28 Mar

Seasoning – Too Much of a Good Thing?

It’s a generally accepted view that for food to taste really fantastic good seasoning is vital.  And that correct seasoning is the mark of a great cook.  Any avid viewer of MasterChef will attest to this.

My gripe though, is the overuse of pepper, whether it be white pepper or the ground black stuff beloved of waiters in Italian restaurants.  These days, there seems to be a misconception that piling on the pepper compensates for reducing the salt content of the food.  I know that we’re all supposed to reduce our intake of salt as too much isn’t good for your health but I don’t see that as a good reason to whop in the pepper.  Pepper doesn’t just enhance the existing flavour of the ingredients in the way salt does, it adds heat.  There are people out there – me for one – who don’t actually like their food hot.  For me, excessive use of pepper quite simply kills any flavour the dish originally had and all I can make out is a burning mouth!  For instance, the other day I had lunch at one of our catering outlets on campus and my steak pie just tasted of pepper.  Although I was assured it was steak in the pie, quite honestly it could have been anything as pepper was the dominant flavour.  I have also noticed that larger quantities of pepper are creeping into sausages, again, I assume to compensate for salt reduction.

Perhaps chefs/cooks who are used to eating highly spiced foods need to be aware that their palates are not necessarily indicative of the general consumer and have to rein back the urge to add that extra grind or two of pepper.

What do you think about this?  Does anyone else find that pepper is being overused or is it just me?

23 Mar

Naughty – but nice!

It’s March, it’s been snowing and so it’s still definitely winter outside.  Which means that a soul’s thoughts turn towards comfort food.

So today I’m having a bit of an irregular treat: a lardy cake.  Sitting in front of the open fire, naturally.  It’s quite an old-fashioned kind of cake these days.  It doesn’t have a swirly icing topping like a cupcake, it isn’t full of chocolate chips and there’s nothing of the patisserie about it.  Just a good helping of dried fruit and plenty of sticky goo.  Always choose one with plenty of goo.

I remember having the odd slice of lardy cake as a child, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that I really noticed them as an adult. It was when I started shopping at the Reading Farmers’ Market that the Old Farmhouse Bakery came to my attention.  A regular attendee, the Bakery has a fabulous range of bread and other bakery products available and the lardy cake is the star of the show.  As their own website says “so deliciously addictive it’s surprising they don’t come with a government health warning!”.  Chatting to the ladies serving one morning, I was advised that the lardy is not only a favourite back at the Bakery with the staff, but is often eaten warm smothered in butter!  I’m not sure I could go that far myself which is saying something for a butter addict but it is definitely on the gluttonous side of moreish.

So here I am with my feet up in front of the fire with a freshly brewed pot of tea and a slice of lardy.  All in all not a bad way to spend a weekend winter afternoon.