Intuitive Cooking: 8 Principles for Tasty Meals Without Recipes | Monika Kanokova | Skillshare

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Intuitive Cooking: 8 Principles for Tasty Meals Without Recipes

teacher avatar Monika Kanokova, Community & Content Strategist

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

12 Lessons (23m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. The Story of my Lunchbox

    • 3. Your Delicious Creation

    • 4. Principle 1: The Rule of Three

    • 5. Principle 2: Seasonality and Staples

    • 6. Principle 3: The Style of Cuisine

    • 7. Principle 4: Longevity

    • 8. Principle 5: Texture Matters

    • 9. Principle 6: Acidity Tricks

    • 10. Principle 7: Use "Tastemakers"

    • 11. Principle 8: Leftover-Afterlife

    • 12. Enjoy Your Meal

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About This Class

Since we’re all stuck at home and most likely cooking several times a day, it’s probably a challenge to cook something exciting. How can you make varied meals and not feel like you’re eating the same thing all the time?

If you’re like me, you might get overwhelmed with cookbooks and don’t necessarily enjoy following recipes all the time, just trying to make a meal taste nice.

I’ve been planning to publish this class that I originally published as an article on Medium for a while. My original plan was to explain how I fill my lunchbox. For more than two years, I’ve been getting up every morning and starting my day by cooking a lunchbox. I use an Ecobrotbox lunchbox to keep the meal warm and have learned that keeping food in an airtight container improves its taste, too! However, with the coronavirus and now making meals three times a day, I realized this video might be helpful even for those who aren’t planning to cook in the morning.


Instead of sharing recipes, in this class, I'm explaining my cooking principles and how I make decisions about cooking varied yet seasonal meals. I’ll also explain what I have in my pantry at all times.




Meet Your Teacher

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Monika Kanokova

Community & Content Strategist

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I work as a freelance community and content strategist with clients such as Kickstarter, Virgin Money via Hanzo Studio, Veganz and many more. Learn more about my work on You can also find my insightful guides for creative freelancers on Amazon, or get to know what I do every day on Instagram.


