[dropcap style=”font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;”] T[/dropcap]hese days I hardly ever use recipes.
I have too many ideas of my own that I’m keen to try.
But it may surprise you to hear that I haven’t always been this confident and creative in the kitchen.
For pretty much all of my 20s I was a recipe follower.
Not to the letter, mind you, I’d always make a few little ‘tweaks’. But unless I was making a sandwich, I pretty much consulted a recipe before I cooked anything.
Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with following recipes.
I firmly believe that it was following recipes (mostly from my still favourite food mag Australian Gourmet Traveller) that taught me to cook way more than anything I learned while studying for my food science degree.
But over time it was a combination of things that led me to start cooking on my own. Cooking from the heart.
Why cook without recipes?
The biggest driver for me was time.
Working as a young winemaker I didn’t have the luxury of an hour to spend each week picking out recipes, writing my shopping list.
There were lifestyle influences as well. When I was living in the Barossa Valley my Saturday morning ritual was to head to the farmers markets. I’d grab a coffee and sometimes a bacon and egg roll and stroll around the markets picking up whatever looked good.
This market-led type of food shopping was heaps of fun. But it didn’t lend itself to list making and recipe cooking.
So I found myself starting to create ‘template recipes’ based on successes I’d had in the past. I then used these to branch out and cook on my own.
Cooking without recipes was much more fun and (mostly) just as delicious, if not more so. It also meant I had far less waste because I used what I had.
3 Steps to learning to cook without recipes.
I firmly believe YOU CAN learn to cook without recipes because I’ve helped thousands of people get there.
You just need to take it slowly and follow these simple steps.
STEP 1. Start ‘tweaking’.
The simple recipes here on Stonesoup are a perfect starting place for that. I challenge you to step up and start trying some of the ‘variations’ I list at the bottom of each recipe. I especially want you to try the more ‘out there’ variations. The ones that make you feel a little bit uncomfortable.
Then when you’ve pushed yourself on the tweaking, it’s time for Step 2…
STEP 2. Branch out to ‘template recipes’.
I did this unconsciously myself, but I wish I’d had someone to show me the way. I would have saved myself loads of time and mistakes.
It’s all about thinking about your recipes in more general terms rather than specific ingredients.
So instead of lemon juice you’d be thinking in terms of ‘acid’ which could be any type of citrus juice or vinegar or even tomatoes. Or instead of chicken thigh fillets you’d be thinking about ‘tender cuts of protein’.
Armed with a good collection of ‘templates’ you’ll find that you are able to open the fridge and see delicious possibilities.
If this sounds a bit too much, the good news is you don’t have to figure it out all on your own.
In my latest eCookbook, the ‘2-Minute Meal Plan‘, I share 60 of my best template recipes and show you exactly how to put them to use. Before you know it you’ll be one of those people who can just effortlessly ‘whip something up’
Then have a look at my ‘2-Minute Meal Plan’ eCookbook.
It’s a revolutionary approach to help YOU plan & cook healthy food fast…
For more details, go to:
ps. Not sure?
Here’s what Rellie said about the 2-Minute Meal Plan…
“Your book has changed my life! I LOVE it! I am the crappiest cook ever but my confidence has soared (as have the amount of meals my family actually eat!). It is so simple and easy to follow.”
Rellie, 2MMP owner
Here’s the link again:
One thing I love recipes for is that they show me new combinations of food I might not have tried on my own. I love cooking and tweaking, but left to my own food ideas many things end up tasting similar. Which is not bad, since they also taste equally good, but also a tad boring. ^^
I agree that recipes are a necessary starting point for learning to cook. I still use a lot of recipes but rather than slavishly following ingredients, quantities and methods, I often use them to get ideas and then use what I have on hand.
Most recipes have a similar basis, like your templates. If you know how to make a simple tomato sauce, you can make a million different sauces by varying what you put into it.
Thanks for your great blog. I love your ideas and the way you put them together. Your photos make me drool!
I find that if i learnt the basics of different food cultures eg. chinese , thai, greek; I can mix up any meal. Every country has quick recipes, it is just a matter of learning how the flavours work.
You run such a savvy blog, I love to use your recipes when it is me and dad for dinner, because they are always an instant hit.
I definitely can cook without a recipe. In fact, all of our daily dinners are like that. Usually, I cook a meal with what I have available in the fridge/pantry at that moment – I’m trying to get the habit of planning meals but not quite there yet :-( – and even if chicken and noodles are a staple, the taste is different each time!
Baking cakes or pastry is an exception, though! I cannot bake a cake without following a recipe. (But often I readjust the ingredients)