Let’s talk recipes. Like most papers and magazines, we like them. They look good on the page (mainly), our readers like them (mostly) and chefs/cooks enjoy being given a shop window to display their talents.
But not any old recipe, so I thought it might be worth giving a refresher of what works for us (and I suspect most publications).
1. They have to be achievable for a home cook who mostly shops at the supermarket.
This is the starting point. They don’t necessarily have to be designed for someone who doesn’t know one end of a pan from the other but we are not a specialist food magazine. Ask yourself, is this the kind of recipe I might make for friends on a Friday night?
2 They need to look enticing. Depending on the section, it helps if you have good quality imagery. On the Magazine, we shoot everything anyway (but there is a higher bar to entry; see below) but for others sections (eg, Weekend, Times 2) it’s a big bonus if you can supply pics.
3 Big name chefs are always a shoe-in. Rick Stein’s favourite fish suppers? Absolutely. Brian Smith’s supper party classics? Hmmm, I’ll need more convincing.
4 We need to be able to editorialise them. What’s the angle? What spin can we put on them? Again, with big names it’s easier (see Rick Stein above: his name will sell the feature) but Brian Smith? Is he the best the chef you’ve never heard of? The rising star of tiktok? Are those recipes the quickest supper dishes ever? It’s never enough just to say: here are some nice recipes.
5 A single recipe is never any use to anyone. Well, almost never. If you are suggesting a trend piece for Weekend, say, it might work: “I’ve noticed everyone is cooking with verjuice, and here is a recipe from our client Brian Smith, alongside a pretty picture”. Otherwise, as ever, read the publication. In the Times magazine we need a minimum of eight recipes to feature in our Eat! pullout.
6 Product placement doesn’t work. Why would we tell our readers which brand of a generic product to buy? Occasionally we’ll make an exception for a famous name, but then we’ll put a credit at the end (and I only say that so that you don’t fail to send me Nigella’s ten favourite gochujang dishes: don’t abuse it by sending me Brian Smith’s favourite bakes using Marjorie’s Miracle Margarine).
7 Apologies to Brian Smith if you do turn out to be an excellent chef I should have heard of.