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1. Introduction: Hi and welcome to my kitchen. You might already know me from my other classes here on Skillshare, and you might be wondering why I'm talking to you about cooking instead of freelancing, so there you go. About two years ago, one of my big projects finished and I didn't have any other projects lined up, and so I was like, I should probably spend less money or start finding ways to save money as well, and I decided to make my own lunches. Now, this class isn't particularly about how I make my own lunchbox, even though it is, it's much more about how you can cook without recipes. It's more about intuitive cooking, and I think it's something that we should all talk about a little bit more because I feel like there's this big hype of professional chefs and the beautiful Instagram pictures, and I feel like it's a little bit intimidating. I think we should all talk about how we just whip something up and how it just tastes really good, and that's why I'm shooting this class. You already might have figured it out, I'm not a professional chef. This is much more about the eight principles that I figured out for myself that get a lot of positive feedback, that people really like eating. I hope that you are curious and that you'll decide to join me for a little bit in my kitchen so that I can explain to you how I make my own lunches, and how I cook without recipes and how it somehow miraculously mostly works out as well. 2. The Story of my Lunchbox: A little bit of a backstory why I like my lunches to be warm. I honestly think it's a cultural thing. I was born in the Czech Republic and then I moved to Austria, and it's normal in both countries to eat a warm lunch. Then I did move to the UK and the Netherlands and also the US, I notice that a lot of people ate sandwiches for lunch. Well, there's nothing wrong with sandwiches, and I tried myself. What ended up happening was that I was just hungry and probably also hungry for the rest of the day. Then I knew I'll need to cut my expenses and decided to eat out less and cook more. I already wants to stick to my habit of having a warm lunch. Now, this is the funny part of the story, I found a terrible lunchbox. People that go hiking, they know they exist. But obviously, I just didn't as a city girl. Then I find out about them, I was even more excited that something like this existed. Mine is from ECO Brotbox, it's a Berlin-based company. The reason why I think it's so great is because it can go into the dishwasher, and so I don't have to wash it and it holds the food warm for up to eight hours. Yes, you're right, I do cook in the morning so that it happens with still eight hours. At the beginning, I felt a bit weird about getting up every day to cook, however, I really just love the habit now, it's such a nice ritual. I usually have a shower and then I go into the kitchen and I start cooking. I use the time to listen to podcasts and that just gives me a lot of food for fought for the whole day because I get to be creative with my hands while I also listen to stimulating conversations. It just feels quality me time. That's why I like it so much, its definitely one of my favorite things that I do. Originally, I just cooked for myself. But now, I cook for my partner and also my business partner, as I recently co-founded a sustainability consultancy and a design studio. Soon I will also be cooking for our intern, so it's just going to be a whole cooking production here. Whether you wants to cook your lunches or your family's lunches, or just wants to know how to cook the food recipes, I hope this class will inspire you and I just cannot wait to see your pictures. 3. Your Delicious Creation: You'll see in this class that I mostly cook with seasonal vegetables from the region. Sometimes I also get food from the Southern part of Europe, such as aubergine or courgettes, however, if I'm really honest, most of the time, we really just eat carrots, because carrots are in season here in Germany throughout the whole year. By now, I know that I can make those carrots taste a million way but obviously, that was a process to get to understanding how you can work with carrots or other vegetables. I would really love to see a picture of your food, maybe also your lunchbox, and maybe you also want to tag it with minifeast, which is a hashtag I've brought into this world on Instagram about eight years ago and people picked it up and it's still going strong. I cannot wait to see your cooking here on Skillshare or over on Instagram. 4. Principle 1: The Rule of Three: I first became aware of this rule, the rule of three, when I started making a lunchbox every morning. My lunchboxes are like a cylinder that you can fill with goodness. For it to taste good, I've learned, it needs three layers. I'm someone who gets easily bored with food, so I always make sure that there are three layers, three different components. For the first layer, I make a base with some kind of a grain. The second layer is usually a veggie combination of some sort with some kind of protein, which is mostly tofu, or soy flakes, or seitan, and then the last layer is another veggie combination with some seeds. It might be sunflower seeds, it might be flax seeds, or sesame. One of these three layers is usually creamier. You might have bigger pieces in the meal to give you something to chew on as well. One component is most likely spicier than the other. I just like to create a very balanced variety of tastes. In a lunchbox, the grains serve as the base. Then, I mean, I sound almost silly but then I decide if the creamy component should be the middle layer, or if I want the creamy component to also impact the middle, other layer, so I would put it on top of everything so that it soaks through. If I serve a meal on a plate, I make a salad which is either the third component or becomes an extra fourth part of that meal. I might also add something pickled to the plate to maximize the