The Thrift of the Reading of the Recipe.
When I am asked to share a recipe my answer is always a bit of a hit and miss affair. The inquirer usually gets an answer which is much more than they bargained for I am sure. You see the problem is I do not cook by recipes, much just lives in my head but mostly I cook by heart and add a bit of science and art. So while I rarely actually follow recipes, I spend a lot of time reading recipes. Recipes are everywhere and I recommend you make one of your interests reading them for a number of reasons.
Through reading recipes you will learn the principles of how to cook and it is the principles that matter; through reading recipes you will learn:
- the terms of baking and cooking and what they mean
- the various ways and methods to approach food preparation
- how to cook from scratch and so avoid a lot of packaged foods
- the best way to prepare different cuts of meat
- how to use different textures and flavours
- how to marry flavour partners
- the different methods of approaching baking and when to use them
- what the finished product should look like
- an understanding of amounts, proportions, textures and tastes
- the amount of time a dish will take to prepare
- an idea of the cost of the dish
- this is not a conclusive list, I am sure you can add many others
With practice you can master a lot of basic skills and then work out how to tweak recipes, stretch and bulk up recipes for more servings and substitute ingredients, for something that is already in the pantry or something that needs using.
Remember in this blog we are discussing ways to stretch our budget, our creativity and our resources; we are not on MasterChef!
I include a few tips for flavour, nutrition, and economy;
#1 Do not pour or wash your flavour down the sink. This applies to vegetable water or the pan meat, bacon etc has been cooked in. Learn to make gravy from scratch using vegetable water, pan drippings and a little plain flour.
#2 Pop the chicken carcass, some fresh herbs from the garden, any old veges from the bottom of the fridge in a pot, bring to boil and simmer for about 40 mins. Let cool and strain off for stock for soups, casseroles, gravy. Freeze this for later use. Putting this stock in the bottom of the roasting pan when roasting chicken or turkey keeps the meat moist and makes a super tasty gravy.
#3 Make vegetables the star of the meal and reduce the amount of meat consumed. Go vegetarian if that appeals but if not, reduce the serving size and the regularity of meat consumption. Many tasty meals can be made simply with vegetables. Every meal does not need to include meat and there is that suggestion to have one day a week vego to help our environment.
- #4 Grow fresh herbs and use these to enliven taste. Become familiar with flavour partners, rosemary with lamb and potatoes, mint for mint sauce to go with roast lamb and mint with green peas, pork and sage, tomatoes and basil, coriander in Thai curries, oregano with Italian dishes, chilli with Mexican food, whole nutmeg grated over roast pumpkin, cumin with sweet potato, parsley or chives with everything, garlic and olive oil. Experiment! Have fun!
- # 5 And finally, eating is a very emotional matter. My daughter tells me, “There is something really special about what you do with food.” I don’t know what it is, like everything else in my life our food is not expensive nor extravagant but it is made with love. So I conclude that the best food is not the most expensive food; it is the food made with love and served in joy and peace. To paraphrase Proverbs Chap 15 V 17 Better is a dinner of vegetables where there is love than a fatted calf with strife.