Cooking to Eat v Cooking to Photograph

Carrot, pea & coconut curry

In August, completely fed up with myself, I set myself the goal to do 15 mins of yoga, 10 mins of meditation and drink 3 litres of water every day, I made the 30 days and I’m still going, my reasons for doing this and the results I will talk about in another blog post very soon.

So this is my second attempt at setting a specific goal for 30 days. Following on from the August challenge it finally dawned on me that there is a difference between the food I create to photograph and the food I plomp down at dinner time.

I do cook a lot; last week in fact, I had made a 2-hour slow cooked lamb with a 5-herb crust, all the sides and an orange polenta cake by 11am. This was for a shoot but it was (thankfully) packed up and reheated later for dinnertime, but it would never occur to me to make something like this for a real dinner. So I decided I needed to up my ‘cooking to eat’ game.

Our family meal times were in a rut and whilst it may be supplemented with something fancy I’ve made for a shoot or had kindly packaged up and brought home from a day on set, it seems like my guys live on fish fingers.

One of the reasons for the rut is Haven. Our 2.5 year old dismisses most foods on sight, she’s sensitive to smell, most things smell bad to her, and if things are mixed together she won’t touch it. She won’t try it and you cannot negotiate, bribe, coax, cajole or threaten her.

We’ve tried.

Some of her refusals include…

‘I can’t want small trees’. (aka broccoli)


‘No thank you, that rice is not fresh.’ (when presented with rice of any other colour than white)

‘I can’t want this Chicken’ (to any other meat that is not chicken…)

It’s exhausting. So I decided to ignore her and cook for us three so we get to eat interestingly and far more nutritiously and try and drag her along in hope that she’ll get hungry enough to eat it.

But where to start, despite having a bookcase heaving with cook books many I’ve not made a single thing from yet (but oh the images are soooo beautiful!), what inspired me to get started was Madeleine Shaw’s – A Year of Beautiful Eating. I just grabbed it at the library along with Teach Parents (WTF) are Phonics and a Julia Donaldson latest. I’m only going to talk about the successes here, no one needs to know about my failed Focaccia or the Yaki (yucky according to Eden) Udon Noodle dish or the dry, dull, tough banana and apple cookies…

So, to me, the Madeleine Shaw book is gorgeous, the styling is effortlessly beautiful and the recipes are short, simple and healthy. Although I did start with the Vegan Banana & Peanut Butter Loaf. A winner with everyone funnily… (I however, used just a quarter of the dark chocolate chunks that were listed in the recipe)

Vegan Banana & Peanut Butter Loaf

Next I tried the Carrot, Pea & Coconut Curry, I’ve made this 3 times, so I’m genuinely enthused by this recipe and it’s so great to use up the spices that have been ignored for so long in my spice drawer. Crunchy mustard seeds, husky cumin and sweet, sweet garam masala, I’d forgotten all about garam masala! A hit with 3 of us – after trying to persuade Haven to have a go I just gave her a deconstructed version I’d prepared in case of emergency of raw carrot, plain rice and peas. Which she did eat.

Madeleine’s Breakfast Muffins; which consist of spring onion, sundried tomatoes and smoked salmon were a protein packed dream, they keep in the fridge for 3 days and are a good on the go breakfast, something I need to pre-make so I can have on long car journeys before a shoot. 3 out of 4 of us ate this. You’ll see a pattern emerging…

The Raw Chocolate & Peanut Butter Bites were amazing, I pretty much ate those myself. I’m sure Haven would have liked them, had I shared. I would have just pulsed the nuts first in the mixer before adding the rest of the ingredients as it clumped together and I ended up with quite a few whole nuts within the Bites (not good for little people and why I really had to eat them all myself, obviously!)

The One-Tray Roasted Veg, was a new way for me to cook cauliflower, something Eden loves, and he devoured this recipe which is cooked in the oven along with red onions, orange and lemon zest, a little maple syrup and orange segments. So pretty too!

The last Madeleine Shaw recipe I tried was actually from her website; Cinnamon and Raisin Cookies, made with spelt flour, coconut oil and coconut sugar. The first time I made them they melted and merged into almost one giant tray bake, which I then cut up, a total mess but they were amazing. I’ve since made them again, ensured they were smaller balls and used 100g of coconut sugar instead of the recipe’s 160g, I just felt they were a bit too sweet the first time round. They kept their shape this time and were just as incredible, one I’ll be making again and again.

(l) Sausage, Sweet Potato Tray bake (r) Oven tray roasted veg

Searching for more dinner inspiration I pulled Rukmini Iyer’s The Roasting Tin off the bookshelf. I had ordered this when it came out and despite book marking nearly every page (check out my cat post-its) I hadn’t attempted a thing. Three winning recipes later, I genuinely love the simplicity of this book.