variety, the diversity of the meal. 5. Principle 2: Seasonality and Staples: I like to do my shopping at the farmers' market once a week to make sure the food we eat is local and seasonal. The grocery list is never too long; vegetables and fruits, mushrooms and tofu. Sometimes I also buy meat replacement products, but I only use them for foods that serve immediately. With my zero-based approach to cooking, animal products just don't feel right because you just can't really keep them for too long in a fridge with often going bad and potentially making you sick. So we mostly really eat just veggies. When it comes to veggies, I buy whatever I get at the farmers' market. If you try to implement my principles in your cooking in your kitchen, you'll soon understand that you don't need a great variety of or even exotic produce to create unique dishes. Five to six different types of veggies are enough for a week pretty much. When it comes to staples, I must admit I'm a bit of a food hoarder. I always tell myself it must have something to do with growing up in a post-communist country where people always kept an impressive amount of food in their pantries. As for me, I keep grains and seeds in glasses. I have boxes full of pasta and Asian noodles. I have a whole drawer filled with spices, and I also keep a box with ferments in tins. Needless to say, I can come home after a four-week vacation and still cook a decent meal without going shopping. Yes. However, even though I stock up on food, it's all food that doesn't go bad. The expiration date, in my opinion, means literally nothing as long as things are kept in an air-tight container or glass. You can have your food ready for whenever you feel like cooking with these ingredients. Then stock up on fresh produce once a week. Or if you put things into the freezer before, you can just take them out from there. 6. Principle 3: The Style of Cuisine: I use cooking as a way to travel before leaving the house. In culinary terms, I never like to spend breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the same country. You might like to hear that's actually very easy to accomplish, especially after such a year that we've all now been through. The grains, veggies, and tastemakers, I'll explain tastemakers a little later on; so those three, they will determine your culinary destination. My rule of thumb is that based on the herbs and the tastemakers that I choose, even if I use the same veggies and the same grains, I can transform it into whatever tasting country meal. Because a carrot can really taste like you're in Mexico, or you're in Indonesia, or France, and so can every veggie, protein, and grain, depending on how you prepare them. Because herbs are the main secret of localized cuisine, let's take a closer look. For this technique to work, you don't have to be a herb and spice expert, at least as long as you think of yourself as a season traveler. Being adventurous in the kitchen means you can determine what culinary region you would like to explore. If you stick to a family of herbs and spices, your meals will taste lovely, and you'll soon feel like you're exploring at least in the culinary way. Here is a short overview of what's used in the different countries. The fact me claiming this list is in any way complete. If you get a base of herbs and spices, you'll be able to cook creatively without much effort really. Just don't forget salt and pepper, you will need those two for about, I would say every meal to make them taste right. Southern and Western European, they use Herbs de Provence, thyme, rosemary, cumin, sage, basil, parsley, oregano, garlic, and saffron. While in Eastern Europe, they're more into paprika, bay leaves, dill, garlic, and cumin. Middle Eastern, they even use cinnamon, zaatar, berbere, thyme, cumin, cloves, mint and saffron. Then you go to Latin America, and then they are into coriander and red pepper flakes. While in Asia and India, it's very different region is more about chili and curry, mango powder, ginger, turmeric, lemongrass, and saffron. If you're still unsure that you will get it right, I can also recommend just herb mixtures. I use the ones from Sonnentor, they are from Austria. But I think you can just find any organic brand that makes these herbs, that you'll really enjoy it and then they'll help you transform the meal into that regional highlight. 7. Principle 4: Longevity: Then I started making meals for my lunch box. I realized that some meals are simply better when you eat them immediately and some get better the longer they sit in their own juices. Risotto, for example, tastes best al dente, so having it sit in a canister all day won't bring much joy and satisfaction when diving in hours later. Jasmine rice, however, tastes better when you put it in the canister before it's fully cooked and then give it time to slowly unfold taste with all the other ingredients, all the other goodness in your lunch box. Pasta is another carbohydrate that doesn't do well if it's kept warm for too long, for hours and hours. Generally, I switch between rice. I keep different kinds of rice in my pantry. I use couscous, I use bulgur, I use barley, I use potatoes and sweet potatoes. If I'm planning to eat a meal immediately, I might go for any kind of Asian noodles or pasta. You can keep most of these in glasses in your kitchen and don't even need to worry about the expiry date. It really means absolutely nothing. These things will be good for years, if not decades, talking to post-communist child here. Usually, when cooking any of these carbohydrates, I boil them in water with a small spoon of salt. As a rule of thumb, I use one cup of my chosen grain and then add two cups of water for two people. With couscous, it's only one cup of water and a small spoon of salt, but make sure to water is hot because otherwise, it's going to be cold. Potatoes, pasta, and Asian noodles will need much more water. That's about it. 8. Principle 5: Texture Matters: Your meal will feel much