My first baking project were peanut butter cookies. My first cooked dish was Chicken ala King. I had just finished Grade 6. At the time I thought it was such a complicated dish because it involved so much preparation and I had to do almost everything by myself!
But no matter how long it took me in the kitchen, I would make it over and over because my brothers loved it. In those days I followed the recipe to a T, not daring to deviate or adjust. These days, however, I usually play around with a recipe. And sometimes I just get inspiration from a recipe (or a cookbook or even the internet) and then wing it as I'm cooking!
Let's take this recipe as an example. The original recipe called for canned pimientos but I decided to use red bell peppers. Sometimes I would skip the green peas, other times I'd use thigh meat, and at one time, I actually used whole thigh fillets, which was great as rice topping!
2-3 chicken breasts, cooked and diced
about 2 to 3 cups reserved chicken broth (strained)
3 cloves coarsely chopped garlic
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
1 large potato, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
1 cup sliced mushrooms (fresh variety preferred)
1/4 cup frozen green peas
1 red bell pepper or canned pimiento, diced
1 cup all purpose cream, room temperature
salt and pepper to taste
Saute the onion and garlic. Add the diced chicken, potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, peas, and pepper/pimiento. Add about 1 to 2 cups reserved broth, just enough to cover all ingredients. Simmer until vegetables are cooked through.
Pour in the cream and heat gently, stirring constantly. Do not allow to boil vigorously. Season to taste. I usually start with 1/2 teaspoon of salt (there are various kinds of salt that differ in their saltiness, and we all have different taste preferences so seasoning "to taste" is really crucial). Thicken with cornstarch water.
Serve in patty shells (I buy them from a popular bakeshop nearby).