How I'm getting out of my cooking rut

What do you do when something you used to love becomes a chore? This has happened to me more than once with cooking, and no surprises there really – cooking can be so fun and creative, but it's also something that usually has to be done every single day, after expending most of your time and energy on other activities. It's not the perfect context for enjoyment.

 Lamb meatballs in avgolemono. Image:  The Guardian

Lamb meatballs in avgolemono. Image: The Guardian

For me, a bit of a mental shift was required. I've mentioned before how we do My Food Bag and what we do in the weeks when we don't get meal delivery. Most of the time, I don't love cooking that way, and that's okay with me – we have to eat! But that's because I don't really count it as cooking. It is something different, and cooking is when I have fun and get creative.

I realised the difference during the Christmas holidays, when I had a whole afternoon to get into my in-laws' kitchen and cook dinner for all of us, as well as some willing grandparents to look after Amelie. I chose what I was going to make in the morning (this part is as fun as the creation itself), headed out to buy the ingredients, and spent hours cooking in a relaxed and non-demanding way, knowing I could take the time to make something new and delicious for us all to enjoy.

I can't cook that way every day, nor would I want to (what's that they say about moderation?) But as part of my kind-of New Year's resolutions – or rather, little things to change and improve to make my life better, as I'm thinking of them – I made myself a deal that I would regularly make the time to cook this way. To keep myself honest, I actually set myself a challenge of cooking something new to me every month, as well as buying the very best of everything that I could afford (no compromises!) Unsaid in that challenge is that it has to be something with a certain level of intricacy that'll stretch my cooking skills – this is a challenge, after all.

We're into March now so it's time for round three. In January I made these lamb meatballs in avgolemono, and in February I made this aubergine salad with saffron yoghurt (twice, actually). This month I'm leaning towards something that'll make the most of these last days of summer. Any ideas for me?