New recipes and updates

Get new recipes
in your inbox

Cuisine Fiend

Find a recipe by ingredient

3-ingredient scam

Sun, 27 August, 2023

Please, can somebody tell me what the deal is with those ‘3 ingredients’ recipes? I completely don’t get it.

Internet is awash with top 10 or 20 ‘3-ingredients or less!’ recipes. Regardless of the fact that obviously, it should be ‘fewer’ not ‘less’, the benefit of cooking something that has only three ingredients eludes me completely. What is supposed to be so wonderful about it?

I imagine the popular belief is that those will be recipes quick and easy, without the need for complicated cooking techniques or hard-to-procure ingredients. Or perfect for people who are short on time or don’t want to spend a lot of money on ingredients. Also, that they will be great for people who are new to cooking or want to try something new without feeling overwhelmed.

Hello? I'm so sorry to shatter the dream but there we go: béchamel is made from butter, flour and milk. It takes considerable skill to achieve smooth sauce, plus about half an hour drizzling and stirring. Hollandaise? Egg yolk and butter! And I have never managed to quite get it right. Ditto mayonnaise. And that’s just sauces!

French omelette is made with eggs and a little butter just for frying so presumably it doesn’t count, because those 3-ingreds never include basic things like salt or aromatics. And yet a French omelette is quite a badge of achievement if a young chef can make a perfect one.

Consommé is a clear soup made from richly flavoured stock or bouillon that has been clarified, a process which uses egg whites to remove fat and sediment. Although it may seem simple, consommé is considered one of the hardest dishes to make from scratch, even for highly trained chefs. What goes in it? Bones, nothing else.

Confit de Canard: just duck and its fat. But the process is time-consuming and takes skill and patience.

A soufflé, sweet or savoury, is again just eggs with one or two additions. But it’s a challenge that requires precise timing and technique to achieve the perfect rise and texture.

Sourdough bread! Need I say more?

And on the other end of the spectrum we have dishes like chillies, with long litanies of ingredients, which however any first year undergraduate can rustle up in the halls kitchen. See also spag bol, chicken korma, potato salad or banana bread. See also stir fries!

I’m telling you – this thing about ‘only 3 ingredients!’ is a complete BS. It’s time to stop hailing those stupidly short recipes. It’s not like we have to learn the ingredients list by rote before we start cooking!

And so today we have some incredibly easy recipes with sensibly long ingredients lists.

Vegetarian dishes first, because unless you’re cooking a slab of meat, you need to add a few elements to the veggie equation. Sweet potatoes with black beans or a spicy, cheesy lentils bake are good examples (and easy as anything).

Likewise, if you want inexpensive meals: sausage tray bake will disappoint if it is made of sausages only. Dirty rice needs only about a spoonful of meat to flavour it but a good few spices are on order for a delicious dish.

What about pasta? Caccio e peppe, two ingredient pasta is hellishly difficult to get right, while provolone pasta bake, with a few more in the list – a doddle.

That boring chicken breast fillet will never be enjoyable if you add only salt to it. But with sweetcorn, feta and a couple more things – completely amazing. The same goes for chicken tray bake which practically cooks itself unsupervised.

To make a really fabulous meatloaf, you have to add a thing or six to the mix. And a good potato soup takes more than just potatoes.

For one of the best (and easiest) breakfasts, a whole long list becomes olive oil granola – but all it takes is mixing and toasting. Or mixing and baking, in the case of baked buttermilk oatmeal.

Finally, don’t even start me on cakes: I can just about imagine a 3 ingredient cake but I promise it won’t blow your mind, and it might be quite tricky to make. Italian yoghurt cake, on the other hand, even though it has 7 basic ingredients, icing aside, is also known as ‘toddler’s cake’, so easy it is. Ditto island buttermilk cake or coconut loaf.

I hope I have managed to make a chink in this 3-ingredients’ armour. Do you agree? Do you have recipes that prove my point – or prove me wrong? I’d be delighted to hear about it in the comments below. Happy cooking!

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published

Characters left 800
Recipe rating
Email address*
Web site name
Be notified by email when a comment is posted

* required

About me

Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

I have lots of recipes for you to choose from: healthy or indulgent, easy or more challenging, quick or involved - but always tasty.


Sign up to receive the weekly recipes updates

Follow Fiend