9 Mar 2021

How to Write: A Recipe with Nadia Lim

From Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan, 1:49 pm on 9 March 2021

Acclaimed food author Nadia Lim gives a few tips for aspiring home chefs on how to write your own recipe.

No caption

Photo: Roy Guisinger Pixabay

The My Food Bag co-founder tells Jesse Mulligan it took ages to complete her first book, Nadia’s Kitchen, but with practice it becomes a natural skill.

“You’ve actually got to have quite a logical brain to put a recipe that someone else can follow down on to paper, that’s expressed in the same way as your taste buds and what your brain wanted.”

You also need to keep your ‘audience’ or who may follow the recipe in mind.

“You’ll find the old Edmonds cookbook, their recipes are quite ‘go with the flow’ and quite casual. They’re not that specific with ingredient measurements and times … they often say ‘cook until browned’,” Lim says.

“Now for my audience, a slightly younger audience, I’m very conscious I need to be extremely specific. I’ll always give a specific time like ‘cook onions for about five minutes or until they have softened but are not browned’.”

She recommends people to just go for it in their first instance and start putting it on paper, and then refine them in the future.

“It takes practice so you just kind of have to get on to it. But then there are a few more specific professional rules – you’ve got two parts to the recipe, you’ve got the ingredients and then the method.

“The ingredients list – the rules there are to always have the ingredients in the order in which you use them in the recipe. It’s key that you’re very specific with your measurements, for example, saying a handful of something is sometimes not that helpful because one person’s handful might be a lot.

“I mean in saying that, if it doesn’t make a difference, occasionally I do it … but generally it’s best practice not to use that.”

Nadia Lim

Photo: Nadia Lim / Facebook

She says it’s also important to write measuring of ingredients in a logical way – for example, one tablespoon chopped parsley instead of one tablespoon parsley, chopped.

“Then for your method – my advice is always to imagine giving instructions to a friend on how to get from their house to your house and they’ve never been there before.

“You give a rough guide as to time and how long it’s going to take to cook something but it’s also always helpful to give a visual cue, people rely on those a lot. So, you might say ‘bake for 20-25 minutes or until the top is golden brown’, because everyone’s ovens are different.”

One point she raises is to consider oven preheating – often recipes will start with this instruction but take into account how long it’ll take you to prepare the dish and adjust accordingly.

Sometimes recipes will say ‘a scant’ or ‘generous tablespoon’ of an ingredient – it’s at those times, Lim says, where the recipe writer is saying it doesn’t matter too much.

“For example, with my recipes, my style of cooking is quite simple and casual, and you should be able to freestyle it a little bit, so I will put things that aren’t super specific in there just to let people have a little bit more freedom with their approach.”

Get the RNZ app

for easy access to all your favourite programmes

Subscribe to Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan

Podcast (MP3) Oggcast (Vorbis)