These strange ingredienty-type thingies…

These ingredient thingies divide roughly into six main areas:

  • Meats
  • Poultry
  • Game
  • Fish & Seafood
  • Vegetables & Salad Items
  • Pasta, Rice & Grains
  • Sweet ingredients
  • The awkward other bits that can’t be included in the other sections.

Meats:

Conventionally broken up into beef, pork and lamb (including mutton), from cattle, pigs and… er… well… unsurprisingly, young sheep (and older sheep for the mutton).  Pork is generally the cheapest of the three, lamb being generally more expensive than either of the others.  Some cuts of beef are still very expensive, like fillet steak.  We won’t be using much of that – it’s simply too dear…. that’s dear, my dear, not deer – (meat from the deer is called venison and comes under the heading of game, and that sort of deer is certainly dear, my dear…   :-/   ).

If you do actually progress to fillet steak, all you really need to remember is that it cooks quickly on a very high heat and deserves to be eaten rare to medium; and slowly.  Maximum cost; minimum cooking time.  Scan the reduced cabinets for the rare cut-price bargains; they do exist.

Pork: 

Leg of pork: is lovely, but it’s expensive.  Be led by price.

Prepared, ready-diced pork: tends to be the cheaper cuts just cut up.  If you are happy to take the time to trim off some of the fatty bits before cooking, it makes such a difference to the end result.  You won’t be there for hours; just a couple of minutes with a good sharp knife or kitchen scissors and you’ve taken off all the grotty bits.  One of the most useful cuts of pork is the humble bone-in pork chop.  Tesco do one in their Value pork range – it’s great to use, as the meat is actually quite suitable for different dishes, left whole, boned-out or cut up into diced pork.  They are normally sold in pairs; I have found them to be very good for the price.  Have a look in both Tricks’n’Tips and The Recipe Bank for ways to use this particular cut.  I am sure that the other supermarkets will do the same or similar pork cuts, just have a look.

Loin or Fillet of pork: the long bit of best meat to be found on either side of the spine along the back of the animal – is wonderful.  It cooks up a treat and is great to eat.  However, yes, you guessed it – it’s a little pricier.  Cook fast on a high heat, make sure it doesn’t dry out during cooking (there are ways) and you’re onto a winner.  Cook it for too long and you’ve knackered it good’n’proper; ‘ard as ruddy nails!

Spare rib: is great, it takes a little trimming before cooking but it isn’t an arduous task for this cut of pork.  Use it diced or in long strips, or just leave it on the bones; it really appreciates a good long cooking time.

Belly of pork: is nice, it takes time to cook and is quite fatty, but if well-trimmed and double-cooked (cooked, allowed to cool overnight, fat taken away, and then cooked again the following day) it can be wonderful.   It does, however, mean that there is more work to do and you do need to plan ahead a bit.

Pork mince: I have to say that I have not really got on very well with this at all.  It usually seems to cook up with a hard texture.  It is fine in things like home-made pig’n’pinenut burgers (an amount of work, but worth it), but as a purely mince dish I don’t rate it much, as yet.

Beef: 

You might have noticed that cattle tend to be big animals, so it follows that the named cuts of beef (not the actual joints that you buy, but the recognised cuts as shown in the diagram) are big as well.

This means that the quality of any particular cut can be variable as there will be a good end and a not-so-good end.  Also, let’s be straight about economy supermarket beef of any cut – it isn’t hung to tenderise for the longest time (normally up to a maximum of 15 days…. They get 28 day beef in Canada!) so it will not be the best quality meat in the local supermarket.  However, as you are not purchasing for a Michelin star restaurant, let price be your guide.  As a general rule, the cheaper cuts of meat are those ‘nearest the hoof and the horn’, so they reckon.  Thus, for instance, brisket (found just where the front leg vanishes into the body), is one of the least costly, needs long slow cooking but tastes great if you do it right – a good one for the all-day-table-top-slow-cooker.  So, look for stewing, chuck or braising steak, shin or brisket.  These take a time to cook but they are worth it.  Use a slow cooker or make a casserole with these cuts and you’ll be on your way to good food on the cheap in no time – well, actually it will take quite a long time – to cook.

Grilling steak is ok for fast cooking under a searingly hot grill for a very short time, but it tends to be cut very thin in this country and is inclined to become overcooked very rapidly; becoming a bit hard and tough.  It only needs a couple of minutes under an already-hot grill; literally 2 minutes – in total!

Look in The Recipe Bank for the rare appearance of a steak recipe – but it won’t be for a thin steak.  Rump is the most used; cook it under a very hot grill for a minimum time and give it two minutes away from the grill on a warm plate, under foil, to rest before serving.  That way it will be just nice.  If it’s grey right through, you’ve overcooked it – it needs to be on the reddish side of pink in the middle to be at its best.

If someone tells you that they want their steak ‘well done’, tell ‘em to get a life and then burn it for ‘em.  Either that or just do it medium (on the reddish side of pink) and don’t say anything.  They may become more educated as to better dining as a result.  Hopefully. 

Just don’t freak ‘em out by serving something oozing red meat juices; I have a mate who goes green when he sees that on his plate!

Lamb: 

The most expensive of the three these days, lamb is certainly my favourite.

Leg steaks: taste lovely when they are cooked leaving the middle of the meat just pinkish and soft and lovely and tasty and yummy and……..… ah, sorry peeps; I got carried away a bit there.  My apologies.

I have included a recipe included for a boned-out-and-stuffed leg.  Heavenly!

Lamb mince: is really versatile and not too expensive.  It doesn’t need cooking for too long and you still get the lovely flavour.

It’s important, however, to dry fry cheap lamb mince first and pour off the fatty fluid it will produce, otherwise the dish may be a little greasy; but don’t discard it.  Pour the fatty fluid off into a Pyrex (see-through glass) mug or cup and allow it to cool, and then refrigerate it.  There will be a separation of the fat from the stock.  Take the fat off the top and discard it into a plastic bag/cling film into the bin.  The remaining jelly stock is great for your next recipe. 

Recipes for lamb mince will be found all over this book.

Breast of lamb: is great too; rolled and roasted slowly whole at a low temperature, then pulled apart at the table for a primitively interactive hands-on meal it can be very entertaining. (Ever seen the film ‘Tom Jones’?  No, not ‘Jones The Voice’, boyo, the film about Tom Jones the lover…… it’s really worth a watch and has a scene where he and a ‘lady’ eat ravenously,  and end up having….…..) It makes a bit of a mess when eaten like that, but great fun when in a group; just make sure that you use a waxed tablecloth!  Try the double-cooked technique, you’ll love the flavour.

