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Recipes are rubbish

I’ve never been any sort of a chef, but of late I’ve found myself having a go at more interesting things.

And my goodness – aren’t recipes (both in cookbooks and online) absolute rubbish?

I’m not saying they don’t work. But they’re not in any way written for normal, error-prone humans to follow. So for that reason, any recipes I put on this blog will nearly always be proven existing ones (which I’ll reference), but rewritten so that everything is easy to get right.

Why? Because I’m putting them here for my own benefit and reference, and it’s how I want to see them presented. But anyone else is welcome to have them.

Let’s make preparation simpler

Here’s the problem with almost all published recipes. They give you a long list of ingredients, then a hard-to-follow description of what to do with them. They do not make it easy for cooks – particularly inexperienced ones.

Here’s one thing I hate.

With any recipe that needs more than half a dozen ingredients, we’re almost certainly going to want to prepare all the ingredients before we start cooking, and have them all laid out on the worktop. But some recipes (especially those Indian ones!) have 20 or more ingredients: half a teaspoon of this, a quarter of a teaspoon of that, a stick of whatever – you get the drift.

So are we supposed to lay out the ingredients in 20 different saucers or bowls? Of course not. We need to find out which ingredients will be added to the saucepan at the same time, so that we can combine them in advance. But does the recipe tell us this? Never. We’re expected to read through carefully and try to work out in advance what’s going to be needed when.

For example, one curry recipe that I like has 17 different items on its ingredients list. I have no doubt they all contribute. But the actual instructions say, in effect: “Cook these 3 items; then add these 6 and cook some more; then add these 3 and cook some more, then add these 3 and cook some more; then add the remaining 2 and serve”. So I didn’t need to have 17 ingredients laid out separately, I just needed to have 5 lots, pre-combined. Why couldn’t they tell me that, to make the preparation simple?

While we’re at it, why can’t the subsequent cooking instructions be shown in a simple numbered list?

And why can’t they be consistent in measurement units? Why say ‘1 tsp of this’, then ‘1 tbsp of that’? Why not do it all in the smaller units (in this case teaspoonfuls), so that we can be sure to get the proportions right, even if the amounts might be a bit off (because our teaspoon measurer isn’t that accurate)? Do it all in teaspoonfuls (1 tablespoonful = 3 teaspoonfuls).

I’ve resolved to take any recipe that I really like, and re-write it for a human to follow – namely me. Any that I do will be published on this blog in a format that I can follow. If it helps you too, that’s great.

The agony of recipes on the web

Oh, don’t get me started on internet recipes. Again, I’m sure many (most?) are perfectly decent. The problem is Google.

Thanks to my day job, I know all about how Google works. The way you get to the top of the Google results (and all the successful recipe sites know this) is to have lots of words on the page. Firstly, Google thinks: “Mmm, lots of words, it must be a good article”. Secondly, the more ways you write the same thing (on the same page), the more likely you are to match the way the person searching Google has phrased things.

So these recipe sites often have pages that go on for screen, after screen, after screen, even to describe the simplest of dishes. It’s how they make a living.

And how they make themselves a real chore to follow.

Again, if I publish any recipe on this site, it will be concise and to the point, and will probably never be found on Google. But I don’t care. After all, this site is for my satisfaction really. But as you’ve found this page, I hope my approach helps.

And finally…

Any recipes here will be formatted as a nice single-side A4 sheet to print out, which is what I want in the kitchen. I don’t want to be reading a recipe from a book that spreads over more than one page, turning back and forth, desperately trying not to spill anything on it; and I don’t want to be squinting at my phone and endlessly scrolling up and down its screen. Give me one sheet that I can print out whenever I need it.