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Delia on dairy ingredients


Thanks to our lush pastures and temperate climate, our milk, cream, butter and cheese are among the best in the world. Delia enjoys the rich pickings of the dairy, and extols the virtues of some of our most delicious produce.

cream--thick-double“You may drive out Nature with a pitchfork, but she will ever hurry back to triumph in stealth over your foolish contempt.” – Horace: Epistles

Wise words, these, and they have proved themselves to me time and time again in what has been a long career in food writing. I have witnessed fashions, fads and health scares all sweeping the nation one minute, only to disappear the next. My conclusion is that nutritionists will a) always disagree with one another and b) change their minds as time goes by.

Meanwhile, nature remains steadfast and does, in the end, always seem to have the last word. Nowhere is this more true than in the dairy which, far from being banished, has not only continued to hold its own but has even sent the lunatic fringe of the healthy lobby into retreat, humbly admitting that non-dairy alternatives were not, perhaps, the answer after all.

  Acreamnd while the debate was raging, the dairy industry was undergoing a quiet little revolution. One perhaps unheralded benefit of being in the EU is the staggering number of new dairy products from abroad that have found their way on to our supermarket shelves, including fromage frais, Camembert and crème fraiche. And because we have welcomed and enjoyed them, they are now here to stay.

But first, a word about the modern phenomenon known as low-fat living. Yes, we have all dutifully modified out eating habits – we no longer plaster our vegetables with butter, perhaps we spread a little less over our bread and, of course, we all love olive oil. But actually, I’m convinced that the excess fat in our British diet does not come from overindulgence in dairy foods or animal fats in good square meals: it comes from the consumption of so-called grazing foods that have hidden amounts of fat (just look around any railway carriage at all the packets and wrappers left after an InterCity journey). Not all these things are bad in themselves, either, but the key to a healthy diet is balance, a simple fact that we all too often overlook in the heat of our confused health debate. Meanwhile back in the dairy you can find all the balance you need: you can now actually choose for yourself the fat content of most products.

In Britain, we are lucky to be able to enjoy so many delightful dairy products. Our green and pleasant land is ideally suited to dairy farming, with 2.6 million cows grazing contentedly and producing between three and four gallons of milk per head every day, providing our butter, cream and local cheeses. All this, added to the prolific varieties of imported dairy products, means that those who like to cook have never been so well supplied in our whole history. Here are lots of lovely dairy recipes, as well as a new look at some traditional ones. Only one or two, I promise, are truly wicked… but don’t forget Sunday is meant to be a feast day after all.

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