If you’re an absolute slave to recipes, you’ll know just how amazing it would be to know how to cook without a recipe. When you’re a recipe slave, you end up with a heap of random ingredients. They either go off or languish in the back corner of your cupboard or fridge, making all this food waste. Or, you end up eating the saaame thing over and over again (because you don’t have time to learn 365 recipes to keep things different every night of the week).

To free yourself from this tyranny, we created a series on what’s truly worked on our own journey to feed ourselves like a total boss, rather than let recipes boss us around. And if you’d rather be trying this out with some mates, check out Cookluck Club!

Sometimes, you get home, and your brain is all like: don’t make me think, man. So, whether you’re a total beginner to cooking without a recipe, or you’re just plain tired, here are five fallback templates to use whatever you’ve got in the fridge and pantry (which, from our last post, you stocked like a pro).

How to use these templates

Step 1: Pick out your ingredients that fit into the formulas that you feel like eating. Don’t worry yet if they sound a bit unconventional at first.

Step 2: Make it taste good by balancing out or amping up flavours and textures where needed.


1. Pasta

+ pasta
+ canned beans/lentils, cheese or meat
+ veggies
+ optional sauce (eg. passata)

One simple method:

1. Cook and drain pasta. While it’s cooking, prep and cook veggies (plus any meat if using).

2. Add any beans if using, plus some sauce. Cook on a low heat until pasta is done, then add your pasta and eat like you mean business!

And when you’re really tired, here’s some one pot wonder inspiration. We’ve also make a million different variations of this one-pan, no boil pasta bake.


2. Salad

+ veggies (can be a combo of cooked + raw)
+ toast or croutons, cooked grains (eg. cous cous, barley), cooked potatoes or sweet potatoes, or corn
+ canned beans/lentils, cheese, cooked meat or fish
+ dressing

The basic method: Chuck it in a bowl and mix around a bit.

Need inspiration? We love Cookie + Kate for salad with guts to them.


3. Pizza

+ base (pizza dough, pita, naan, Lebanese flatbread, or cut focaccia or Turkish bread)*
+ tomato, either passata, paste, or fresh
+ cheese (it doesn’t have to be mozzarella)
+ thinly sliced veggies
+ optional meat

*You can also try a coconut flour, cauliflower or zucchini, or chickpea flour base!

The basic method: Preheat your oven to 200C, layer up your pizza in the order above, and bake until golden and crispy enough to your liking.


4. Stir fry

+ veggies
+ scrambled eggs, nuts, tofu, and/or meat
+ cooked noodles, cooked rice**, or corn
+ sauce

**If you’re cooking a big batch of rice, best to freeze it in portion sized containers, and microwave straight before using. Check out why here.

Here’s the basic method. If you struggle to get your veggies cooked the right amount of time, check out this guide on what to cook first vs last.

roast dinner

5. Roast dinner

+ chopped potatoes or sweet potatoes***
+ 2-3 other veggies chopped (just not wilty leafy greens)
+ any of these:

  • nuts or seeds (sprinkle on in the last 5 minutes of roasting)
  • beans, chickpeas or lentils (mix with a dressing and add to your veggies once they’re fully roasted)
  • grate-able cheese (grate on thickest setting, sprinkle on top of veggies before putting in oven)
  • feta or goat’s cheese (sprinkle on at the very end)
  • tofu (cut into 1cm thick bite sized slices, flip halfway through, and add sauce in last 15 mins of roasting)
  • meats or fish (roughly the size of chicken thighs – add at beginning of roasting, flip halfway through roasting)
  • eggs (make little wells in your veggies and crack eggs into the wells, in the last 7-9 mins of cooking at 220C/200C in a non-fan-forced oven)

+ enough oil to coat, plus salt to taste
+ seasonings/sauce – here’s a fancy pants guide for inspo

***No potatoes? You can also microwave whole corn cobs with the husks still on (3-6 mins). Then run under cold water while you peel the husk off, and shave off the corn kernels with a sharp knife. These add an awesome crunch factor! Just add them in after everything’s roasted.

Here’s a handy video of the basic method from The Kitchn – just keep in mind 425 = 220C. If your oven has any sort of fan, dial it down to 200C. It’s also worth having a quick look at the 20 minute mark, because everyone chops their vegetables different sizes, and some ovens run hot. Plus you can’t un-burn your food, but you can leave it in for a little longer.

What’s next?

If you feel yourself using these a little too regularly, you may start venturing back into recipe following territory as you feel the urge to branch out your dinners a little. That’s where recipes come back in handy – but instead of following them to the letter, you’re better off using up the ingredients you’ve already got. Here’s how to tweak a recipe to the ingredients you’ve already got.

Want to get a little practice cooking with what you’ve got? Save some time sourcing your veg by getting an Ooooby Sydney veggie and fruit box delivered! Ooooby supports local sustainable farmers (many of them organic), and provides whatever is actually growing on the farm, meaning you’re eating truly seasonally (a major plus for being able to cook with what you’ve got!). Use code OOOOBYFM and you’ll be supporting YFM’s work with every box you get delivered, which is pretty damn sweet.

Image credit: Unsplash

Zo Zhou

Zo Zhou

Zo is the National Communications Manager and will basically never shut up about vegetables.

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