How To Write A Recipe (A Winning Recipe)

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How to write a recipe like a professional is an article to help Contributors of Archana’s Kitchen or even aspiring cooks and writers to begin writing a winning recipe. Recipe writing did not come naturally to me and every time I write I want to make it better for the reader. It took me many years to get where I am. Remember writing a winning recipe is about constant reviewing, practice and adherence to a few rules. A poorly written recipe or an article can result in wasted time, money and effort. It's something we take very seriously at Archana’s Kitchen and that is why I test all the recipes that I a multiple times. 

When you write a recipe or an article, it is important to question whether a person has budget restraints, time restraints or access to specialist ingredients, and whether terminology used in the method is universal. Considering these factors will deliver a clearer, practical recipe that people are more likely to cook. Also, you may love chilli and put loads into your cooking, but recipes should written with others in mind!

Try to use local and seasonal ingredients to a recipe and mention alternatives that can be used for another region if you are aware.

Lets begin. There are Many Parts to a Recipe

TITLE

The Title constitutes the most important part of every recipe. It talks about the food, the region and even sometimes a tradition.  If your title has a very regional and traditional name, it is important that you have tag line in English so every one in the world reading it can understand what your food is about.  

The above data is mostly for Indian food as there are so many regional foods, that have very traditional Indian names. If your country has a regional food name, like in Thai or Chinese or Russian and the like, then it’s a good practice to give a English tag line

Example:

Dal Palak Recipe (Spinach and Lentil Curry/ Soup)

Kadai Vegetable Sabzi (Spicy Indian Wok Fried Vegetables )

Goreng Pisang  (Thai Fried Bananas)

DESCRIPTION

Description is so very important. Over the years, after multiple experimentations I have learnt that when people have clicked on a Title to come into a recipe, then the first things they read is what is the recipe about. So You need to ask yourself the list of questions for each description of the recipe

  1. First Section:
    • What is the recipe about? - Talk about the recipe and what ingredients it is made with using what cooking method.
    • Is it easy? If so how long does it take to cook?
    • Will be great for parties?
    • Can it be packed for a lunch box?
    • Any nutrition benefits that you can highlight?
    • Any cooking techniques you want o highlight?
    • Most important – You have to end it with - How to serve and when to serve and what to serve it along with.
  1. Second section can be short:
    • Do I have to give any credits to a book, family member, friend author?
    • Do you want to mention any shortcomings or alternative methods of cooking or ingredients?

INGREDIENTS

  • Most of the time people want a speedy and simple dish, so its good to keep a short list of ingredients without overcomplicate the list.
  • If your recipe has too many ingredients, then split it into sections and try not to use ingredients if they are unnecessary.

Rules for listing ingredients: The following rules are created, because human mind is trained to read complete words. People find it hard to process short forms when they are reading, trying to understand the recipe and trying to cook at the same time. So please, be very complete in your language and communication of ingredients. List your ingredients in the order they appear in the method

Good Example of Listing the Ingredients

Order of Listing an Ingredient: "Quantity"  "Measure"  "Ingredient",  "Process" (if any)

  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ½ cup cabbage, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • an inch piece of ginger, grated
  • 1 cloves of garlic, grated
  • 2 green chillies, slit lengthwise
  • 2 bell peppers, thinly sliced
  • a small bunch of coriander leaves
  • salt and chilli powder to taste
  • oil for cooking

Bad Example of Listing the Ingredients

  • 1 tsp mustard sd (no short forms please)
  • 1 tbsp, honey
  • big cabbage, chopped to 1 cup
  • ½ cup of onion chopped  (oh, how many onions will I need?)
  • 1 teaspoon ginger garlic paste (very hard to understand)
  • 1 teaspoon coriander leaves (oh please, make it a stalk or a small bunch, how much will I cut for a teaspoon?)

METHOD OF PREPARATION

  • Review if you have listed your ingredients in the order they will appear in the method. Once you have written the method of instructions, read it aloud as that helps you see if your method instruction has anything that is missing and if it is flowing in the correct order
  • It is also important not to assume that your reader understands a particular method of cooking. Be detailed and explain the process well.
  • Mention the heat of the cooking medium (high heat, low or medium heat).
  • Mention the size of the cooking vessel or the type like a heavy bottomed pan, a wok, or a skillet, a frying pan, a deep frying pan, a large mixing bowl, medium size sauce pan, an 8 inch pan etc.
 
  • Keep sentences short and concise as possible. You can write as many sentences, but keep them short, longer sentences will confuse the cook. 
  • Write about every step of the process, including turn the heat to low, simmering, adding water, salts, etc. Write a recipe as if you are talking to someone and not just for records.
  • Mention the time it takes to do a particular step before you can move on.
  • Example 1: simmer for 15 minutes until the rice is soft and cooked. This means, the user will cook for plus or minus 15 minutes until they know that rice is cooked. 
  • Example 2: Bake for 25 minutes at 180 C or until the crust is golden brown 
  • Separate each step into different paragraphs. If you are mixing dry ingredients in a bowl, for example, use one paragraph for all the instructions for that step. 
  • Finally end with how you will serve it and with what it can be served it (if needed), if it can be stored for a long period, how many days before preparation for the dish can begin.
  • Apart from the above the other finer points to keep in mind

TOTAL TIME TAKEN

  • This gives an approximate time for prepping and cooking, and helps the reader pace his time that way or plan to cook a meal in that time.

NUMBER OF SERVINGS

  • Make sure your recipe at least delivers 3 to 4 servings. If your recipes are cooking for 10- 12 servings, then a person, who is not able to gauge the ingredient content, will end up having a lot of wastage.  Keep it small and simple.
  • This tells the user how many servings the dish provides. Avoid mentioning how many people can it. For a voracious eater, he could finish a bowl that can actually serve 4 people. So it’s always good to mention how many servings.

PHOTOGRAPHS

  • Good photographs along with the Title makes the user want to go over the recipe.  Invest in good camera’s lights or even a photographer if you need to take out of the box pictures for your food.

NOTES

  • Dont forget to add notes. This is where your creativity comes in. You tell the user, what differenly you did and why. Or any other thoughts that went in your mind while you created this recipe. Or tips on any other equipment that you can use that will benefit.

DONT FORGET TESTING

  • For a person who cooks a lot repeating a particular recipe with the same set of ingredients is something that happens rarely.
  • But I do test my recipes very often to make sure I follow the recipe exactly as I have written and then try it out to see it any changes have to be made to the recipe along the way.
  • And hey, this happens over many trials and these trails happen when I have the mood to cook the same recipe again. (Smiles)
  • So relax, write your first recipe the way you made it and according to the first notes.
  • Test as you cook the recipe. Make sure to take perfect notes of measurements as you write. Go ahead write and have fun cooking.
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Archana Doshi

Archana Doshi

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