ten tips for foolproof recipe writing

crispy breadcrumbs risotto rice in a jar

Only one week until the launch of my first ever ebook – How to Bake Your Family Cookbook. Yay!

So I thought I’d share a little excerpt from the book and get some feedback on your likes and dislikes when it comes to recipes – particularly reading them on line. Do you prefer point form or proper sentences? Lots of description and instruction or bare essentials? Detailed ingredients lists with the preparation required for each ingredient or simply the ingredients and amounts required? A nice long preamble or just sticking to the old method and ingredients format.

Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

from ‘How to Bake Your Family Cookbook – to be released 29th March 2010
ten tips for foolproof recipe writing

1. List the ingredients in the order they need to be used. This makes it easier for the cook to see what is needed when. It’s also helpful when checking that nothing’s been omitted.

2. List the amounts required in the ingredient list. Saves reading through the method when it’s time to write a shopping list.

3. Include measurements by weight as well as volume. Some people live by their kitchen scales and others by their cups. It helps to keep both camps happy if you include both. There is an online recipe converter at www.cuisinedumonde.com/convert.html.

4. Be consistent with measurement types. Use either metric or imperial or both, but don’t switch between mid recipe – it’s too confusing and likely to cause problems.

5. List the ingredients in the state that they are to be used in. It’s much easier to scan the ingredient list to see if you need the onions peeled and diced or the herb leaves picked, than trawl through the method. Makes for simpler method writing as well.

6. Write the method in a logical sequence. Think through what needs to be done first and move on from there.

7. Use point form or short sentences with well spaced out paragraphs for the method. Remember that usually people will be reading in a hurry while they’re trying to figure out what to do next. Make your method as simple and as scannable as possible.

8. Give more details than just times and temperatures. Every kitchen and cook is different. Just saying to cook the onions for 5 minutes doesn’t tell the full story. The cook needs to know how to tell when things are done or when they are ready to move on to the next step. A little explanation as to what they’re looking for can make the world of difference. Best expand a little such as ‘cook the onions for 5 minutes or until soft, but not browned’.

9. Include the number of servings or yield.

10. Proofread. It’s easy to make mistakes, proofreading is critical to make sure your typing error doesn’t end up a big mess in someone’s kitchen.

cauliflower risotto

[almost 5 ingredients]
basic risotto

serves 4-5

I was going to use olive oil to make this 5 ingredients but I just couldn’t bear to have risotto without butter – thus the ‘almost’.

I like to use fancy Italian arborio rice for my risotto. Different rices with vary incredibly with their liquid absorption capacity so don’t worry if you don’t use or the stock – or if you find the need to top up with a little extra water from the kettle.

If I don’t have time to make my own stock, I use supermarket liquid stock but freshen it up a little by simmering a chopped carrot and a few ribs of celery in the stock before starting the risotto – even 10 minutes will make a difference to the depth of flavour of your risotto.

Unlike my pasta, I’m a fan of soft, well cooked, oozy, almost soupy risotto. Feel free to cook to your own preference.

I’ve read that the best thing for risotto is to make sure the rice has completely absorbed each ladleful of stock and is crying out for more liquid before you add the next. But to be honest I didn’t see much difference.

I also don’t stress too much about constant stirring – although it can be a good task to delegate to a dinner guest if you happen to have one handy.

If you do want to prep ahead you can cook the risotto until three quarters done and leave it covered on the stove and finish it off later.

For me the key thing with risotto is the final resting step with the butter and cheese.

6C chicken or vegetable stock
100g (3.5oz) butter
1 brown onion, peeled & finely diced
1C (200g or 7oz) arborio rice
1C white wine
100 – 150g (3.5 – 5oz) parmesan cheese, grated

Bring stock to the boil and keep simmering.

Meanwhile, melt half the butter in another large saucepan. Add onion and cook over a medium heat until the onion is soft and not browned.

Stir through rice and toast for a few minutes. Add wine and allow to gently simmer. Stir until wine has been absorbed.

Add stock one ladleful at a time, stirring in between until the rice is soft and oozy. It takes about 20 – 25minutes.

Stir through remaining butter and cheese and turn off the heat. Cover and stand the risotto for 3-4 minutes.

cauliflower risotto

light cauliflower risotto
serves 5-6

Inspired by Jamie Oliver from Jamie’s Italian.

The cauliflower makes this a lovely light risotto – that even feels a bit healthy. I love the crunchy contrast of the fried breadcrumbs with the soupy rice.

1 head cauliflower, cut into florettes with stems finely diced.
1 x basic risotto [above]
8 anchovies
2 slices sourdough bread, torn into fine crumbs
pinch chilli flakes

Add cauliflower stems to the softening onion and add the florettes to the stock so that they get added to the rice as the stock is added.

Add the anchovies at the same time as the rice.

When the risotto is resting, fry the breadcrumbs in a little olive oil until golden and crisp. Stir through a little chilli.

Serve risotto warm with breadcrumbs sprinkled over.


On breadshoes – a review of the lott – cooma.

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