Thursday, March 20, 2008
Posted by Abby
In the UK there has been a lot of discussion about the latest Delia Smith cookery book How To Cheat at Cooking.
Delia has always been a cookery writer who has caused polarised views. Her first book was published in 1971 and she has appeared on British TV on a regular basis since 1973 making her an old friend to some and the source of many tried and trusted recipes. For others, her cooking style is heavy-handed, uninspired and the step-by-every-step recipes patronising.
However, the controversy that she has unleashed with this book, and the associated publicity machine that has been cranked into action, has been much more than the normal polarisation. Delia has recently made some unwise comments about the pointlessness of considering where your food is produced (what foodmiles?) and how (why bother with organic?). But more fundamental has been the discussion about the cheating her new book advocates.
A recipe for shepherd’s pie advocates the use of tinned mince, frozen diced onions, ready-prepared diced vegetables and a topping of frozen mashed potato, trimmed leeks and ready-grated cheese.
For some this isn’t cooking, it’s food assembly. For others it’s recognition of the realities of modern life and the amount of interest and time that people have to spend on food preparation.
Personally, “recipes” such as this make me feel a little ill (tinned mince? bleugh!), and a lot angry. Angry because expensive short cuts are being presented with a big shiny label of “this is proper cooking” stuck over them. Grated cheese is twice the price of a block of cheese. Pre-prepared vegetables are similarly expensive. Products such as tinned mince will contain additives and preservatives, which none of us need to consume. I don’t even want to think what kind of meat they contain
And it’s not as though Delia doesn’t know how to do “proper” cheat recipes that don’t rely on over-priced, additive-packed ingredients. The same book contains a Greek lamb recipe containing ingredients in their natural state, a baked tortellini dish takes advantage of the fabulous fresh pasta that many supermarkets now stock and her Caribbean chicken contains cheats that I barely notice.
This is the kind of cheating which we need to be encouraging people to embrace in an effort to reduce the chore that cooking can become. And hopefully the many folks who buy this kind of how to cheat cookery book will choose these recipes and feel liberated as a result.
What are your favourite cheat meals?
The picture above features a new vegetable cheat – slice and fry courgettes in a little butter, add some crumbled feta and cook until the cheese melts, sprinkle with basil and serve. The veggie shepherd’s pie in the picture is slightly less speedy…
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This Post was written by abby from eat the right stuff.