Even for the most dedicated of cooks, cooking ruts happen – naturally. You perfect a few recipes and find that they are well-received, which in turn means that those are the recipes that come to mind when you’re planning your next meal. Life is busy; experimentation begins to wane; and you go back to the “old faithfuls” time and again.
If the above sounds familiar to your cooking experience, then you’ll be pleased to know that it’s not permanent, and you can find your way out. Here are a few different ideas to try…
1) Focus on a single ingredient
Initially, this idea may sound a little strange: surely, focusing on a single ingredient is more likely to push you further in the rut, rather than help you find a way out of it? In fact, the opposite is true. Having to continually find new ways to use that single ingredient can actually be really beneficial and help to widen your thinking. The idea works with any recipe, too; chicken can be used in a salad, following a Thai curry, or stuffed with cheese and herbs. Jam can mean creating a thumbprint cookie recipe, making some shortbread bars, or jam-filled scones. So whether you’re looking to cook sweet or savory, that one single ingredient idea definitely encourages you to think outside of the box.
2) Look for inspiration on social media
If you are in any kind of rut, seeking inspiration is always a good idea – and when it comes to cooking, there’s inspiration everywhere. Social media is an endless source of inspiration for anyone in a cooking rut, with Instagram particularly well known for its endless, beautiful food images and vibrant meals. To find the best accounts, look through hashtags related to cooking and view the images – you should soon find yourself wanting to try and replicate the wonders you find yourself.
3) Consider past meals you’ve enjoyed
Think back to your past dining experiences, either at restaurants, when visiting friends and family, or even from your own childhood. If there are any meals that still stand out in your memory, then it can be fun trying to recreate the meal yourself. Not only does this help you to branch out in terms of what you are cooking, but you’ll also be able to enjoy the pleasant nostalgia that comes along with eating an old favorite.
4) Ask someone to shop on your behalf
This is a fun one. Rather than buying your own food, ask someone else to shop for you – without a list. You can provide some guidance to help shape their purchases – such as “I need to make a dinner for four” or “I’d like to make cookies to have with coffee” – but that aside, everything should be totally in their hands. As a result of someone else making the choices, new, unfamiliar ingredients will be purchased, which you can then use to create a meal that is far outside of your usual go-to options. While this idea only really works for a single meal, it’s a lot of fun, and just considering all the different options can help you to think about other meals that you can cook in the future.
So as you can see, cooking ruts are very common. But the advice above should allow you to try something different and rediscover your passion for cooking in the future.