Essential Ingredients by Sheila Kiely | Resources | Better Non-Fiction Guides | Getting Non-Fiction Published

Sheila Kiely

Last week in Setting Goals and Making Time, Sheila Kiely in explained how she managed to put together her book Gimme the Recipe while juggling a job and six children. But how did she know which recipes to put in, and how did she go about deciding on a format for her book? When you are putting together a non-fiction proposal, a clear plan is essential. Finding out what else is on the market and identifying what will make your book different, and therefore of interest to publishers, is crucial. Sheila told quite simply, “‘Gimme the Recipe was written for people like me.  I wanted a book that offered everyday recipes with a bit of variety and a reminder of the old classics too…

Written from the perspective of a regular busy mom I felt that there was a market for this type of practical approach to recipes.  Most of the cookery books that are out there are written either by chefs or by people whose livelihoods revolve around food.They are people who are within reach of ingredients every day that may not be easily accessible to the more regular consumer.  These writers concern themselves with food and food issues all day long whereas for many of us what we’re having for dinner is something that almost hangs over us or shadows us in the background and when finally faced is a decision that is made quickly and without the luxury of time to ponder it.Therefore I’ve ensured all ingredients that I have used can be bought at my local Irish supermarket.Besides having readily accessible ingredients I’ve also written the method of the recipes to include the preparation as well.  This means that I view the ingredients list as just that, a shopping list of what I need and I don’t include instructions in the ingredients list like 1 onion finely chopped etc.Pre-preparing ingredients is how chefs cook and makes sense in a restaurant environment however in our homes there aren’t very many of us who have the time to first prepare ingredients and then cook and we usually prepare as we go, chopping our onions etc. just as we are about to use them.

I approached the book in a logical fashion and wrote it to fit in with my lifestyle.  Half of the book is devoted to answering the question ‘What’s for Dinner Mom?” and the remainder is divided into ‘Baking Day’ and ‘Dinner Party (& other special occasions).’  I’ve been a hoarder of recipes for many years and they’ve been scribbled onto scraps of paper, backs of envelopes and torn out of magazines.  I don’t have a huge collection of cookbooks – maybe 20 or so – and I find that I only have used 1 or 2 recipes from each of these over the years.  I do buy food magazines every month and have accumulated quite a collection that I like to browse through for inspiration.  Many of the more basic recipes in the book have been learned from my mom and some may have stuck with me from home economics days at school.

I’ve included a DIY Takeaway section in the book and for that I had to research pizza and curry making. I’d read up a couple of recipes, gather ingredients, pare them back, simplify methods where possible and experiment until I was happy that I’d come up with something that was a) easy and b) used accessible ingredients.

Testing of recipes was done from my kitchen table and served up to family and friends who wouldn’t have known most of the time that they were testing recipes destined for the book.

I’d like to see the book as almost a weapon with which to face the shopping expedition to the supermarket.  I’m advising people to let the kids dip in and pick what’s for dinner and then armed with a list and a decision already made the whole process of whipping around with the trolley is made smoother. Also if kids have helped in the decision making process and indeed if they help out in the cooking too there should be far fewer groans when you answer the question ‘What’s for Dinner Mom?’


About the author

(c) Sheila Keily April 2012

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