by nonna ivana
There are some who need a recipe almost every time they cook and then there are those, like me, at the other end of the spectrum. Someone who NEVER even looks at a recipe. In fact, if I’m following prep and cooking instructions, then it is a recipe for disaster!
My cooking is emotional, it’s done with feeling, sight, touch, taste, sound and smell. It’s a skill developed over years of experience, firstly in my Mother’s kitchen and restaurant, watching and listening to her explaining the process, and then whilst raising my own family, and getting their feedback, positive and negative.
When Alexis, my son, was an apprentice chef, he taught me the secret of 'listening' to the sounds of cooking, there are differences in sound between soft sizzles and a strong, hot fry, especially when frying steak or onions. I loved that tip!
My best way to learn is experiential. I’m sure that the recipe writers are doing their best to explain their process, and I am also sure that unless I cook with passion and love…it’s just not the same… and no one can’t write and explain that “extra” intuitive ability that overrides even the best instructions. My other complaint about recipes is that they are highly prescriptive – they demand certain ingredients (in or out of season) that you have to purposefully purchase, weigh and measure, often leaving bits and pieces behind that just contribute to waste and extra cost.
I’m also not a great cake, dessert or sweet-maker. I do prefer making 'Moorish' or Mediterranean tasting meals! I prefer to be health conscious and make food that it’s super good for you! I’ve almost banned sugar!
I’m not one for the books! I need to “do”, and “do” repeatedly, to learn effectively. My kids would call me a pseudoscientist and sometimes, on rare occasions, my emotional cooking radar was off and I would produce a barely edible feast! On the whole, however, my cooking was wholesome; fresh; plentiful and healthy. The only planning, was to decide which days we would be eating chicken, red meat, and fish or go vegetarian. Every day different vegetables and salad ingredients were on offer so that there was variety. Once I sorted the overall weekly plan I would shop around that basic plan. It didn’t always work. Sometimes the supermarket offered discounts and that always inspired me to adapt a menu. Budget is everything after all! There are seasons for buying as well, and it’s often best to wait for end of season discounts if you can’t afford the pay the high season price. For example I LOVE osso bucco (It’s Italian, meaning osso "bone" & bucco "hole") and when it’s on special, I buy bulk. Some of which I freeze and some that I cook immediately. It makes for an amazing stew or casserole, one that can feed a family of 4 for at least 2 separate meals, especially if you add potatoes and peas!
Sometimes I’m also inspired by what is left-over in my fridge. I hate waste and can whip up a meal using bits and pieces that are clogging up the vegetable drawer. It’s amazing what can be added to rice or noodles to bring new meals to life! Now there’s no recipe book that can use my fridge contents for inspiration!
Recipes just don’t work for me, that’s not to say that they won’t work for you. Just remember, you can be creative, you can experiment and you can substitute ingredients. Baby steps is best. Try a real simple recipe on your own and see how wonderful it feels to have achieved success!
Nonna Ivana's Kitchen