Cooking by the pinches and fistfuls: Recipes without measures

Now, I am a chemical engineer, more of a chemist to be honest. I should know the importance of measurement and ratios to get the right product. They say cooking is like chemistry, follow the recipe and you become the masterchef. Miss a step and ruin the meal. I could not disagree more. Cooking is like potion-making. Do as the recipe tells you and you get a drab, standard meal. Add your own twist, and lo!, you are the half-blood prince! Everyone has his own take on measuring your ingredients when they cook. I don’t like measuring them. I feel them, touch them and smell them. No, I am not abusing the ingredients in an indecent manner. This is the way I have always cooked. I am not saying I was born a genius cook or that measuring ingredients is below me. I have burnt, over-cooked, under-cooked and thrown away so many versions of my signature lemon-corriander soup till I made the perfect one! Did I write how I made it? No. There was no way I could remember everything in the exact same way. I did not know that one was going to be great. I did not even know if that one was the best one. Just like in my lab where we are constantly trying to find better catalysts for the reactions that have been carried out for centuries, the recipes can be made better too.

I would be lying if I say I have never read or used recipe books. I grew up reading the recipes of Tarla Dalal. When I was a fat kid trying to lose weight, her wonderful recipes and pictures served as my placebo meals as I ate my salads. I still read and use recipes online for a rough reference to ensure I do not put actual jewels in my Navratan Korma. But I don’t follow them 100%. There isn’t a point to it really. The person who’s put that delicious recipe up has his/her own style, brand of spices and cookware. The taste is anyway going to be different. Whimsical as this may be, it has been my personal inclination. It really annoys my boyfriend because he is usually the one to be subjected to the first version of my recipes. Once I decided to listen to him and follow the recipe for baked vegetable manchurian that I read online. The recipe was flawless, but I wasn’t. New to America, I did not know that the temperature on the oven knobs are in Fahrenheit. I assumed it was Celsius (like all the normal people in the rest of the world) and the result was highly undercooked disintegrating manchurian balls. Since then, I just do as my heart tells me to do. It is a highly inefficient way of cooking, but there you are. That’s who I am. Writing a blog when I should be writing a paper. Cooking meals when I should be eating takeouts like your common graduate student. And feeling and smelling food when I should be using measures!

The images are not my own. They are of products from Etsy or Amazon. I wish I had the salary to afford those.


3 thoughts on “Cooking by the pinches and fistfuls: Recipes without measures

  1. I do agree; in most cases cooking is a product of learning how to mix things around and come up with genius. I have a similar argument with a friend of mine, who was, just the other day, looking for a weighing scale to measure coffee for a french press. (He once also used some card paper to level off flour from a cup to measure the *exact* quantity, while we were making cookies). I’ve made cookies plenty of times, following recipes in my own, approximate way, but I have to tell you this:

    Those cookies were the best darn homemade ones I’ve ever had.


    1. Trying to measure coffee for the French press is extreme. Like I said it’s impossible to recreate everything in the same exact way (using similar pots and pans, flame temperature, nature etc). If there are already so many approximations in your experiment why not just chuck the ingredients in as you want?


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