummy (if you like those particular ingredients, which I do). It does make quite a lot so you may want to consider a half-serve. We served it as a side dish with green beans and boiled eggs.
Fridge door tonnato from Simplicious

Fridge door tonnato from Simplicious

  • AND FINALLY: The Cardamom and Sea Salt Ganache Tart (p 318): Well. I had a lot of high expectations resting on this dish, as the dessert that kicked off this whole challenge. The verdict? I loved it. The coconutty chocolate crust was like a giant chocolate crackle, and the chocolate ganache filling was divine. I topped it with sweet spiced groaties, pomegranate seeds and raspberries. Fortunately I had asked the IQS community for some tips before baking: Definitely use a loose-bottomed tart dish (it pops out quite well), but make sure you place this on a larger tray in the oven, as the coconut oil will leak out. Also, hide away the last piece to have for a secret Second Dessert. I did.
Cardamon and Sea Salt Ganache Tart from Simplicious

Cardamon and Sea Salt Ganache Tart from Simplicious

It was so yummy it deserves a second photo:

Cardamom and Sea Salt Ganache Tart from Simplicious

Cardamom and Sea Salt Ganache Tart from Simplicious

As I mentioned earlier, I will do one more Simplicious Challenge post next week, with my favourite ‘winning’ dishes from the book. Best family meal, best beverage, what I’d take to a BBQ – if you have any questions you want to know, now’s your chance!

Read the previous post here: #16 A Simplicious Challenge – A Sustainable Giveaway.

9 Comments

  1. I’m so glad there’s one more post, I wasn’t ready for this to be the end. I have loved being on this journey with you. It’s taught me a thing or two…hello marinated fetta. Well done Erin you should be very proud.
    Rani x

  2. Anita says:

    What a great idea to have a family lunch to complete and celebrate the last few recipes in the book! And you’ve made it all look so delicious, as usual 😉

    We too enjoyed the salad of crushed olives which would never have got a look-in if I wasn’t cooking everything from Simplicious, and I think that is the beauty of embarking on this adventure; to discover new dishes that would otherwise be just another recipe that goes untried.

    So pleased you’re getting a worm farm. As much as you can transform vegetable stalks into pesto, offcuts into stock, and blend up whole roast pumpkin – skin, seeds and all – into soup, until someone comes up for a recipe for banana and avocado peel, a worm farm has its place!

    Congrats again and look forward to your final blog post on your Simplicious Challenge.

    Some thoughts:
    * What was the most challenging recipe?
    * What were the unexpected favourites, you know, the ones you would have never tried were it not for your commitment to cook everything?
    * Which dishes did your kids enjoy the most?
    * What was your biggest learning from this experience?
    * Finally, is your Excel spreadsheet available to anyone wishing to complete the Simplicious Challenge 😉

    • Erin says:

      Anita, they are fantastic questions, thank-you! I will endeavour to answer them in the next post. 🙂 And I’ll have to think about the Excel spreadsheet, hahaha – it might need a clean up before I reveal my nerdiness!! I completely agree about the crushed olive salad – I would never have made it otherwise. I’ve got the worm farm ready to go – I need to get the bedding sorted tomorrow and then hoping to get some worms over the weekend! I hope I don’t accidentally kill them all. Thanks for all your support Anita!

  3. theeasyhealthyway says:

    What a great post Erin and what an accomplishment. You must feel really satisfied seeing that spread sheet completed and colour coded (I get that), I look forward to your final Simplicious post!

    • Erin says:

      hehehe yes the colour-coded spreadsheet feels just as satisfying as finishing the cookbook! Thanks for the lovely feedback Tracey. 🙂

  4. Elise says:

    Erin, a fantastic post. I’ve loved ready along and seeing your honest thoughts and families responses to the recipes. I still remember sitting with you in late 2015 with your idea to cook all 306 recipes from Simplicious. What a wonderful achievement. Looking forward to your next post. Elise xx

    • Erin says:

      Thankyou so much Elise, I so appreciate all your support – I’m just around the corner from Local Press at the moment and always think of you when I’m there!

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