Faith Mason

Author Andrea Stewart condenses dishes into the length of a Tweet—and challenges our idea of what recipes are supposed to be. 

Hannah Walhout
September 11, 2017

Can you make a passable Duck à l’Orange with only 140 characters of information? In Recipe Shorts, out today, chef and writer Andrea Stewart tries to make it happen. 

Her book, comprised entirely of tweet-length recipes, was inspired by a growing frustration with prohibitively complex cookbooks. “The more people I talked to,” she says, “the more I heard that they’re always turned off by the length of ingredients that they see. I thought, is there an opportunity here to kind of break down those barriers? And really have people look at a recipe and go, ‘Wow! I can make that.’” 

A chef by trade, Stewart knows that we often romanticize the idea of slaving over a hot stove for a perfect tomato sauce or roast: “Having come from the restaurant world, you generally don’t take shortcuts—actually, they’re frowned upon, to be perfectly honest.” But not everyone can be so exacting, and time-consuming recipes can be prohibitive. For her, “this book is really reaching out to the home cook, to encourage them to get into the kitchen and make food.”

The food inside ranges from simple, beginner-level dishes to more intricate desserts and large-format party fare. You’ll find everything from smoothies to socca, each recipe thoroughly tested by two of Stewart’s friends (who both gave the home cook stamp of approval).

Even for simple recipes, though, a tweet’s worth of instructions might seem nearly impossible to interpret. Luckily, Stewart includes a glossary, with a combination of intuitive shorthand—avo for avocado, EVOO for extra virgin olive oil—and more inventive vocabulary (the brief "whiz" stands in for puree or blend). 

Faith Mason

Some dishes lend themselves easily to a short and sweet explanation—like the Mustard Glzd Sausages, the recipe for which reads: "Roast 6 sausages, turning 2 cook evenly. Mix 3T ea Dijon,honey&brush on sausages, cooking through til golden."  That's 109 characters by the way.

A more complex recipe for Br.Sugar Tarts condenses a sometimes finicky dessert into: "Beat 4T buttr,½C br.sugar,corn syrp. Stir in 1egg, 1t ea van,lemjuice,wht vin,salt. Fill mini tart shells,bake350F,15 min." 

These recipes aren’t pretending to be all-encompassing; many require a certain degree of intuition in the kitchen, and a knowledge of basic preparations is helpful (for example, the first step in the Meatball Pho is simply to “brown meatballs.”) Says Stewart, “some of the recipes I’ve left up to the cook’s desires.” People can interpret the instructions based on their own comfort level—“For the experienced cook, if they want to make their own pastry, then that’s fantastic. But for the inexperienced cook, it’s okay to go and buy a pre-made shortcrust.” 

In the end, Stewart’s exercise tests the limits of highly-involved cookery and prioritizes flexibility over fussiness. If you believe that home cooking should be intuitive, Stewart thinks these short recipes are all you need to put together an easy meal. “What’s really important is that simple, seasonal ingredients don’t need much to sing on the plate,” says Stewart. “It doesn’t have to take two days. Granted, I know that there are recipes that benefit from that—I just spent three days in the kitchen making beef cheeks. I get that. But that’s not to say that you can’t get great food on the table in 140 characters—because you can.”

Courtesy of Kyle Books

Recipe Shorts: Delicious Dishes in 140 Characters by Andrea Stewart, $17.