For use of any bits of offal (or to discover what offal actually is – don’t avoid it just because offal is such an offal word), see ‘The Awkward Other Bits…’

Mutton:

Basically, mutton is just older lamb.  Slightly less tender, perhaps, and requiring more cooking, but lamb that has an age – and it’s normally quite flavoursome too.

Hogget:

There’s also hogget, too, but that’s getting a bit too pickie’n’technical for a rookie-cookie-bookie.

Poultry: 

This basically sub-divides into chicken and turkey, as duck will be in the Game section.  Chicken has a finer texture than turkey, but turkey is generally cheaper these days.  A chicken breast split, stuffed with goat’s cheese, wrapped in several rashers of streaky bacon and slow oven roasted can be a joy to behold.  The flavours really complement each other, the cheese blending into the chicken to make it go all gooooey……. But I digress – again.

Ok, I’m back now.   So, what do we need to know about poultry?  Cook it well.  That’s the big thing:  cook it properly.  Undercooking chicken is not an option as there are all manner of things you can get from undercooked poultry.  Ugh!

That’s one of the problems with barbecues.  Always carefully inspect your chicken at a barbecue before you start to scoff it.  If it’s at all red, or looks like it has any hint of blood running, don’t eat it.  Chuck it (no pun intended…) into the microwave without the host seeing, and let it cook through a little more.  It’s not worth the risk of doing otherwise. 

When I do a barbie, I cheat fairly (well, there’s a surprise!) by microwaving the chicken portions for a while first.  If they are cooked/hot inside BEFORE they hit the barbie there is far less chance of me poisoning anyone – including myself.  I don’t like poisoning people, in the main.  Mind you, there are a few politicians who I could cheerfully….…  but, again, I digress.

Look for ‘litter burns’ – odd marks – on the legs of whole and portioned chickens when you are buying in a supermarket.  If these are present, avoid that particular pack or chicken.  It means that the animal, whilst alive, may have collapsed under the weight of its own body and been kneeling in the chicken litter in the cage, unable to get up and walk about.  Probably not been a happy chucky during its lifetime.

Look for Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall’s  website to see how poultry farming has improved lately.  More power to Hugh’s drumstick.

Turkey has become a standard for Christmas dinner, but don’t leave turkey until Santa’s due to come down the chimney (if you pardon the expression) as the meat is a relatively healthy one and is not normally too expensive.  The thigh meat is particularly nice, not tending to be as dry as the breast meat, and is also quite quick to cook.  There are certainly plenty of things to do with turkey and chicken – see The Recipe Bank for both the poshified recipes and for the more economical everyday ones; they’re all in there.  With cold turkey (no, not giving up the booze), try the chutneys and relishes; they’re scrummy!

Game: 

Game is costly, unless you know someone who goes shooting.   Duck, pheasant, partridge, pigeon, venison (deer) …… the wonderfully strong and characteristic flavours of the countryside.  I am a great lover of game and I enjoy it as often as I possibly can.  I beat for local shoots when I can and so some well-trained pheasant often tends to fly into my freezer.

Duck:  Probably the most available, but quite costly.  Duck can be very fatty but a just-pink-in-the-middle duck breast is lovely.  It should be cooked high and quick (grill, griddle or very hot frying pan) so that the middle of the meat is still quite soft and pink.  Overcook it and it’s liable to be a bit tough.  I doubt that you’ll get much opportunity to do duck, but I have included grilled duck breast in case you feel flush.

Venison:  Now more widely available, venison can be bought as steaks (very dear – no pun intended) or casserole pieces.  The latter is less costly, so if you can get some, this would be the one to go for.  Again, see The Recipe bank to find out what to do with it.  It really does cook up a treat and is well worth the outlay if you are trying to impress someone; especially a true ‘country girl/boy’.

Pigeon, partridge, woodcock, pheasant, etc:  A little bit fiddly, especially pigeon/woodcock.  However, if you can get just the breast meat of any game bird, treat it like duck breast.  Boiling the rest of the skinned carcass makes a fantastic stock and the meat that comes off the bones is also brill for all sorts of meal ideas; including game soup.  Discard the fat layer that forms on top of the cold stock.

Rabbit:  I get my wild rabbit from a local bloke who traps for farmers, reducing the nuisance wild rabbit population.  (They breed like rabbits, y’know!)  Thus, there are no pellets in the flesh and all I have to do is skin and gut them.

No, panic not, I’m not saying that you should have to do that;  if you can get some mug like me to do it for you before you get them, you can cut the back legs away individually, and the front legs away together with the ribs, and then cut the remainder across the spine half-way along its length.  Put it all in a saucepan, in water or a stock of some sort and simmer gently for an hour or so with the lid on.  Remove the rabbit, use some of the stock for gravy and just break the meat off the spine and bones by hand.  Lovely!

Either that or bone-out the loins from each side of the spine and treat it like fillet steak – but don’t let it dry out or become overcooked.  Gorgeous.

Remember, it may have been a cute, lovely little bunny in a previous existence, but now its second role in life comes along – that of being part of the food chain.  Your food chain.

Fish & Seafood: 

So many people say that they don’t like fish.  Most of them either haven’t tried real fish or they don’t like the thought of the bones that they ‘know’ will be in it.

It’s such a pity.  In general, fish cooks quickly and methods can be many and varied.  I will not try to give a full run-down on all ways to cook all fish; I’ll just give you a bit of an outline.

White fish, like cod, whiting, haddock, coley, etc are flaky sea fish that can be broken up and put into things like fish pie (oh, yum yum! – see The Recipe Bank).

It’s the sort of fish you find in fish’n’chips when you take the batter off.

If you actually do just that – remove and discard the batter and the skin – you’ll see that white fish actually flakes up into quite chunky bits.  Eat it without the batter and you’ll experience a completely different flavour.  You’ll avoid the grease and fat that the batter has absorbed and you’ll just get the taste of the fish itself.  Lovely!  The fish itself hasn’t actually been fried; it has been steamed within the hot batter.  Bones are not normally a big problem in this type of fish. 

Running your fingers along the natural lines of the filleted uncooked fish will allow you to feel the ends of any remaining bones.  Just use a pair of tweezers (or clean pliers) to pull them out from the end – but wash the tweezers first; we don’t want to put make-up, eyelashes or other human stuff on to the fish, do we!  I have actually bought some proper (but cheap) fishbone tweezers – I wish I’d done it years ago.

Fish can be fried with the skin on or off – the skin holds it together – or steamed or poached.  Frying removes some of the water content of the flesh, making it a slightly firmer texture.

