Having recently been handed a load of research into recipe related search terms in google, I was quite surprised by what came up as being the most searched for. I knew chicken recipes would feature quite highly, as would pasta. But omelette? Ratatouille? Waldorf salad?! Does no one remember Fawlty Towers? It’s CELERY, APPLES, WALNUTS, GRAPES! In MAYONNAISE! Clearly people are cooking at home, but they’re not always cooking what I thought they were.
For instance, in the chicken recipe category butter chicken features rather highly up the scale above, for example, chicken and mushroom pie. But who, in all honesty wants to see first hand the volume of saturated fat that goes into butter chicken?! Once you’ve stepped through the frosted glass doors of The Bombay Star, you’ve made the decision that calorie content is not an issue that evening, but stirring rivers of butter into your supper is a different matter entirely. And it wasn’t just this takeaway staple that was high up the list – korma, masala, jalfrezi were all up there, along with chicken chow mein and lemon chicken from the Eastern contingent. Is there a whole generation of internet users who are trying to recreate the curry house and Chinese at home?
Now I’m not saying that we shouldn’t make curries – in fact, I’m pleased that so many people want to make curry, because it’s not the easiest thing to make. It requires time, patience, and a list of ingredients as long as your arm. We’re constantly concerned that people only want quick, on-the-table-before-you’ve-got-your-coat-off type food (Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals out-selling The Bible would suggest they do). But if people want to cook curry, then we clearly have nothing to worry about. And we have tons of curry recipes on the website, but we try very hard to make sure they’re not the sort of dishes you would get in your local tandoori.
I think this is where food writers are on a bit of a sticky wicket. We’re forever looking for the ‘twist’. You can’t do a roast chicken, everyone’s had roast chicken, you have to do roast chicken with sumac. Or anchovies. Or, oh I don’t know, plums? But what about just a plain old roast chicken recipe?
And lasagne. In my working life I’ve done recipes for lasagne with meatballs, lasagne with spinach and mushrooms, a gratin that looks suspiciously like a lasagne, and lasagne with Fontina and butternut. Should I have just done one with ragu, béchamel and mozzarella? I assumed most people would know how to make that, but then, if you only ever do a twist, how could they?
So what would you like to see? Should we be re-inventing the wheel every month, or keeping it simple? What about a little bit of both? If we’re going to attract all types of cook then there has to be a balance, but if you’re a confident cook, would you get irritated by seeing an omelette recipe taking up space? I’d love to hear people’s thoughts. And maybe their lasagne recipes…