I recently wrote this article for Foodbuzz and thought I’d share it with you…
For us epicureans there inevitably comes a time when our creative juices dry up and our inspiration gets whisked out the window. After all, we can’t be culinary geniuses all the time!
If you’ve hit a creative slump, try these 10 easy ideas to bring the flavour, innovation and excitement back to your cooking!
1. Focus on a particular colour
Choosing a colour and sticking to it forces you to be creative within boundaries and sometimes restrictions like that bring out the best in us. How about making a trio of pink desserts or featuring an orange ingredient in each dish of a three course meal? Selecting a difficult colour which occurs quite rarely in nature, like blue, will give you a good challenge.
2. Turn a sweet treat into a savoury one
Or vice versa. My most successful version was a blue cheese panna cotta with red wine poached pears. Delicious! The possibilities are endless but don’t be upset if you end up with a total failure; it’s all part of the creative process and will be worth it when you discover the perfect combination.
3. Cook for someone with a food allergy
Even if they’re imaginary. If you don’t have a friend or relative with a food allergy, that doesn’t matter, just make up a recipe anyway. Try adapting your favourite cake to be gluten free or create a creamy pasta without dairy. It’s not easy, but your special someone will really appreciate it. If you have a blog then post it up – there’s definitely someone out there who will be able to use it.
4. Read restaurant specials boards
Go for a walk along a strip of popular and reputable restaurants and pay extra attention to the specials. They often feature in-season or fashionable produce that restaurants use because they’re plentiful, cheap or guaranteed to get customers in. If you use these ingredients as inspiration in your own kitchen, you’ll find yourself eating in more often!
5. Step into the V zone
A lot of us rely on meat and fish to provide the basis of our meals. There’s no way you won’t be able to come up with something new and inventive using alternate sources of protein, fresh vegetables, herbs and whole grains. Getting inventive with tofu, tempeh and soy beans is surprisingly exciting, so try adding a new vegetarian or vegan meal to your repertoire each week.
6. Check out your local farmers market.
It might seem obvious, but seasonal fruit and vegetables are an absolute joy for our health, the environment, and our taste buds too! Farmers markets give you the opportunity to speak with the growers who will almost certainly have some great ideas about how to use their produce. So next time don’t forget to chat with them about more than just the price!
7. Share inspiration from another culture.
There’s two ways you can go with this. Choose a cuisine, say Japanese, and try and make an authentic dish as possible, or use some common flavours such as wasabi, pickled ginger and dashi to create a brand new fusion dish. Either way, you’ll learn new skills and experience a larger range of delicious flavours.
8. Raid the pantry and fridge.
Go through and pick out all the cans that are approaching their useby date, any half full packets and spread them out on your work bench. Now you have a treasure trove of items just waiting to be married together. Combine these ingredients with fresh meat, vegetables, dairy and whole grains to create a complete meal. Aim to use up as much as you can and don’t forget to write down the recipe or take a photo so you can make it again.
9. Create a new drink.
Don’t just focus on the solid stuff, drinks are important too. Why not create a sophisticated cocktail to serve with a salty canapé, a hot chocolate drink to accompany dessert or a creamy smoothie to compliment a healthy breakfast. Your guests will love you for it.
10. Become friends with your local delicatessen.
If you’re on first name basis they might keep the best stuff aside for you or even give you a little taste of something new each time you shop there. Who doesn’t love perks like that? Be daring and grab a jar of something with the label written in another language — it’s a great chance to give your cooking a new and exotic flavour.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. Can you think of any more? Pop your idea in the comments.
Happy cooking, Christie
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