Good Food Blog
Non-U foodPosted at 2:15PM, 07 December 2009 by Andy Lynes - Food writer
In an article written for the Spectator in 1963, Elizabeth David recounts how every guest she takes to the rather mediocre and now long gone Beau Geste restaurant in South Kensington is beguiled by the inexplicably delicious salad. The punchline is that the dressing's killer ingredient turns out to be plain old malt vinegar.
Inspired by the story (which is included in the must-have collection An Omelette and a Glass of Wine), I recently had a go at making my own version of the salad. Whatever vinegar M. Pigeon of Beau Geste used, it can't have been the same stuff I've got in my cupboard, which produced a dressing so acidic I used it to top up my car battery.
But I've always got a bottle of Sarson's to hand, and not just for sprinkling over fish and chips. It's essential for a garlic and ginger glaze for chicken, made to a recipe by top chef Bruno Loubet that also includes onions, brown sauce, tomato ketchup, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, soy and honey. And if malt vinegar is good enough for chef J P Singh, who uses it in his tandoori marinades at the world famous Bukhara restaurant in Delhi, it's good enough for me.
It's not the only traditional, deeply unfashionable foodstuff that I always make room for in my kitchen. Duck fat roast potatoes might taste great, but they don't deliver the sort of crispy finish that you get from lard (I only ever use duck fat if I've got it for free from cooking the bird myself. I also save lamb, chicken and pork fat from roasting joints, all of which are excellent cooking mediums).
I wouldn't be caught dead with margarine on my toast in the morning, but it's perfect for making a Victoria sponge
I wouldn't be caught dead with margarine on my toast in the morning, but it's perfect for making a Victoria sponge. It tastes great - no one will guess that you haven't used butter - and is so soft that it makes the creaming method a breeze, even by hand.
I use fresh herbs in my cooking by the truckload, but dried have their place too. The intense flavour of dried oregano is just the thing for pizzas and chillies, and a pinch of dried herbes de Provence is perfect for giving a lift to tomatoes slow-roasted with thinly sliced garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil.
So next time you're seduced by that expensive, voguish ingredient winking at you from the deli shelf, think twice. You could be quids in with non-U food.