Tag Archives: fat

Changing faces

madonna1986Madonna has always been a bit of a chameleon but perhaps never more so than just lately.  At 50 I fully accept that the youthful bloom will have gone from her face – we none of us can hold back the march of time, try as we might – but, as someone who is close to the same age as her, I’ve been saying for years now that she actually needed to pile on a few pounds in order to look better. Perceived wisdom is that as nature has a way of stripping fat from our ageing faces, in order to remain youthful looking we must allow ourselves to gain a little weight for each decade that passes.  

As Madonna has aged she has fought hard to keep her svelte figure and good for her, but she has paid the price on her face which in recent years has become sunken-cheeked, bony and, dare I say it, haggard.  The overall effect has been to actually make her look (facially) older than she really is. 

What a difference a few months can make in the life of a celebrity.  Here is a sequence of photos I’ve put together, beginning with last Summer, when she was undoubtedly under considerable strain. (It also has to be said that it’s a brutally honest ‘pap’ photo of the type that makes you realise that she is, after all, human like the rest of us).  I think the other two images are in sequence, although you never can tell with celeb photos what was taken when.  In the second, to me at least, she looks a good 10-15 years older than her actual age.  In the third she’s back to the polished but bony look we’ve become accustomed to.   madonna, jul08, 1madonna2madonna-3 

 

Then today I came across the photo below.  Oh wow.  This is so radically different that I actually initially wondered whether it was someone else impersonating her.  Has she put on that much needed weight?  Or has she had a date with a surgeon and a syringe?  If it’s the latter (which I strongly suspect, looking at those ‘Jolie-esque’ lips), then I wish she’d give herself a break and just try eating a bit more for a change.  At 50, I think she has earned the right to be a bit kinder to herself.

Madonna – the latest incarnation:

madonna-4

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All about butter

Butter CurlsI don’t think anything compares to the taste of real butter in cooking. Butter-based spreads have come into existence to try to provide healthier alternatives but they are not always ideal for cooking.  Here is a quick low-down on the basic versions of butter available, plus a few facts and hints:

Salted butter – Salt is a preservative so that the addition of salt to butter gives it a longer ‘shelf-life’.  Salted butter will last about a month in the fridge, six months in the freezer.

Unsalted (or ‘sweet’) butter is the freshest butter available, with an accordingly fresher taste – largely because the natural sweetness of the product isn’t masked by salt.  However, without that extra preservative it will not last as long.

Given the above, good traditional bakers usually opt for unsalted butter in recipes – the flavour is better, there is the option to decide just how much salt should be added, and too much salt tends to produce a tougher dough.  At a pinch (no pun intended), ready salted butter can be substituted in baking recipes, but remember to reduce, or cut out entirely, any extra salt noted separately in the ingredients list.  (If you have to use salted butter in a recipe because that’s all you have, the rule of thumb would be to cut salt by 1/4 tsp for every 4 ounces, or half a cup of butter that is in the recipe).

Light / reduced calorie butter is made with half the fat of regular butter and in order to approximate the consistency of the full fat version, water, skimmed milk and gelatin are added.   As a consequence, it will give different results when used for baking and frying and is therefore not recommended.

In some countries whipped butter is also available.  Its’ whipped texture makes it lighter and more spreadable but the process of whipping means that it is actually 30 – 45% air.  For this reason it also is not generally  recommended for baking.

When frying and sauteing,  it is better to use unsalted butter.  If you wish, the addition of just a teaspoon of oil will allow you to heat the oil to a slightly higher temperature before it begins to burn but both salted and unsalted butter have low smoke points (the point at which the butter burns).

Clarified butter is used widely in fine cuisine as the basis for sauces and, as most of the milk solids and water is removed during preparation, allows for cooking at higher temperatures without burning (useful for frying and sauteing) . 

To clarify: gently melt a quantity of butter in a pan and, using a metal spoon, skim off the solids that begin to foam up on the surface.  Be careful not to allow the butter to burn. When you feel you’ve removed as much as you can, pour the melted butter through a sieve which has been lined with cheesecloth or muslin, into a bowl beneath.  (These solids can be thrown away but are also considered a delicacy in Northern Indian cuisine, being eaten with unleavened bread). The clarified butter in the bowl will last in the fridge for up to a month.

Ghee is very similar to clarified butter, the differences being that all the water content has been evaporated off, all the milk solids removed and the remaining butter has been allowed to brown slightly, giving the ghee a nutty flavour.  Pure ghee will keep at room temperature for months and, as with clarified butter, can be heated to high temperatures.  The process of preparation has removed casein, lactose protein (often a problem to those with allergies) and oxidised cholesterol, whilst still retaining valuable vitamins.  Its’ more intense, nutty flavour also means that you will probably use less of it in cooking.  Ghee is available in Indian and Middle Eastern grocery stores, as well as in some supermarkets.

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  • Butter absorbs the flavours around it so is best stored in an airtight container or wrapped carefully in foil.
  • Store in the coolest part of the fridge (which is generally not the door)
  • To soften butter quickly for baking, cut into small cubes and leave at room temperature.
  • Frozen unsalted butter can be grated into pastry mix for a nice, light and flaky crust

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This is why you're fat

Rather largeWant to have a giggle but also be totally grossed out at the sheer piggery of some people?  Then go and see this selection of photos posted in The Daily Telegraph from website ‘This is why you’re fat ….where dreams become heart attacks’.  Un~be~lievable.

