Have you ever been eating a dish and thought “hmm, basil would really step this up a notch” or “this soup would be way better with a bit of heat”? If you are reading this blog post, my guess is yes. Creating your own recipes is super fun and rewarding, but can also be super frustrating. Spending a few hours crafting the perfect meal only to find out it has the texture of tapioca pudding and the taste of a salty can of spam can be a real letdown. Saying that, some of my funniest memories are of failed dinners that even the dogs wouldn’t eat!
For those food pioneers ready to take on the challenge, here are 5 steps to follow when creating your own recipe.
Step 1: Know your end game
Before you begin crafting a recipe, you need to know what dish you are trying to create. Are you making brownies? Fried chicken? A Thai curry? Don’t make the mistake of starting by a look at what ingredients you already have sitting in your fridge. Not only does this limit your creativity, but more times than not, you will end up with some weird mixture of frozen blueberries, pickles and ground beef. Leave this type of a challenge to Chopped.
Step 2: Research
Creating your own recipe doesn’t mean that you can’t look at others for inspiration. On average, I review around 20 recipes before I sit down to write my own. I also spend time researching different cooking techniques and brainstorming ways I can incorporate them into my recipe. For example, should I sauté the onions or leave them raw? Should I blind bake my pie crust? Is it best to fry or bake the fish? Sometimes the best recipe comes from using the same ingredients I have been using ten times over, just in a different way.
Step 3: Get Creative
Do you want to add booze? Make it spicy? Throw in a random ingredient you have in your fridge? Inspiration can come from anywhere, be it your neighbors garden, favourite restaurant or a memory you have from childhood. I try not to worry about the science behind the recipe in this step and instead let my mind wander. You can fix any issues in the next phase, which is of course…
Step 4: Test, Test, Test!
Did you really think you could get away with creating your own recipes without testing them out? During the test phase, I always have double or often even triple of each ingredient on hand, as inevitably something will go wrong. Most importantly, make sure to taste each step of the way! Don’t wait until the final dish is done to realise that the basil you added in step 2 was a terrible choice. If you taste along the way you can easily discard certain ingredients and learn as you go. But, as you continually change your recipe, make sure that you…
Step 5: Write It Down
I am the first one to admit that I forget this step at times, only to smack myself in the forehead and have to start over. It is very easy to get carried away during the creative process and toss in a “dash of this” and a “pinch of that”. While that is absolutely fun on a Tuesday night in the kitchen, it will not work during the recipe creation process. What exactly is “a dash”? Is it a teaspoon? Tablespoon? And how did you combine that with the recipe? Did you saute? Fry? Was it added in before or after the onions? You get where I am going. While this step is certainly the least fun of the process, it is a necessary one.
Things to keep in mind
- Don’t be afraid of failing. You will create some terrible recipes, I promise you. Chalk these up to experience and laugh about them.
- Have taste testers on hand. You are obviously going to be biased towards your own creations. You may even become taste blind after attempting the same recipe over and over again. That is why you need friends and family to try your creations for you! Just make sure to pick people who will give you honest feedback. Your mother raving that everything you make is “simply divine” will not help you in the long run!
- Understand the basics. It is very hard to bake a cake without eggs and a travesty to cook a steak in the microwave. If these facts came as a surprise to you, keep reading. You have to understand basic culinary techniques and standard base recipes before you go running off into the wild. This is especially important in baked dishes, as measurements tend to be exact. I’m not saying that you need to go to culinary school - you likely know the basics already. If you don’t, check out YouTube! They have thousands of step-by-step videos to teach you.
With that, I will leave you to don an apron and start creating. Make sure to share any tips and tricks you have come across, as well as any glorious wins or epic failures (especially the failures, they are the best). Cheers to you!