Cooking Tips from a Reluctant Cook (with a Bunch of Restrictions!)

Improvise ala “Stone Soup”. I remember a class as a child where we reenacted the stone soup story. Starting with an actual stone and adding seemingly random ingredients into the pot. While the result was different from anything I had eaten, it was quite tasty. Most of the time any combination of meat or seafood and vegetables are flavorful.

If you don’t eat any animal products you could try using kelp, tomato, and vegetable broth (celery, onion, carrots, etc.)  to help with umami or even nutritional yeast if you tolerate it. And experiment more with spices.

Breakdown the basic components of flavor: salt, sweet, sour, fat, umami, spice. Replace each with things you tolerate.

At least for me the end result does not have to taste the same as what originally inspired the dish.  Sometimes it actually tastes better than what I was emulating. I joke that I’m creating a new custom cuisine. But, if your goal is to create an exact replica in taste then by all means forge ahead and perhaps let us know of your creations.

Some common substitutions:

  • Egg: commercial egg replacer, or starch (arrowroot, etc.) + vegetable oil + water, or ground flax seed, or garbanzo bean (chickpea) liquid (aquafaba)
  • 1 cup milk: 1 egg + 1/2~3/4 cup water (depending on size of egg), or plant based milk alternatives (hemp, oat, rice, etc.)
  • Butter: coconut oil, animal fat (lard, duck fat), or “vegan butter” products
  • Wheat flour: brown rice, tapioca flours in a 2:1 ratio, or sorghum, brown rice, tapioca in 1:1:1 ratio, or commercially available gluten free flour mixes
  • Umami: tomatoes, celery, kelp, dried fish
  • Soy sauce color: molasses
  • Instead of fermented sauces, be inspired by salsas. Combining ingredients even just a short time beforehand goes a long way in melding flavors.

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