A new start…
By Linda Parker
I, along with millions of others, was glued to my screen watching the drama of the trial that involved Charles Saatchi and his ex-wife, the glorious Nigella Lawson… with eerie timing it all came to a head just before the start of The Taste…
I’ve always loved Nigella’s cooking, although in some of the early books the quantities were a bit wonky, and sometimes things just didn’t work terribly well, that wasn’t the point, it was all good fun and we all enjoyed watching her! The Taste is a food show on another level, with a bit of X-Factor style hugging and comforting when it all gets a bit too stressful…
…nonetheless Episode 1 got off to a great start, with cookery-tutor Kelly presenting the glorious-sounding tea-smoked duck breast with pickled cherries and sprouts (something to cook to use up the mountain of sprouts left languishing in the salad drawer after Christmas!).
(It’s a little fiddly but I think worth a try, Nigella loved it, and chose Kelly for ‘her’ kitchen.)
It was fascinating to watch Anthony Bourdin too, as I have never seen his television programmes before, (he is well known for his cookery and cultural travel adventures for The Travel Channel) but his book Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly which was published in 2000, was the book that triggered my interest and curiosity about how we cook, what we cook and how it’s presented to us, and of course, a healthy fascination with the chefs themselves.
That book was the equivalent of car-crash television, and a case of ‘too much information’ at times! Episode 2 got down to the nitty gritty of the competition with someone being ‘sent home’ for a slightly strange new take on tiramisu which featured virtually none of the originally accepted ingredients… Gadget of the week was Justin’s Smoking Gun, used to re-create a ‘smoked’ flavour in a short space of time.
There was lots of leftovers-style cookery going on after Christmas, and one of the best pans I used was a new Healthy Ceramic Non-Stick tart pan from the Boston Bakeware range Green Pan.
I’ve been using their non-stick ceramic frying pan for a while now, and it performs beautifully, but of course can’t be used in the oven. The tart pan is such a useful size… I used for wrapping up various leftovers in filo and puff pastry, also for roasted potatoes and vegetables; it measures 26cm diameter, 3.5 cm deep, and it’s easy to cover it with foil if needed as it grips around the handles.
If you visit the website, check out the Twiztt saucepans too – they each have a straining lid and matching melamine bowl for serving/storing drained vegetables, pasta, rice etc, and which beg the question why on earth doesn’t every saucepan come with a straining lid!
As it’s the start of 2014 I suppose it’s only polite to go through the motions of making some healthy New Year Resolutions… there’s been a lot of press recently about how our collective sugar intake has rocketed, with, of course, the associated impact on health and weight. Some of the facts I’ve picked up have been quite sobering; there can around six teaspoons of sugar in a supposedly ‘healthy’ 250ml portion of a fruit smoothie, around ten teaspoons of sugar in a can of Coke, and over six in a serving of orange juice. I don’t think of myself as having a sweet tooth at all, but I’m going to be checking labels and packets carefully for the hidden sugars from now on.
The obvious answer is to cook simply and healthily ‘from scratch’, which of course, can be cheaper as well – main meals can be a portion of meat, chicken or fish and a selection of freshly cooked vegetables or salads. Simple soups, made using vegetables, stock, fresh herbs and a swirl of sour cream, can be served with home-made bread and are perfect for lunch.
The recipes don’t have to be complex, the ingredients don’t need to be costly… and the result will be a cleaner, leaner diet, and of course, that smug feeling that comes from saving money, getting back to the pre-Christmas weight, and making use of the blenders, processors, and other assorted gadgets that lurk in the cupboard not getting much use. If you need an excuse to buy a bread maker, a healthy, new-year, new-you diet is the perfect one, try this one from Lakeland, which is compact, makes a 1lb loaf, and is excellent value for money too!
Linda Parker, Food Fan and Freelance Interiors Journalist