Thursday 19 February 2015

10: Delia Smith, How to Cheat at Cooking–Cooking the Books

Starter:     Calamares Fritos (that’s squid to you and me!)

Main:        Grilled (Cornish) Mackerel with Salsa Verde

Dessert:    Cheat’s Eton Mess

delia cheat

When this book first arrived, telling people they could use shop bought jars, sauces, bases and frozen stuff, it caused quite a stir. This was Delia, after all, Queen of Cooking, saying it was ok not to start from scratch every time. She even goes so far as to say that television programmes ‘persist in ridiculing and humiliating people who can’t cook … perpetuating the myth that cooking skills belong to the privileged few’. Now, this book is copyrighted 2008 and I believe much has changed since then. Hugely popular programmes, such as Bake-Off and Masterchef, whilst they have their opportunity to share a giggle with the cooks’ mistakes, also celebrate the cooking skills of  the general public. Well known chefs, and indeed farmers, such as Jamie and Jimmy (love or hate them) have brought cooking back the everyday masses and made it quick, simple and fun…but most importantly, tasty.

When I looked through Cheat to choose recipes, however, I struggled as I found I didn't have many of the ingredients needed. Now, I could have prepared a 'How not to Cheat' version of the recipes, but instead picked more simple ones, and have since bought some frozen mash, you know, just in case!

Starter: Calamares Fritos

Easiness: 6/10

Taste: 8/10

Make again: 7/10

Cheats & Changes: none – but I did batter and fry the little tentacley bits too!

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“It’s very nice, the squid, isn’t it?”


“I said the squid, the octopus, it’s really quite nice.”

Comment below if you know the film! My bet’s on my mum being first (if only she could comment successfully!)

Something I never make at home is squid rings. Now, Delia suggests using a frozen packet of these whole baby squid, but, not bothering to go to the supermarket, I've ordered fresh, so it will be the first time I've actually prepared these slippery little creatures!

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The main body is easy – check it’s empty, then slice into rings. The tentacles needed a little but more grit! I spread them out, then chopped off the little hard knobbly bit at the top and the one long, middle trailing tentacle thingy. Then sliced the remains in half long-ways so each ‘part’ had a few legs!

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The recipe is online, but it’s so easy: they don't even require a batter making up. Prep., slice, season, dip into flour, then whisked egg white and shallow fry. Serve with some delicious sweet chill sauce. Either make your own, or cheat and buy a jar!  Delia suggests Tracklements.


These were delicious, but it would have been just as quick, and [probably more tasty and crunchy, to make a quick light tempura batter, rather than just using the egg white, as it didn’t really stick!

  Main: Grilled (Cornish) Mackerel with Salsa Verde

Easiness: 9/10

Taste: 6/10 (too salty)

Make again: 7/10

Cheats & Changes:  fresh mackerel

Oily fish tends to be slightly neglected in our house. When weaning F, I read that girls should have no more than three portions a week, but she's lucky to get that. She often has white fish, and 'good' oils from nuts and olives, but rarely the fish. So this week, one of the recipes chosen is mackerel. A quick classic I usually do is buy the peppered, cooked mackerel fillets, break up into a blender with some lemon juice and crème fraiche, and whizz up into a pate purée. This is a brilliantly quick starter or simple lunch. This time, however, I'm using fresh mackerel and serving it with a green salsa. The recipe is online, as per usual for Delia, and is fairly simple. The salsa is just combining then blitzing the ingredients, and the fish is simply brushed with olive oil and grilled. It really is a quick one!

Another quick and easy one this, once the salsa is made, but I’d suggest only using one anchovy rather than two as it was very salty. And only pepper the mackerel. I served with rice, but a large salad and some pasta would work well.


Dessert: Cheat’s Eton Mess

Easiness: 10/10 (Frankie did all the chopping and crushing, not me!)

Taste: 8/10 (would have been more if I’d used red berries)

Make again: 8/10

Cheats & Changes: I used whatever fruit was to hand: kiwi, tangerine, apple, etc. I chose the book’s Greek Yoghurt rather than the Double Cream required in the online recipe.

The online recipe here differs slightly from the one in the book, as it uses double cream rather than Greek yoghurt I’ve chosen to use a tub of Greek style natural yoghurt with honey. It’s a very basic idea of breaking up the shop-bought meringue nests, adding the fruit and folding in the yoghurt. Delia also used some of the fruit to make a puree to give a sort of marbled effect, but you could leave this out if you wanted and cheat even more by pouring over a shop-bought coulis.


Obviously, this is going to taste nice, especially if you like the fruit you’ve used! It’s just sugar and fruit after all…but using shop-bought meringue, which is virtually as good as home made (much better in my case!) , and if you choose Tesco’s or M&S is even chewy in the middle, which I like best.


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Would love to hear your thoughts and ideas!
Merlotti x

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