I like making things. From jam to beer, bread to marmalade, cider to sausages. There’s something deeply satisfying about putting time and effort into creating something greater than the sum of it’s parts. There was a time when every house would have had a stash of home-made preserves, every pub would have brewed it’s own beer and the pig at the bottom of the garden would have kept the family in meat during the winter. Given that it’s so easy to pop to a supermarket and pickup a jar of marmalade or a pack of bacon the knowledge of how to actually make these things is slowly fading. Among dedicated foodies there’s a growing trend of getting your hands dirty and giving it a go – DIY Food – and that’s exactly what Tim Hayward’s newest book is about.
It’s a fascinating read – I adore cookbooks which dedicate as much space to the theory and background as they do to the recipes. Tim’s book covers everything from simple bread making to complicated charcuterie. Each recipe is explained, often with variations and ideas depending on what equipment you have available. Some are very simple (bread, bacon) relying on a few unusual ingredients and a little patience, others are a lot more complicated and require a bit of investment.
After reading the book and looking longingly at the drawings for smoking sheds and charcuterie cages I had to be realistic and settle on some things that I could achieve in my tiny flat – even if you don’t have a huge amount of space, there’s definitely plenty of recipes here for you.
Who doesn’t like bacon!? But how many of us actually know how it’s made – a quick straw poll of friends indicated that it was “to do with salt” or “sort of dried”. They’re both actually right – people have been preserving meat for years and this is one of the simplest ways. Grab a piece of pork and stick it in some sugar and salt, then let it sit for about a week et voila. Now admittedly this will make it turn a slightly gray colour – getting that lovely pink requires proper curing salts which contain sodium nitrite, but these are easily available from sausage and charcuterie shops online, a friendly butcher may even let you have some.
My bacon turned out great – it was intensely meaty with a great texture. Next time round i’m going to balance the salt and sugar slightly, but otherwise it was really good!
This is a little guilty pleasure – I’ve got a thing for fried chicken. There’s a whole section at the back of Food DIY looking at recreating classic take away dishes at home. The advantage being that you can use first rate ingredients and control the amount of salt. He uses a really nice blend of spices and just a hint of MSG to give a very moreish flavour. Top chicken!
This isn’t a book for everyone – but even the laziest foodie will enjoy flicking through and learn a huge amount from doing so. I found it strangely inspirational – step outside your comfort zone and give it a go!
“Food DIY” by Tim Hayward, RRP £25, is published by Fig Tree – Penguin and available now in all good bookstores.