Cooking has always been a crazy passion of mine – whether I was turning into a cooking show before an afternoon surf session or hunting down another recipe book at the library.
Taking interest in preparing my food began around the sweet age of 16. I was still living at home at the time so making family dinners became my hobby, consisting of vegetable stir-fry’s and other healthy concoctions (much to my father’s disgust), most evenings (I think he was secretly happy once I moved out). I guess you could say I took it upon myself to learn about nutrition through many outlets, without bias to a certain way of eating but rather forming an eating style with many elements. That was over 2o years ago (eek!) and yet the wish to absorb and learn about nutrition and how the body reacts still is as strong as ever.
I saw a massive correlation between my sporting performance and eating habits but strangely enough, was on the receiving end of some strange looks if I found myself talking about it. Seriously, wasn’t sporting performance only based on how hard you trained? How many carbs you could consume? Oh, how things have changed!
One of the most important key factors I work on with 1:1 clients is helping them become more accountable for preparing their own meals at home. It’s is like pouring the concrete base down before anything else can be built upon, in the way of improving your overall health.
Cooking with recipes was certainly the way I taught myself how to cook, bake, create and develop. It gave me the confidence and skill base to move towards adapting recipes to be either healthier versions or replace ingredients I didn’t have. And this is where the ‘gap’ lays. Having the confidence to cook without recipes shouldn’t be feared, rather embraced with a few tricks I’ve learnt along the way.
How I Learnt To Cook Without Recipes – My Tips For You
1. Don’t get too caught up in fancy recipes. You know the ones I mean, they have ingredient lists the length of your arm and most you’ve never heard of before. Stick to the simple recipe books that call for no more than say 7 ingredients – ones you already have of in your pantry. It’s from here you can adopt, swap and deconstruct recipes to suit your style of eating.
2. Find your style of eating and build your pantry upon it. Avoid any temptation of going with the latest fad diet and stick to your guns. You know your body best, all you have to do is listen to what it wants without emotions getting involved. This could mean eating gluten-free and buying GF pasta and grains, or dairy-free milk and alternatives or eating vegan. Begin to consciously make an effort to see how your body reacts after each meal.
3. Cook to the seasons – What’s on sale or in season in the fresh produce section? Build a recipe upon this being your main ingredient and play around with flavours (or complementary ingredients) that work (or don’t). Complimentary ingredients are flavours that balance or build, such as, Julia Child famously said that fat carries flavour. There is a very cool interactive flavour map you can play around with and to help you understand what the heck I’m on about. This is extreme but it’s cool to see.
4. One of the things we talk about in more depth with meal planning in my Naked Habits Ebook is to collaborate a collection of recipes that you can build upon. These will form your foundation recipes and be the springboard for you to create ‘same, same but different recipes’. For example, a spaghetti bolognaise sauce with heaps of veggies can turn into a base for ravioli or lasagna. A chicken stir-fry can turn into a beef version or form the base for wraps and burritos.
5. Trust your intuition and build on it. Take stock of what’s already in your pantry and have fun devising up your own creations. Keep things simple and based around wholefoods instead of jars and store-bought sauces. Begin to think as our ancestors did – a bit of this and a bit of that – what’s the deal if it doesn’t turn out? Who cares? You will know better next time and learn from the experience.
These tips are simply scratching the surface on how to get started but feel another post brewing in the future with more tips
Celebrity cooking shows have taken the ‘simpleness and fun’ out of creating meals, leaving many scared of being ‘judged’ if it’s not presented perfectly or has the right garnish. Forget all this, keep it simple, strip it down and get experimenting!