LEE CLARKE FOOD Fat: The elephant in the room when it comes to cooking

Beef maturing on the bone.
Beef maturing on the bone.
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November is here and that means the-season- that-shall- not-be- named-yet is just around the corner.

It’s often at this time that I have friends, customers and family asking me for tips for cooking during the winter, and often with their eyes on one meal in particular.

Steak and chips

Steak and chips

In my column next month I’ll share some tips on how you can bring restaurant cooking into your home this Christmas, but for now I want to talk about fat – yes fat – the great elephant in the room!

It’s utilising this ingredient, along with simple seasoning, that is the cornerstone of my kitchen – and almost any kitchen I’ve known. It’s the first thing I tell people about when they ask how to get that restaurant feel at home.

A great example of this is with your veg and potatoes – now I could toss my broccoli, carrots or potatoes in some olive oil and they wouldn’t be too bad. But toss them in butter and that’s when the magic happens. Pair this with some herbs and there’s not much more you can ask for: quick, simple and delicious.

It’s not always about butter either. Sometimes it’s about having a better understanding of the fat that is found naturally in our food – particularly when it comes to meat. Pulled ham hocks, beef briskets, duck breast, steaks – they all are either coated in fat, or have fat in them.

Ribeye steak

Ribeye steak

In the Prévost kitchen we render that fat down, and then cook the meat in it. Next time you see that strip of fat on your steak, render it down to half the size, sear the rest of the meet in the fat and then finish with a good dash of pepper and Maldon sea salt– no need for oil, or even butter.

Part of understanding your food is knowing what you’re buying, and in turn what you’re cooking – no meat is entirely the same, so talk to your butcher when buying, whether that’s your local or behind the counter at the supermarket. Meat is their job, and more often than not they’ll be able to tell you about its age, whether it’s lean or fatty, and perhaps even their own cooking tips!

Fat has been misunderstood for a long time, so often attached to negative connotations - it’s time that ended. It’s all about understanding – so don’t be afraid of a nob of butter with your veg, or cooking your meats in fat.

Take your time to learn about them and how to cook them best, and you’ll have your friends chasing you for recipes all year round.

Lee Clarke is chef patron at Prévost in Priestgate, Peterborough.