4 Ingredients, a best-selling cookbook in Australia, with both an Australian and a UK version in print, is now available as an app for iPhone and iPod touch.
4 Ingredients is a compilation of recipes that can be made with four ingredients or fewer — really. We’re not talking about just four main ingredients with a few staples thrown in, but the actual ingredients for all recipes do not total more than four.
To be clearer, there are some recipes that call for pre-packaged ingredients, such as apple pie filling, which when added in would actually bring the total ingredient count up, but the point of 4 Ingredients is to deliver uncomplicated recipes.
As an individual who does not in any way shape or form enjoy cooking, I would be capable of appreciating uncomplicated recipes — and the faster the prep and cook time, the better. The recipes provided in 4 Ingredients are pretty varied in terms of food category, but how many are actually contained within the app I don’t know for sure. Inyer Pocket Software says over 400.
There are a few things about 4 Ingredients that make it good and a few things that may make it less appealing to stateside users than elsewhere. For the most part, it’s cheaper to download 4 Ingredients than buy the book, but then you are left with needing your device handy to follow the recipes. A few points I like about 4 Ingredients for the iPhone is the ability to browse the recipes without Wi-Fi connection. This means if you are at the grocery store and want some ideas, you can easily browse the recipes using an iPod touch, or even if your iPhone loses network connection in some small quadrant of the frozen food isle.
The recipes in 4 Ingredients are categorized and can be viewed by scrolling through the ingredients lists, which ranges from Almonds to Zucchini, or you can view by food category like breakfasts, dips, or fish. The 4 Ingredients app lets you add a recipe to a “My Favs” folder with a quick tap for easier viewing later. While the visual organization of the main menu and individual recipes is decent, your viewing options are a bit convoluted. Instead of taking advantage of the iPhone’s ability to automatically detect viewing preference, the main menu and navigation is in landscape mode while the recipes are in portrait mode. It does become a bit annoying to constantly be flipping your device from side to side and top to bottom while browsing. Plus, I do wish there were pictures of the completed recipe rather than just an ingredient pictorial.
The other aspect of 4 Ingredients that may perplex some users in the states is the food terms used. Terms like “Bickie base,” which is listed as an ingredient in basic cheesecake but the recipe later mentions “gelatine,” or the “mince” called for in Stuffed Capsicum, which are peppers, might throw some novice American cooks off track. Granted, a culinary foodie might not need a cooking dictionary, but for those of us who only know basic foods by their American name, we may have trouble deciphering a few recipes.
Terms and user interface aside, 4 Ingredients does supply a nice collection of easily accessible recipes that appear fairly simple to prepare. Plus, learning to cook with minimal ingredients can mean fewer trips to the grocery or lower bills at the checkout. I didn’t find 4 Ingredients to be entirely worth its asking price and while my preference for recipe apps remains All Recipes Dinner Spinner and there are other good ones like Epicurious Recipes and Shopping List, 4 Ingredients does provide many different types of recipes with very simple ingredients.
So, if simple is your thing, then check out the 4 Ingredient website and request a sample recipe to see what you think.