Steaming and poaching maintain the water content and I have to recommend these latter methods for chunky white fish.  Poaching just requires laying the uncooked fillets into an oven tin with a little half/half milk & water mixture and then placing little blobs of butter on the top of the fish, putting in a pre-heated hot oven for about fifteen minutes.  The delicate flavours are maintained and the very soft texture makes the fish very tasty – and it’s as easy as…….  Then you can use the poaching milk to make a sauce.  All very clever.

Flat fish, like plaice, dabs and sole fillets can be fried quickly and easily to make a lovely meal.  These flatties have a finer textured flesh that can break up in the pan if handled roughly.  Be gentle with them – they are worth it.  Unless you are skilled, don’t try to fillet them yourself; and eating them on the bone can be a gigantic disappointment, greater than the size of the fish!

I haven’t really mentioned skate wings much in this book because of the gel-like structure that the flesh sits on.  Some people actually eat the cartilage…. That is weird! (Sorry Donna, my angel nurse).

Oily fish (such a horribly-sounding description for such a lovely thing, to my mind) are lovely – for example Mackerel is a very oily fish and does you a power of good.

Trouble is that it tends to smell when being pan-fried.  No, it doesn’t just smell; it pongs when it’s being fried.   It’s a lovely, tasty and firm fish that is very easy to cook, but if you take a non-pongy tip from me, it needn’t be.  Seal a couple of these wonderful little swimmers (nicely gutted and cleaned, but with heads & tails still on, a little fresh dill, butter and a chunk of lemon in the cavity) into a well-buttered foil packet with a splash of white wine and place it into a medium oven for 20 minutes or onto a medium barbecue (outside) for about ten + minutes or so per side, the pong will be very much reduced when the foil is opened.  My missus doesn’t like fishipongs and even she doesn’t complain when I do it that way.  Of course, you could eat it sitting in a garden chair in the glory of the British open air.  It won’t taste any better than pan-frying it, but it will stop the house from smelling like Grimsby fish market – if, indeed, Grimsby still has an operational fish market; mind you, the way the British fishing industry is going, you never know what’s next to be axed.  (Oh, and by the way, as fresh fish smells very little, Grimsby, or indeed any coastal fish market won’t smell a lot.) 

That’s just to avoid the letters of complaint that….. STOP DIGGING, Colin!

Salmon is also an oily fish, so are trout and grayling (though not so much).  The last two are freshwater fish.  To my mind grayling is best, but that’s just my preference.  If you can get brown trout or grayling, so much the better.  Rainbow trout is a little too soft & pappy for me – unless people have an excess of them and would like to donate….

Salmon bones should be dealt with in the same way as in white fish (with tweezers or long-nosed-pliers) and once de-boned in this way, a big side of salmon will normally feed about five or six people; so a whole farmed salmon may go as far as a dozen for a main course.  Pan fry the individually cut portions with the skin on, skin-side down first for about three minutes until the skin has crisped, then carefully turn over and finish off for about another two or three minutes, any sauce (caramelised shallot sauce being very nice with salmon – see The Recipe Bank) being added in the last few seconds before being lifted out. 

Trout can also be used instead of salmon, but you’ll need a couple of fillets per person.  Trout is also much more fragile when being cooked, has a finer texture and smaller bones.

Sea-Trout or Salmon-Trout:

Try it: it’s gorgeous!

Sardines: are lovely.  No, forget the canned stuff.  That’s all very well, but fresh sardines are easy and tasty.  If you can find the Mediterranean ones, don’t gut them, just rinse them, flour them well in seasoned flour and fry them.  Heads & tails & fins & everything.  Just pull the fillets off the backbone with a fork, leaving the head, tail and backbone on the plate.  Simple and delicious.  The Atlantic ones are bigger and you should gut them, remove head & tail and then open the belly out onto your cutting board, pressing down on the back of the fish with your forefinger, starting from the head, progressing towards the tail.  The backbone and most of the stiffish bones will magically come away from the flesh leaving two lovely fillets joined at the centre.  Flour and fry!

Fresh tuna: is wonderful (see The Recipe bank) but is quite expensive in the UK.  When in France I cook quite a bit of fresh tuna, but over there it can be bought in a big slab for not too many Euros.  Here we seem to sell tiny little bits that cost an arm and a leg.  Not that Tuna has arms or legs, you understand, but you know what I mean.  Recent UK bought fresh tuna was very disappointing in flavour.  Roll on France to get the nice stuff!

Shark and swordfish: also fall into the same sort of category as fresh tuna and can be used as tuna in any tuna recipe.

Seafood: 

Things like mussels, clams, cockles, etc. come into this category, as well as prawns and shrimps.  I’ll only cover mussels and prawns (see Tips’n’Tricks), as the rest of the shellfish will fall very much into the category of mussels.

I will not cover cooking octopus or squid. 

I doubt, as a Rookie Cookie, you’ll fancy cooking either of those.

 Vegetables:    

Veg? 

Ugh! 

Oh I don’t like veg!

This is the comment made by so many young ‘uns.  The most probable reason that they don’t like veg is that they’ve been put off by the traditional Brit way of cooking veg – boiling it to friggin’ death… and beyond.    I am going to give you the ways to cook veg so that it tastes nice – not so that it smells like bad eggs.

Ok, so, if at the moment you may not know your carrot from your cauliflower, soon you’ll know just enough to make a confident start, so let’s go through a few common veg to let you know what to do with them:

Potatoes in general:  (A root veg – they grow under the ground, y’know….)

These are the mucky whitish lumpy or mucky reddish lumpy things wot are reasonably cheap to buy.  They’re pretty dammed useful too!  They are the things that fast food outlets make their fries out of, so I’m told.

To my mind, the fries available in these ‘orrible fast-food outlets, all so common in just about all towns & cities – dammit – are just fingers of spud mush fried in fat, containing mostly fat!…….. of course, I could be completely and utterly wrong (weak legal disclaimer) but it is an opinion I hold. 

But to be serious, the thinner the chip (or fry, as they call them) the greater the percentage of fat contained within it because of the ratio of surface area to the volume of the chip.  Thus, it follows that a fat, chunky chip with a fluffy centre is better for you – or, at least, less bad for you than a thin and crispy one.  It is the fat content, together with the type of fat used, that are the problem issues where chips are concerned. So…………..

Chips:  Please don’t use an old style open chip pan – you know; the one with a wire-handled basket and without a sealed lid.  They may be readily available but please don’t use one.  Either buy a modern deep fat fryer with a temperature cut out and a sealed lid, use oven chips or get your chips from the local chippie.  It is not worth the worry of having a fat fire and risking your life – or that of someone else.

