According to the Waitrose magazine, Waitrose Kitchen (January 2013), the average Brit knows 10 recipes off by heart. Which I suppose is not too bad. Take my husband. He can make porridge, omelette, boil potatoes for 20 minutes and make toast. And follow the instructions of ready meals. In the days when we ate beef burgers, he could cook beef burgers as well.
The problem with such a statistic is that it does not define what is a recipe. Is beans on toast a recipe? Does this include cakes and scones? Does this include using ready made sauces and puff pastry? Does it include variations on a theme?
From what I can see, there are some basic cooking techniques. Recipes are these techniques with different ingredient lists. Risotto for instance. The survey claims that 3 out of 10 people can make a risotto. Actually, I use a pressure cooker for this – saves the standing around and the end result is good. But you can make mushroom risotto, asparagus risotto, chicken risotto – different recipes?
I make several types of cake – one basic recipe (a Victoria sponge recipe). I make soup – the ingredients are the different, but the method the same. I make stew – one method and different ingredients.