Tuesday, 21 April 2009

10 dinners

This article on BBC News reveals that the average Briton knows ten recipes off by heart. I found this quite surprising, as I didn't think I knew ten recipes!

Here are the top ten:
Spaghetti bolognese
Roast dinner
Chilli con carne
Cottage or shepherd's pie
Meat or fish stir fry
Beef casserole
Macaroni cheese
Toad in the hole
Meat, fish or vegetable curry

Part of me thinks this isn't exactly 10 recipes, as chilli, bolognese and cottage pie are essentially the same recipe (and lasagne to some extent) but with varying carbohydrate accompaniments, although I guess there are components that need different knowledge areas, such as making mashed potato topping or bechemel sauce.

For me, most of the recipes I know come from growing up. As a child and teenager, I wouldn't mind eating the same things over again. My brother and sister were also quite fussy eaters, so there was a limited repertoire of dishes in our household. Shepherd's pie was probably the first dinner I learnt to cook, followed by bolognese and curry. I have only learnt casseroles, stir fry and roasts in the past few years at uni, as I've extended my repertoire to consist of what I want to eat, rather than what my brother and sister can handle.

Out of the top ten, I can't make macaroni cheese or toad in the hole without a recipe. The macaroni is because despite years of trying, I still don't really like cheese. I don't really eat toad in the hole often enough to have memorised the recipe, although I do cook it very occasionally.

My top ten would replace the macaroni cheese with a sponge cake. I have been making a basic sponge since I was 9 years old. For some reason, I became fascinated with victoria sponge, and would make it almost weekly. Although I know the recipe off by heart, I'm not sure I could make it now as I only know it in imperial measurements! 4oz of butter, 4oz of sugar, 2 eggs, 4oz of flour, some salt, baking powder and vanilla essence. Gas mark 4 for 30 minutes. I had the recipe memorised by the time I was 11 or 12, so that is quite weird that it is still in my head after so many years! I haven't had an oven with gas marks for at least 6 years, so that makes it even stranger that I only know the imperial measurements.

I would also include chicken fajitas. Every Saturday night, I would make fajitas for my mum, brother and sister. I think I must have eaten them in a restaurant somewhere and tried to copy them at home, as I don't remember ever following a recipe. They were originally made with pre-cooked, flavoured chicken (the type you put in sandwiches and salads) but over the years I refined the recipe to use fresh chicken. I still make them sometimes for my flatmates.

While I follow a recipe for the majority of the time, I am now confident enough to branch out a bit. I might just take the ingredients and make my own process, or follow the process but sub in my own ingredients. Since I like to experiment and try new dishes, it is quite rare that I will make something weekly, hence why I don't have a bigger list of known recipes. I think I could give a lot of dishes a good attempt without a recipe, since I have a good knowledge of cookery techniques and how different ingredients are used, but given that I usually have to eat what I'm cooking, I don't want to go too crazy and make something inedible!

What recipes do you know off by heart? Do you have an interesting story behind how you know it?