Are you a cheater?

Are you really cheating? With lots of great ready-made ingredients in the aisles, is it really that bad not baking from scratch?

PastryMy name is Sarah, I work on a food magazine, and I suffer from ready-made guilt. I confess I no longer make pastry, I buy custard and a jar or two of mayo normally lands in my trolley.

Of course this has not always been the case. Feeling that as a 'foodie' I should make everything from scratch, I used to make my own pastry (very badly and to the point I still had to use a processor to get any sort of texture), whip up pesto and make my own ice cream.

MayonnaiseSo why did I put myself through it? Well party because I felt, due to the day job, it was expected of me, but more so because of the pressure TV cookery puts on you. Have you ever seen anyone on MasterChef turn up with ready-made mayo, add some garlic and pass it off as aïoli? Thought not. And what about Delia? When she suggested we use frozen mash and ready-made spice mixes for curry, the nation was aghast in horror.

But having been lucky enough to test some amazing ready-made items, I decided enough was enough. Pastry making was out and I started to buy all butter puff and baked pastry cases. The texture was better than mine and I have to confess made my pies taste far superior. As for mayo, I was pleasantly surprised to find plenty of lovely choices all made with just oil and free-range egg.

And there are plenty of other really good shop-bought alternatives, from Thai curry pastes to marinades. All made to pretty much the same specification you would at home (albeit without the mess and occasional strop when it all goes wrong).

I'm full of admiration for those with the talent and energy to cook completely for scratch. But surely I'm not the only one to cheat a little? Am I?