The secret to cooking without ‘recipes’


Like most people, when I was learning to cook I was a slave to recipes. While it was a good way to start learning different techniques and ingredients, it did have some frustrating limitations.

Like what happens when you can’t buy a particular ingredient? And what do you do with that leftover half bunch of herbs? Or jar of sauce?

Or worse still, what do you do when you need to cook something but don’t have the luxury of time to pour over recipes and go shopping for exotic ingredients?

Over the years, with a lot of trial and error, I began to learn to cook more instinctively, on my own.

Without other people’s recipes.

In my head, without really being conscious of what I was doing, I started thinking of recipes in general terms rather than specific ingredients.

From there, I developed a collection of starting point or ‘template recipes’. So whenever I walked into the kitchen and looked into the fridge to figure out what to cook, I had a head start.

I knew what had worked before to make that soup or stir fry and could use that knowledge as a springboard for a new dish or meal.

Why try ‘template recipes’?

Template recipes provide a stepping stone or ‘training wheels’ to help you take the first steps to freedom from recipes.

They’re designed to give you some support and structure while also providing plenty of ideas to get you started.

At the same time they are there to encourage you to think for yourself. To try new things. To experiment and develop your own recipes and style.

Like to see an example?

I’ve included a template recipe from the 2-Minute Meal Plan below…


ketchup ‘baked’ legumes
from The 2-Minute Meal Plan.

I’ve never been a fan of baked beans out of a can. These ketchup beans are a whole other story. The onion, the paprika & the ketchup combine to make a dish you’d swear had been ‘baking’ for hours.

per person
1 tablespoon butter, optional
1/2 aromatic vegetable, chopped
1/2 can legumes, drained
2 tablespoons ketchup (or ‘tomato sauce’ for the Aussies!)
1 teaspoon spice, optional

1. Heat a medium fry pan on a medium heat. Add butter and aromatic veg and cook for 5-10 minutes until the veg is soft and lightly golden.

2. Add legumes, ketchup and spice.

3. Stir and simmer for a couple of minutes to make sure everything is hot. Taste & season.

butter alternative – any oil you normally cook with.

aromatic veg – onions are my favourite but celery or carrots would be good instead..

legumes – I’ve used cannellini beans in the photo but any canned or cooked legume will work. Try butter beans, borlotti beans, black beans, chickpeas or lentils.

no ketchup? – I really recommend getting a small bottle to try with this dish. I’m not really a big ketchup fan but I adore these legumes. Otherwise try tomato paste and a big pinch or three of brown sugar. A good BBQ sauce will also work.

spice - first choice smoked paprika. Next choice other paprika, dried chilli (you may like to reduce the quantity if really hot). Coriander seed or cumin would be interesting. And curry powder would work if you’re in the mood for a curry.

higher protein – Preheat the oven to 180C (350F) while the onion cooks. When the legumes are done, make a small well in the middle and crack and egg into it. Bake for about 10 minutes or until egg whites are set and yolks still runny.


Wondering if the template recipes in the 2-Minute Meal Plan will work for you?

It’s not for everyone…

If you’re happy with your current meal planning system, then it’s probably not going to add much value. Unless you’d like to learn to cook more freely and creatively.

But if planning your meals each week causes you problems, then more than likely, the 2-Minute Meal Plan system will help you.

Just like it’s already helped these readers…

Amy, 2-Minute Meal Planner
“I just purchased the ebook and I am only on page 57 of the first part, but can already tell I LOVE IT. I was so excited when you announced this a few days ago, and knew it would be just what I needed. AND it is!!!! I’m so excited to start implementing the things I’m learning, and to gobble up the rest of the books.

Thank you a million for this ebook, it is absolutely brilliant. I really can’t remember the last time I was this excited about a purchase. I think I will also be getting a much happier husband thanks to this book :)”

Cat, 2-Minute Meal Planner
“I really like the recipe templates, and the formula for figuring out how much produce and protein to obtain for each person. I also love the problem solving tips and suggestions for vegans.”

Kate, 2-Minute Meal Planner.
“The whole system was very useful to me. I learned better planning of meals for a week and, besides that, to improvise with ingredients. Preparing food ceased to be stressful factor and became a joy!

2MMP Video 3D Cover

To pick up your copy today, go to:

Jules x

ps. A big THANKYOU to all the early birds who have already purchased the 2-Minute Meal Plan. I’m super excited about the response. Really appreciate you supporting Stonesoup!

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