How to read a recipe
Recipes are there to help – as long as you use them correctly. Just as you wouldn’t set out to climb a mountain without knowing the terrain simply because it looked nice in the photo, a little advanced research is prudent when exploring new culinary territory.
It always pays to read a recipe – and we mean really read it, rather than simply skimming the ingredients to make a shopping list.
There’s nothing less welcome, with 40 minutes until your guests arrive than discovering you were supposed to soak, marinate or defrost something before leaving for work that morning.
Remember too, even when recipes have been tested two or three times by experts, they weren’t tested in your kitchen. Trust your instincts: your oven may well run hotter, or your pans may be heavier so those onions they claim take 10 minutes to, may in fact take 40. If it’s very cold, your bread is likely to take longer to rise; if it’s particularly warm, consider chilling your pastry before baking.
And don’t be afraid to swap in ingredients if they’re more to your taste, or if it’s what you have hanging around in the cupboard. If you have a surfeit of chillies, or prefer wholemeal pasta to white, then have the courage of your convictions. After all, it’s your dinner.
It always pays to read a recipe – and we mean really read it, rather than simply skimming the ingredients to make a shopping list.”
1. Read the ingredients list carefully before starting, noticing the grammar. ‘500g broad beans, podded’ is very different from ‘500g podded broad beans’.
2. Digest the entire method before you pick up a pan. Make sure there are no nasty surprises awaiting you in step 1, such as ‘soak the rice for an hour’ or ‘marinate the night before’.
3. Take cooking times with a pinch of salt. Trust your instincts; if something still looks a bit pallid after the baking time is up, give it a bit longer. It’s your oven.
4. This photo has been styled by a team of professionals. Yours probably won’t look like this because you tripped over the dog while plating up. Don’t beat yourself up about this.
5. At the bottom of the ingredients list, you may find serving suggestions. Do not get hung up upon them. No dish stands or falls on its garnish; if you’re out of pomegranate seeds or parsley, no one will complain.