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Free styling in the world of Recipes - How to Hang loose in the kitchen

Ok, so hands up, who else’s mother told them not to play with your food?

Well sorry to all the mums out there but I am saying its OK. Just to be clear I don’t mean building a replica of the Statue of David with your mash, or arranging your peas into a likeness of Monet’s Starry Night, or even using you corn and carrot to fashion a catapult to lob branches of broccoli at your siblings. I’m talking about breaking free of the conformity of recipes, with a bit of experimental cooking.

Have you ever been looking at a recipe book and thinking wow that looks amazing, oh wait I don’t have any essence of unicorn tears – well I guess I can’t make that, then! We let our taste buds be governed by patriarchal books telling us that this is how you cook this dish and thus it is written. But, what if I said that’s not true? You can still create amazing tasting foods by mixing it up and either leaving items out (because you don’t have it or you don’t like it) or substituting something else in that you think might work with the flavours and it’s what you have in the cupboard. I know crazy right!

This is a bit of confidence cooking 101 trusting yourself and the process. You have all your years of taste experience in grained, you know what you like and what you don’t like. You know what flavours work and which are best left alone. Breaking free of a hard and fast recipe allows you to develop your skills as an evolutionary process that grows as your confidence grows.

Start simple substitutions, this is great especially for people with food allergies and sensitivities. Using different milks and flours in baked goods helps you gain an understanding as to how each ingredient works in the role of the dish. Look at stews, casseroles and soup recipes these guys are really forgiving with ingredients as the flavours all blend in the pot. I love to make farmhouse versions of these. This means using what ingredients I have on hand often vegetables which otherwise might get thrown out, chop’em up, whack’em in in the pot and see what magic is created.Try different herbs and spices to keep it real.

Making a middle eastern curry add some extra turmeric, coriander and cumin (one of my faves). Nachos and Tacos are also a great area to experiment with different spices – leave the store-bought packet mixes on the shelf and try your own. I always add coriander, cumin (yep again), garlic, cayenne (not too much for the kiddies), smoked paprika and chilli to make these to my taste. Only have chicken mince – make chicken nachos, chicken spaghetti. Only have pork mince then, wait for it….. use pork! When you’re in the kitchen you’re the master and commander you set the course and determine the destination.

Another way to help build kitchen confidence is to make the dish to the recipe the first time, then when eating it think how it could be change and enhanced to suit your personal tastes. What spices would you add? What would you leave out? What side dish would complete it? Start small and build big. Once you get your confidence you will be able to look at a recipe and sub in or out and create your own master piece. You have a wealth of taste experience you just need to tap into it. This does come with a warning that not all your creations will be successful, but the ones that are will be amazing!!!

So, go and play with your food. Experiment! It’s ok. Tell your mum I said so 😉

Happy Playing - Let me know what wonders you create

Allie xxxx

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