You could (as I do, secretly) drizzle an amount of olive oil on oven chips them before they go into the oven – it does rather make them a good deal yummier (if, indeed, ‘yummier’ is a true word in the Oxford English…… if not, put it in the dictionary NOW).

Fat:  Well, it’s your choice – and I cannot truthfully say that chunky chips deep-fried in beef dripping are not lovely and tasty and an absolute joy to eat – but you are certainly better advised, on health grounds, to use a vegetable oil for frying.  I am a very great fan of olive oil, but corn oil, groundnut oil, grapeseed oil, etc. are so much better suited to higher cooking temperatures and have a more neutral taste.  They’re cheaper to buy too.  But I ask again – please, oh please, do not use a traditional chip pan.  It’s a really efficient way to start a fire if you try to get old fat to the right temperature for a good chip.

Better still, don’t eat chips! (or very few/rarely)

Whatever you do, fit a smoke alarm, check the battery on the first day of each month – and don’t use it as a meal timer.

Boiled new spuds:  Cor, they’re gorgeous!  Freshly dug small new spuds, simply washed & boiled for about 20 minutes and topped with butter… …oooooh, I can just taste them now.  So many people stand there for hours scraping off the thin skins, ensuring that every scrap has gone, washing them so that they are beautifully smooth.  RUBBISH!  Give ‘em a wash and bung ‘em into a pan with cold water.  Leave the skins on, just wash off the muck.  Add a little salt to the water, or, better still, put some big sprigs of mint in there instead (no, not A mint; not a Polo or a Trebor…. just mint…  y’know, the herb…..fresh mint – stalks as well as the leaves).

See “Tricks’n’Tips” for keeping fresh mint and other herbs to use in cooking.  Bring to the boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes or so, until a table knife pushed into the largest spud comes out again without having to tug like crazy, getting yourself scalded with boiling water.  Either that or steam them in a steamer for around the same time.  I like steamed early new spuds but I get a better hint of mint flavour by boiling.  Horses for courses, as they say.  The skins?  Well they are the fibrous bit of the spud and should be eaten.  ‘Keeps yer reg’lur.  Anyway, they taste better with the skin on to me.

Buttered, freshly boiled spuds, still warm, are just lovely with a green salad, boiled eggs and lots of fresh parsley, scissor-cut chives & dill.

Baked spuds:   One of the easiest and most satisfying meals to have on the cheap.  Baked spud with…

Well, refer to The Recipe Bank for good things to do with the good ol’ baked spud.

But how do I bake a baked spud?  Use the oven, that’s how.  If you have lots of time, pop it in the oven at about gas mk 5 for an hour or so, according to size, and you should have a done spud.

But how about a done spud tasting nicer?  Well, it’s easy.  Spike the raw spud all over with a skewer, then rub butter or other oil/fat into the holes and all over the skin.  Stick the skewer straight through the middle of the spud and out t’other end.  This will carry the heat through to the centre and cook it more evenly.  Clever, eh?  That is, of course, when using a metal skewer – a wooden kebab stick won’t do as it won’t conduct the heat.

(We really do owe so much to the science of Physics, don’t we?) 

Pop the spud(s) onto a metal baking tray or a ceramic oven dish and into the oven at gas mark 5.  Littler spuds take about 40 minutes, bigger spuds 50 – and really ginormous spuds probably 70 minutes.

Of course, you can cheat if you are in a rush.  To cheat (fairly, of course) just chuck the spuds into the microwave (highest setting) on a non-metallic plate for about 5 + minutes, according to spud size & how many you are cheating with, then simply pop them into the oven, as above, for about 20 minutes – you will still get reasonably crisp outsides with a soft and gooooey middle.

But don’t tell anyone how you did it, will you…. we don’t want too many people knowing, or they’ll all be as clued up as you and me.

The onion family:   Onions grow singly, shallots grow in bunches.  Onions can be normal white (yellowish), very white, brown or red, amongst other hues.  They can be spring onions, like in salads, or globe onions, as in Spanish.  The commonly used onion is the normal white one that I prefer not to use.  I like to use red onions and I confess to very rarely using anything else for general cooking.  You can use whatever onions you want, but anything other than the common white (sometimes called yellow) onion will be more a little expensive to some degree or other.

Shallots tend to be less regularly shaped and more lumpy-bumpy.  Peel a shallot and you’ll find that there are sections to it.  I like to take these separate sections and keep them whole; they make nice features in stews and casseroles, etc.

Garlic.

Garlic is sold in BULBS or nets of bulbs.  You’ll need to push hard down on the stalk of the bulb on a hard surface and the CLOVES of garlic will break away.  When a recipe calls for 3 CLOVES  of garlic, don’t put in 3 WHOLE BULBS or you’ll be nobody’s friend for about a year.  See Tricks’n’Tips for the easy way to peel garlic, cos it’s SO easy.  Don’t be afraid of garlic, it’s a great ingredient and flavouring.

(Did you know that the average English family eats more garlic than the average French family now?  It is a 2009 statistic, so I’m led to believe by a TV chef….. can’t remember which – they almost all look the same to me……).

Carrots:  (A root veg).  Carrots are a root vegetable.  There is a general rule that root veg should be put into cold water and brought up to the boil to cook them; dunno why – perhaps I’ll find out someday.  I’ll confess to popping my new spuds into boiling water and it doesn’t seem to cause any problems. Just plain common carrots, peeled, sliced and boiled for about 10 – 15 minutes taste lovely.  It seems there is less taste to be had from supermarket carrots than freshly dug local carrots, but, of course, the latter will be more costly.

Should you be able to get hold of stubby and short Chantenay carrots, then do so.  Watch the supermarket ‘reduced’ cabinet for these.  It’s certainly where mine come from most times as they are normally quite a bit more costly than the others.  If the skins are not tough, leave them on; the flavour is much improved.  Taste of proper carrots!

Parsnips:  (A root veg).  Many people dislike parsnips as they can have quite a strong and distinctive flavour when just boiled.  However, roast parsnips are very different; the roasting gives a lovely caramel flavour.  So, don’t just boil them to death; either roast or fry them.

Using a frying pan with a mixture of groundnut/sunflower/grapeseed oil (because of the high temperatures involved) and a little butter, fry long thinish strips of parsnip until nicely browned.  It’s a quicker method than roasting and you can keep an eye on them more easily, to avoid burning them.

Roasting parsnips is also a really great idea.  Cut them up so that the thickest bit is no thicker than 10mm and you’re on the ball.  Place them into a roasting tin and add the cooking fat, no, not the f….. cat!  You can use saturated fats but it’s better to use a low-cost common vegetable oil (even though they taste better done in duck/goose/bacon fat).  Roast them at about 160 degs C until nicely browned, turning them once or twice to even out the cooking.  Cor, they is so sooperb! See ‘Dealing with Parsnips’ in Tricks’nTips.

