Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Follow The Fucking Recipe

Inspired by a friend this morning. This blog was created to share recipes, although I hereby confess:

a) I haven't exactly used it very much, and
b) Much of what I write is more of a guideline than a code (said in pirate voice)

But I want to talk about recipes.

Once upon a time recipes came in two forms and we knew the difference. They either came in books - collections of recipes by established cookery writers, tested and checked by a team of people, edited, professionally photographed and published - or they came on the back of envelopes in the handwriting of an elderly relative, with thumbprints and jam on it over time. And we trusted the latter more.

These days we find them mainly on the internet but we can never be quite sure which are worthy or not until we try them. It's a bit of a crap shoot. Because of this, there's usually some feedback involved. Reviews or comments, where people before us have tried them out.

Some of these are very helpful.

"I found this very sweet, and adjusted the honey down to one tablespoonful the next time. It was better, even my children thought so."


"Yield says 2 dozen, but if you fill the cups to the top as directed you will only get 18"

Fair enough. Practical suggestions by sensible people.

Alas. Not everyone who takes part is altogether.......right in the head. My friend found one comment from a woman who objected to creamed corn because she's lactose intolerant. You can't help some people.

But what pisses me off is this:

"I followed this recipe except that I had no ground beef so I used a can of tuna, and I can't eat gluten so I substituted rice for the breadcrumbs, and I don't like spice, so I left that out, and it was really horrible. Bad recipe."

Over the years, I have discovered that people do this stuff a LOT.

I share a recipe, get told it doesn't "work" and then I dig a bit deeper.

"Did you follow the instructions?"

"Well, yes...mostly"


"I didn't leave it to rise quite as long as it said because I ran out of time...."

Well, that's why it didn't work.

Some years ago a friend asked for my lasagne recipe, which I duly provided. She said it was runny. Turns out that to get the last of the tomato sauce out of the can she filled it with water, swooshed it around, AND THEN ADDED THAT. But apparently this was a long-standing habit. Another friend told me that everything she cooked had a bland, watery taste because of her practice of doing this sort of thing. I suggested she stop doing it with every ounce of tact I could muster, and not only did she look at me like I'd grown an extra head, she said "I'm just being frugal". There's REALLY no helping some people.

But she isn't rare. No.

Almost every single time that somebody has complained about a recipe I've given them, when we get into a conversation about it I discover they did not follow it. In some way or other they changed it. Either more or less of an ingredient, or a substitution, or a step they didn't follow. They deny changing anything, but sooner or later confess they did. And then when I say "AHA!" they make an excuse.

It may seem like a minor detail (use a pre-heated pan to make Yorkshire Pudding) but it's not. If it says do this, then do it, There is a reason why it is in the recipe. Recipes are not merely guidelines unless you really, really know what you are doing.

And some changes matter more than others. If you use chicken instead of turkey, or vice versa, you'll hardly notice, quite frankly. But you can't use dandelions instead of basil, even though they are both green leaves.

Here's some "authorized" substitutions:

And don't forget that when baking, i.e. bread, cookies, and cakes etc., proportions can be critical. You can faff about with the stew but follow the brownie recipe to the letter. Even the size of an egg can make a huge difference.

If you struggle with this stuff, experienced cooks are always willing to help.

But we get frustrated with you if you lie to us about following stop it.