Have you heard of the term 'Intuitive Cooking'? You might be wondering if its just a trendy catch phrase or marketing hype. Yes, this term is gaining some traction in popular culture and to be honest, I'm thrilled!
Ok, so what is 'Intuitive Cooking'? This style of cooking focuses on ingredient knowledge rather than following a recipe. Might sound scary at first but its actually easier than you think and it will reduce your grocery bill, food waste and frustrations in the kitchen!
As someone who learned how to cook intuitively at a young age and then later became a recipe developper, I can tell you that every great meal idea generally starts with three steps; choosing a star ingredient, pairing that with inspiring flavours, and choosing a cooking method that will yeild the best result. When you understand this process, cooking intuitively just makes sense. You'll start to look at a recipe as a source of inspiration and not as an absolute rule on how things must be done.
Let's break it down step by step.
The above images are of my rockfish en pappilotte recipe which I'll use as an example throught each step.
STEP 1, CHOOSE A STAR INGREDIENT
Your star ingredient is usually a protein, a legume or a vegetable. Its the ingredient you will highlight through seasoning, preparation and cooking. If you aren't sure what the star ingredient is, a good clue, its usually in the recipe name (not always but usually). Take my rockfish en pappillote recipe for example, rockfish is in the name and its also the main source of protein. Its the star! Yes there are other ingredients, some even in larger quantities than the fish, however those ingredients are there to complement the fish, not the other way around. Make sense so far?
STEP 2, PAIR INGREDIENTS & FLAVOURS THAT COMPLEMENT THE STAR
Unless you are a purest and prefer not to season your food, almost every tasty dish uses flavour combinations, spices and other ingredients to season and create a specific flavour profile. The best way to learn how to pair ingredients and spices is to look at traditional recipes from different parts of the globe. Every major culture has a unique blend that is typically used in their dishes. Usually because it is what is easily available in that region. Example: fresh herbs, garlic, onions, mustard and wine are staples of french cuisine because they all grow there. While chillies, peppers and herbs like cilantro are common in Mexican and Latin cuisine because those ingredients grow there. In my rockfish recipe, I chose to use traditional french flavours like fresh herbs, onions, fennel, and white to complement the fish because I knew they would lend well together. The more you become familiar with typical spices and flavour combinations, the easier it will be for you to start making your own combination choices.
STEP 3, CHOOSE A PREPARATION OR COOKING METHOD
How you choose to prepare / cook your ingredients will define the meal. Some ingredients can be cooked multiple ways but more often than not you will need to make some preparation choices depending on the cooking method. Ever notice how baked fish filets can sometimes become rubbery, dry or over cooked? Thats usually due to a lack of moisture or fat. Instead, try frying or pan searing to lock in moisture, for tender and moist fish. Not a fan of the frying method? The pappillote method steams the fish in a pouch of liquids and spices. You get tons of flavour and the fish stays moist and delicious. While some methods lend themselves better to certain ingredients, there are no rules, only results. So I urge you to become familiar with as many methods as you can by testing them on ingredients you are comfortable experiementing with.
PRACTICE MAKES PEREFCT
Now that the steps are laid out, its time to practice. The next time you consult a recipe, use your intuition to see if there are suitable ingredients in your pantry or fridge, instead of going to get missing ones at the store. Or why not change the flavour profile all together? If you had salmon instead of rockfish, which flavours and ingredients would you pair it with in the pappillote method? Maybe white wine, dill, garlic and kale? Or perhaps mustard seeds, honey and a squeeze of lemon? There are so many amazing combinations just waiting for you to try!
So when you do a grocery run this week, try to keep these steps in mind. Shop whats on special instead of whats on the recipe list. Try to choose local and in season when ever you can. Stock up on missing spices. And why not try a new ingredient or cooking method?
Hope this article was helpful and that it inspires you to cook more intuitively! I'd love to hear from you so please feel free to leave a comment and/or questions below. If you are looking for some extra help, my livestream classes are a great place to start. You can check out the class schedule here and I hope to see you join in when ever you can :)