Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Cooking with fat

Minx gets tired trying to keep track of what she is supposed to be eating...
So the debate rages on about what the real enemy is when it comes to our eating - it seems that after years out in the cold someone has decided that fat isn't actually all that bad for you but having sugar in your tea is akin to...something dreadful.  I don't pay an awful lot of attention, to be honest; I have no intention of ditching any of the food groups, mainly because I am greedy and they taste nice and life is genuinely too short to spend it worrying all the time.

This much I do know, if you're counting points, or calories, or whatever, and you want to get your intake down a bit, shaving some of the fat out of a recipe often helps.  In most cases you can, at least, halve the amount of oil called for in a recipe with no particularly detrimental effects to the flavour but a decent calorie saving.  Gram for gram, fat has about double the amount of calories in it as does protein or carbohydrate.

And, when we're talking about pure energy content, all fat IS created equal.  Earlier this week, I watched Jamie Oliver pour several "lugs" (what is a lug, Jamie?  A good few tablespoons I reckon) of olive oil over a plate of mackerel and quinoa...and then refuse to add a knob of butter to his mashed potato.  Yes, there has been much written about the health benefits of olive oil, but that does not change the fact that pouring it willy nilly over your food is going to increase the amount of calories you consume by rather a lot.  Also, butter tastes good.  I love butter and cook with it often, and there is no reason you can't as long as you are sensible with regards quantities.  The idea that butter is "bad" while oil is "good" is a total nonsense.

The key for the home cook is to invest in some decent equipment.  A couple of good non stick pans will change your life (if your life, like mine, is quite small and quiet, and kitchenware excites you).  We bought ours a few years ago from M&S - a little pricey but worth their weight in...well, gold.  The point is, often a recipe calls for a lot of oil at the beginning just to stop food sticking to the pan.  It seems a bit of a waste to add something that is not going to contribute particularly to my enjoyment of a dish but just save a bit of time washing up.

Another tip is to buy yourself a silicon brush - this is something I picked up from watching Andrew Pern work during a Star Inn cookery course last year.  A brush will ensure that whatever fat you have added to the pan - even if it is just a scant teaspoon - can be quickly and evenly dispersed across the whole surface.  I use mine a lot for this very purpose.

When cooking foods with a high fat content of their own - streaky bacon and chorizo are two examples which immediately spring to mind - you can often get away with not adding any additional fat for cooking purposes.  Keep the heat low to start with, which will allow the fat in the item itself to render out.  I never cook bacon in oil - which makes me sound a bit puritanical -  but I just don't see the need.  The bacon will cook quite happily in its own fat as long as you start it off slowly.  And if I'm cooking something alongside said bacon - for example, an onion, I will cook the onion in the bacon fat as well.  Just make sure you do your meat first and that should provide you with sufficient lubrication.  And I'm sorry for using the word lubrication in a piece about cooking.  Those of you with a prurient mindset are allowed to leave the room for a giggle.

I suppose the point I am trying to make is, when you're following a diet plan, every little calorie or point or syn is precious.  But, equally, fat can be an important - even crucial - component of a dish and we shouldn't be afraid of it.  We just have to work out where it will actually contribute an element of pleasure to the food that we are eating - that's the bottom line, isn't it?  Enjoying what we are eating?

Personally, I like tuna...


  1. Hear hear!! I am in total agreement. Good food, which tastes great, in moderation. L xx

    1. It's the moderation bit I need to sort out! Once I've done that I'll be cruising... :-)

  2. Could not agree more! I love your food philosophy and love that your blog exists - a genuine and realistic foodie weight loss blog is a rare find. Not to mention your charming personality :)

    1. What a lovely comment, thank you!

  3. And, on the subject of enjoying our food, I made your chicken with broad beans, lemon and mint the other day and it was delicious!! Definitely one for the summer rotation. Thanks for sharing it. Lxx

  4. Hmmm, I'm kinda fat-good, sugar-bad camp. Although I am emphatically not the poster girl for it - or, well, anything. But I definitely have an addiction to sugar - and it sends me haywire, dizzy sweaty, palpitations... And yet I still want it. Crazy.