In the past I made a shopping list for meals we cooked regularly, went to a supermarket and purchased what is on that list. Same meals, week after week, or takeaways.
Since discovering cooking can be a lot of fun, we try different things. This could be a dish we have seen or eaten in a restaurant or at a friend’s house, or using a new ingredient.
Mealtimes have been transformed, as we Cook a Life Less Ordinary.
I’ve Always Wanted To Try That
Is there a meal or dish you’ve always fancied trying but never made for yourself? No time like the present. There will almost certainly be a recipe for it somewhere in a cookbook or online. If it doesn’t work the first time, give it another shot.
A great example of this was chicharron – pork skin bites. I saw them being made on TV and thought they would taste lovely. A quick internet search found a recipe, ingredients acquired and after one failed attempt (didn’t leave the pork skin to dry for long enough) hey presto, a new movie night snack.
Talk to the Chef
You might find something tasty in a pub or restaurant is easy to make by talking to the chef. I adore scotch eggs, and after having the best I had ever tasted I asked the chef, Gareth Webster, how he made them. Turned out to be a straightforward recipe, so I tried it and voila … scotch eggs sorted.
The Random Recipe Challenge
Pick up a cookbook that you have at home, any will do. Then pick a number, and go to that page in the book. That’s your next meal. Of course if the recipe you find doesn’t take your fancy or it’s in the book’s index, that’s fine, just pick another number.
Another approach is to take a random set of ingredients you want to use and use a search engine (or a recipe site such as allrecipes.com) to find a recipe that uses them. You can be as specific or general as you like, e.g. add in a type of meat or vegetable or a cuisine genre to the search query.
On slightly safer, familiar ground with the third option. Here you take something you cook already and see if there is a new twist on it, maybe by adding something extra or cooking a component in a different way it will be tastier and more interesting.
I found that adding some pan fried smoked pancetta to homemade foccacia made it taste much better, the pancetta worked very well with the fresh rosemary. After this I added fresh baby tomatoes to the mix to take it a step further.
New Ingredient in Aisle #3
Next time you’re in the supermarket, as you wander down the aisles with a shopping trolley and list of groceries, how about picking up a random ingredient you don’t have, or even better have never used? It could be a herb or spice, a pulse or grain, a flour with different bits in it … anything. Then look for a recipe you like the look of that that uses it.
I did this with the ras el hanout spice mixture, or at least the version of it that the supermarket near me had. It was in the spices section, nestled amongst the usual suspects of coriander, cumin and thyme, so I picked up a jar. And as it happens, there is a great recipe for ras el hanout popcorn, a twist on normal popcorn that tastes lovely.
Build On What You Learn
Made something great, really happy with it? Awesome. Now … can it be improved upon? Take the scotch eggs I learned how to cook. That’s been through a few iterations, including English Breakfast Scotch Eggs and more recently BBQ Smoked Scotch Eggs. Sometimes experiments don’t work of course, if it doesn’t, work out why and fix it.
So good luck, and strive to Cook a Life Less Ordinary.