Butter is Best


The recent cover story on Time magazine was that butter is better so surprise surprise its official after all. Only two vitamins are water soluble, all the rest are fat soluble, so what does that mean? Well the reality is that unless you eat a little fat with the rest of your food the body can’t absorb all the nutrients from the food – that’s why, many people on a strictly low fat diet find themselves under nourished and often overweight.

Lovely Julia Child, the goddess of butter, cream and a good pinch of salt must be smiling wryly in his heavenly home. Butter is high in a compound CLA that protects us from tumour growth and cancer and provides omega 3 fatty acids. Recently a team of international scientists have completed an exhaustive new analysis of the research to date, drawing on 80 studies involving more than half a million people. They found NO evidence to support the theory that saturated fat increases the risk of heart disease. They did however find a link between trans fats and coronary problems
This meta analysis (basically a study of other studies) was published in the Journal Analysis of International Medicine.

More studies are underway but it does sound as though the days of – “I can’t believe its not butter” and the myriad of low fat products are numbered.
Its seems utterly incredible that the dietary advice that was stated with absolute certainly by the governments, Departments of Health, doctors and dieticians for over four decades was erroneous. Not only was it not based on fact but it now appears that a lack of saturated fat may in fact be damaging to our health. Why was it so easy to persuade not only the medical profession but the greater general public that butter, a totally natural product was less good than margarine and other highly processed low fat products.

Entire industries are now based on whipping up paranoia and demonizing fat. The war on fat is far from over, after years of conditioning, consumer habits are deeply formed and some people are actually nauseated by fat.

Interesting to be a fly on the wall in the marketing departments in some of those multi national company boardrooms these days. Flora have already launched a new “irresistible blend of butter and Flora” called GOLD. There is no doubt the real problem in our diet is an excess of sugar and ultra processed food – we can no longer say we don’t know.
We need to ditch fake food for real food and not just embrace any old fat, it needs to come from a pure and natural source.
Everyone agrees that people would be healthier if more of their diet was made up of what Michael Pollen aptly calls “Real Food”.

Pan grilled Mackerel with Parsley and Lemon Butter

The new seasons mackerel are in – such joy – fresh mackerel are my absolute favourite sea fish. This is a master recipe for pan grilling fish.
The simplest and possibly the most delicious way to cook really fresh mackerel.

Serves 1 or 2

2-4 fillets of very fresh mackerel (allow 6 ozs (170g) fish form main course, 3 ozs (85g) for a starter)
seasoned flour
small knob of butter

Parsley Butter
2 ozs (50g/1/2 stick) butter
4 teaspoons finely chopped parsley
a few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice

segment of lemon

First make the Parsley Butter.
Cream the butter, stir in the parsley and a few drops of lemon juice at a time. Roll into butter pats or form into a roll and wrap in greaseproof paper or tin foil, screwing each end so that it looks like a cracker. Refrigerate to harden.
Heat the grill pan.

Dip the fish fillets in flour which has been seasoned with salt and freshly ground pepper. Shake off the excess flour and then spread a little butter with a knife on the flesh side, as though you were buttering a slice of bread rather meanly. When the grill is quite hot but not smoking, place the fish fillets butter side down on the grill; the fish should sizzle as soon as they touch the pan. Turn down the heat slightly and let them cook for 4 or 5 minutes on that side before you turn them over. Continue to cook on the other side until crisp and golden. Serve on a hot plate with some slices of Parsley Butter and a segment of lemon.

Parsley Butter may be served directly on the fish, or if you have a pretty shell, place it at the side of the plate as a container for the butter. Garnish with parsley and a segment of lemon.

Madhur Jaffreys Chicken in a Butter Sauce

From Indian Cookery

The Indians too love butter – The sauce in this dish should be folded into butter at the very last minute as it tends to separate otherwise. However, you can combine all the ingredients except the butter up to a day ahead of time and refrigerate them until they are needed.
This is a wonderfully simple but spectacular dish in which the Tandoori chicken is transformed with a sauce.

