How to Cook Without a Recipe Part II
In The Basics of Cooking Without a Recipe, Part I we talked about basic cooking techniques, planning, the common elements in every dish, keeping it simple, and how taste is truly everything. Learning how to cook without a recipe involves more than just knowing different techniques and planning. In Part II, we’re talking about how to fall in love with the food you’re creating. You may think passion for your food isn’t necessary – but let me tell you, it is.
You are here reading this for a reason. You want to break free of the constraints of cooking with a recipe. You want to cook for your taste buds and not follow someone else’s perfect recipe. You will make mistakes in your journey of learning how to cook without a recipe.
How do I know? Because I made mistakes myself and still do. Next week, I’ll be sharing some of my personal cooking fails when cooking without a recipe.
Find Your Inspiration
In a previous post, I asked you to consider your cravings, time restraints, and energy level when cooking at home. Most of us choose to order out, cook the same four meals, or eat pre-packaged grocery store food when we are in a rut and feeling listless. Find your inspiration to break out of the rut, jump back into the kitchen, and create something from your desires.
Does scrolling Pinterest looking at drool-worthy photography help inspire you to get into the kitchen? Are you inspired by watching food shows on Netflix? Or does inspiration hit when you’re reading chef’s memoirs, esoteric books on menu linguistics, recipe books, or blog posts? What about the smell of ripe peaches in the height of summer? Do you like scouring farmer’s markets and grocery stores for new and colorful vegetables and fruits?
Whatever your inspiration is, follow it and let it inspire you to try new foods and explore new cultures. Without this extra dose of inspiration, you’re likely to stop cooking without a recipe at the first fail. You need something deeper to keep you going when mistakes inevitably show up.
Share Your Meals
Share your hard work with family, friends, coworkers, and neighbours. Let them know you’re learning how to cook without a recipe. They will encourage you and may even make a few requests of their own. If that’s not enough, be a typical #foodie and share what you’re creating in your kitchen on Facebook, Instagram, whatever social platform you most relate to.Don’t forget to tag @finnyfromscratch in it!
Take It Slow
Set yourself up for success. Don’t commit to serving a three course meal prepared entirely from scratch without a recipe right away. Take it slow, and first try to make a simple vegetable soup without a recipe. Try making hummus or bean dip. Aim for foods that require no more than 4-5 ingredients. Work on tasting, evaluating, and adjusting seasoning to your liking and dietary restrictions. Remember, you’re cooking – first and foremost – for yourself.
Write It Down
When cooking without a recipe, you may want to write down the steps you take and the ingredients you use for later reference. This will help you identify whether your recipe has the basic components (salt, fat, acid, sweetness, savouriness) of a perfectly balanced meal. These “recipes” don’t have to be intense or time-consuming to write down. Simply jot down what you did, the ingredients used, and your overall impression of the meal. If you’re on a roll, give yourself cooking clues for next time.
If you don’t want to have your own “recipe book” to track your progress, try using voice notes in an app or take a picture of the result and jot down a quick note about what can be improved. By writing or speaking what you did, you will more easily be able to identify areas you can improve and detach from the results.
By detaching ever so slightly from what you are creating, you will be able to continue and not get so caught up in feeling discouraged or like you are not progressing.
For example, if I were to make a basic vegetable soup from scratch, my “recipe” may look like this:
Spanish onions (diced)
Carrots (diced) (SWEETNESS)
White potatoes (diced)
Salt & pepper (SALT)
White wine (ACID)
Cook spanish onions in butter, add other vegetables until water is cooked out, add salt and pepper, vegetable broth. Bring to boil, simmer for 20-30 minutes. Add white wine at the end.
Soup was a bit bland – may add fresh parsley (aromatic/seasoning) or soy sauce (salty/savoury) to soup at the end next time. The vegetables were perfectly cooked but the onions were diced too big.
After eating the very first meal/snack you cooked without a recipe, make time to celebrate. Take a minute and reflect on how far you’ve come. Recognize that you can do it. You can do what so many others are afraid of doing. Pour yourself a glass of wine, a beer, a sparkling water and juice mixture, and smile. Celebrate especially if your first try wasn’t perfect. And then, immediately after, snap a pic and share it with me!
I want to see what you’re up to and how you’ve been able to use the Basics of Cooking Without a Recipe series to motivate, inspire, and fire you up enough to try it. Comment below, hop on over to Instagram (tag @finnyfromscratch and #finnyfromscratch), or send me an email of your first no-recipe meal.