Thursday, 15 January 2015

Blog's terrible twos

The blog celebrates its 2nd anniversary. Which seems silly considering in the same time I feel I've aged about 5 years.

For the life of me I don't understand where all that time's gone to though the footage would suggest a lot of it was spent in the kitchen. And at my laptop.

While I did use to cook already before the blog, blogging has changed my approach. Somehow it's at the same time more serious, yet more open-minded and curious. 

These days that hobby of mine has turned into a job, too and takes more time, effort (and money) than ever before, but one can't really put a price tag on the joy that moments of success it sometimes offers. And luckily those are moments I get to share with the people I love around our Sunday lunch table. 

Even I dare to acknowledge my skills have improved over these 2 years. Both in the kitchen and behind the camera. The latter is, after all, a massive part of blogging and has proven to be one never-ending lesson (and a way to spend every last penny you have). When I started blogging I had the camera, sure, and with it one lense. I'd never even heard of any photo editing software. And I think you can tell that by looking at them now (don't, though). 

In the past year alone I've made room in my life for a tripod, Lightroom and a new 50 mm- lense ("Who knew 2 inches could make a girl that happy!" quipped The Boy Next Door), a day light lamp and shitloads of props. And the improvement in the photos is (more often than not) visible, too.  

Though, as the confidence grows, so does self-doubt and criticism. Is this photo really good enough or would it require just a little bit more work? Is this recipe really good enough for the blog or is a little something still needed?

Luckily I've got support and cheerleading waiting for me at home... and from my readers. This blog wouldn't be possible without those. 

Of all the changes on the blog this past year the biggest has (again) taken place behind the blog. In last year's birthday post I finally shared with you the news on the saddening rearrangements of my personal life, but little did I know. Only a mere week later The Boy Next Door made an entrance and totally rearranged my life. And this first year together hasn't been easy, I'll tell you that. We're definitely not the easiest people in the world...

After weathering several storms the future looks a lot brighter and happier than it has in a while and so this past year has also documented our expedition not just into food, but also each other. You've shared that journey form the first dish he ever ate (a lamb tongue Vitello Tonnato) to the day in Fiskars when I fell in love with him, to us moving in together and to the lessons on how the taste of Penne Arrabbiata deepens and intensifies thew longer you cook it (a lesson for other things in life, too, apparently...!). The Boy Next Door's previously microwaveable ready meal-filled life has turned around completely (and witnessed a heady love affair with Catalonian charcuterie). 

Wines have been another mutually shared excursion and we've both learnt more than ever before. There have been tastings, recipe contests matching food and wine, wine expos and cruises. And Champagne has been one joyous learning curve too - courtesy of for instance tasting at Ceesta Shop and at Mumm

Many memorable meals were also enjoyed outside my kitchen. We ate ourselves happy in several restaurants in Helsinki out of which Ragù was our favourite. We also stuffed ourselves silly at many foodie events such as Delicacies of Finland, Streat Helsinki, Taste of Helsinki and most recently at the foodie tour around the South Coast

The work situation among many things made sure there wasn't a whole lot of travelling involved last year apart from a day in Stockholm and that quickie trip to Tallinn. Our very short summer holidays were also spent exploring the Southern part of Finland. Fiskars will always have a special place in our hearts, but we did thoroughly enjoy Nauvo, too. And Hanko, of course. 

I look forward to the blogging year ahead. Equipped with a person who, with a smile on his face, soldiered on through My Manic Foodie Tour of Stockholm and the endless food and wine marathon that was MS Grace's Winecruise and never loses faith in me, kicks ass at dish-washing and never, ever complains about food getting cold while being photographed.

But before that, let's take a look at what's been cooking!

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Making the most of what's in season - there's something we believe more and more. These pork, sage, apple and mushroom-stuffed ravioli were a perfect example (and also one of my favourite photos!) of that: pasta made from scratch, wild mushrooms picked by a friend, apples from a colleague's orchard, sage grown by another colleague...

I also fell head over heels with pumpkin. Pumpkin and chorizo pizza, pumpkin risotto and pumpkin gnocchi with crispy sage and garlic butter were such treats. Brussel sprout bake with chestnuts and bacon also made me understand why some wax so lyrical about that strange little bulb.

More and more people found the blog in their search of gluten-free recipes.  Cealiac disease can be a real bitch in baking and some of my own experiments have not yielded much more than a psychosis. Both orange, rosemary and polenta cake and lemon, polenta and poppyseed cake were so juicy and delicious though that I lost count of how many times I was asked to make them.

Vegetarian dishes were another big hit. My personal favourites were beet risotto and panzanella

While I'll never become a vegetarian ever again, I am all for sustainable consumption though. Domestic production over imported meats and organic if possible. Less frequently, but better quality. Pork has surprised The Boy Next Door with its versatility and it's is one of those meats where you really taste the organic. Just try this Filipino-style roasted pork belly!

Another thing I wish this blog would encourage people to do is their choice of cuts. If we do eat meat, let's make most of every part of it then! Leave that boring tenderloin into the shop and grab the pork by, say, its neck! Let's discover the not-at-all-awful world of offal! Slow cooking delivers such incredible results with so little work - those lesser used parts are not only way cheaper, but way tastier too!

Last year saw a record number of duck recipes, especially confit kind. Crikey, it's yummy! Another big hit were chicken hearts. Especially the ones with teriyaki glaze. And on the matter of chicken liver this recipe with portwine was at least as good as the Syrian chicken livers

The overall, hands-down favourite of last year's meat recipes was a total fluke: that oxtail ragù stewed overnight. The recipe for which finally made it onto the blog, too.

Fish and seafood continued their triumphant run in my kitchen (it helps to be living with a fellow herring-maniac!)  In addition to herring we feasted on crayfish, mussels and calamari. Our favourites in this field? Coconut, coriander and chilli herring, Spanish mussles, fish ceviche (which made yet another appearance at our New Year Evening's spread) and baby octopus cooked in sherry

Though I didn't get to spend any time under that Andalusian sun, it remained a very dear place and source of inspiration. One of the recipes to make their way into the tapas recipe archives was this easy peasy two-ingredient chorizo braised in red wine

Another popular destination for our culinary travels was another dear corner of the world: Middle East. Recipes worth visiting are definitely at least Moroccan orange, pomegranate and pistacchio saladsambousek- pasties (that my colleague is raving about even as we speak!) and Lebanese lamb pizza.

Street food was a big trend everywhere this year and a massive hit over here, too. The photo of that duck confit burger alone makes me sigh... One of the biggest crowd-pleasers were these polenta fries. They never fail to please!

Another corner of the world that's steadily growing in my kitchen is Asian cuisine which has provided inspiration for so many things. It's a great source of inspiration for vegetarian, gluten-free and dairy-free dishes and the mung bean noodle salad with miso and sesame dressing was a hit among everybody. Thai beef salad is another dish that will make an appearance at our table very soon. Our favourite for the asparagus season was this tempura!

Last year also marked several recipe contests. Not that we won anything... but at least I managed to get a little bit better acquainted with my old nemesis cheese. These pizzas with prosciutto, brie and pear were divine!

And yes, I even seem to have managed to find time for baking. Though, as my colleagues are keen to point out, nowhere near often enough. The hangover-bashing cold smoked reindeer quiche was one of the great successes and goat cheese, rosemary, white chocolate and rhubarb pie did evoke some serious ooohs from the diners, too. One of the recipes that will remain in constant rotation are these fool-proof pitta breads. 

Thank you so much for sharing these 174 posts with me. Remember, your participation, suggestions, feedback and comments are always welcome!

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