Roughly, there are two kinds of amateur cooks.
The first group dutifully follows a recipe. I have heard of a woman who searched high and low for purple basil, and was very upset when she couldn’t find it.
The other group boasts never to follow the instructions of a cookbook, but always to experiment along the way. I don’t quite believe them, unless they belong to the class of people who claim always to know better. But I see their point. I do it myself: making do with the ingredients I have, and adjusting what doesn’t sound right.
Like A. I now buy an organic vegetable bag regularly, which forces me to try new dishes. Last night I was searching for a recipe using celery, and I find one in Leith’s Vegetarian Bible, a wonderful resource of culinary knowledge. But I improvised.
As instructed I fried an onion in olive oil (Leith said butter) until translucent and slightly browned. I then added chopped celery sticks, potato and carrots (provided in the bag, though the recipe prescribed celeriac).
I let the vegetable stew for about 15 minutes, and added seasoning, a grated apple (in stead of apple juice) and chopped sage leaves. More stewing. A good dollop of crème fraîche and a final touch of freshly grated nutmeg.
In the meantime I had mixed 50 grams of flour with 30 grams of (melted) butter. I added 50 grams of chopped walnuts (100 grams of mixed nuts, but that seemed rather a lot to me), and grated cheese. I forget how much, but at least more than the recipe´s optional 30 grams. I thought cheese would be a must.
I then turned the vegetable mixture into a ovenproof dish, spread the crumble on top and baked it in a 190 degree oven for about half an hour, until browned.
I would do it again, but probably leave out the celery sticks, and use any combination of root vegetables: celeriac, indeed! parsnips, carrots, etc.