Telegraph selection

Original website:  http://thisiswhyyourefat.com/

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Marinating

Making a marinadeIn our health conscious world, fat in meat has received a bad press and is largely shunned by the consuming public.  The fact of the matter is that fat is an essential element in good meat, providing both flavour and moistness.

If you’ve bought a very lean piece of meat you may need to be careful how you treat it and cook it if you want to avoid chewing on something akin to shoe leather!  One way to help tenderise it before cooking begins is by ‘marinating’ it.  Marinating breaks down some of the fibres in the meat and the more acid the marinade, and the longer you leave it, the greater the effect.  Just bear in mind that the process draws nutritious juices out of the meat so don’t throw the marinade away once you’ve used it!  Either baste the meat with it as you are cooking or make an accompanying sauce out of it.

A marinade is typically a combination of three elements:

  • an acid ingredient, such as wine, sherry or vinegar
  • oil – infused oils such as chilli, garlic etc., olive, walnut and sesame oils – which help to impart flavour and retain moisture
  • seasoning –  from basic salt and pepper, to herbs, to spices, to other ingredients like honey, lemon, good old ketchup and Worcestershire sauce.

If you’re experimenting and making your own marinade just try to balance the three elements and use ingredients that are complimentary to the meat.  For instance, lamb and rosemary is a classic combination, pork works well with either sage or rosemary, and chicken with lemon and thyme.

The process is very simple: Put the meat in a shallow glass or pottery dish – not metal, because the acid ingredients may react with the metal and taint the food.  I find sturdy zip-lock bags very useful for marinating. Pour your marinade ingredients over the top and turn the meat a few times to coat.  (This is where a zip-lock bag comes in useful because you can just pop the whole lot in the bag, zip the top and toss the bag over and over a few times to thoroughly coat).   If using a dish, cover and then, whatever the container (including zip-lock) you need to put it in the fridge for the alloted time.  If your marinade doesn’t completely cover the meat, turn it every half hour or so.   Pork and poultry will take 2-4 hours happily in the fridge, red meat and game, 4-6 hours.

Marinating is not confined to meats.  Both fish and vegetables can be given the same treatment but bear in mind that fish, in particular, is a far more delicate meat and if you overdo the marinating time the whole lot could become mushy.  For fish and veg therefore I’d recommend just half an hour to an hour in the marinade.

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Bird? What bird?

roadr_coy1What size of bird (turkey) should you buy for you and your guests?  Aim on 1 pound of turkey for each adult guest (1-1/2 if you’re aiming to have leftovers).  Many people just go ahead and buy a great behemoth of a bird, regardless of this calculation – it’s no wonder they get sick of the sight of the thing by day two!  (A simple ‘What size turkey to buy’ chart is posted at the end of this article for quick reference).

If you only have a small group to cater for, you may like to consider an alternative.  Nowadays you can buy just a ‘turkey crown’ – this is literally just the turkey breast meat, so if you don’t like the brown meat anyway, this may suit you better.  Disadvantages: You’re unlikely to find it complete with giblets so you won’t easily be able to make your own turkey stock for the gravy (normally well worth doing), it won’t look as impressive if you usually take the bird to the table to carve (!) and it won’t cook in the same way.  Nevertheless, it’s a simpler option for a smaller family get together.

Steering away from turkey entirely, did you know that a growing number of people in the UK are opting for chicken on Christmas Day?  There is absolutely no reason why you can’t still do all the traditional trimmings  like ‘pigs in blankets’ to serve alongside the humble chicken. 

If your group is too big for a single chicken but too small to warrant an entire turkey, there is a kind of half-way-house option of a capon.   A capon is basically a castrated cockerel, the meat of which is succulent and tender.  They are, unfortunately, hard to find and big poultry producers use hormones to induce caponization (never something I’m happy with).  If you’re lucky enough to find a small supplier, and like me you’re bothered by hormones in food, check whether the bird has been surgically or chemically castrated.  You may find capons available through small, quality butchers or farm shops.

If you pick the ‘chicken option’ don’t feel you are cheating your family by the way.  I, for one, far prefer the flavour of chicken to the rather bland and often dry turkey.

Moving away from chicken and turkey, on continental Europe goose is the traditional choice in many countries.  It’s moist, tasty and has the added advantage of rendering a supply of fat to use for delicious roast potatoes and veggies.  See chef Gordon Ramsay’s roast goose recipe here.  (Cook the goose on a raised rack in the roasting tin to keep it out of the fat …not mentioned in this recipe).

Those are the most obvious bird alternatives for your Christmas meal.  No rule book says, however, that you need a bird at all.  A tasty roast of beef or pork would be very nice and judging by the number of hits I’ve been getting to this site lately for ham cooked in coke, I’d say that if that takes your fancy then you’d be in good company!

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If you’re going down the turkey route, here is a quick reference chart to tell you what size turkey you’ll need to buy:

5 lb / 2.25 kg                    serves 4 – 6

8 lb / 3.6 kg                       serves 6 – 8

10-12 lb / 4.5 – 5.6 kg   serves 10 – 12

20 lb / 9 kg                        serves 12 – 15

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