Serves 4-6

4 tablespoons tomato puree
Water to mix
A 1 inch (2.5cm) cube of fresh ginger, peeled and grated very finely to a pulp
½ pint (275ml) single cream
1 teaspoon garam masala
¾ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon sugar
1 fresh, hot green chilli, finely chopped
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon very finely chopped fresh green coriander
4 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground roasted cumin seeds
4 oz (110g) unsalted butter
Tandoori-style chicken

Put the tomato paste in a clear measuring jug. Add water slowly, mixing as you go, to make up 8 fl oz (225ml) of tomato sauce. Add the ginger, cream, garam masala, salt, sugar, green chilli, cayenne, green coriander, lemon juice, and ground roasted cumin seeds. Mix well.
Heat the butter in a wide sauté pan or a large frying pan, When the butter has melted, add all the ingredients in the measuring jug. Bring to a simmer and cook on medium heat for a minute, mixing in the butter as you do so. Add the chicken pieces (but not their accumulated juices). Stir once and put chicken pieces on a warm serving platter. Extra sauce should be spooned over the top.

Ballymaloe Green Gooseberry Tartlets

Use the last of the green gooseberries for these delectable tartlets, the butter pastry is rich, flakey and delicious.

Makes 36 tartlets approximately

1 quantity cold cream pastry
450g (1lb) green gooseberries (topped and tailed)
caster sugar

Preheat oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas Mark 5.

Using plenty of flour roll the cold pastry to a thickness of 2mm (1/8 inch). Cut the pastry with a 7.5cm (3 inch) round cutter and use the disks of pastry to line a standard flat based bun tray.

Cut the gooseberries in half and arrange 6-7 halves on each disk of pastry. Place a rounded teaspoon of caster sugar on top of the fruit in each tartlet. Bake the tartlets for 15-20 minutes or until the sugar begins to caramelise and the pastry is a golden brown colour. Remove the tartlets from the bun tray while still hot – use a palette knife for this – and place on parchment paper which has been sprinkled with caster sugar.

These tartlets are best served warm.

Open Apple Tartlets: Replace the gooseberries with thinly sliced eating apple.
Open Rhubarb Tartlets: Replace the gooseberries with thinly sliced pink rhubarb.

Cream Pastry

This superb pastry keeps in the fridge for up to 6 days.

110g (4oz/1 stick) cold salted butter
110g (4oz/1 cup) plain flour
150ml (5fl oz/generous 1/2 cup) cold cream

Sieve the flour into the bowl of an electric food mixer. Cut the butter into small cubes and rub into the flour using the paddle attachment until the mixture forms a coarse texture (slow speed and then a little faster). (DO NOT over mix, if you do the mixture will form a shortbread like ball! Pour the cold cream into the coarse mixture and mix on a low speed until a smooth pastry forms. Wrap the pastry in parchment paper and chill overnight.
Always roll cream pastry straight from the fridge. If the pastry comes to room temperature it will be too soft to handle!

Hot Tips

New Seasons Marsh Samphire has just arrived. This is also called Glasswort and is quite different to rock samphire but equally easy to cook in boiling water (not salted) for about 3 or 4 minutes. Toss in melted butter and serve with fish and salad. Available from the Ballymaloe Cookery School stall in Midleton.

My latest find was at the in Skibbereen Farmers Market in West Cork a vibrant melange of stalls selling not just beautiful local and artisan produce fresh fish and shellfish, it also has bric a brac, organic seeds, hand-woven rugs and fancy poultry…. Look out for one the newest stands Bantry Bay chocolates was selling little cellophane bags of crunchy toffees with a hint of sea salt – so good we fought over the last one. bantrybaychocolates@gmail.com

Ballymaloe Cookery School Gardens are open to the public at present, the finest vegetable and herb gardens are bursting with produce as is the greenhouse. We even have peaches, apricots and a pomegranate. Don’t miss the shellhouse and maize and check out the fancy fowl and fat pigs. Gardens open daily from 11am – 5.30pm.

The OOBY Food Market which caused such a stir in East Cork reopens and will be operating from the wall outside Shanagarry Church from 10am – 12 noon every Sunday for the Summer – not to be missed….. Telephone: Olivia Connolly 021 4646041

About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


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