Of course, you could just do Roast Veg………

Spinach:

If you are at the age of the dinosaur, like me, you’ll remember ‘Popeye the Sailor Man’ and that he could only beat off his arch-rival Bluto by squeezing a can of spinach until it popped, and gobbling it down quickly to go to save his ‘goilfriend’, the scrawny Olive Oyl, from Bluto’s cruel clutches.  Intended message?  Spinach = strength, so kids, eat yer greens.

Question: 

Have you ever tried squeezing a can of anything to make it pop?  No?  Well, that always did puzzle me as a kid because it took all my effort just to remove the label, never mind the lid (cos I woz a wuss!).  Perhaps I took the cartoon a little too seriously. 

(I could never quite manage to fly either; despite repeatedly jumping from my bedroom window with my underpants worn on the outside of my elder brother’s girlfriend’s red tights, often to be found in my bedroom, annoyingly, when I was but a young ankle-biter. At the time I was sure that it didn’t work because I didn’t have a magic phone box; now I just blame BT – for everything.)

But once again I digress.

Spinach: is supposed to give you strength and vitality.  The facts are slightly more prosaic than the cartoon may depict, but spinach is still truly a great veg to cook, and to consume.

The ‘wilting’ of spinach is a constant wonder to me; the way that a knob of butter, a big pinch of sea salt, the tiniest splash of water and applied heat can reduce a big bag of spinach leaves to a lovely deep green pile of tasty veg in the bottom of a pan is just magic to behold; and then to eat.    Give it a quick squeeze to take get rid of the excess moisture, then pour that fluid into the sauce/gravy.  Whatever you do, please don’t boil it; it would be such a waste.  Wilt it, share it, enjoy it.

Spinach has lots of iron (another bizarre thought) so it’s brill for your body and saves you chewing a railway line.

Swede:   (A root veg).  This cheap and uninteresting hard vegetable ball is largely ignored by people aged less than 210, but in fact it can be quite useful.  Fried or roasted in the same way as the parsnip it completely changes its flavour.

Parsnips can be peeled with a peeler but swede needs the outer 2-3mm or so taking off, so do it with your largest wide-bladed cooking knife on a chopping board; but please mind that your fingers are kept on the blunt edge of the blade.  Cut the whole swede in half, then each half in half again.  You should then be able to pare away the thick skin in safety, as you are guaranteed to keep a flat, stable surface on the chopping board.  Cut it into half-inch cubes and fry as parsnips, or cut into inch cubes and roast.  It can also be put into stews, or boiled and mashed with butter.  Mash a combination of potato, sweet potato and swede with lots of butter.  Yum!

Of course, you could just do Roast Veg……..

Peas:  Shelling fresh peas is a total pain in the bum and not worth the effort – and the really cheap ‘value’ frozen peas can be hard tasteless balls.  Go for the middle line.  Buy supermarket’s own frozen petit pois and don’t overcook them.

Frozen peas are actually supposed to be better than fresh ones, unless you’ve picked them yourself in the last 20 minutes (which, of course, you won’t have done because you’ve been too busy reading this fascinating little book that was such good value and that you will telling your friends about tomorrow…., hint, hint…)

Mange-tout:  Mange-tout sounds very romantic, but in French it just means eat all.  It may not sound quite so romantic put that way but they still taste great.

Top the stalks off and just fry them gently in butter for about two minutes.  That’s it.  That’s all it takes. 

You can add them to stir-fry dishes as well.  They are rather lovely.

Sugar Snap Peas:  Treat as mange-tout, but ensure that their hard edge doesn’t contain a thick string by pinching the end with a small knife and pulling down the edge.  If there’s a string in there it will come away easily.  If not, you’re in luck and you needn’t worry.  I actually prefer sugar snap to mange-tout as they are more robust and can be fried/sautéed more aggressively without spoiling them.

Runner beans:  There are so many different types of runner beans.  Some need to have their side strings removed, some don’t.  Some flat-podded beans are completely stringless and are grown in Africa especially for our supermarkets (I’m not too keen on those, really).  Ask – that’s the way to find out what things are like.

I consider the normal runners, with any side strings removed, to be the tastiest. Drop the sliced pods into vigorously boiling salted water for seven minutes and they will be gorgeous.  I have to admit that I grow them in the garden – and to pick, prepare, cook and eat the young beans in a matter of minutes is a real treat.  I always use the shorter young beans that haven’t had the opportunity to develop the strings yet, you see.  And don’t say that they won’t grow in your garden; you can grow them up a tepee of canes in 18” pots, so you don’t even need open ground. 

Broad beans:  Buy frozen and don’t overcook them – they take but a few minutes; they’re lovely with a knob of butter melting on top.

You can do the cheffy thing and remove the outer skins of the individual beans to make them more tender if you want – see Tricks’n’Tips for how to do it easily.

It is quite an easy job. (It’s also a friggin’ tedious job and I think that life is probably too short to get into the habit of de-skinning all my broad beans).

French beans:  Trim top’n’tail and drop into boiling salted water for about ten minutes.  If you lay about half a dozen side by side on a chopping board and chop the ends off, then turn them around and do the same again it can save so much time when doing the trimming.

If you buy them in a bag, all lined up like little soldiers…. don’t take them out of the bag – top’n’tail ‘em whilst in the bag.  Lovely with a knob of butter melting on top.

You will need to take ‘em out of the bag to cook ‘em though….

Fine beans:  As for French beans, but cook for slightly less time.  Buying fine beans is more expensive.

There is a trend towards pre-trimmed fine beans these days, but once cut, the wound will darken and harden.  Look for this, otherwise you’ll have to trim your pre-trimmed fine beans again: so what’s the point?

Cauliflower:  Cut off all leaves, cut the florets (little bunches) from the main stalk and steam/boil for about ten minutes.

Refer to Tricks’n’tips for two interesting Cauliflower Cheese recipes.  Also, try curried cauliflower puree.  Yum!

Broccoli:  My mate calls Broccoli ‘Trees’.

“Why should anyone want to eat trees?”  he barks.

Well, cos it’s nice.  Broccoli (or Calabrese to give it the more accurate name) is a bit like green cauliflower.  Cut the florets away from the main stem and treat as cauli.  I have made broc’n’cauli puree – and that’s nice too.

Broccoli & Stilton soup is WONDERFUL!

Purple sprouting broccoli: (real broccoli) can be treated more like cabbage (no, not boiled till it stinks), stripping the leaves and florets from the harder part of the stem and put into a pan with a knob of melted butter, or it can be steamed like cauli, with the stems, but if sautéed, PSB is SO much nicer.

