How do you cook?

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Stravaig
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How do you cook?

Postby Stravaig » Wed Jan 15, 2020 9:30 am

I'm writing a cookbook and would be grateful if any of you have time to answer a few questions. (Sorry, I don't want to give more details away at this early stage.) The toughest thing will be to write recipes with precise measurements, because I don't cook that way. Then I discovered that there are a few no-recipe cookbooks on the market, ie they tell you how to cook something but don't say precisely that you need 100g of this and 50g of that, etc. Do you think you might buy such a book if it had lots of good ideas and "how to" advice or would you think it was a bit of a swizz not to include proper recipes?

Do you follow recipes precisely or just bung things in according to your taste?

Do you just look at the picture, glance at the ingredients and then make the dish? (That's what I do.)

What's the main attraction about a cookbook that would make you want to part with your cash for it?

Thanks in advance!
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Diane
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Re: How do you cook?

Postby Diane » Wed Jan 15, 2020 11:59 am

I usually follow the recipe - at least on the first occasion, and then tweak it next time if I think of an improvement. I'm so old that I'm still using lbs and oz measurements. I'd never buy a cookbook with no recipe measurements - wouldn't trust myself not to mess it up and waste the ingredients.

I've sometimes seen a picture of an attractive looking cake and decide to make it - then find I don't have enough of the ingredients - so don't bother any more - consoling myself by thinking of all the calories I've saved by not having to eat the thing.

I haven't actually bought a cookbook for decades - I still have quite a few from when I first got married - but, with the coming of the interweb, I usually look online and print out recipes and keep them in a file. I'm quite adventurous in my eating habits and would need quite a large space for all the books needed - so that's why I print out the recipes.

Hope that helps. :)
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Re: How do you cook?

Postby Chantal » Wed Jan 15, 2020 12:33 pm

I have at least 100 cookbooks (an entire 5 shelf bookcase in the kitchen), all with measurements, but I use them as a guideline, rather than being absolutely precise with both the quantities and ingredients. The only exception to this is cakes, which I follow to the letter. I've only had one or two meals that I didn't like, having messed around with the recipe, but the in general, everything works.

The main thing that attracts me to cookbooks are the photos. I like to know what my expections are before choosing something. I even occasionally produce something that looks exactly like the photo! :lol:

I also like recipes which include an alternative or get around to some ingredients, which can make life easier (eg using double cream instead of buttermilk) and saves me having to Google when I'm missing something, or indeed hate something, that's listed and not usually something I'd have in the house.

I do often seek recipes online, but then select ones that are printed in one of my cookbooks; I prefer to have a hard copy and always lose printouts.
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Re: How do you cook?

Postby Stravaig » Wed Jan 15, 2020 1:51 pm

Many thanks to you both for taking the time to reply. It's all very helpful and gives me an idea of what people might want.

Diane, I take it that you're not a potential customer, then. :wink:

Chantal, your style sounds very much like my own. I also have a lot of cookbooks, probably more than a couple of hundred (many came from charity shops). But I mostly use them for ideas and to look at the pictures, unless it's something very ambitious or complicated. Some of my older books don't have any pictures so many have fallen out of favour. I also search online for recipes and, if I want to use them, I do print them out and keep them in a ring-pull binder. I'm a member of Scribd, an online book club, and get loads of eBooks from there. But if I really like the book I often also buy a hard copy of it because I can't be bothered with eBooks in the kitchen.

My initial plan was to write an eBook but now I'm thinking I'll need to publish a hard copy too, probably via CreateSpace or similar (Amazon's self-publishing on demand service). But that will considerably increase the cost of the book, especially if there are lots of photos. Perhaps I'll look into the cost of using a Ukrainian publisher...

I like your idea of substituting ingredients because it's often hard to get certain things here, especially if they're seasonal. And some other ingredients just don't seem to be available. I've never seen buttermilk here, for example, but I use lemon juice to sour ordinary milk and that works fine.

I also agree that baking is different from cooking and I too need precise recipes for baked items.

Thanks again, and I'm still keen for more replies if anyone can spare the time.
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Re: How do you cook?

Postby Diane » Wed Jan 15, 2020 2:06 pm

Stravaig - good luck with your project and if you do write a cookbook then I would. buy it. Especially if it had vegetarian options too.
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Re: How do you cook?

Postby Stravaig » Wed Jan 15, 2020 2:50 pm

Wow! A sale before I've even written the book. Thank you for the encouragement, Diane. :lol:

Seriously, when I'm a bit further on with the project I'll be happy to send PDF copies to a few people in exchange for their feedback before publishing the finished book.

I'm also happy to tell what it's about by private message. I'm just not wanting to say on the public forum in case my idea shows up on Google and gets copied.

Perhaps I ought to have a vegetarian chapter. A lot of what I make is veggie anyway as I eat very little meat, but it might be worth flagging up the veggie meals separately.
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Re: How do you cook?

Postby Colin2016 » Wed Jan 15, 2020 4:09 pm

I follow recipe word for word first time then change when it does not work or I think I can improve it.

Not interested in anything with meat..too much good cheap healthy veg options about.

I prefer web base recipes which has a person/portion calculator that I can change as often find that in the books they are for 4 + people.

