Wednesday, February 8, 2012


So we were watching Come Dine With Me the other night*, when I saw one of the hosts preparing asparagus. Fine, I thought, we all know presentation is everything with food nowadays, no doubt she wants to form it into a model of the Eiffel Tower or something equally fatheaded. But it was worse than that. This bizarre woman was peeling it.


How do you even do that? Isn't it like peeling grass?

I've been thinking for some time that the cult of "peeling" has been gaining ground. From sensible beginnings - eggs, swedes and onions, for instance, probably should be peeled before serving in most recipes - it's overtaken potatoes and carrots, before striking east into mushrooms and north into tomatoes, cucumbers and capsicums.

(Heck, it's getting hard to buy chicken breasts with the skin still on. I've sometimes wondered what happens to the skin from all those breasts. Maybe it goes to the same pet-food factories as the cheap cuts of meat from organic cattle. Seriously, with the exception of mince, anything lower-grade than "sirloin" just doesn't appear in the shops. There's no such thing as "organic" topside or stewing steaks or offal. It's weird.)

And now... asparagus?

What's next? Peeled broccoli, aubergine, courgette?

Just stop it. Apart from the waste, you're throwing away the tastiest part of the food.

Mushroom skins are delicious. Just wipe or wash the loose dirt away, they're good to go. Carrots and potatoes likewise, unless you're mashing them. Skinning cucumbers and tomatoes is a fetish, there's no other explanation.

And as for chicken or fish: repeat after me: "Fat is the channel through which flavour flows". Yes, the skin is fatty, but that doesn't make it bad. If you belong to the tiny, tiny fraction of the population that really shouldn't eat the skin for your health's sake, then there's really no reason to eat chicken at all. Try tofu. For the rest of us, skin is part of the meat.

* It's a reality show. Don't judge us. At least, not until you've spent a year watching New Zealand television.


mumsie said...

There seems to be a fashion in cooking to marinate everything which I think accounts for supermarkets giving less chilled shelfspace to cuts like chicken or duck breasts etc. with skin on. I also think the fight the 'obesity epidemic' lobby may share the responsibility. For cheaper cuts of good beef as well as unskinned chicken breasts try the good butcher in your local high street. When I was last there he seemed to stock most things and go in for quite a range of organic meat - as well as wanting to please his customers.

As for peeling certain vegetables there is a lot of hype about. Our favourite Chinese restaurant, on a boat moored in the marina, does a gorgeous aubergine dish that I eat nearly every time we go there. On one occasion they had peeled the aubergine. I ate it but then asked politely if they had a new chef, or why the dish had been done differently. I was told the chef had tried to please me; 'didn't I like it' - 'no, not as much as the unpeeled variety, thank you'. They have never served me a peeled aubergine again.

You have not been married to your father for over 50 years. He is the most peeling maniac I know. I don't let him see me cook mushrooms and have a hard time politely turning down offers to peel them.

I hope you peel your oranges!

Anonymous said...

Harumph. You weren't brought up to watch the [mumble] mindless-box ...

Your big fat bruvver said...

Interesting. It lets me post as anonymous after (four or five times) insisting my word verification was wrong. I infer two bugs: one in OpenID verification, and another in reporting the failure back to the user.

Still, it's better than your mother's blog, that doesn't admit to any error but just quietly vanishes any comment I make.

Michelle said...

swede...turnip? rutabaga? I had to google it. Can you set me straight? Great read. Again. As always.

vet said...

mumbsie: peeled aubergine "to please you"? I stand vindicated. It really is a mania. Maybe I could tie it to the wider trend of "de-naturing" food, but I don't have time for that rant right now.

Michelle: great to hear from you.

Aubergine = eggplant
Courgette = zucchini
Swede = rutabaga
Capsicum = red or green pepper

I think the rest should be familiar to you.

Jantar said...

If we're talking green asparagus, the woman is an idiot.
When it comes to white asparagus peeling is definitely something you want to do, at least at the lower end of it. (And old-fshioned cheese grater is your best friend here.)

As a bonus, the asparagus peel and the 'wooden' ends of the vegetable will make an excellent base for a bouillon.
(Combine it with the skin of some gambas; throw in some asparagus tips ten minutes and a few shrimps five minutes before you serve the soup, and one or two finely cut fresh red chili peppers, and you will have something quite marvellous.)

PS: I agree with the other points though. People can be very idiotic about things like fat, salt & sugar. It's not those ingredients that are in any way problematic, only the way & amount that people consume them.

Jantar said...

Re aubergines: The only time you don't want (to eat) the skin is when you roast them over a flame or under a grill. That you do till the skin has blackened and the meat inside is pulpy enough to use as a spread

Anonymous said...

Now that asparagus season is upon us here in Europe, it occurs to me to ask: why the **** were you eating in in February and denying yourselves the pleasure of that which is fresh&local appearing in its own season?

(and posting this is an excuse to point out that my newsreader now marks this blog as inactive!)

vet said...

We weren't eating it, we were watching someone on a TV show that was both (a) prerecorded, I don't know when, and (b) imported from the Northern hemisphere.

Inactive? Pish. Your newsreader needs a stern talking-to.