Recipe #2: Sardines on toast

What makes a good recipe? We probably all have different answers to this, depending on whether we are cooking or just eating. For me, a good recipe should have:

-          Clear, sensible language

-          A short list of ingredients, all of which can be easily purchased

-          Realistic time estimates

-          A lovely photo

These criteria are strictly based on my own cooking style and limitations. My end results need to be within a rather narrow range of flavors to please two small children and a non-adventurous husband. I seem to like having an image of the dish to aim for, so I can see if I’ve ‘done it right’ at the end. At other points in my life, I may have added criteria such as ‘beautiful presentation’ but it’s not as important now. And I’m clearly not going to shop for exotic ingredients at specialist markets either. I predict that The Hungry Games will turn up some quite simple recipes because if they looked too complicated, I probably wouldn’t have clipped them in the first place.

So, here is a very straightforward lunch recipe for sardines on toast.

Because I work from a home office, I have the opportunity to make fresh lunches for myself. This one looked tasty, healthy and relatively easy. I omitted the red chillies because I’m a wimp when it comes to spice. But otherwise, my end result looked pleasingly similar to the recipe photo. The sardines added a hearty flavour that wasn’t too overpowering, as anchovies might have been. But I think that I should have added at least a bit of chili or another spice because my version lacked a fun kick without it.

Overall though, this recipe was a tiny treat that provided me with a quick but wholesome lunch. The Hungry Games verdict: it can stay in my kitchen!

Sardines on toast recipe

 

Sardines on toast finished

Recipe #1: Chicken tagine with lemon, honey, olives and fresh vegetables

I received a tagine as a Christmas gift and was excited to try it. It’s a beautiful object, which somehow made me optimistic that the food it cooked would be beautiful too.

The instruction booklet from Emile Henry included a few recipes so I thought it would be safe to start with one of those. The ingredients were straightforward and I used preserved lemon for the first time.

The cooking process started similarly to other stew recipes. I fried onions, garlic and the chicken right in the tagine on the stove top. Then I tried to bring the chicken pieces into a pyramid as instructed – harder than it sounds. The vegetables were then squeezed around the outside of the sagging pyramid. Much less liquid was added than when making a stew in a casserole dish with a lid.

Then the tagine went in the oven. That was it, pretty simple. Not far into the cooking time, I realized that I should have placed a baking sheet under the tagine because a lot of the liquid was bubbling up around the edges of the lid and dripping on to the bottom of the oven. About an hour and a half later, we sat down with the beautiful tagine in the centre of the table. Taking the lid off was quite dramatic as a plume of steam puffed out.

I’m disappointed to report an anti-climactic ending to this recipe. The chicken was very bland and my children asked if we could please try a different recipe next time – at least they were diplomatic! The turmeric in the sauce stained our tablecloth. I’ll beware of that hazard next time I use that spice. So between the burnt-smelling oven, the stained tablecloth and the unsatisfied family, The Hungry Games verdict is that this recipe will be going to the recycling bin.

I’m not giving up on the tagine, though. Another family member with a tagine has recommended a cookbook called Easy Tagine by Ghillie Basan. Maybe I’ll give that a go next time.

tagine

 

Chicken tagine with lemon, honey, olives and fresh vegetables

Effective communication: Know your audience

Previously, I wrote a few tips for effective communication including ‘know your audience.’ This is so important for making sure your written and verbal business communication makes a difference. When you put time and effort into developing a particular message or story, you’ll want to make sure it resonates with the right people. But how can you learn more about your target audience?

  • Ask questions

You probably have good business relationships with people similar to those you are trying to reach. Ask them how they make decisions about purchasing your type of product or service. What sources of information do they find credible? Who are their influencers? What do they look for when shopping and what factors tip them toward one provider over another? Try using LinkedIn to survey your contacts about a new message. While not scientific, the responses will give you insights about how your potential customer will receive your communication.

  • Read what they read

Find out what your audience cares about by reading their trade publications, looking at industry websites and scanning social media. What are the values of your target’s industry? What issues are your targets concerned about and what are their business challenges? Learn what type of corporate language your audience uses. You don’t need to mimic this in your communication, but make sure your style fits in. You could also attend conferences and events about your audience’s industry to hear about trends and align your messages.

  • Observe your own responses

Be a focus group of one by paying attention to your responses to persuasive messages. Are there particular stories that resonate with you? Think about why that communication broke through and made you want to take action. The messages may be completely unrelated to your business, but noting your responses will give you useful information. Why did a particular radio story make you visit a website? Why did you share a newspaper article you read? What was it about a blog post that prompted you to comment? What made you keep reading a particular website? Apply what you learn to your messages so they persuade your target audience to take action.

This audience research may take place over time. The important thing is to start somewhere with a bit of learning about your target. Don’t worry if you need to come back to it periodically.

All of this research about your target audience will increase your credibility. When you sit down to write your messages, all that you’ve learned will come through and demonstrate that you understand your target’s situation. Your communication will be meaningful to your audience and more likely to prompt action.

Best wishes for insightful audience research and effective business communication!

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