Simplicious Challenge

The Simplicious Challenge series documents my endeavour to cook all 306 recipes from Sarah Wilson’s cookbook, Simplicious, to look at the impact it has on the way I buy, cook, consume and waste food, both for myself and my family. I’m reporting back here with a monthly update on how it’s going.

For more information about why and how I’m doing this, check out the first post:

#1: Cooking 306 Recipes
8 November 2015
I love cookbooks. I own nearly 80 of them (including around 25 eBooks) – and I would own a lot more if I gave into every whim and desire I had to buy them. I also have a large collection of food magazines. But despite my fondness, or perhaps because of it, I have a bad habit of cooking only a handful of recipes from each book – returning to the same, familiar and appealing ones, while ignoring the recipes I think I won’t like. Because of this, I’ve always fancied the idea of doing a Julie and Julia style challenge: to deliberately cook every single recipe in a cookbook. If ever a book was worthy of this challenge, I reckon Simplicious by Sarah Wilson is the one, with a whopping 306 recipes. Read more…

#2: The Battle with Laziness
6 December 2015
I’ve read Simplicious at least three times from start to finish over the last month (I even took it interstate, and it’s not the smallest book around), and I’m still picking up new tips and noticing little notations with each read. I was embarrassed to discover how little I know about seasonal cooking, beyond citrus-in-winter and berries-in-summer… For example, I was surprised to find out that Australian pomegranates are in season in Autumn – yet they seem to be marketed here by supermarkets more often during Spring, presumably because they are imported. Read more…

#3: Christmas – A Time of Waste and Reflection
3 January 2016
Every year, I find it difficult to wrap my head around Christmas. To me, it represents a bundle of social norms, stigmas and problems: the disparity between the privileged (the lucky) and the disadvantaged, our obsession with consumerism and materialism, the expectations of gifts, a time of overeating and food waste, and weeks of everyone trying to catch up with their recycling and credit card bills. Read more…

#4: Dipping into offal and fermented sardines
8 February 2016
It was a new kind of challenge to be at the point where I was having to engage with people about fish and offal, two things I know very little about. There’s something intimidating about standing on my toes, peering up at a fishmonger or butcher looming over a giant glass counter, asking whether they can gut my sardines for me. Maybe it’s just that sometimes I think they can sense I’m going to do something weird with them. Like FERMENT THE SARDINES ON MY KITCHEN BENCH. Read more…

#5: Food photography waste and a crockery addiction
8 March 2016
I’ve noticed on Instagram that there is a tendency to overfill jars and bowls, dripping fillings and sauces onto tables, to portray a sense of indulgence. Especially smoothies! They look gorgeous, of course. But I always wonder if they lick the table afterwards. And what they do with all the extra garnishes, that have been purchased just for garnishing, that have been scattered around the place. Do they scoop them up and eat them? My smoothies tend to be neat and tidy – much more boring. Mainly because I am generally a neat and tidy person (though not boring, I hope). Read more…

#6: Let the lady bleed in peace!
4 April 2016
About 18 months ago, I wrote a blog post about beating myself up for making particular choices as a consumer. Particularly for what I felt was a hypocrisy of sorts – that I would take reusable green bags at the supermarket, but use masses of cling wrap at home. Or make my own baby purees, but use regular disposable nappies. I’d avoid buying Nestle products, but bought Nike shoes for my son. At the time, as I agonised over the ethics of my decision-making, I observed the impact it was having on my mental health. Read more…

#7: Embedding new habits
9 May 2016
Last month I wrote about the broader choices I make as a consumer, both food and non-food related, and reflected on this in Sarah’s post as well. I’ve written a few times in the past about working towards making more responsible consumer choices, but without allowing it to cause me anxiety, as was the case 18 months ago. This struggle seemed to resonate with other people who read the post, who commented and wrote to me that they had also struggled with similar things. Read more…

#8: A Simplicious Holiday (and hot chips)
3 July 2016
I tried to be a bit Simplicious while we were on holiday, aware that it could easily digress into a fortnight of excessive, bad food. Kids’ menus in restaurants are the pits! I will be happy to never see another hot chip again. (For at least a couple of months.) I think hot chips have a lot to answer for. Read more…

#9: Decluttering my house (and my brain, a little)
8 August 2016
I spent July decluttering my house. I’d been intending to declutter ever since we moved in (last August!), when I simply moved all the clutter to the new house and then re-cluttered everything. Physical clutter tends to make me feel mentally cluttered too – anxious and disorganised, especially if I’m already stressed. Read more…

#10: Getting out of my comfort zone
5 September 2016
This past month has pushed me out of my comfort zone on two notable occasions, both within a week of each other (honestly, I was highly-strung all week!). They might seem mundane to others, but for me, they were distinctly nerve-wracking. The first was meeting Sarah Wilson. Read more…

#11: Four Muggin Variations
1 November 2016
Last month, I made the last of the four delightful muggins from Simplicious. In fact, I’m starting to get down to the ‘lasts’ – I also made the last of the six toasties earlier this month. Once I’d finished trying them all I started experimenting with some variations, using leftover bits and pieces that I had – which is exactly the point. With Sarah’s (and her trusty EA Jo’s) permission, I’m sharing my four variations here, each with no added sweetener. Read more…

#12: My Ikea Moment
6 December 2016
I’ve written before in this series about decluttering the house, in my seemingly-endless quest to reduce the amount of stuff I own; and I have to say that I feel like I’ve had a personal breakthrough in this area. In… Ikea, of all places. Read more…

#13: A very Simplicious Christmas
4 January 2017
I’m really excited about getting into a new year, but I did also have one of the nicest holiday periods. Not because we did anything particularly exciting, but just because I got to share in the magic of the holiday season with my kids, I guess. In my small immediate family we’ve been refining our gift-giving process over the last few years to something less stressful and less expensive. Read more…

#14: REDcycling, cold soup and an enormous beetroot cheesecake
5 March 2017
I’ve been unusually tired and weary, and have felt the need to bunker down. In that busy parenting way, of course, which still requires the busy school-childcare-work run and all hands on deck! But I’ve still gotta eat, right? So I’ve continued ticking along. It’s getting down to the final few Simplicious recipes now – closer to the ganache tart, but also the ones I can no longer avoid – like the Bone Marrow Bombs, which keep glaring at me from page 245 and which I keep skipping past. Read more…

#15: Finding flow through connection
5 April 2017
I’ve been reflecting on ‘flow’ and how this looks in different parts of our lives. I had this lovely conversation last week with a couple of work colleagues, about the dire and depressing state of the world (yes really, it was lovely!). We ventured into what sometimes feels like the hopelessness of our efforts to contribute to positive environmental change. Read more…

#16: A Sustainable Giveaway
30 April 2017
As this challenge draws very nearly to a close, I am hosting a little giveaway, as a way of saying thank-you to you for sticking with me through it over the last 18 months. Including through my more intense phases, like when I turned into the Christmas Grinch and went all weird in IKEA! I realise it sounds hypocritical to host a giveaway when much of this challenge has been about re-thinking my relationship with ‘stuff’, but – hear me out! Read more…

#17: A Celebration Meal
8 May 2017
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). Read more…

#18: The Winning Dishes
16 May 2017
18 posts for 18 months. This actually IS the final Simplicious Challenge post (I promise!). From all 306 recipes in Simplicious, these are my favourites. I don’t need to dwell on the low-points: we all know that was the fermented mackerel (i.e. untinned sardines). None of the offal-y dishes have made it into my winning dishes either – though this isn’t to say they were unpleasant. I enjoyed most of them more than I thought I would! Read more…

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