Big Cooks

Simon from Israel writes:

“Thank you for all your wonderful recipes. My question is about quantities.

I have recipes for 8-10 people and chutney recipes for one kilo but want to make far bigger quantites. How do I go about converting my recipes. I find that just multiplying by 10 or whatever results in different flavours especially in chutneys, where litres of vinegar and oil seem inappropriate. Thank you for you time and help.”

stirring again:

My reply:

Well, it is a very big and complex subject, with no simple answer at my fingertips. Here is my experience with different types of cookery:

Rice: As you multiply the quantities, reduce the water. There are no exact quantities because it depends on the rice you are using, and the size and shape of the pots. Other than the reducing water phenomena, my experience is that spices, salt, ghee/oil, and nuts, dried fruits – whatever added bits are included with the original rice recipe – should be multiplied exactly.

Vegetable dishes: From my experience, if it is a dry recipe, everything is multiplied out – the veg, the spices, the ghee/oil. If it is a wet recipe, everything is multiplied out except the spices, which are reduced. The wetter the prep, the more the spices do their thing efficiently. See soup.

Soups: Everything multiplies out – the water, the dal/beans/veg, but the spices do not. The longer the prep cooks, and the wetter it is, like a long slow dal, the less spices you need. Example: an associate multiplied a vegetable soup from a cookbook to make the same recipe for 400. Original was for 4, so he multiplied everything by 100. Quantity was right, veg was right, but he put in 200 cloves (original had 2) and 200 bayleaves. We called it “Cream of Spice Cupboard Soup” – and we could not serve it out. Get the drift? Severely cut back the spices.

Chutneys: Since you mention this in your enquiry, I can only offer you my observation. My experience in making chutneys (though I do not use vinegar in mine) is that everything except the spices multiplies out exactly – the ghee/oil, the fruit and the sugar. The spices do not, since smaller quantities still perform their spicing tasks efficiently, as in the soup scenario.

Perhaps it is hard to come up with some sort of mathematical formula on how much to reduce ingredients in bulk cookery. or perhaps there is such a formula. My experience always has led me to use common sense, the most valuable of all cookery ingredients.
Posted by Kurma on 9/10/06; 7:15:44 AM

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