All the measurements I've given are in metric. You don’t need to follow them precisely but it can help if you’re inexperienced. The easiest way is to acquire some scales, measuring spoons and a measuring jug but if you don't have any of these:
- A teaspoon (tsp) is the size of spoon you use for stirring tea or coffee or eating yoghurt out of a pot. A dessertspoon (dsp) is the type you use to eat cereal or soup while a tablespoon (tbsp) is the size of spoon you would use for serving food. Put another way a teaspoon contains 5ml, a dessertspoon 10ml and a tablespoon 15ml.
- Spoons can be described in a recipe as level, rounded or heaped. Level is where the contents of the spoon are literally level with the edge of the bowl of the spoon. Rounded is where they are slightly domed and heaped is where they’re piled on the spoon. (You need to use a bit of common sense about this. You could for example get an absolutely massive tablespoon of, say, mashed potato which would be equivalent to about 3 or 4 ordinary tablespoons. ) Some recipes also call for 1/2 or 1/4 teaspoons - usually for powerful ingredients like spices.
- A pinch is the amount you can hold between your thumb and forefinger and a handful is exactly that - the amount you can pick up and hold in your hand (without trying overhard to cram it in)
- An ordinary mug is a reasonably good measure for liquid. If you fill it up to the level you’d normally fill it for a coffee it’ll hold about 225ml (i.e. 8 fl oz)
- If you’re doubling a recipe you don’t always need to double the most powerful ingredients. If the original recipe calls for 1 tsp curry paste you may not need as much as two. Try 1 1/2 first. Same applies to salt and sugar. Always taste as you go.
People who have cooked a long time tend to take a great deal for granted, using terms that they perfectly understand but which may totally bewilder the person who’s following the recipe. Here are a few:
Bring to the boil
Usually used of liquid. Heat until bubbles break out over the surface.
Used of things that have come to the boil. Cook over a low to moderate heat so that the liquid just trembles.
How small is fine? Well as small as you can get it basically. Roughly chopped means cutting into smallish pieces without any great precision
Refers either to the action of getting air into ingredients to increase the volume (usually done with a whisk) or amalgamating the different components in a mixture like a pancake batter or salad dressing together (with a fork or a hand held blender, for example)
A dash, a shake
Literally what comes out of a bottle if you give it a quick shake - a few drops, about 1/4-1/2 a teaspoon