July 24, 2015

by Jason Ford
Ford on Food

One of the most important aspects of cooking is the recipe. Following a recipe is critical to culinary success.

Contrary to popular belief, qualified chefs always follow recipes regardless of their experience.

It’s a chef’s responsibility to provide a consistent product to their guests, irrespective of how they feel or what day of the week it is.

However, many amateur cooks lack recipe literacy.

To start with, the most important part of the recipe is not the ingredients: it’s the step-by-step method that matters most.

Let’s face it, sometimes a recipe works out fine, even if one of the ingredients is missing.

However, if you miss one step in the cooking instructions, it’s a recipe for disaster.

Another critical factor to a recipe is the yield (number of portions).

If a recipe doesn’t contain information on how many portions it produces, you’re already doomed.

Imagine a chef catering for 300 people, and he doesn’t know how much to multiply the recipe by, because he doesn’t know the recipe’s yield.

In this scenario the chef may end up short of portions, customers will go hungry and are likely to organise a mutiny.

A good recipe will also have consistent units of measurement.

If one ingredient is measured in cups and spoons, then the remaining ingredients should as well (although I’m a little guilty of breaking this rule).

It’s my opinion that all ingredients should be listed in the user-friendly metric system of grams (g) or millilitres (ml). And electronic scales are far more accurate for measuring than spoons and ‘guess-timation’.

I also recommend you read a recipe from beginning to end before you start as there may be some vital information overlooked, such as pre-heating an oven or pre-soaking an ingredient in water overnight.

Also: don’t expect a recipe to look exactly like the picture; there are at least three specialists involved in the process of making a glossy food photograph.

Never fear, true culinary success is judged by good flavour – not by perfect presentation!

And now, here’s one of my favourite cold weather recipes …

* * *

Healthy Minestrone


  • 1/2 onion, finely diced
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 250g can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 small carrot, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 celery stick, finely diced
  • 1 small parsnip, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 750ml beef or vegetable stock
  • 1/4 cup spaghetti pieces
  • 3 brussels sprouts, finely sliced
  • 150g kidney beans, canned
  • 30g parmesan cheese, finely grated


  1. Fry onion and garlic in a saucepan with a little olive oil until onion is tender
  2. Add crushed tomato, carrot, celery, parsnip, tomato paste, bay leaf and stock
  3. Bring to the boil, add the pasta and simmer until it’s tender
  4. Add brussels sprouts and beans to heat through

Serves 4


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