Steam for a while and then sauté; that’s the really nice way, but it’s using that butter stuff again….

Cabbage:  Different types, different uses.

White cabbage: together with onion, carrot & other stuff, makes great coleslaw – but I’m not going to tell you how – see Delia; she’ll give you chapter & verse cos she’s brilliant.

Greyhound cabbage, spring greens and Brussels tops:

These are nice if you pull the green leaf material away from the tough central leaf spine, then fold up the leaf into a roll and cut into strips, dropping the cut cabbage leaves into a warm pan with a big knob of butter, melted ready, with a splash of water.  Keep turning the cabbage leaves over for a while, allowing them to be covered in butter and not burning and you’ll see that they start to take up less room in the pan.  When they’ve got to about a half of their original volume just add a big pinch of sea salt and an amount of good freshly ground black pepper and they are ready to be eaten.  They DO NOT taste like boiled cabbage at all. 

If you want to ruin cabbage, simply boil it to death – and suffer wind as an after-effect.

(Remember the boiled cabbage you got at school? – that tell-tale smell as you approached the dining hall…….UGH!) 

Asparagus:  Snap off the bottom of the stem (snapping is a better way of determining which bit should be discarded than cutting) and gently sauté (slowly fry on a low heat) in butter for eight to ten minutes, according to their thickness.  Alternatively you can steam them or boil them, using the water as a veg stock for soup or something afterwards, or you can lay four or five pre-blanched (see Tricks’n’Tips) spears onto oblongs of rolled out puff pastry and oven cook them for about twenty minutes, to be served with Hollandaise sauce as a starter (see Recipe Bank).  GORGEOUS. Eat.  Enjoy!

NOTE:  DON’T THROW ANY ASPARAGUS TRIMMINGS OR PEELINGS AWAY – EVER!

It can all be converted into soup – a really beautiful soup.

Sweetcorn/Maize:  Tins are easiest and very nice, but can be expensive.  Frozen sweetcorn is also very nice, especially the SuperSweet types.  Fresh corn on the cob is lovely when fresh from the field, but can sometimes be quite tough when it has been off the plant for a while.

You might (or possibly might not) like to know that the skins of the kernels are not very digestible and will, if you pardon the way I put this, ‘pass this way again’. 

They go straight through the digestive system unaltered. 

A bit like politicians.

But sweetcorn does taste really nice, and the colour is great to see in a dish.  I just love to nibble on a cob of soft, boiled, ripe, freshly picked cob of sweetcorn covered in melted butter.  Canada has some really nice sweetcorn available in September and October, in case you find yourself over there about then.

Baby Sweetcorn:  This poshified ‘baby’ sweetcorn accompaniment deserves a completely different treatment.  Slice lengthways or leave whole, then simply fry for a few minutes in oil and butter for a lovely, crunchy side dish.  Don’t serve them with ‘rustic’ dishes though cos they won’t really go.

Peppers:

Capsicum (bell) peppers are very useful indeed.  They can be chopped, stuffed, sliced, diced… and they taste nice too.

One of our boys says that sliced green peppers are like little green slugs.  He doesn’t like them at all, but if you like the taste of green peppers you can make some lovely oriental style food.  I do, and I do – if you see what I mean. 

There are also long, beautifully sweet red peppers available – these are great for salads and main course ‘sweet’ red fruit/shallot sauces.

A problem with peppers in general is the skin – do you leave it on or take it off?  Unlike spuds, the skin of a pepper is not fibrous and good for you; it’s not easily digestible either – a bit like sweetcorn.  It’s not a crime to leave the skin on; it’s generally ok and really makes the colour of the dish very attractive when bright yellow, orange, green and red specks are seen throughout the food – remember that you eat with your eyes first.  However, it isn’t too difficult to remove the skin cleanly and completely.  The colour is then less bright and sparkling but I believe absence of the hard film skin on the pepper flesh really makes a difference in taste.

How to remove the skin?  See Tricks’n’Tips, of course.

Chillies:

Chillies are generally hot, super hot or ‘pass that flower-vase NOW!’.

A general rule is ‘The smaller the chilli, the hotter it will be’.

A word about handling chillies:  If you wear contact lenses, don’t put them in after you’ve chopped chillies – even if you’ve washed your hands.  It’s a bit risky handling certain parts of the male and female anatomy too, when you need to go to the loo.  Keep your hands away from your eyes…. completely away from your eyes.

When you prepare chillies, if you want it hot, chop the seeds as well.  If you want the flavour without TOO MUCH heat, split the chilli and remove all the seeds.  It’ll still be hot, but not quite as fiery.

Personally, I use chilli flakes in a grinder.  That way I can get the chilli effect without risking damaging a certain part of my very valuable old lower anatomy; or my eyes.

And don’t let the seeds fall onto the kitchen floor either, or your dog might get an unpleasant surprise – and you might get an unpleasant vet’s bill as well as a nasty mess to clean off the carpet.

Aubergines:

Aubergines have high water content – they are like a sponge.  Have you felt the weight of a big aubergine?  It just seems un-naturally light in weight, it’s because it is sponge-like and as such, it can absorb more moisture – or lose the moisture it contains.   When the natural moisture content is reduced it fries or roasts much better.

This water reduction process is done with salt.

Take your aubergine, cut it into whatever shape pieces and place the pieces onto kitchen paper.  Sprinkle salt onto the upper face and then turn each one over.  Sprinkle salt on to the now upper face and place another piece of kitchen paper on top.  Place another plate on top, weight it down with something quite heavy and leave them for an hour to do their own thing.

Upon returning, the kitchen paper will be quite wet.  Bin it.  Wash the aubergine pieces under the cold tap and pat dry with more kitchen roll. 

Yes, that’s right – under the cold tap. 

Yes, I know; you’ve just reduced the moisture content then you wet it again – but this is not to put the water back in again, it’s simply to wash off the salt.  Yes, I grant you that it sure does sound stoopid – but it’s what y’do; just do it and don’t argue. The water doesn’t go back in when you wash it, honest.  Trust me.  You’ll need to pat it dry before cooking it, by the way.

Frying and roasting are both good methods. 

A staple for the veggie people, it is a good veg with a meaty texture, it’s readily available but it can be a bit costly in supermarkets.  Use your local market towards the end of the trading day – look for the bargains.

 Salad stuff:

Lettuces:

There are too many different types of lettuce available to be fully listed here, but these are a few of the more common ones….

Round Webb’s:       A soft-leaved lettuce.

Cos:                      A tall, long leaved lettuce, very fresh, crisp and nicely

flavoured.

