Recipes are broken

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I am a bad cook. I’m okay at making some very specific dishes – mostly breakfast dishes involving eggs – but, on average, if I go off menu then the odds are that it won’t go well.

On the rare occasion I am moved to bring cuisine to the table, I will usually have to follow a recipe. Having done this many times, I’ve come to a conclusion: recipes are broken.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a cookbook or a website, they are all awful.

They’re not clear instructions!

You might think this is a gripe about SEO optimisation and the 3,000 word essays at the start of every recipe. You’d be wrong.

If you want to tell me how your over-indulgent facsimile of your mum’s homemade apple pie makes you quiver with every mouthful, you go right ahead. It’s a free internet. I can scroll.

No, my objection is simpler: why can’t these recipe writers provide an easy-to-follow list?

It’s not 1 step if it contains multiple tasks

Here’s an example of a recipe for a bean and halloumi stew that purports to have just 3 steps. Here’s step 1:

Step 1
Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and pepper, along with a pinch of salt and fry for 10 mins or until softened. Add the garlic, pesto and ground coriander, and cook for 1 min. Tip in the beans and tomatoes along with ½ can of water, then bring to a simmer and cook uncovered for 10 mins.

That’s not one step. That’s at least four steps! If you have to wait 10 minutes between tasks, there should be multiple steps.

Something like:

Step 1
Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a frying pan over a medium heat (1 min)

Step 2
Fry the onion, pepper and a pinch of salt (10 mins or until softened)

Step 3
Add the garlic, pesto and ground coriander. Cook. (1 min)

Step 4
Add the beans, tomatoes and ½ can of water. Simmer and cook uncovered. (10 mins)

How hard was that?!

One. Thing. At. A. Time.

You may laugh at my inability to parse a short paragraph. You may be right. But for the culinarily disinclined, like me, cooking is stressful enough without the extra overhead of deciphering these tomes. Recipes should be simple, ordered lists of individual tasks and with clear timings for each task.

So please, food bloggers and recipe writers: I will wade through your life’s story. I will scroll through your ads. I will buy your branded products. But, for the love of Nigella, please write your recipes as one thing at a time.