more exciting if you have different sizes and textures to chew on. A carrot tastes different depending on how you cut it, and how you prepare it. You can fry it, or put it in the oven, or you can grate it. You can boil it too and then put it in the oven. Every time that same carrot will give you a different sensation. If everything in your meal is the same size, and the same texture, you'll probably get bored pretty quickly, so don't hesitate to experiment with this approach. Whenever I'm cooking, I like to add seeds. I keep, wait, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds are somewhere, and then flax seeds are somewhere as well. Again, you can simply keep them in glasses in your pantry and not worry about the expiration date. You can also use legumes, beans, or lentils. They are perfect and very suitable for most cuisines. As a protein I usually add tofu when I feel like it fits. Neutral tofu is just fine, because you can always rub it with herbs and spices, and just then put it into a pan. Or you can use a sauce or pesto just to give it some extra flavor before frying it in the pan. To make meals more exciting, you can also add corn or capers. Smaller textures, a little bit different. Taste nice. 9. Principle 6: Acidity Tricks: Whenever I'm frying veggies in a pan, I make sure to add some acidity to allow lot them unleash their full flavor. I heat up the pan and add chopped up onions. I add whatever veggies I'm making, literally whatever veggies I'm making. I fry them for maybe a minute before adding some well, wine, beer, or apple or orange juice work as well, just for them to soak up a little bit of it. I never add a lot of liquid, just a little bit to give the food some moisture. I just don't use water. Sometimes lemon juice will do the trick and give the veggies a special taste. You can keep lemon juice in a tin if you don't have fresh lemons at home, or if you don't have anything else to add, you can also use veggie cubes like bouillon. When making veggies in the oven, I first roast them without anything but some herbs and only later will I drizzle a little bit of olive oil over them, and that pretty much does the trick. Oh, yeah, and the alcohol disappears. You should know it doesn't stay alcoholic, there's just a little bit of flavor and that works, but it really is not much. 10. Principle 7: Use "Tastemakers": Let's get back to the approach of traveling when cooking meals. Each an every cuisine has its secret ingredient that can make a meal taste, just like a trip to that country. In our pantry, we have a vindaloo paste, pretty much always in the fridge, mushroom soy sauce, extremely good. We have pesto, we have coconut milk, we have this coconut sauce. I keep dates on hand to make a meal feel Moroccan, for example. It's really with the help of these tastemakers that the meals I cook usually have a rich flavor, more layers to the taste. You can also always roast veggies in the oven, then blend them to create a creamy sauce, sauce-like ingredient maybe, or even a sauce you can use tomato sauce or tomato paste. So there are different things. I really like mustard, or there is the Hoisin sauce, which for Asian meals tastes really good. I just like to put together different tastes and just like to borrow whatever I can find and get inspired by the cuisine of the world. While I don't buy veggies and fruits that are exotic, I do buy a lot of these other ingredients that I didn't use to make our meals more inspired by the world really. 11. Principle 8: Leftover-Afterlife: Whenever we have more than we need, I'll put it in a container and store it in a fridge, which is pretty much after every meal that I'm cooking. It doesn't matter how much or how little, like here there is, it can always be saved and added to the next meal. With just a few extra ingredients, it can be turned into a whole different experience that you wouldn't even recognize that you could have had before. You can, for example, add extra border and soy sauce. Ideally, [inaudible] you paste to turn a curry into a ramen. Sounds crazy, kind of works. You can also add some vindaloo paste to precooked veggies and make them taste like an Indian side dish. You can turn roasted veggies into a rich soup by just adding a veggie [inaudible] and some border and then blending it. You can also use the same veggies for a curry. You can pretty much turn everything into a curry. There are no limits to what you can make out of leftover foods. The one rule is that you might want to use it up within three days to make sure that no one gets sick and that the food is still good. But you can always smell, taste a little bit and you know if it's fine or if it's not fine. What I also always do, especially before I'm about to leave for a longer trip, is to chop up whatever I have in a fridge or a pantry and store it in a freezer so that I can use it in the future, so that nothing gets thrown away. That way, I make sure that we don't throw ever any food, that we don't waste any money, and that it's still working. That's also probably my communist heritage of like I get really upset about throwing away food for no reason. Save yourself the money, save the environment, don't throw anything away, and just recook it. It's really creative material. 12. Enjoy Your Meal: I hope this reflection and my guiding principles on how I cook, they'll help you come up with new exciting dishes. If you would much rather have some real recipes, I can recommend two books. One is Circular Chefs by Instock. It's a Dutch restaurant, and it exists in Dutch and in English; and then Zero Waste Kuche, in case you speak German. I really hope the book gets translated into English very soon, because they have some really exceptional recipes. If you would like to share pictures of your creations, please upload them here on Skillshare as a project or on Instagram use the hashtag [inaudible] , that's the one I'm subscribed to. I really cannot wait to get inspired by your pictures, and yeah, enjoy your meal.