I made pumpkin pie today, as I do every year from the scrapings of our Hallowe'en pumpkins. This year I used ready-made shortcrust pastry for a change. After all, the pastry isn't the best thing about the pie, it's really just a shell to hold the spicy pumpkin-flavoured custard. So why take a lot of effort over it if you don't want to?
Delia Smith got a lot of stick a little while ago for teaching people how to cheat at cooking. I don't understand why though. I'll take Delia over ten of your Gordon Ramsays any day. I understood what Delia meant, and I think it showed a deep understanding of the difference between good food and bad food. Take instant powdered mashed potato for example. It's a travesty. It's not food at all. It's some sort of fake food substitute. Here are the ingredients (I found them on the web):
Potato (82%), Full Cream Milk Powder (15%), Salt, Emulsifier: Mono and Di Glycerides of Fatty Acids, Antioxidant: Ascorbyl Palmitate, Natural Colour: Curcumin
It can't do you any good to eat it and it doesn't even taste nice. But frozen mashed potato is a different kettle of fish. The ingredients are:
Potato, Milk, Butter (2%), Salt, White Pepper.
I don't know how you make mashed potato, but that's exactly how I do it. And that's what Delia was trying to say. Use your brain. Distinguish good food from bad food. You don't have to make everything from scratch. Even top chefs don't do that. I know how to make butter from scratch but I only do it once in a while, for fun (or by accident). Most of the time I buy my butter like everyone else, top chefs included. I know how to make bread from scratch. Is it cheating if I buy a loaf instead? How about if I buy it from a farmer's market instead of from a supermarket? Is that less cheating? Why?
What matters is not that you make every damn thing from scratch every time, but only that you know good food from bad, and that you choose the good food most of the time. If having access to ready made pastry means you make apple pie at home from apples, sugar and cinnamon, rather than buying Mr Kipling's apple pies (ingredients: Wheat Flour, Apple (21%), Sugar, Vegetable Oil, Glucose Syrup, Dextrose, Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil, Modified Maize Starch, Humectant (Vegetable Glycerine), Salt, Acidity Regulator (Malic Acid), Raising Agents (Disodium Dihydrogen Diphosphate, Sodium Bicarbonate), Preservatives (Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Metabisulphite), Gelling Agent (Sodium Alginate), Adipic Acid, Milk Protein, Flavouring) then I think ready-made pastry is a really good thing.