Recipes and food are my business, my passion and, quite frankly, my life. I live and breath recipes as a private chef because I create new ones all day everyday; and then have to take what I dream up in my culinarian brain and put it on paper.
So not only do I know how to write recipes, but I know how to read them too. And one thing I’ve noticed is there are a lot of people who don’t read recipes properly. So let this serve as a guide to reading recipes, so you can become a master in your own kitchen.
Read Through Recipes Completely
Back when I was in culinary school instructors used to try to trick us by putting weird instructions at the end of a recipe, why? To see who was reading through the recipe completely.
Which is rule NUMBER ONE of reading recipes, read through the whole recipe BEFORE starting to prep. The people who fare best in the kitchen are those who are prepared, being prepared comes from attention to detail, and attention to detail comes from reading through the recipe and understanding the steps.
If you just read through the ingredients and start prepping, do you know if you need to preheat your oven? What if one of the star ingredients is split into two and each segment needs a different type of technique? Well, you wouldn’t know, and that’s the point.
If you take nothing from this blog post, digest this, read through EVERY recipe you plan to make completely before doing anything.
Learn to Substitute Like Pro
I’m a picky eater; it’s why I’m a chef. So I understand that when you see certain recipes that have ingredients which put you off you would be inclined to skip it; but don’t!
Instead understand how to make substitutions.
When it comes to herbs, you can swap herbs that have the same textural characteristics. For instance, thyme and rosemary are pretty much interchangeable because they are both woody in texture and can hold up to cooking. But you wouldn’t want to swap dill for rosemary, as rosemary needs to be cooked to reduce its woody texture, whereas dill would fade to oblivion.
Dill, basil, mint, cilantro and parsley are delicate and considered garnish herbs; so sub these for one another without worry.
I put tarragon and oregano in an asterix category, because they are so boldly flavoured and tend to boss the other herbs around; so use with care. And lastly, sage. Sage isn’t leafy, nor is it woody, it’s somewhere in between, so use caution with sage too.
If you eat cheese, you wouldn’t substitute a stinky cheese with a parmesan; or a goat’s cheese with a cheddar. With cheese think of smell, which is flavour; stinky swaps with stinky otherwise your cheese, which is often used as a garnish, could potentially over power your dish. You also want to think of texture. If you’re wanting shreds of parmesan, you wouldn’t swap with globs of brie- they are very different vibes; swap similar textures with similar textures.
Don’t like beets? Swap for turnip, celery root, carrot or rutabaga, something that is similar in bite and cooking length.
The key to remember, and it always bears repeating, is swap similar textures and flavours for similar textures and flavours.
Make the Most of Your Time
In many of recipes, especially ones I create in the winter, there is a roasting aspect to the dish, so think of how you can turn over ingredients in one recipe into another. Does the recipe call for one roasted butternut squash? Roast two and account for leftovers. Does the dressing make 2 cups? Double it, make 4 cups, and freeze for later.
Some recipes don’t lend themselves well to doubling and tripling, but that rule tends to apply mostly to baking- you don’t want to f*ck with those ratios lol. However, in cooking, ingredient components can be made in large batches and rolled over into new recipes or used for leftovers to make your life easier. Which is why I chose cooking in the first place!
Think not of what this recipe can do for you, but what you can do with this recipe ;)
Learning how to read recipes will make your kitchen life infinitely easier, which means you’ll cook more, eat more deliciously healthy food and rise to your healthiest and highest self, because true health starts in the kitchen.
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