Emily and Delia

I first watched Julie and Julia when it hit the cinemas earlier this summer with my two favourite girls.  We sat, we watched, and then I suppose we got hungry after seeing all that food, because that’s precisely what we did right afterwards.  I came home, newly inspired, full of enthusiasm and proclamations that I, too, was going to learn to cook, just like Julie.  I made promises to Sweet I fully intended to keep; promises involving projects and cookbooks and new culinary delights – maybe not one per day for a whole year, but maybe I could manage to do one per month.  I was all set to find a new hobby, continue winning over the heart of my dearest, and teach myself all sorts of new and exciting skills.

My culinary expertise has never been fantastic.  I love to bake – simple, little things like chocolate chip cookies and fairy cakes, small undertakings I find hugely rewarding when I get to decorate them with bright colours, sprinkles and messages.  I love taking a plate round to the neighbours, entering ridiculous baking contests (yes, those were ALL mine…), or staying up until the early hours of the morning making an edible football for special boys on their birthdays.

But none of this equates to any actual talent in the kitchen.

It’s been several months since I saw Julie and Julia, and after its recent release on DVD, we decided to watch it together.  I was re-inspired, as, surprisingly was he – he decided to find a cookbook (that “didn’t involve anything with cow’s feet”) he could work his way through, starting in the Christmas holidays.  I felt bad, remembering my earlier, unfulfilled promises, and resolved do actually do something about it this time.

There’s a couple of dishes I can do without fail.  I make a mean Shepherd’s Pie, with mashed sweet potatoes and parsnips on top instead of regular mash.  I can slave over an omelette making sure it’s just right, with the help of the stovetop, oven and grill.  And I’m not bad at anything involving pasta.  But those are easy.  I want to challenge myself and actually spend a good three hours one day making something I’ve never done before.  Something I’ll feel really accomplished about if I get it right.  (And score a few brownie points while I’m at it.)

But I need help.  I don’t want something I can pull off AllRecipes.com or cut off the back of a cereal box.  I want something ambitious – something interesting (so I can share!) – and something entirely different.  My patience and culinary dexterity will be put to the test.  Sweet will be the fortuitous judge.  And I want your help.  I found the real blogs of Julie Powell, and to see this real life woman’s dream, ambition and dedication fulfilled is nothing short of inspiring, along with the perseverance, friendships and memories made as a result.  I want to tackle a Real Recipe over the Christmas break.  And turkey, stuffing and roast potatoes are strictly off limits.

Thinking aprons on, girls – what can I venture into for my first attempt at proper cooking?


  1. I think you should get a subscription to a Gourmet Cooking magazine! I made a meatloaf out of one of those one time and it took me and a friend 3 hours – EVERYTHING was from scratch…i mean, it wasn’t just ketchup dumped on baked meat – it was meatloaf made of 2 different kinds of meat specially mixed with an assortment of other ingredients and then a special tomato, garlic sauce. it even involved corresponding mashed potatos and gravy – by FAR my favorite recipe ever, even if it does take awhile. but it makes a lot and now my mouth is watering and the recipe is on a ship somewhere crossing the ocean. 😦

    1. Oh wow that sounds pretty intense! I hadn’t even thought about cooking magazines! I spent last night going through my Delia Smith Cookery Course book and oh my goodness, I don’t know what half the stuff is, and seriously – a whole chapter on OFFAL?? lol 🙂

      Where’s your recipe headed to??

  2. How about a Game Terrine, Hugh Fearnley-whittingstall has a yummy recipe, but its ridiculously meaty, so not for the faint hearted, that can be a nice starter aswell if you don’t want to do it for mains… it takes over 2 hours to make, if you want to score some brownie points how about a ratatouille for mains, its french, and it takes about an hour to make, it would be a nice veg alternative if you do a terrine as a starter… for dessert, if you want to stick with the french theme a nice cherry cake, otherwise known as Clafoutis aux Cerises, is my reccomendation, relatively easy to make, and takes about 40mins to bake so leaves a nice gap between mains and dessert… also good for scoring more brownie points….

    I hope that inspires you…. i’m hungry now!!

    1. Oh wow!! Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall intimidates me even just by his name alone lol… I can’t imagine what a challenge one of his recipes would be lol!! That cherry cake sounds amazing though… but I resigned myself to NOT making sweets or cakes or puddings because that’s all I ever attempt lol. My dad has a few Gordon Ramsay books… maybe I’ll raid those next time I’m over 🙂 I had no idea you were such a whiz in the kitchen!!

      1. This is gonna sound so bad, i’m not a chef but i find ramseys recipees a lot of fussing… Hugh has good food, and you know its going to taste the best because he’s all for treating live stock so well… I love hughs stuff…

        You’ll have to let us all know what your gonna cook, I’m looking forward to finding out!!

