Are you the kind of cook who follows recipes or are you more experimental in style?
I’m the latter, most definitely. There’s a lot of merit in following recipes to the letter, especially the first time you cook something, but making and creating your own family classics is fairly simple and just requires a little practice, confidence and creativity.
Step 1 – Get inspired!
Rummage through your cookbooks, pick up a few cooking magazines, watch some cooking shows on TV, eat out at restaurants, dine regularly at friends’ houses. Inspiration is everywhere. Especially at the supermarket! I’m not a fantastic meal planner, so often I’ll go to the shops and see what’s fresh, what’s new, what looks fantastic and what makes me want to cook it.
It might start with spotting a particular cut of meat on special, or noticing that there is an abundance of a particular vegetable that’s selling quite cheap. I then start to build the meal around that one item.
Step 2 – Build your idea
You’ve got your core ingredient. What will go with it? How will you cook it? Lots of things influence this such as the weather (cold, hot, sticky), the availability and seasonality of produce and also how you want the food to make you feel when you eat it. You might like to feel warm and comforted so you might choose some cheap, slow cooking meat, lots of root vegetables, warming spices such as chilli, ginger and cinnamon and you’ll throw it all in a big cast iron pot or a slow cooker to bubble away for hours. You might like to feel light and refreshed so you’ll pick up some corn, tomatoes, crunchy lettuce, limes, fish and some wraps.
Step 3 – Be confident
You’ve cooked so many things before, so you know that you’ve got the skills to cook a piece of meat or build a flavour profile with onions, carrots and celery. Think of how you’ve done things previously and apply them to your current meal. Use your past experiences to guide you now. Just let go and cook. If it doesn’t work out, it’s no big deal. It’s just one meal. Don’t let it discourage you, keep trying and you will certainly come up with something amazing and original.
Step 4 – Record it!
I’ve discovered the best way to remember quantities and the steps you used when coming up with a new dish is to have a little notepad and pen nearby and a camera. It could even just be your camera phone. Writing down too many things can really be time consuming and when everything is on the go, there’s often no opportunity to accurately write down what is happening. Taking quick snapshots along the way is a visual reminder about how you did things and I use the notepad to quickly scribble down quantities if I think I’ll forget. Then later (on the same day if possible, so that it’s fresh in your memory), go through the photos and write it down properly.
The benefit of recording your recipes is that you can keep them all in a file on your computer, or you can print them off or even blog them. They are then a quick reference point for future inspiration or can be easily passed on to others if they’ve enjoyed your food.
I hope that this has been a helpful list and I’d love to hear from anyone who has stepped out of their recipe-following comfort zone and gotten creative in the kitchen! Happy cooking!