This idea is one which keeps popping up from time to time, normally on those occasions when it would actually come in useful, only to be thrown on the backburner for another time or a more talented author. Well this time I’ve decided just to throw the idea down on electronic paper for anyone with the skills and the time to make it work have a go. Of course, it’s quite likely that such a website already exists and that I just haven’t yet been able to find it, but if anyone knows of such a place, let me know!

Ostensibly the website is aimed at those allegedly few remaining people who cook, though it would appear equally useful to people planning dinner parties, students looking for something to go with their pasta, or just about anyone curious enough to experiment with a few different ingredients. In its essence, the website would be nothing more than a large recipe repository, with everything from snacks and sandwiches to stews and casseroles, with anything in between. Recipes would be submitted by users, moderated and standardised, but the slightly clever part is that these recipes would not be displayed as flat text files—it’s 2007 after all—but would be cross-referenced in such a way as to make the whole collection completely accessible.

The aim would be to create a database that would not only allow users to find a recipe for chocolate sponge cake (although this would of course be possible), but would be able to input a short list of ingredients and find suitable recipes based on what they have, and what they could easily acquire. Not got much time to prepare your meal? Limit the search by selecting a suitable preparation time. Found a recipe which works well for your dinner party but want to push the boat out? Check the recommendations for slight modifications to your meal, and other dishes that complement your main course. Each recipe entered would include relevant information pertaining to ingredients, preparation time, required utensils and serving suggestions. The database could also be expanded to include drinks and cocktails.

Of course, the website should be open to infrequent and regular visitors alike, offering daily dishes of the day or perhaps cooking tips for beginners. The site’s contents should be easily adapted to suit those on a tight budget financially, as well as those with little time to spend in the kitchen. Perhaps members could keep an updated pantry of what vegetables, meats and spices they have in stock, and get offered meal ideas based on this list. And of course there’s plenty of scope beyond this—with enough exposure the site might generate sufficient advertising revenue, there are enough people preparing their own meals still to warrant it. But then again, perhaps this site already exists somewhere?