Monday, May 10, 2010

Talking recipes

I often think, while I’m typing up a recipe, that I should discuss ‘recipes’ as a construct. No recipe is cast in stone – baking may be an exception here, because you have to get the sugar to fat to flour balance just right – but you can do pretty much anything with a savoury dish.

If you are fairly new to cooking, or you’re trying to improve the quality of the food you prepare for yourself and your family, then it is probably best to follow a recipe fairly precisely. But if you have been cooking for years and you’re just looking to find healthy alternatives to your usual repertoire, you can afford to experiment a bit.

You can do a couple of things to ‘clean up’ family favourites.
  • Leave out any added fats and oils – use a non-stick cooking spray instead.
  • Buy the leanest meats you can find, and trim off any visible fat.
  • Stretch your mince dishes with lentils (or soy mince).
  • Always add beans, lentils and/or barley to a pot of soup.
  • Only buy low-fat, fat-free or fat reduced products.
  • Use a salt substitute.
  • Limit animal protein quantities.
  • Control portion sizes.
  • Fill up on fresh salads and vegetables.
If a recipe contains something you don’t like or can’t get, don’t reject it out-of-hand. Substitute.
My recipes usually call for a lot of vegetables, but if one that I use is your all-time pet hate then leave it out, or substitute with a vegetable of the same colour that you do like. I never used to like aubergines, because more often than not, recipes want you to pfaff around with them an awful lot, which really isn’t necessary. I have them growing in my garden, so I use them quite a bit these days. Peel them, cut them in chunks and they are wonderful for giving body to soups and stews – and I bet you won’t even notice them!

If you want to change the quantities in a recipe – say you’re cooking for 2 or 6, not the 4 stipulated – be careful with the quantity of herbs and spices; e.g. if you’re doubling the recipe DON’T double the spices unless you’re absolutely sure. You can end up with something that is unpalatable if you’re not careful. Rather under than over spice.
Whatever you do, don’t get stuck in a rut preparing and eating the same old recipes the same old way week after week. Even if they are healthy!

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