Sunday, April 19, 2009

Cooking by heart

How many recipes do you know by heart? The UKTV Food channel recently surveyed 3,000 British people about their cooking habits and discovered that on average they knew 6 recipes by heart. (A recipe being a dish that includes 4 or more ingredients.)

The top ten dishes British people feel most comfortable cooking (and the percentage of people who can cook them without a recipe) are apparently:
Spaghetti bolognese (65%)
Roast dinner (54%)
Chilli con carne (42%)
Lasagne (41%)
Cottage or shepherd's pie (38%)
Meat or fish stir fry (38%)
Beef casserole (34%)
Macaroni cheese (32%)
Toad in the hole (30%)
Meat, fish or vegetable curry (26%)
Source: UKTV Food survey
I could manage 7 of those without a recipe, 8 if I'm allowed to use a jar of Patak's or Trader Joe's curry sauce! (Interestingly, Patak's has recipes on their websites - but only five TOTAL on their US site as opposed to the dozens and dozens of recipes on their UK site!)

This household beats the average because those surveyed admitted they made an average of just four home-cooked meals per week, and they own just five cook books. Hmm - I probably have five cookbooks that I use on a regular basis, but there are at least thirty cookbooks in my living room alone. If home-cooked means eating at home, and not eating take-away or frozen/prepared meals, we eat home-cooked meals ALL the time! Very occasionally (once every couple of months) we have pizza. Equally rarely, a box of Trader Joe's samosas will sometimes serve as dinner - though less often since they annoyingly stopped selling the India Relish that went so well with them!

I'm trying to think of actual recipes I know though. A lot of the meals I cook don't really seem to qualify as needing recipes! Baked boneless, skinless chicken breast with some kind of spice mix like Montreal Chicken, served with rice (cooked in chicken stock with onions and garlic), and microwaved peas. Ground (minced) turkey with garlic, onion, mushrooms, zucchini (courgettes) and pasta sauce from a jar, served over pasta. Does it count if the pasta sauce comes out of a jar? Can you tell my main goal is simply to get people fed? Sometimes I do chop a lot of veggies and do a chicken stir fry. That takes more effort, but it still doesn't really need a recipe! Hmm ... chicken casserole! That one counts, I'm sure! Bite-sized pieces of boneless, skinless, chicken, with onions, garlic, mushrooms, canned corn, tomato paste, cubed potatoes, a couple of bay leaves, thyme and chicken stock. Throw it all in a casserole dish and bung it in the oven till done! Quantities? Times? No. Can't give you those. Fill the casserole dish. Check it occasionally while it's cooking till it seems done. This one is perfectly edible (indeed, better) when reheated the next day, so a little over-cooking won't harm it.

DH is the one who knows most of the recipes in this house though. Occasionally, very occasionally, he deigns to write them down so that I can attempt them. Tonight's super yummy turkey burger recipe is one that he knows by heart, but I could never replicate it unless he wrote it down. (And he hasn't.) It involved ground (minced) turkey (of course!) and garam (chickpea) flour, egg substitute, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder and a bunch of other spices. There were no measuring tools involved as far as I could see, yet the recipe turns out well every time. Here's one of my favorites he did share with me (but I certainly don't have it memorized yet!)

1 can black beans (rinsed & drained)
1 can corn (drained)
1 vidalia onion
1/2 each red, orange and yellow pepper
1/2 cucumber (English)
4 medium tomatoes (remove seeds)
1 can sliced black olives

3-4 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
abt 3 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp lime juice
1 crushed and minced clove of garlic
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 pinch dried oregano

Put vegetables in bowl.

Mix liquids, herbs & spices in a jar. Shake hard for a minute. Pour over vegetables and stir to coat all.

Best if it sits overnight.
Enjoy! And if you do, please let me know in the comments, and leave one of your favorite recipes there too!


Canoez said...

So! Giving away my trade secrets, eh?

Anonymous said...

It's funny you should end with the black bean salad, because my first thought on seeing chili on the list was "but how can the Brits claim to make chili with no black beans?" It's one item I still cannot seem to find here, although I've noticed the fast recent growth of Tex-Mex food in my little hamlet. But I never would have guessed chili was on the list right by roast dinners and spag bol.

