I’m a messy chef. My kitchen looks like a bombsite pretty much every time I cook or bake and I have learned a while ago to wear clothes that I’m not too bothered about. But to me, that’s exactly what it’s all about. I love experimenting and being creative and I’m not fussy about following recipes too strictly; I find it far too tedious to be honest. Don’t get me wrong – if I was paid a dollar every time I scrolled through one of my favorite recipe blogs then I wouldn’t have to worry so much about whether I can afford the $2,000 Thermomix or not. The reason I still read recipes is because it inspires me, and it gives me new ideas to try something different next time, however I don’t follow them meticulously because I’m a firm believer that you yourself are your own best chef.
When I do follow recipes, it mostly happens as an act of despair. I don’t know when I will finally experience the thrill of baking a vegan, gluten-free, refined sugar-free (yep because everything else would be too simple) banana bread that doesn’t turn out far too moist, always a little under-baked and just seems to refuse to rise – even just a tiny little bit – EVERY SINGLE TIME?? You hear me? If you happen to have the right recipe to solve all my banana bread problems, please do send it to me!
So yes, there are instances when I stick to recipes, because quite frankly I don’t like the feeling of having wasted lots of great ingredients on a less than average bake (or cook), and also because I’m by no means perfect and I need a little help sometimes.
There’s a few basic principles that I stick to when it comes to cooking:
- Good food can be so simple. As I type this, I’m snacking away on a bowl of plain yogurt and a mixed berry compote with maple syrup that I just threw together in like 3 min. It’s soooo good. Yes, definitely not the most sophisticated of dishes, but they don’t always have to be.
- Don’t freak out over measurements. Unless you’re on Masterchef and you find yourself in a technical challenge where scales decide over life or death (“If I screw this up, I DON’T HAVE A DISH!” rings a bell?), it really doesn’t matter that much. It’s much more important to get a feel for it yourself, and if you do end up with too much salt or if your dough turns out a little thick, I promise you’ll find ways to fix it.
- Cooking is not science. I think this is a common misconception and actually the reason why many people don’t even try. If a recipe asks you to chop a potato into exact 2 cm cubes before you boil it and turn it into mash, or to add your garlic to the pan 5 min after you’ve added the onion, but 3 minutes before you add the remaining ingredients, I honestly don’t see the point. I’m not saying that it doesn’t matter at all EVER, but cooking is so much more fun if you just figure out these things yourself and do whatever feels right. You’ll see that most of the time it really won’t make the slightest difference to the end result.
- Practice makes perfect. Or let’s say, as perfect as you want to be. As most of us, I have never ‘properly’ learned to cook. I wasn’t even too interested in it at all until I moved out of home when I was 20 years old and realised that I’m not the kind of person who would live off cup noodles and frozen pizza. So I just tried stuff. And in hindsight, some of it was pretty gross. But who gives? That’s how you learn, and that’s how I probably invented some of my all-time favorite dishes. The more often you cook and the more risks you’re willing to take, the bigger the results. Nope, we don’t become better chefs if we have pasta and tomato sauce every single day.
- The best ingredients aren’t necessarily the most expensive ones. Whenever I do my grocery shop, I usually split my shopping over 3-4 different stores, much to the annoyance of my convenience and efficiency loving boyfriend. But the whole one-stop-shop thing just doesn’t work for me. I get my fresh produce from a grocer where it’s super fresh but reasonably priced (yes, sometimes the zucchini looks ugly or the sweet potato is the size of a small child, but I don’t mind that), then I get my canned foods and pantry staples from wherever they are cheapest, and I might nip into the health food store for the ‘fancier’ stuff in which case I’m willing to pay the price tag. I generally only ever buy what’s in season, which will mean that it’s cheaper, tastes better and has much less of an impact on our planet too. If you want to whip up a strawberry tiramisu in winter then be prepared to spend half your payslip on your dessert, or better yet, make something else instead.
- Don’t believe in food-stereotypes. This one is probably the most important one to me. As a vegetarian and often cooking vegan, plus a gluten intolerant boyfriend, people are often asking “But what is it you’re actually cooking?!” thinking I have salad and nothing but salad every night for dinner. But I’m a massive comfort-food lover, and I never felt that I had to sacrifice this as a result of my diet choices. This is again where creativity is more important than anything else, and you’ll work out ways to create similar ‘tastes’ with plant-based ingredients. Trust me, no one has ever left our place after a dinner feeling like they’ve missed something.
So, with all that in mind, I decided to write up my recipes a little differently too. I’ll give you a list of essentials that you will definitely need to have on hand to be able to make the dish, and then I’ll give you the additional ‘nice to haves’. Recipes can work in so many different ways – whether you have a pinch of cardamom in your ginger biscuits or not really doesn’t make all the difference in the end, so go ahead and do it anyway if you can’t find any in your pantry, and you’ll see that it’s not that important in the end anyway. After a while you’ll also get a feeling for replacing certain ingredients with others – if a recipe asks for orange juice, it’ll probably work with most other citrus fruits as well, for example.
You probably won’t find too many too perfect pictures on my blog of dishes that look too pretty to eat. Of course we all love looking at stuff like that – me included – but I decided to show you something a bit more authentic, more real, more ‘me’, and hopefully that will inspire you to become the kind of cook you want to be too, whatever that looks like!
All my recipes are vegetarian, most will come with vegan options, and some will be gluten-free too.