Monday, 16 February 2009

Good Old Honest Labelling

I see the Tories are introducing a new campaign called Honest Food which although I agree with, I think it shrinks into insignificance when we contemplate the demise of UK plc.

Proper labelling of food is important for consumer choice as buying “British Pork” for instance could mean under current regulations that it has been imported from Eastern Europe and processed here which quite frankly does not mean British Pork.

Correct labelling has nothing to do with free trade or protectionism: it’s simply identifying where the product came from, without exploiting EU loopholes. In as a far as people expect to have the free choice of where to give money to their charity of choice, they should expect to pick and choose from where they buy their food from.

Sadly, the majority of people will choose on price and price alone and in the world of cut-throat supermarkets, quality often takes a back seat.

I tend to cook everything from fresh and avoid most processed foods, fast foods and don’t eat out that often in restaurants or gastro-pubs. I used to be Mr Microwave man and would think of nothing of buying a stack of 12 microwave meals from M&S and living off those, despite the horrific £500 monthly bills from my M&S charge card.

Those days are long gone and I enjoy cooking, love exploring different flavour combinations and find cooking a meal after a long day of stress quite therapeutic. It has become another hobby, or if I’m truthful about it, an obsession.

I make my own bread, my own pizzas, pasta, my own stir fries, mousses, pates, chutneys, desserts, Thai, Hungarian, Indian, soufflés, anything really. A great roast beef marinated in Indian spices with saffron roast potatoes and homemade Yorkshire in t’bread tin is a renown favourite of mine.

My initial cooking experiments consisted of constructing some cuisinary nightmares that resulted in dishes that would pummel your taste buds into submission before dragging your tongue out for a trip around Dante’s hell before immersing it into the Red Sea, some dishes that looked like a rejected Picassos, some that looked colourful (Beetroot hummus!) but had the consistency and taste like putty...

After many years I manage to tone everything done and just had two or three complimentary and sometimes contrasting flavours in my dishes. Things like scallops and shallots in a creamy tarragon and white wine sauce, homemade beef and Guinness pie, Thai salads with cashews, soy and honey dressing.

People always say that they would cook more but find it takes too long. Well, I can pick up a few salad leaves, pine nuts, onions and perhaps cook a little pancetta and in 10 mins, you have a great healthy salad. Takes 5 mins to fry a tuna steak and 15 mins to cook some rice.

Some people say it’s more expensive, especially when you say you get your meat from a butchers. This simply is not true – my local butcher gets in some great tasting meat and meats that aren’t found in the supermarkets. Why? Because they are cheap and don’t make much money and probably are off-putting for the general public.

I got some pig’s trotters for free as no-one was buying them from our butchers. Great cooked with paprika with traditional Hungarian recipe. Also, nice chuck steak mince, cheaper than the supermarkets because it was not that ultra-lean, tasteless crap that people think is such a healthy option. The other thing, is when I want a treat, rather than buying fillet steak, I buy a rump steak that has been matured for 28 days. Now people always say they don’t like rump steak because it’s chewy and fatty. Well, that’s true if you buy meat generally from a supermarket. From a butcher however, you’re looking at £3.50 for a large rump steak, fried either side for a minute on a super hot griddle and you have the most wonderful, soft, magnificent flavoured steak. Oh, and his bacon doesn’t shrivel to the size of postage stamps when you fry them as I’ve found a fair amount of the supermarket offering contain so much water.

People will always say that they want to buy the cheapest value chicken to feed their families as they cannot afford it. Well, my thoughts are, why keep feeding your family meat every day? Pasta (3 eggs, flour, 10 mins to make, a couple of hours to dry), salads, fruits, soups, bread are incredibly cheap to make and taste great. You can then treat yourself to one or two meat dishes during the day.

I used to eat meat every day. Well, I used to buy processed meat every day: “I feel like chicken every f***ing night” – that was me. Now, I just cook fresh food, more veg and salad than meat and I feel better and financially better for it.

So, go to your local butcher and check out his meat, go to your local grocer’s or pick your own farm (great for kids) and get fresh, local, great tasting seasonal food and learn how to cook it.

You’ll find the cost of your food shopping reduces significantly and you can get the whole family to help out too.

1 comment:

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