Coding Mamma (Tasha) said...

Gosh. Well, since pretty much everything I cook is by heart - hardly ever you a recipe book - and we almost always eat home-cooked meals, I probably beat the average.

All vegetarian:

Lasagne, quiche, tortilla (Spanish omelette), various variations of pasta (bolognese, macaroni cheese, goats cheese, rocket and sundried tomato spaghetti, aubergine and mozarella gomitini, leek and cream tagliatelle... lots more), chilli with rice, tortilla chips, or in tortilla wraps, risotto, noodle stir fry, sweet and sour vegetables with rice, couscous with spicy chickpea sauce and halloumi, stuffed pancakes (various possible fillings), sheperd's pie, vegetable stew, minestrone soup, a few cakes and desserts (cheesecake is prpobably my dessert speciality) and probably loads more.

(Couldn't cook any of the meat dishes listed, of course, but hubby could do all of them.)

The figures are interesting, anyway

Almost American said...

NFAH - No black beans in the UK eh? I'll admit I've never looked for them there. I cringe when I think back to what I used to live on for the short time I lived in the UK as a grownup and wasn't living in college accommodation! Things like boil-in-the-bag fish :-( Yeuch!

Tasha - your list of foods sounds wonderful! Is gomitini a kind of pasta?

Expat mum said...

My aim is to be one of those cooks who knows what ingredients go together and never needs a recipe. (Ha.) As it is, I don't use recipes very often, and don't really enjoy cooking. The Ball & Chain has his own secret recipe for turkey burgers, which includes sage, red onion, garlic and Worcester sauce. Delicious, but a closely guarded secret.

Coding Mamma (Tasha) said...

Yes, gomitini is sort of small curly macaroni (sorry, that's the only way I can describe it). I think Rosemary particularly likes it because she can easily scoop it up onto a spoon or pierce pieces with a fork - she's also very fond of spaghetti, because she can get really messy!

Miss Disaster said...

I'm finally learning to cook, by necessity, after avoiding it for years.... I simply can no longer afford to buy prepared foods and dine out. I would need a recipe for everything you listed here!

I am enjoying learning, though. I wish I had started years ago. It is more fun that I thought it would be. :)

Jane said...

Like you, I cook every night, AA and always have. Most of the recipes I've been making for years so they're pretty much ingrained in my brain now, but I have picked up others along the way that we all enjoy. My MIL loved the Brazillian Black Bean Chilli that I made last time she was here, went back to the UK to try to recreate it and guess what? No black beans anywhere!

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed this post and it gave me the idea to write up a post myself on this topic!

Since I'm American (an expat in the Middle East), but also have British friends here, I thought it was very interesting to read what the most commonly cooked British recipes are. I now know what what most of these things are.

Dedicated Elementary Teacher Overseas

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed this post and it gave me the idea to write up a post myself on this topic!

Since I'm American (an expat in the Middle East), but also have British friends here, I thought it was very interesting to read what the most commonly cooked British recipes are. I now know what what most of these things are.

Dedicated Elementary Teacher Overseas

SEH said...

No black beans in the UK? Huh! I visited the US (Texas) for the first time over Christmas (2008) when I sought to treat my host to chicken curry. Could I find ANY curry produce? No way!! In the end we found a store that imported UK food and I paid about $6 for a cook in sauce - retails for about $1.5 here ('Digestive biscuits @ $4 and PG Tips (80) @ $10 - I thought I was going to pass out!). It was a joy to watch my host 'get stuck in' - albeit after a nervous nibble.

Michelloui said...

Love this black bean and corn salad recipe--copying it down right now and going to try it this week. Ta!

Tex Mex: at first I was sadly disappointed to not find any here, but now I have become so adept at cooking good Tex Mex (thanks to a Matt Martinez, Jr cookbook) that I am pleased to be able to serve up something slightly 'exotic' and good! Yes, I am selfishly thinking only of my reputation, not of the tastebuds of the rest of the UK.

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