Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Cooking ingredients: where to spend and where to save

Following on from her kitchen equipment list, here are my chef sister's suggestions on how to eat well, where to economise, and where not to, when food shopping:

It is obvious and much repeated but if you only shop in season you’ll get better value for money. Buy English strawberries only in mid-season and you can eat them every day. Asparagus just coming in is expensive, but hold on a bit for the price to go down.

Investigate the end of line baskets at supermarkets, they often have interesting random vinegars etc in their fancy foreign muck sections which don’t sell, so end up going cheap. The same goes for bin-ends for wine - you can find some interesting things.

Do what peasants around the world have been doing forever – just use a little meat in a hotpot/stew/whatever as a flavouring. One of the loveliest things I ate on a very greedy holiday in Andalucia was a stew of mostly potato, onion and pepper, with just a little pork, all cooked in delicious stock. The potatoes took on all the meaty flavour as they cooked.

Do not scrimp on:

Bread – it is such a major part of our diet but most people make do with the dullest, cheapest stuff.  Don’t put up with it! Buy the nicest you can, and then ‘something on toast’ is transformed.

Pasta – don’t ask me why, but supermarket value brand stuff is just not as good as more expensive versions.

Baked beans and tomato ketchup – only Heinz will do in my opinion.

Potatoes – have realized why the value bags are cheap – they sometimes seem to be a random selection of diff varieties and all cook at different speeds, so you end up with a pan of falling-apart and rock hard. Disaster.

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