Saturday, July 25, 2009

Taste of Things to Come

Am greatly in favour of blind tasting, and when involved with Consumer Groups used to arrange several of these - mainly biscuits, cheeses, etc. In every case (price-wise) it was always the middle of the range (and often even lower) that turned out to be the ones most chosen.

Hugh Fearnley-W found that chickens did not need to be free-range or organic to taste good. Likewise Rick Stein did similar tests on chickens and turkeys (at different times) and his own personal choice was not the one he expected it to be. He was quite mortified. Cooked carefully, a cheaper bird can often be as moist and taste just as good as a more expensive one. Certainly my feeling is that even if there is an improvement in taste with a more expensive bird, there is not enough to justify the extra expense. We should always expect to get what we pay for, and not be shortchanged especially when it comes to flavour and quality.

When it comes to growing our own fruit and vegetables we are truly on the winning side, for how little they cost and how fresh they will be. Not even at a Farmers' Market or in a delivered organic box will the produce be as fresh. Consider the cost of a box of raspberries, blackcurrants blueberries, and even blackberries when we buy them. Growing our own (and so easily) we can save ££££s.

There was a mention in one of the comments about buying cooked meats from a supermarket, and this has given me the chance to urge everyone to cook their own, slice and freeze it ready to eat as and when wished. It was in the early days of this blog when I wrote about the advantages of doing this. Compared the cost of the meats (chicken, turkey, ham, beef...) when cooked and sliced to the prices charged for the same (weights) in the supermarkets. The amount of money saved was incredible, and the meat was much more flavoursome than the pre-packed bought from the shops.
Have to say I do buy the (smoked) gammon from the supermarket and not the butcher, just because it is cheaper and even so - still tastes good. A vacuum packed round gammon roughly costing £5 gives many slices. Takes just over an hour to cook and the secret is leaving it in the cooking liquid to cool before removing as this keeps it far moister. Sometimes I cook it with carrots, onions and celery to give added flavour, sometimes in cider. Believe Nigella swears by cooking it in Cola.

All meat to be sliced on a machine has to have all bones removed, so I tend to buy boneless cuts (such as topside or silverside of beef) and with chicken first roast the chicken, leave it to cool then chill it in the fridge before slicing by hand. Turkey breasts treated the same way, but as they are much larger can be removed whole from the bird, clapped together and then sliced on the machine.
Our electric slicing machine (bought from Lakeland) paid for itself after using it twice, as it can be adjusted to cut thinner slices than if the meats are carved by hand (although you may be able to carve thinly, I can't).

Even though (ignoring visitors) there are only two of us to feed, once every two to three months I buy either a beef joint, large chicken, or a ham to cook, and then slice when cold. Packed properly and frozen the slices will keep for at least six months, so we always have enough for sarnies, cold meat platters, or thicker slices reheated in gravy to make a main meal.