Radicchio:             Red leaved, crisp but has a distinctively bitter taste.

Lamb’s lettuce:     Tiny little crisp plants with a distinctive flavour – very

nice.  Underappreciated in my opinion.

Salad bowl:           Long, deeply cut leaves, light green.  Nice as a base leaf.

Iceberg:                 Very, very crisp.  Serve shredded as a cheap salad base.

Lots of people dislike Iceberg.  I don’t dislike it at all, but I can understand those who do.  It’s used a lot in pub food as it bulks up the look of the plate.

Gem hearts:           These are centres of a softish, tasty lettuce.

Nice, but can be expensive.

Can be obtained in a red (oak-leaf) type.

There are also other salad leaves to make a salad interesting.  Rocket is one to note.  It has quite a spicy/peppery taste and a mixture of this and a comparatively bland lettuce can stick a boot up the backside of a boring green salad and make it zing a bit.

Beetroot leaves, baby spinach and others are good additions – and then there are herb leaves like basil and parsley, etc.  The list is almost endless.  Look on the salad bags in supermarkets to see a full range of leaves.

By the way, I am led to believe (I do not know for certain) that many of these prepared bags have a gas inside that preserves the contents until it is opened, so don’t expect the contents to last long afterwards.  I will look into this further.

Tomatoes:    Very important in a salad, the small cherry tomatoes can be very tasty and vine tomatoes also tend to keep their taste too – though I have to confess to not knowing why.  It is often said that putting tomatoes in the fridge robs them of flavour – I don’t know if this is true or not, but I don’t like tomatoes served too cold anyway.  Use the point of a very sharp knife to pierce the skin of a tomato before slicing it, as the skin is often quite tough on many volume grown supermarket tomatoes.

I cannot stand Moneymaker tomatoes at any price – they seem to me like leather bags of tasteless water. 

However, well-grown and well-fed Gardener’s Delight will give the real taste of a nice tomato – you can normally get them from village fetes in the summer.   Try the beefsteak type too, a wonderful slice of summer.  Some yellow varieties of tomato are a talking point around the table; however, to me a tomato is red.  I haven’t tasted a yellow tomato yet that I like.

I is probly justa nole dineysore . . . .

Whatever tomato type you use, tear large, juicy, fresh basil leaves and throw them in the mix – they make tomatoes sit up and sing.

Spring onions:        Buy the cheapest ones, they’ll be fine.

 Cucumber:             Yes.  Well, that’s about all I can say about cucumber (unless you can think of another use for….).

Salad dressings:     Readily available from the supermarket shelf, in all manner of flavours.  Personally, I like a basic dressing made from good extra-virgin olive oil, sherry/cider vinegar, grain mustard and a finely chopped clove of garlic.

See Tricks’n’tips. .

Note:  I am currently researching a lovely dressing that I encountered when eating out recently.  It involved tarragon, garlic, very tiny amounts of both balsamic and cider vinegars, lemon juice, seasonings and ‘oodles and oodles of good quality sunflower oil’ as the man described it.  And pasteurised egg white.  Hmmm…..

Humus:

Chickpeas and Tahini, olive oil and other bits.  Originating in the Middle-East and North Africa, humus is a staple food, but here it is quite exotic.  It’s great for a starter and is not difficult to do – see The Recipe bank.

 Pasta:

Pasta types/forms/shapes:

Pasta is so wide-ranging (I’m told that there are 600 types) that people have gained degrees on the subject.  My explanation will be somewhat simplistic compared to a PhD.

Penne is basically a pasta tube that catches the sauce.  Other shapes, like the shells, do the same, but in different ways.  The pasta spirals are also designed to make the most of the sauce by catching it in the slots.  But pasta is pasta is pasta.

Shapes differ, sauce collection varies but pasta is basically pasta.

There is normal pasta and there is pasta Verdi (made green with a spinach colouring); there is wholemeal pasta and there is egg pasta; there is normal pasta and gluten-free pasta.

There is good pasta and not-so-good pasta, but pasta is generally a good value, wholesome, substantial meal.  But it’s still pasta.

A few years ago I found one called Gigli in France; and I actually quite like it (gasp).  I saw it in Tesco the other day; I haven’t looked anywhere else for it yet – perhaps you can tell me.

Fresh pasta is really much nicer than the basic dried stuff – but it is still friggin’ pasta. 

You might have guessed by now – I’m not a big fan of pasta.

Rice & Grains:

There are quite a few rice types too.

However, if you’ll take my advice, you’ll keep to Basmati rice, at least for now.  This long-grain rice cooks easily, tastes great, when cooked it keeps well, goes nicely with wild and Camargue rice and isn’t too expensive.

Normal long-grain rice tends to be fatter, dustier, stickier and doesn’t taste as nice as Basmati.  Try Thai and jasmine rice as well, but I prefer Basmati.

Refer to Tricks’n’Tips and The Recipe bank for a more complete story.

 Blé

It’s wheat.  Unmilled wheat.  Throw some into a stock and give it 20 mins.  It’s surprisingly nice.  Don’t just use plain water though – it’ll taste so insipid and awful that it’ll put you off using it for life; it needs flavour to be any good at all.

Couscous:

….. is great as a flavour carrier, as Blé, above.

To make couscous for two people, measure about 3/4 of a mug of couscous into a bowl and mix two finely crumbled stock cubes into it.  Add twice the amount of boiling water and stir for a mo or two.  Come back to it after a few of minutes and see how it is absorbing the water.  Add more water if necessary.  It should expand to over twice its original volume, perhaps more on a good day.  It needs to have as much moisture as it will take.

It can, with care, be kept hot for quite a while on a very, very low heat, but do not let it start to stick to the pan or burn.  The burnt taste will ruin the whole panful, not just the bottom bit.

Refer to Tricks’n’Tips and The Recipe bank for a more complete story.

 Sweet ingredients:

Sugars:

Come in all sorts of forms and guises.  Consider the more conventional forms.

Granulated sugar:  Normal, common, run-of-the-mill sugar.  Generally used for all sorts including tea & coffee.  It’s good for use in liquids when it can completely dissolve.

Caster sugar:  has finer sugar crystals and, used in baking to give more volume to the mixture, resulting in extra-light cakes (I am reliably told by British Sugar . . . .) . It’s also perfect for light and crisp melt-in-the-mouth meringues and for sprinkling over cereals and fresh fruit (same source – you can tell by the wording style, eh?).

Me, cynical?….. Moi?

Dark brown soft sugar:  is moist with small, fine crystals. It has a full rich flavour and deep golden brown colour making it ideal for adding the characteristic taste to rich fruit cake, gingerbread, Christmas puddings, etc.

