How to Become a Better and More Creative Home Cook: Intuitive Cooking for Seasonal Eating
Every week we have customers asking us about recipes and specific ways to cook their fresh produce, and we have had a lot of positive feedback on our weekly digital recipe cards, but we want to empower people to trust themselves more and not rely on exacting recipe cards. Trusting your intuition and relying on your taste buds is part of Intuitive Cooking, which allows you to get more creative at mealtime, connect with the seasons, eat healthier, and reduce waste!
What is Intuitive Cooking?
It's a practice of cooking and eating that focuses on trusting your own taste and knowledge of what you like, what does and doesn't work well. Many of us do this in small ways already by adapting recipes "to taste" instead of using the exact ingredients and amounts prescribed. Intuitive cooking is about going one step further and cooking without recipes altogether, which gives you the freedom to use whatever you have on hand and find ways to make it delicious!
Connecting to the Seasons
Intuitive cooking is a wonderful pair for seasonal eating for a handful of reasons. First, when you eat seasonal, local produce, you're eating food at its peak of freshness and flavour. When your ingredients taste better, it's much easier to make better-tasting dishes with them! Second, produce that grows together in the same seasons and in the same locality often tastes great together! Think of the classic seasonal flavours:
- spring is full of freshness and vibrant green flavours from salads, shoots and flowers, and has delicate and subtle flavours in new growth and new-season veg
- summer is abundant with juicy fruits and veg with hints of sun-warmed sweetness, think of tomatoes, courgettes, peppers
- autumn offers deeper sweetness in apples, squash, and earthy root veg that pair well with the peppery, almost bitter notes in the cold-hardy brassicas
- winter takes an earthier turn with more stored root veg, hearty brassicas, spiced and stored chutneys
Eating a seasonal diet sets you up for easier intuitive cooking because the ingredients you have to hand are fresh and flavourful and usually all work well together in different ways!
Intuitive cooking with your seasonal items is a great tool to help combat food waste. In Ireland, nearly a third of the food we produce is wasted, and a lot of that could be avoided with meal planning and using up all the ingredients we have. Maybe you have an item or two that sits in your kitchen until it goes bad because you can't find any recipes specifically for that item that sound good to you. This is where intuitive cooking saves the day.
You may have celeriac sitting in the back of your fridge that you don't know what to do with. Maybe you like the celery bite in the celeriac but don't want it as a standalone dish, so from there you think of ways to pair and soften the flavour. You look around your kitchen, spot the potatoes, and it hits you: root veg mash! Mashing celeriac with potatoes allows you to soften the celeriac while adding flavour to your potatoes that you can control with butter, salt, pepper, and other spices. Voila! Intuitive cooking.
The inherent creativity of cooking with your intuition and cooking with seasonal ingredients allows you to swap like items, mix and match different veg, and make use of what you have to avoid waste.
Basing your diet on local, seasonal produce is a much healthier way to eat. Fresh, local produce has higher nutritional content than grocery-shelf imports because it has been picked at its peak ripeness and hasn't sat in trucks or on shelves for days. Not only are you getting the nutritional benefits of the fresh produce itself, but you're also avoiding processed foods and eating a more balanced diet. Practising intuitive cooking works best with simple, whole food ingredients that you can pair together, which automatically cuts out over-processed and chemical-laden foods. In addition, eating a more diverse diet that changes with the seasons is also great for your gut health!
How to Get Started with Intuitive Cooking
Intuitive cooking is an easy enough practise, you just have to - well, you know - practise. Here are a few easy steps to help you get into the creative cooking moods and level up your kitchen skills:
- Start Simple! Use simple, whole food ingredients as the base for your dishes. You can add flavours, spices, textures, ingredients, but you can't take them away. Think of your fresh, local veg as the building blocks for the meal. Use simple recipes as a guideline and then start breaking their rules, adding what you like and removing what you don't.
- Get Familiar! Look for patterns in the recipes you like, such as patterns in what items pair together, or how a recipe balances flavours like sweet and savoury. Get to know your ingredients: smell the spices in your cabinet and the fresh herbs and take mental (or actual) notes about what you like. Start asking yourself questions. What are your favourite seasonal fruits and veg? What are your favourite spices and flavours? Does your family like things spicy or not-so-spicy? Getting to know what you like helps you make decisions about swapping out ingredients or adding extra in, which can turn a strict recipe into a choose-your-own-adventure book.
- Mix and Match! Now that you know more about what you do and don't like, which veg is your favourite, and the patterns of recipes and dishes you like best, you can move farther away from exact recipes by mixing and matching. Add the end of your celeriac into your potato mash, throw some squash into the beetroot tart, swap thyme for rosemary, add apples and onions to your pork roast. This is where things get fun, so lean into being creative and trust your taste buds.
Intuitive cooking is the perfect way to take advantage of seasonal, local produce, reduce food waste, and eat healthier without even trying. It's a simple practise that just requires some kitchen creativity, familiarity with ingredients, and trust in your taste buds. Practise intuitive cooking this week with what's in your 100% Irish Harvest Day veg boxes and maybe use one of our weekly recipes as a base to play with. Hopefully, you can find more joy in eating seasonal along the way!