I guess my ideal book would be simple one portion meals for a Pescetarian or Vegetarian.

Good luck with your project Stravaig.
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Re: How do you cook?

Postby Primrose » Wed Jan 15, 2020 7:02 pm

I think most people start off wanting some measures for ingredients when trying a new recipe first time if only to get some idea of relative proportions, otherwise many of them won,t necessarily be successful

But having cooked something few times it becomes pretty easy to adapt and cook Meals by ear so to speak because of lot of meals readily lend themselves to adaptation of quantities. . Think of stews, casseroles, soups, pasta sauces, shepherds pies, cottage pies for example. For most of them you can vary the weight and combination of ingredients and still produce a perfectly tasty meal.

For all of the above I prepare ingredients by ear and to be honest it,s been years since I ever accurately measured ingredients out for most of these meals. it,s a case of throwing a combination of ingredients into a frying pan, soup saucepan or casserole disk and letting the flavour combine as they cook. You may get a slightly different level of flavour every time depending on the proportion of ingredients used but does that matter if the end result is still tasty?

I think cake and pastry making is a more exact science though so perhaps think whether you want to focus on starters and main meals . If you want to include desserts, try and find recipes that are forgiving if the weight of ingredients is varied. I'm thinking for example of an Apple, pear and sultana compote I make regularly in autumn when fruit is plentiful and cheap. I simply chop up apples & pears, throw into a Pyrex bowl with a few sultanas and maybe a dash of grated lemon peel, add a splash of water or orange juice to moisten and microwave for five minutes. The combination of ingredients is slightly different on every occasion but the end result is still perfectly tasty. I think some TV chefs have simply Intimdated people into believing they need a univeraity degree in Cuisine to produce anything which is vaguely edible!

I think some people can be scared by the science of cooking, especially new cooks and the uninitiatedand the need for accuracy in measuring all ingredients. . If you can find recipes which demystify the process and simplify it to a point where you can convince people that you can still "make a lot of inaccuracies" with meal recipes and still produce something that,s enjoyable you
may appeal to a different market.

Call your book "Just Throw in a Pan and Cook," and you'll probably have the whole world student population at your feet.


I think it will make a difference if you're aiming your book at a totally novice cook who is starting from scratch or an experienced one who is used to"cooking by eye". You may for example need to say (if making some kind of meat casserole) "use enough liquid to cover the ingredient before putting in the oven (without stating a specific quantity Or if making cheesy mashed potatoes to cover some kind of meat pie. "Mix in enough grated cheese to give the potato a good flavour". ,
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Re: How do you cook?

Postby Stravaig » Wed Jan 15, 2020 7:32 pm

Lots more great ideas, thanks. I'll reply more fully tomorrow but I'm aiming for an early night for a change. We're two hours ahead of you here.
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Re: How do you cook?

Postby Westi » Wed Jan 15, 2020 8:00 pm

Hi Stravaig!

I have a lot of cookbooks as well! I stick to the bread & cake measures but for the savoury I tweak from the start, not keen on coriander fresh but love the seeds, don't like mega hot chillies that make my nose run & face turn cerise so opt out of them & replace with milder & another favourite rule is the Unami effect - you can get that from many sources, not just what in the recipe - Fish Sauce is good, a pinch of Miso powder or Veri-juice, Worcester sauce works as well! And the leap I took to put dark chocolate into chilli was a revelation! Kind of saying give alternatives that could work in your recipes so you are also catering to taste! Taste is subjective & not the same so cover that & you could succeed! I am one who gets very sick of the 'professionals' pushing their taste on me like I'm an inferior cook or customer as I don't take to an ingredient!
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Chantal
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Re: How do you cook?

Postby Chantal » Thu Jan 16, 2020 4:42 pm

Going back to precise quantities for baking, one thing I've always struggled with is eggs.

Add 4 large eggs it says. I buy my eggs from a farm, or use our own if we have our chickens in lay, and the eggs are huge. Much bigger than supermarket "large" eggs. This surely has to affect recipes.

My mum, who used to live in Germany, has cookbooks which gives the quanity of beaten eggs by ml or grams. It makes a lot more sense. Whole egg yolks are obviously a different matter, but hardly apply when baking.
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Re: How do you cook?

Postby Stephen » Thu Jan 16, 2020 6:41 pm

If I am cooking puddings or baking bread, I measure the ingredients.
For savoury dishes, never.

Bearing in mind that I am now in my 60s, I was never taught any domestic science at school (I think everyone ought to be taught this or something similar on the lines of "household management" and just teaching academic subjects is an oversight). However my mother taught me enough and subsequently I learnt by doing it.

If you learn the principles of how to make various types of dish then you have the freedom to embellish as you wish or from what is readily available.
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Re: How do you cook?

Postby Cookie_2 » Tue Feb 18, 2020 10:01 pm

Hello Stravaig! To be honest, cookbooks are amazing but when it comes to me more often I use internet if I need a recipe. If I am searching for it definitely I would prefer if it is more precised in amount of ingredients needed etc. Mostly, I do not follow recipes strictly; however, it is good to know how much of eg. flour should I use. But what would be really helpful for me are ingredients that can be changed and what you can use instead of the main one. So if recipe says "wheat flour" I would like to know if coconut flour will fit also.
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