  3. I don’t have any great advise for you but I just wanted to tell you that I love cooking. However, I don’t like cooking anything that requires too many ingredients that are way to expensive. But I don’t want to keep it too simple either.

    You should let us know what you come up with! 🙂

  4. Hay Emily,

    Best of luck but seriously if your other half is any good at cooking, just do what I do. He cooks you pay to eat out….

    I have found that dating a qualified french chef, means you’re just never going to win. He’s always better than you and so I just pick up the cheque when we go out for dinner…..

    For instance I have ordered a duck from Waitrose for Christmas Day – he’s cooking, I’m paying!


  5. lol! But that defeats the purpose!!

    David’s not bad in the kitchen – I proposed this idea to him last night and he decided if I was going to tackle a fancy recipe for him one night, he was going to do the same for me – it’ll be an interesting couple of days!!

    Lucky girl – you must have the best tea times ever 🙂

  6. This is something that intimidates me; although something I would love to try myself. I’m pretty limited in my cooking skills to a mean pot of chicken and dumplings, sugar cookies and anything of the pasta variety. Good luck to you; post pictures!! 🙂

  7. Oh I love this challenge! What about making some free range chicken & bunch of side dishes? Candied yams, roasted new potatoes & asparagus? Those aren’t hard on their own but timing it all out can be really tough- and then you’d have a full meal on your hands. You could even make desert the night before- like a pie where you make the crust yourself?

    A note though- Julie Powell apparently turns out to be kind of a creep. In her new book she writes about how she was having an affair the whole time during Julie & Julia, but the book and the blog, but wrote it out of the book presumably because it makes all her likability evaporate. In her new book she becomes a butcher and writes all about the affair. If you love her in J&J, don’t read the new one!

  8. She’s a WHORE? LOL oh dear, my parade is definitely rained out!! I might skip the new book…

    And I got intimidated when you mentioned making my own pie crust. I get intimidated when you tell me about your adventures making your own pizza crust!! This is definitely going to be quite the undertaking.

    And yay for free range. I’ve sold David on the idea and now we buy the expensive, but animal-friendlier eggs 🙂

  9. Your adventure in cooking would be a fun little series to blog about. I’m fairly new to the kitchen (before my hubby and I moved in together in September, I’d never really cooked much), so I’d love to see the recipes you tackle! It would give me some fresh ideas! Right now, I visit Food Network’s website for ideas (some are pretty challenging) and Pioneer Woman’s website. My mom also got me a subscription to Taste of Home magazine, and I’ve gotten some great recipes from there, too.

    I wish you luck! Later this week, I’m going to tackle baking Christmas cookies for the first time ever. I’m a little nervous, but I hope all will go well, lol.

    1. My experience exactly! We just moved in for the first time this year too, and when I was living on my own or with roommates I’d just eat on the go or make KD or pizza or something that involved no thought or preparation (or skill!) at all.

      I’ll definitely check out those websites – and you should document your first ever Christmas cookies too! 🙂

  10. I’m so not a good cook myself! I do have a great recipe for chicken and ham lasagna that I got from a cooking magazine I subscribed to when I first got married. We love it. Hard enough but easy enough! Let me know if you want to try it! Can’t wait to see how you do!

  11. Ooo, I wish I could help you on this, but I’ve never really stretched myself & made something challenging. I am a total chicken in the kitchen!

    Can’t wait to see what you cook up! 🙂

  12. What is a fairy cake? I’m intrigued!

    I’ve been trying to bake or cook one new thing a week if at all possible. Something I’ve never tried before and it’s working out quite well. I’m doing better in the baking department than the cooking, but I’m getting there, slowly but surely.

    can’t wait to hear how this project goes for you =)

    1. I don’t know what fairy cakes are called here but I’m pretty sure they have them – it’s kind of like little cupcakes and you cut the top bit out and cut it in half, fill the hole with a buttery icing and sprinkles or something, and then put the two halves of sponge into the icing like “wings” 🙂 I’ll take photos!

  13. Depends how good a cook you are EJ! But if you’re like me, a good recipe follower but not exactly an experienced chef, the Jamie Oliver books are genuinely brilliant.

  14. I’m curious to see what you start with! I’ve only recently began getting into cooking — and just even more recently began baking, I’ve ALWAYS been AWFUL and am just now finding success with the pretty-hard-to-ruin AllRecipes.com type stuff lol. I’ve picked up a subscription to a few cooking magazines and I plan to start journaling things I can find and then tweak (I have a tendency to work garlic or chocolate into everything…). My BF Veronica can make anything from scratch and it drives me bonkers! LOL

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