Wednesday 30 May 2012

What type of cook are you?

In my opinion there are two types of cooks in this world. For arguments sake let’s call them recipe cooks and off-the-cuff cooks. Recipe cooks find a recipe they like and then go out and buy the ingredients or perhaps find a recipe based on the ingredients they have at home. Off-the-cuff cooks improvise. They see what they have at home or buy a random set of ingredients in their weekly shop and then conjure up a dish based on their archives of experience. Now, there’s no right or wrong and there will always be a degree of overlap, but I do believe that every person has a natural pull towards one of the two categories. So which one are you?

I definitely have a tendency towards the former. I like the structure of a recipe and still feel I have a lot to learn from other people’s tried and tested experiences. It’s rare, however, that I ever follow a recipe to the letter. I generally tweak a few things here or there as, at the end of the day, everyone’s tastes are different. In fact quite often I will trawl through about five or six recipes of the same dish until I find one that I will even consider adapting. Or I make my own recipe from a combination of the ones I have looked through. These recipes are what I’ve used to build up my own recipe journal. It is one of my prized possessions; if anything were to happen to it I think there would actually be tears! I really must find a more permanent way of storing them…but then again I guess that’s what this blog is for!

I am a huge fan of recipe books. In fact I have so many now that they recently broke the shelf on my bookcase (N was not impressed)! They have now had to start their new life as a pile in front of the shelving unit. This is clearly much safer but very annoying when it comes to the weekly vacuuming! I have my sister to credit for most of these recipe books, which means I also have her to blame for breaking my bookshelf! Pride of place definitely goes to my Jamie Oliver collection which she managed to get signed by the man himself. I always look forward to my birthday or Christmas as I know she’ll get me the latest in the line of celebrity cookbooks. Sis, if you’re reading, the next ones on my wish list are Rachel Koo’s Little Paris Kitchen and Lorraine Pascal’s Home Cooking Made Easy!

I do worry that I’m a bit addicted to recipe books. Quite often I read them even when I’m not planning on cooking anything; I find they provide me with a great source of inspiration. My favourite book to just ‘read’ has to be Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Diaries. From reading his book I get the impression he is an off-the-cuff cook. I have written an excerpt from his book below so you can get a feel for what I mean.

The smell of white rice cooking, clean, nutty and warm, casts a sense of peace over the house. As if snow has fallen. Seasonings change with the day, but tonight it is green cardamom, black cumin seeds, cinnamon and, somewhat unusually, a couple of star anise flowers. What was once a distinctly Indian smell is now edged with something faintly Chinese. Fleeting, intriguing, gentle. At the table, I bring to it some steamed Chinese broccoli, complete with its long, tender stalks.

Slater seems to be able to create magnificent dishes from next-to-nothing. The man is full of talent, not only can he cook but he can write beautifully too.

So let’s make this post interactive. Do leave a comment and let me know what type of cook you are. And if you are a recipe cook what’s your favourite cookbook? I’m always looking for new books for my sister to buy me…!


  1. excellent blog. I love your recipe book. I wonder what it's like on the inside...must be a treasure. Nigel Slater is very good I agree. But when can your blog fans look forward to your book...?

  2. Im a recipe cook! I'll decide from a page (or site) then make sure my shopping list is updated then I'll start off ... Really well following the recipe only to find I've misread something or mid measured or put things In the wrong order ... N voila I've become off the cuff coz I can't rescue it back!!!
    Not so long ago we were going away n hadn't been shopping with only a few days hubby challenged me to cook using only what was available at home... Thank goodness for tins! I have to say I think I faired quite well we had something different everyday & there were no random combinations!
    I think for me it's down to confidence I'm not sure im happy about quantities n so I like to have a base which I can use & blame!
    I don't have a fab recipe book but I agree Preeti Jamie's got easy to follow recipes and Nigel slater can convince me that all his recipes are yummy & I don't need smelavision or tastavision for my mouth to water when I watch his cookery progs on tv!
    Sk MK

  3. I'm a Nigel sort of cook! A bit of this a bit of that a bit of something else, oops, forgot the creme fraiche, let's see if yoghurt works etc Love his books. Here in the BVI you have to learn to be a Nigel since shopping in the local supermarket is always an adventure;you never know what they may (or may not) have. There is no real point in going with a fixed list as they will probably not have what you had in mind but they may have something else which you need to grab whilst its there. That means you have to look and shop slowly and carefully! There are quite a lot of things in the supermarket which are different to the UK, which is quite refreshing in the days of globalisation, although a number of them you wouldn't eat for anything (eg deep fried conch, salt fish - which smells disgusting - chickens feet etc yuck), so I quite enjoy my visits. It is much more exciting than Tesco where everything is in the same place every week and nothing changes. It is more like an old fashioned market in that sense. They have a local produce section which is locally grown fruit and vegetables and is always worth stopping at - delicious and very fresh pineapples, mangoes etc as well as tomatoes, cucumbers, chillis...I have been experimenting trying to make salsas for tuna with the fruit & some very mild chillis (nothing particularly stunning as yet, I will continue to tweak) and with various bits mixed into coucous - any ideas very welcome, Preeti. I was inspired by your chicken recipe a coule of weeks back and did some breasts, limes, lemons, garlic & rosemary (heavy on the garlic). It was good - so thanks! Looking forward to hearing about your Istanbul cooking experience. Speak soon, Love Rosalind xx


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