How do you like your recipes?

The process of actually writing down recipes and having to explicate cooking methods has brought up a point of style that I’ve never really had to think about before. Do you prefer to read a recipe where the list of ingredients includes the prep, or for the ingredient list to be very basic and all the prep to be in the method?

Would you rather the ingredients include “3 onions, chopped” or for the chopping in the method? The former option makes for more concise text, and assumes a level of competence – if you’re an experienced cook you’re going to have a feel for how fine “fine” is, or how to crush garlic, depending on the intended use of the ingredients. The latter allows more detail, which is useful in unusual dismemberments of vegetables – but can lend itself to over-wrought prose.

I had a quick flick through a few books last night. Nigel Slater seems to chop and change depending on the recipe, Ottolenghi book is all included in the ingredients list. My previous attitude was to be consistent – either one or the other, but thinking about it, having a mixture depending on the recipe seems like the best approach… thoughts?

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4 Responses to How do you like your recipes?

  1. Karim Rashad says:

    For a *real* cookbook the prep should be in the ingredients list, IMO.

    I think that terms like ‘medium dice’, ‘finely chopped’, ‘roughly chopped’ etc have pretty specific meanings in the cooking world, and more cookbooks might consider having a glossary explaining them rather than going over it in the method.

    Of course, there are plenty of cookbooks which are actually more about reading the method and enjoying it, which is fine too. Particular example in my mind is Elisabeth Luard’s _European Peasant Cookery_, which is really fun to read, with long evocative descriptions in the recipe, but to be honest, the food that comes out if you follow the recipe ain’t that great.

    • Bronwen says:

      Luard’s recipes are TERRIBLE if you don’t already know how to cook. She’s so unprecise. Which I also think goes for Jamie Oliver and why I’m a Delia/WI/Good housekeeping recipe fan – they’re recipes that have been tried and tested hundreds of times.

    • Luke says:

      I think that if you have a specific or unusual way of preparing something it should be included in the method… writing for a food blog is a bit different to a recipe book though, you have no glossary to refer to, and you want you recipes to be inclusive as possible really?

  2. ellymillar says:

    I like to prepare all of my stuff beforehand rather than as I go along, so I’m with Karim here – I like things in the initial list. But yeah – if something’s a bit unusual, a longer description in the method is also helpful.

    I made Heston Blumenthal’s treacle tart last week (Jesus – the effort…), and I have to say that I found the “Breadcrumbs from half an 800 gram loaf of bread” super annoying. Why the fuck can’t you just say “400 grams breadcrumbs”? But anyway…

    Also, that Elizabeth Luard book – I love it! There’s a pretty awesome recipe for old school Huguenot oxtail soup. I might make it this weekend, in fact, and do a write up (great recipe or the final days of winter…)

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