Updated: Jun 26
So, you want to start making your own recipes, huh? Now you might be thinking, Woah, hold up there. I have no clue where to start, my cooking knowledge isn't that deep, or perhaps you have no clue what flavors should go together. All valid concerns, but before we begin diving deep into how to make your recipes, let me say it's easier than you think. All it takes is a little creativity and a love for cooking; you will be set in no time.
One of my favorite things to do is go through a grocery store and pick up a large number of random ingredients that my eyes wander to. I come into my kitchen and have at it. I let whatever sounds, looks, and smells good go together and let the dish come together. This could be daunting, but there is an easier way to make your recipes.
Recipe alteration is a quick and straightforward way to create a new dish. Now, what on earth is this recipe alteration anyways? Most simply, it's taking a recipe from a cookbook and changing it around so it doesn't resemble what it looks like in the first place. What the book is giving you is a foundation for a recipe. I'll split this process into steps to make this a little easier.
Choose what kind of cuisine you are interested in. If you aren't interested in what you are cooking, you may dump everything in the trash and go to a restaurant. For recipe making to occur, you must be interested in what you are cooking, or none of the flavors will develop how you want.
Alright, you've chosen your preferred cuisine; perhaps it's French. Now you'll want to look at a French cookbook and see what catches your eye; tab a few so you can quickly return to them. And if any of them are similar, that's even better!
Now that you've found some interesting recipes and perhaps some that are similar, we will embark on changing them up. Choose your top recipes and look at their ingredients and methods. Decide on your top three, perhaps, and look at what interests you in each one. Is it the types of herbs used? The choice of meat or sauce? Decide on what you want to keep and what is not to your fancy.
This is where the fun part comes in; you've found your foundational recipe; perhaps it has to do with chicken and potatoes. Split up the individual key elements of your recipe and begin the modification process. So, you plan to use chicken; take a look at two things here. How do I want it cooked? And what flavors do I want?
The cooking process is entirely up to you and is where the other recipes come in handy; perhaps your foundation recipe wants it baked, but another recipe wants it grilled- choose what sounds best. Early on, when you start this process, it might take some time to decide and figure out how you will cook each element of your dish, but with practice, you will learn the fundamentals, and this step will be easy.
Where I have the most fun is the flavor. One book that's helped me more than anything, has been The Flavor Bible. You can read about it here, but essentially it has almost every ingredient imaginable listed, and it's what ingredients pair with it. I highly recommend using this book to find what flavorings go with your dish. I find looking at three categories for each dish most helpful: Warmth, Acidity, and Lightness. You want something with warmer/ comforting notes such as cheese, acidity to bring out the flavor and cut through the warmth, and finally, lightness such as pepper or a collection of herbs.
That was a lot, I know, But what we are looking at doing in this step is taking the individual elements of your dish, altering the way they are prepared, and changing up the flavor using an ingredient reference guide. You can also do this by walking through a store, but The Flavor Bible is beneficial.
And so that's all there is to it. You've found some recipes that interest you, narrowed down the list, split up the key elements, and chosen how to prepare them differently and with ingredients that interest you. You've made a basic recipe your own with a personal twist. You can now successfully say you've made your own recipe!
As you go along, I recommend you keep track of what you put into a dish and quickly jot down some of the broader steps you took to make it in case you want to make it again. You can refine this into a cleaner format later, but a recipe doesn't have to look like one from a book or on this website. As long as it makes sense to you, that's what matters.
And so, with your new information, I hope you can embark on making your own recipes. Remember, a recipe doesn't have to be started on a blank sheet of paper; use inspiration from other chefs to guide your cooking and learning journey.
"The Flying Chef"