The Steam-Roasted Salmon & Broccoli with Lime, Ginger and Chilli. My parents were over and this was demolished. I’d actually made this for my mum because she’s a Pescatarian and everyone else was supposed to eat the chicken. We all loved the broccoli cooked this way.

The Tarragon Roast Chicken with Potatoes, Onions & Garlic. Haven ate this – woohoo! But not the potatoes, obviously. A lovely, easy, crowd pleaser, especially when served up on one of these really chilly wintery days we had last month.

Smoky Sausage, Sweet Potato and Red Onion Tray bake. Another winner for all four of us, hearty, easy, warming. I served it with sour cream mixed with a spoonful of wholegrain mustard and beans from the veg patch.

raw chocolate peanut butter bites

I found another book at the library and I think I was hungry at the time because despite the ugly cover (sorry Rob), Rob Allison’s Homemade Takeaways really appealed to me, I love, love Thai food and have never perfected the art of the Thai Green Curry. I’m not saying this was as good as ones in Thailand but I really enjoyed this version. Eden and I made this together, he helped me add all the interesting ingredients to the blender, and watched it whizz up to a bright green paste! Sure it’s a bit of a faff and there’s quite a bit of washing up but it was delicious.

We also made the Duck Pancakes, although I couldn’t get the pancakes so we used mini fajitas instead (!) and there are lots of recipes bookmarked to try from this book for those Takeaway at home days.

Another two winning recipes to share with you from yet another library book; Sophie Michell’s Chef on a Diet. The Saffron & Yogurt Chicken with Cauliflower rice and mint herb sauce was gorgeous (although I used garam masala instead of saffron and basmati instead of making the cauliflower rice), just marinating the chicken in yoghurt for an hour made such a difference, the chicken was so soft and tender.

I also tried Sophie’s Roasted Chicken Thighs with Artichokes & Chorizo – only I like Artichokes but everyone else loved this, Chorizo is top of Haven’s will eat list.

saffron and yoghurt chicken

So what’s the verdict of this intense foray into cooking something different, especially when you have a fussy eater? Well, after 30 days, and more than 30 different things landing in front of her, I can’t say it made her any more interested in food or any more likely to try the food. Argh! She really didn’t show any signs of FOMO and was quite happy to go without. So I’m not sure I achieved anything with her other than cooking chicken in slightly different ways that were acceptable to her palette. Michael and Eden were totally up for trying things, especially Eden, he loves helping me and trying new things and talking about ingredients. He’s a pleasure to cook for and it makes my heart sing when he says ‘this dinner, can we have it exactly the same tomorrow please!’

Yes, I made some absolutely horrendous and inedible disasters but I absolutely loved doing this, food is such a pleasure and we are so lucky to be able to pick and choose as we do. I’m not saying fish fingers are gone forever but the ratio has definitely shifted! Which means I will tick the box next to Success!


I didn’t spend hours and hours cooking. To ensure that I reached my goal of 30 in 30 days I sought out recipes that had a short list of ingredients, that didn’t require me to buy a whole new pantry of herbs and spices – although I did enjoy trying out a few new things such as the coconut sugar. And ideally not too much prep and the meal should be ready in 20-30 minutes without me attending to it too much.

I focused on just making dinners and desserts, I had no intention of making new breakfasts, lunches AND dinners each day.

I planned. So I bookmarked the recipes and then I bought the ingredients for 3-4 days at a time and I also planned any longer recipes, ones that were still easy to throw together but needing 2 hours to cook for weekends or if family were coming over so you could justify a little extra effort.

Don’t worry about following the recipe exactly, there was no need for me to serve up Saffron on a Tuesday night, especially to Haven. But switching one spice for one that I had, meant we still got to try a familiar ingredient (chicken) in a different way.

There were usually left overs so this made for interesting lunches and saved time having to plan or make lunch the following day.

I tried to remember, particularly when I was waning that we (well 3 of us anyway) so enjoy a dinner made from scratch than we do when we pour ketchup over frozen stuff. And isn’t that what life is about, sharing a GOOD meal with the ones you love?

What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts on meal times, particularly if you have an uninterested eater at the table. Any go to recipes, recipe books, goals or challenges you’ve set yourself? Please let me know either on the comments section below or find me on instagram @catherine_frawley | If you’d like you can sign up for our Monthly Newsletter, find out about what’s coming up first, what I’m making and reading and about workshop news and behind the scenes, subscribe here


Books Mentioned

Madeleine Shaw’s | A Year of Beautiful Eating

Sophie Michell | Chef on a Diet

Rukmini Iyer | The Roasting Tin

Rob Allison | Homemade Takeaways

Online Recipe

Cinnamon & Raisin Cookies











  • I love that you did this! I always say that I need to start cracking open some of my cookbooks (bought mainly for the photos of course) instead of just eating shoot leftovers or eggs for dinner. Thanks for the inspiration!ReplyCancel

    • Catherine

      Oh I really hope it inspires you to make something new! Let me know! xReplyCancel

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