DOS AND DON’TS OF RECIPE TESTING AND WRITING
- Have a draft recipe guide written up prior to commencement of testing.
- Measure ingredients accurately and make any alterations immediately on your draft recipe.
- State ingredients correctly, especially where the success of recipe would be in doubt, e.g. short grain rice vs long grain rice; ‘lite’ cream vs standard cream.
- Where non-standard items are used, state size, e.g. large or small saucepan, large or small onion.
- State cut and size of meat, poultry or fish accurately, e.g. fish, fillet or steak; meat cut in 2cm cubes.
- Where necessary, indicate the particular quality of an ingredient that can be variable and affect the end product, e.g. mashed pumpkin (dry or moist) for cake, pie or muffins.
- The list of ingredients must include all items, including salt, pepper
- Specify whether ingredient is chopped before or after measuring,
e.g. 1⁄2 cup of almonds chopped is different from 1⁄2cup chopped almonds.
- If photographed, list garnishes or serving accompaniments as per photo/recipe.
- Check spelling of unusual ingredients and brand names where used.
- State serving sizes or yield using an average portion as a guide,
e.g. 100–125g meat = 1 serve.
- Method should be easy to follow and is best in short sentences, covering one action.
- Do not suggest a recipe can be halved or doubled unless you test it
- Proofread your typed recipe against the working copy.
- Proofread your material once formatted and before printing.
- Make sure the recipe writing style suits readership, e.g. a banana smoothie recipe written for children, or for a health food magazine readership.
- Always keep a copy of your final recipe.
- Where necessary, follow company style.
- Use plain, uncomplicated English.
Depending upon company style, or your own preference, you may wish to include accurate preparation time; nutritional information; whether suitable for freezing/microwaving.
• Print a recipe without testing.
• Guess measures, cooking times or pan or dish sizes.
• State substitutions without having tested where the substitution may not work,e.g. raw sugar for caster sugar, lemon varieties.
• Use conflicting terms within the recipe, e.g. use wholemeal in ingredient list, and wheatmeal in method.
• Never presume the culinary knowledge of your audience. Some are still learning and need clear, accurate information. If your recipe doesn’t provide this, they may skip it and seek another.
These are guidelines for accurate recipe writing, but it is also important to develop a writer’s voice that is unique and compelling – much of the pleasure
of cookbooks and food writing comes from the inspirational style of the writer.
CONSISTENCY AND CLARITY IN STYLE
- Never mix metric and non-metric measures in the same recipe.
- Keep to standard terms, not interchanging words within the same recipe such as muffin pans and muffin tins.
- Fractions should be written in numbers in the list of ingredients, e.g. 1⁄2 cup. However, in the recipe text fractions should be written in words, e.g. half fill the tin.
- List ingredients in the order they are used.
- Where the same ingredient is listed more thanonce make it clear which measure is to be used byrepeating the amount in the recipe text.
- If the recipe has sections, list the ingredients foreach under its own subheading, e.g. for the filling, for the pastry, for the icing. Ensure these headings are then used in the recipe text, e.g. to make the filling, to make the pastry, to make the icing.
- If using cup or teaspoon measurements, indicate whether the ingredients should be lightly or
- Ingredients that must be measured after preparation should be written 1 Tbsp chopped parsley and not 1 Tbsp parsley, chopped.
- Be clear in measurements of prepared ingredients, e.g. 1 cup cream, whipped is not the same as 1 cup whipped cream.
- In baking, the terms such as press, spread and pour should closely relate to the consistency of the mixture.
- If you have the space, always start a new action within a recipe on a new line.
- Preheat, flameproof, reheat are not hyphenated words.
- Ensure illustrations and photography that accompanya recipe match exactly. Always check the recipe against the photo or drawing before it is finally issued, right down to the smallest detail of garnish that may have crept in during the photography session.
- All photos and illustrations should be clearly labelled as they can often appear on a different page from the recipe in a book, pamphlet or magazine.
HINTS FOR POLISHING FINISHED COPY
The real secret of good writing is revision. You can be sure that writing that seems light and spontaneous, and keeps you reading to the end, has been sweated over. Leave it overnight if you can, and come back with fresh eyes the next day and revise it again.
Your writing should be clear, simple and concise. Although the best writing appears to flow like speech, writing is not like speaking which often waffles. In journalism especially, you must boil down every sentence to its essence.
Check whether you have said the same thing twice in different ways. Combine them or cut one of them if you have. Could you have used fewer words or said it in a less complicated way? Avoid unnecessary words and phrases like ‘very’, ‘quite’, ‘almost’, ‘nearly’, ‘it is the case that…’, ‘what I think is…’, ‘another thing is…’, ‘the fact is…’.
Vary sentence beginnings and lengths. Verbs quicken the pace while adjectives and adverbs slow it, but use the active voice rather than the passive. Cut the verb ‘to be’ whenever possible (‘is’, ‘are’, ‘was’, ‘were’).
Always check your spelling, punctuation and grammar. Put a note in your copy to confirm any unusual spelling – but check it twice first. Make sure you have spelled brand names the same way each time. If you leave it for a busy, inexpert sub-editor to check, you will lose credibility. Of course, you will also have checked all your information and your figures.
Professional writers present clean, accurate copy to their editors and respect deadlines and length requirements.
Each page should be numbered. Put the word ‘end’ at the end of the article.