I’ve become slightly obsessive about statistics. I love looking at the Stats page on my WordPress site and seeing which are the most popular posts of the moment; which countries viewers have come from – always a lot from UK and US but sometimes more surprising places like Slovenia or Korea. Then there are the referrers, like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, but also other websites where there’s a link to my blog, like A Cena and Brula. I can see what people have typed into search engines and what sites people click from posts on my blog. Apart from being fun, it also helps me see which posts attract the most readers; what tags are useful to attach to posts that will come up in searches. And, of course, it’s fun to look at what posts have been most popular over the last year. Hopefully you will enjoy my short journey through the ten most popular posts this year on The Single Gourmet and Traveller blog. I’ve added the number of views in the last 12 months.
1. Stuffed Harlequin Squash (4,284 views)
This was first posted on 2 October 2012. It had been a spur of the moment thing: I’d seen this lovely, colourful harlequin squash in Waitrose (not even the farmers’ market!) and was attracted by its prettiness so bought it. Once home, I decided the best thing to do was stuff it. Its big success on the blog this year though is entirely due to Kew Gardens. Sometime in early summer they wrote to me asking if they could use a photo from my post for their Incredibles Festival. I was really excited and kept popping in to Kew over the summer (fortunately I have a season ticket living so close) to take a look at all the wonderful vegetables growing there, and of course my photo!
2. Travelling Light: 10 Essentials for Hand Luggage Only (2,607 views)
I wrote this post in April 2012 when I was preparing to go to Venice with Annie and planning to take only hand luggage. Many of my holidays are short trips and it saves so much time being able to whizz through baggage and security at the other end. It also saves some anxiety as I’ve twice had my luggage go astray, though fortunately on the return trip. Thus I’ve become a bit of an expert at packing small and this post has proved so popular I hope others have found my tips useful too.
3. Mince Pies & Sweet Shortcrust Pastry (2,064 views)
With Christmas nearly here again, this post from Boxing Day last year has been very popular over recent weeks – no doubt from people putting ‘mince pies’ into search engines. There really is nothing like homemade mince pies and my family wouldn’t accept me serving up bought ones on the Big Day. We’re going to my brother and his family for Christmas Day this year but I’ve offered to make the mince pies and some more of the gorgeous Brandy Ice Cream I made last weekend.
4. Restaurant Review: Al Boccon di’Vino, Richmond (2,025 views)
This was one of my first negative reviews back in May 2012. When I started the blog I wanted to be upbeat and only write about good things. But as months and then a year went by (now the blog is two and a half years old), it seemed unrealistic that my restaurant reviews would only be glowing positive ones. I adopt a ‘fair game’ approach: I’m not going to write bad things about some new little independent but when it comes to big names, or in the case of waiting 3 months for a weekend table at Al Boccon di’Vino, then it’s fair game I think to say if it doesn’t come up to expectations. It has, however, become one of the most popular posts on the blog. I know lots of people who love the place, but I’ve never been tempted to go back.
5. TV Review: Italy Unpacked (1.839 views)
I’d loved the series Sicily Unpacked so much last year that I was very excited when Giorgio Locatelli and Andrew Graham-Dixon returned to our TV screens early in 2013 with another trip around Italy looking at art and food and apparently having a wonderful time in the process. I love all things Italian as everyone who knows me knows, so for me this is a dream, the idea of being able to travel round Italy in this way, and I got lots of vicarious pleasure watching these two entertaining guys travel round northern Italy.
This is really one of the simplest recipes ever on my blog and has been a favourite for the almost 2 years since I wrote it. It’s the closest I come to short cuts in cooking: a packet of ready-prepared puy lentils that, combined with some gorgeous roasted vegetables and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, make a wonderful quick light supper dish or can be an accompaniment to some fish or meat.
7. TV Review: Jamie’s Money Saving Meals (1,558 views)
Negative reviews aren’t a barrier to their popularity on the blog, it seems. I was pretty negative about Jamie Oliver’s money saving ideas and some people pointed out that he wasn’t claiming that the programme was aimed at the very poor. But in a year which has seen 350,000 families use food banks between just the months of April to September because they can’t afford to buy food, then a TV programme with the name Jamie chose really has to take into account the severe poverty that many people suffer today and how things have dramatically worsened for many since the economic downturn in 2008. The government may tell us there are promising signs of a recovery, but for a lot of people the stark reality of trying to manage on little money or with no job remains a big problem for the country. This post sparked more comments than any other post I’ve written.
Joe Allen has long been one of my favourite places and it was slightly weird – in the nicest way – that two of my favourite local restaurateurs – Lawrence Hartley and Tim Healy – became new owners of Joe Allen this year. Tim and Lawrence kindly invited me to lunch in May and told me of their plans and reassured this long-time Joe Allen fan that there were no big changes to come which would radically alter the place. Since then the restaurant has seen some great improvements but still reassuringly feels like the same place when you enter. There are even the same staff who’ve been there for many years. The post got a boost the following month when Jay Rayner linked it to his own review in the online edition of the Observer on 2 June.
I was really excited to interview Jurgen in May. I’d never interviewed a pastry chef before so knew that there would be some great pastry books on Jurgen’s list. But also it was my first visit to The Shard, Western Europe’s tallest building and the most magnificent design by Renzo Piano. Up on the 32nd floor I enjoyed fantastic views – despite it being a cloudy day – while Jurgen and I talked. And then he brought me a plate of gorgeous pastries at the end. I was really shocked and saddened to hear later in the year that soon after this interview Jurgen was diagnosed with brain cancer and so for the last few months he’s been back in his home country of Belgium with his family, undergoing treatment. I see from his blog that he’s cooking again and plans to resume ‘normal life’ in the new year. He’s also planning a fundraising cooking event for brain cancer. If you’d like to find out more or read Jurgen’s own great blog visit: www.theroadtohellandsweetness.blogspot.co.uk. Meanwhile, I sent my very best wishes to him.
This was an early post, back in October 2011. It’s remained a great favourite on the blog as well as being one of my great favourite dishes! I love cooking it and it’s really simple and quick to do, but I also often choose it when eating out. Down at my local Masaniello, for instance, Livio cooks up a brilliant seafood pasta in his kitchen.
I had great fun writing up my highlights of this year on the blog the other day but it’s interesting to see how many of my older posts from previous years continue to attract readers. I hope you enjoy revisiting some of them too!