Light brown soft sugar:  again, is moist with small, fine crystals.  It is ideal for creaming with butter or margarine to make delicious sponge cakes and puddings when a fuller flavour and golden colour are required.

Icing sugar:  This has a fine silky texture.  It is ideal for icings and butter creams as it combines easily and dissolves instantly.   Use it to sweeten cold drinks, whipped cream, yogurt, fruit purées and sauces.

Chocolate matters:  (oh yes it does – so I’m told).

Deserts often use chocolate.  A wide range of eating and cooking chocolate is available in supermarkets these days.  The differences between them are normally the proportion of cocoa solids, cocoa butter, and sugar content.

It’s normally considered that a good plain chocolate should contain at least 70 per cent cocoa solids and should start to melt readily when you hold it in your hand for even just a few seconds – the quicker it melts, the higher the cocoa butter content.  Cocoa butter melts just above our body temperature; a good test, so I am told.

Yes, you’ve guessed it – I’m not a big chocolate fan.

Until I get started.  Then I have difficulty stopping.

I no – I is proper weeeerd.

Don’t try to use drinking chocolate instead of cocoa powder – it’s a completely different animal – it’s not like cocoa at all.

‘Chocolate chips’ sold for baking will tend not to melt as you would want your chocolate to do for cakes and mousses, etc – they are designed to keep their shape and form for things like choc-chip cookies.

The awkward other bits that can’t be included in the other sections:

Offal:

Don’t just dismiss offal out of hand.  You may not fancy the thought of it at first, but it’s good, wholesome food that is generally quite cheap to buy and easy to cook.  If you’ve had steak & kidney pud at some time, you’ve had kidney; and liver NEED NOT be like you were given at school – I think the cooks of that era took extra training to make the liver go so hard and to make the cabbage so pongy and pooey.

Also, don’t just give in to the wuss in yourself.  Take heart for example:

Lamb’s heart:  The heart is simply a pump, a muscle that is on the go all the time; 24/7.  That means long, low temperature cooking will make it wonderfully tender, the fine grain of the meat making the texture beautiful; and the flavour is lovely.  It is available in supermarkets at a very low price because we, as a society, have got out of the habit of eating it so much these days – a real pity.  I normally buy mine in packs of three (I’m talking about heart here, not something for the weekend…) and I find that three is about right for two single-person meals.  Prepare and cook the three and save half in the freezer for the meat part of a ready-meal for one.  See ‘Cheap’n’Cheerful’ for what to do.

Beef heart:  This can be bought from butchers’ shops rather than the supermarket.  It has a more robust flavour (that also applies to beef kidney & liver) and cooks just as well as lamb’s heart.

Liver in general:

Liver has marvellous health benefits.  It also benefits the wallet as it’s dead cheap to buy.  Do not overcook liver or it will become hard.

 Lamb’s liver: has a more distinct flavour and is quite crumbly in texture.

Pig’s liver: Good for cooking with bacon in a heavy gravy.  I much prefer

pig’s liver myself.

Ox liver:  Beef liver is very nice.  Cooked until the centre is just losing its pinkiness, this is rather gorgeous.  It is cheap and plentiful.  I first really encountered it when I was cooking extras for our dog – and immediately loved it.  There are some tough bits, but all you do is to cut them out an cook en for your animal – and save the nice bits for yourself.  Two happy souls in one operation…. RESULT.

Calf’s liver:  Well, this is rather expensive.  It is slightly nicer than ox liver, but nowhere near the amount that they charge extra for calf’s liver.  My advice is to use ox liver, cook it nicely, and serve it as calf’s liver.  Most people will rave about how good it is – and they’ll think that you’ve paid out loads of money for their supper.

Kidney in general:

Kidney is a beautifully soft meat, cooks quickly and has a lovely flavour.  It needs to be ‘cored’ before cooking, that is to remove and discard the sinewy centres.  As pigs have larger kidneys, they have larger cores.  Do not overcook any kidney or it will become hard.  See ‘Tricks’n’Tips’

Lamb’s kidneys:  are relatively small and it’s easy to remove the cores from them using scissors once they have been halved.

Pig’s kidneys: are a nicer flavour, for me, but you need a flat chopping board, a sharp, wide bladed chef’s knife and a normal fork to do the preparation.   See Tricks’n’Tips for how to remove the cores.

Do not overcook any kidney or it will become hard.

As far as I’m concerned, pig’s trotters, brains of anything at all, tripe and of the other more extreme offal types would not be suitable for you as they require too much preparation.

Anyway, the more obscure offal tastes like shit to me.

Prepared/manufactured foods:

Sausages:

What was it that the European Union wanted to call the British banger?

‘The United Kingdom Emulsified Offal Tube’, or something like that…

Or was that just on an episode of ‘Yes Prime-Minister’?

Either way, cheap sausages are a good way to get a high fat diet down yer gullet.  We’re not supposed to be having a high fat diet, so why am I talking about sausages?              Please beware of cheap sausages.

Butchers all over the UK will shout that they only put the same high quality ingredients into sausages as they sell in their shops; but some of the high-volume producers are not so high-minded.

The fact is, sausages contain an amount of fat.  That fat is needed.  When you grill them, there is a leakage of rendered fat.  The more fat they leak when cooking, the greater their fat content before cooking – simple, really.

Now, I like bangers, and I could name several really good banger-makers locally to me in Suffolk who I would buy from without any qualms at all; but please be very aware of the cheap fatty commercial offal tube, because they’re about as good for you as one of those universal grot-burgers that I have mentioned.

But sausages can be good.  Go to local suppliers and talk to the person who makes them; take their guidance. 

However, they’ll no longer be cheap food.

Burgers:

Make your own (see Tricks’n’Tips) or buy the really good ones from a local butcher in whom you have a great deal of trust.  The universal grot-burger may not be what you want to eat.  Again, refer to Hugh Thingumy-Wotsit or Jamie on the telly.

Pizzas:

Pizzas are high in fat.  That’s a real pity, as a number of them are pretty tasty.  The cheeses contain fats as do the other bits of toppings (well, the tasty ones do, at least).  Pizzas are great for a quick snack or meal.

Don’t discount them – just don’t live on them.

Pies:

There are so many different pies available that I simply can’t cover them all.  Just remember that pies have a good amount of fat in the pie crust, as well as any in the filling.  I love a good steak & kidney pud – but, of course, the suet content is pure minced fat; no wonder I like a good steak & kidney pud.  Just consider the original ingredients used in these manufactured foods, and the processes that prepared foods have been through.

They’re fine now and again, but not again and again and again and . . . . .