Saturday, 17 September 2011

Of tinned potatoes and balti pies

Generally speaking, I think it's fair to say that I have a reasonable knowledge of food matters - I wouldn't want an unreasonable knowledge, that's certain.

Frankly, I'd rather be thought of as something of a bon viveur or a gourmand or even a gourmet.

Choices, choices: which one?

There are intriguing differences in those latter two words. A gourmet is someone who relishes fine food and drink. A gourmand, on the other hand, is someone who simply enjoys food and drink: there's no suggestion here of it having to be haute cuisine.

The latter has seen it's meaning change over the years, initially having been a synonym for a glutton - and one of the Seven Deadly Sins. As that older definition has altered, culinary proponents in France have, apparently, appealed to the Vatican to change the word to gloutonnerie rather than gourmandise.

Once we remove that understanding of the word, then we're left with something expresses a more general pleasure in food - and frankly, while the posh stuff can be very, very good, food doesn't have to be flashy and complicated to be worth eating and taking the greatest amount of pleasure in.

So it's gourmand for me.

But I'm probably something of a food geekette too: years of reading diet 'advice', followed by years of reading why the diet advice was crap, together with goodness knows what other food information in the last couple of years has left me with a certain knowledge.

And so it came as something of a surprise to see, in one of my local shops, a tin of baby new potatoes from French tinned veg specialists Bonduelle.

It seems that, according to the label, potatoes count as one of your five a day. This wasn't just news to me - it'll be news to the NHS when our national treasure finds out.

Because although potatoes are a great source of vitamin C, they are also a starchy or complex carbohydrate and, as such, they don't count as one or your five a day.

I have emailed Bonduelle and queried this, but have thus far only had an automated response - in French. Your food detective is on the case - and will report if she ever hears anything.

But while we're on the subject, there is a perfectly gourmand use for tinned potatoes.

Drain, rinse and pat dry with kitchen paper.

Heat some duck or goose fat - or lard - in a high-sided pan. Pop the potatoes in carefully and cook until turning golden, shaking frequently to help prevent them sticking.

Serve with good sea salt.

With such sophistication in mind, I want to report that I had a new culinary experience the other night: a chicken balti pie, that legendary Manchester City treat.

One bite and my eyes had crossed while I was fanning my mouth desperately.

The packet claimed that it was 'diced' chicken. It wasn't. The filling was a small amount of shredded chicken, some veg, some very hot sauce and a large portion of empty space. The pastry wasn't bad.

Chips, with skin on, were rather better.

The beer that a friend and I discovered after the match, with the somewhat unexpected name of Dizzy Blonde, was better yet. Brewed in Stockport by Robinson's, it was light and almost fruity, at 3.8, less strong than many other beers, and a pleasant surprise.

The Voluptuous Manifesto - now offering a testing service so that you don't have to take the risk!

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