Thursday, 7 February 2008

When not to follow a recipe

One of the things I've been thinking about a lot lately is how important recipes are. Or rather aren't. Basically they're a set of guidelines. Too often we take them as gospel.

Certainly I did when I first learnt to cook. Unless you're shown how to cook you tend to take instructions literally. If a recipe says 2 large eggs and you only have medium eggs you go out and buy some. If it says a pinch of cayenne and you only have chilli powder or hot paprika you don't know you can use those perfectly well.

Frugal cooking is about making use of what you've got rather than continually buying new ingredients, often for just one recipe. Last night was a case in point.

I'd bought this big bag of chicory (see yesterday's post) and decided to make a Simon Hopkinson recipe I remembered of chicken baked with chicory and bacon. (There was some bacon left over in the fridge.) The chicken pieces in the supermarket clearly came from mass-produced poultry so I bought a free-range Label Rouge chicken - on special offer - and jointed it, gaining a carcass for stock in the process

Couldn't remember what other ingredients there were in the recipe and came home to find I needed two lemons. Fortunately there was a rather elderly lime lurking in the bottom of the fridge so I used that and some tarragon vinegar instead, deglazing the pan with the vinegar to get rid of the vinegary taste. (Could obviously have used ordinary white wine vinegar) No chicken stock either yet so used some vegetable bouillon powder and some white wine as recommended. Never a problem to find wine in this household but I could have got away without it.

I also used less chicory than the recipe recommended because I wanted to save a couple of heads for today.

Despite all the changes the dish tasted great and cost me less than it usually would.

Am in danger of getting intolerably smug.

No comments: