First thing's first. Doesn't really mean anything, does it? Come to think of it I've also started saying 'it is what it is', and 'that's not in my wheelhouse'. Quite where these phrases have crept into my life I'm not sure. I blame the country music that Ewan plays incessantly. Anyway, here is the thing that is the first thing. Better? Not really.
The garden is alive. Or to clarify, the vegetables in the garden are. Much to my surprise, in addition to the radishes (which I am reliably informed could be grown by literally anyone), beetroots are taking off, as are my baby leeks, carrots, onions, chard and even the beginnings of courgettes. Whether any of these things which actually be edible remains to be seen. But worst case scenario, I’ll just start burying shop bought veg in the garden to make myself feel better.
Now, onto the important stuff. If you've read this blog before you are probably aware that I can go on fairly relentlessly about the difference homemade stock can make. But I'd like to think that the recent blog on the virtues of tinned cherry pie filling show that I'm capable of being a pragmatist.
I thought I would try to construct a list of some of the things that I think it’s worth making from scratch, and some things where the shop bought option seems to me to be a perfectly reasonable alternative. So without further ado…
Crumpets and Scones
This is the one that spurred me into writing this piece. I love crumpets. Mostly for their ability to act like a sponge for butter. But I do also enjoy the crumpets themselves. But mostly the butter. Having made crumpets a couple of times myself, they absolutely make my list of not worth making at home. I see no discernible benefit. Whilst not labour intensive, they require a long proving period and then take an age to cook, for something that (inexplicably) still isn't as good as a decent supermarket brand's version. Perhaps I’m just no good at making them. I do like butter though.
Scones on the other hand should always be homemade, as should fairy cakes. Mostly because, unless they’re eaten within about half an hour of coming out of the oven, they simply aren't very good.
Sweet chilli sauce and Mayonnaise
Blue dragon sweet chilli sauce. Enough said. I also feel sure I remember seeing an interview with James Martin once where he expressed the same sentiment. Contains about a million ingredients so making at home is just a laborious waste of time.
Mayonnaise on the other hand, make yourself, especially if it's the basis for another sauce like tartare etc. It bears little resemblance to the shop bought variety.
Tomato sauce and pasta
It comes down to the fact that tinned pasta sauces are 90% tinned tomatoes. Just buy the tinned tomatoes for a fraction of the price and make your own.
The pasta to have with your sauce is more of a contentious issue though. Both fresh and dried pasta are actually very good products. Making your own isn't necessarily a guarantee of a better product. That being said, making pasta is quite a satisfying thing to do. So we’ll put it in the category of ‘if you have the time’.
This seems as good a place as any to insert puff pastry into the conversation, as I feel it fits into the pasta line of argument quite well. Homemade puff pastry is, I think, undeniably different from the shop bought kind, but is it actually good enough for it to make the 'make it from scratch' list? I think probably not. You can buy very good all-butter puff pastry so, if you have the time, nice to make but not worth it every time.
So there we have it. Yet again, I have solved a problem that didn’t exist, and answered a question that no one really asked. You are most welcome. I will now return to what I should actually be doing and prepping for Friday's supper club.