I’m not very good at following recipes. I can do it but for some reason the process doesn’t come easily to me and I get bored very quickly just thinking about it. I really enjoy reading recipes and cook books in general and also watching others cook on tv or in real life and often feel totally inspired by what they are doing – whilst mentally logging certain tips or taste combinations, ideas for unusual ingredients or just learning really simple techniques I hadn’t thought of previously.
My approach to cooking feels more like a ‘traditional’ thing. A thing passed down. There’s an element of watching and demonstrating, feeling my way through the process and using ingredients that are around without needing a trip to the supermarket. As a result I feel so much more satisfied with the result. The absence of weighing ingredients and throwing random things into the mix makes me feel good and that’s at the heart of why I love it. It’s the improvisation that I love, the problem-solving, the freedom and lack of constraint.
There are caveats to this of course and with certain things (bread), I don’t have the confidence to chuck it all in the air and see where it lands (not literally of course, that would be very messy and wasteful). I’m not advocating the dispensing of recipe-following but I do feel that unless a cook abstains from it once in a while they may not get a feel and confidence for their own creativity or palette.
Most of my enormous family are similar I think, all seeming very confident in creating delicious food without recipes with a wide variety of beautiful textures and flavours and I’m trying to understand what gave us all the love of cooking, the appreciation of tasty and satisfying home-cooked food and the ability to pull it off. Getting together for big family parties is always wonderful as it completely centres around the food and what everyone has brought along for the big meal. Many dishes being our own versions of family favourites – like ball curry – or completely new additions that havn’t been done before. I usually stuff myself silly and spend the rest of the day ‘repeating’ and burping the delicious flavours and aromas that remind me of the fantastic meal. Sorry.
I thank my mum who I believe instilled a confidence in me for cooking and passed down the concept of putting love into the food that I make. On rainy, boring days during school holidays, with the absence of anything interesting to do, I often went to my mum for ideas. She was usually in the kitchen and was completely happy for me to use up ingredients and experiment with what we had, giving me free reign whilst keeping off my back. Sometimes I got to watch the dahl and rice being made with a slightly different hint of this or that, and then later while sitting down at the table recognise to myself the mystery ingredient in the meal…and then over the years I think, developing a palette and vocabulary of tastes.
For me, the main purpose of this blog is to get down family recipes, things I’ve created and my general approach to cooking and mostly as an archive for Benjamin and Thea to use as a resource when they leave home and start cooking for themselves. I know George feels the same way about his kids and wants to instil a love of food in them too. We shouldn’t worry. They’ll be fine.
I will continue to write my recipes down on this blog but for anyone that reads them, don’t take mine too seriously. Or at least follow them and then next time try your own version. (Matthew)