‘Eat Butter’ was Time magazine’s somewhat valorous headline in June of 2014, alongside an appetising hefty swirl of the yellow dairy fat.
Thirty years previous to that it featured a cholesterol-focused edition, then pointing the finger at fats and foods, and the impact they could have on our bodies.
In those three decades, research evolved, with butter’s health attributes (or lack thereof), perhaps being less clear cut than first thought, and the magazine stating ‘new science reveals fat isn’t what’s hurting our health’.
While the discussion around the good and bad fats, along with copious calories, in butter, is certainly one for the scientists out there, in small quantities, there’s little more versatile, flavour-enhancing or texturally sublime.
The late, great Anthony Bourdain once caused a room full of guests on the Oprah Winfrey Show to recoil in horror after revealing the vast quantities of the rich dairy fat some chefs use when behind the stove. Also, take a look at the late Joël Robuchon’s signature pommes puree.
Butter is one for moderation, however. But in moderation, it’s a very good thing to have around the kitchen.
Let’s start with sweet. It’s not my strength, but if you want to impress guests with an ice-cream to rival the richness of anything you’d had, try a brown butter version. Make a traditional ice-cream recipe and heat some butter in a pan until it just turns light brown, a ‘beurre noisette’ – literally hazelnut butter. Cool slightly and then pour in slowly when churning. You’ll thank me later.
It goes to say if you’re cooking a large piece of pricey meat, basting in butter, herbs and garlic will do wonders in churning out that depth of flavour.
You’ll also want to turn your attention to savoury finishing butters. These can top a steak, fish, chicken, vegetables or be folded into a rich ragu right at the end to boost that much-needed umami.
A good basic recipe calls for butter (out of the fridge) mixed with Worcestershire, smoked paprika, black pepper, vinegar powder, mustard power, fennel seeds, parmesan and fresh herbs.
Butter is another essential in a classic pate. There are numerous recipes online, some of which traditionally blitz the raw liver and flavourings in a food processor before gradually adding butter, then cooking in a bain-marie, but I tend to cook down a couple of shallots and garlic with a bay leaf and thyme, chicken livers in butter until just done, finishing with a dash of brandy, add black pepper and a touch of nutmeg then blitz in a food processor, gradually adding butter until rich, smooth and aerated. Then stick in a terrine dish and chill until ready to serve.
Finally, many of the great French classic sauces either revolve around butter, or are enriched and finished with it at the end. A bearnaise is a rich and boisterous, tarragon-tainted variation on the hollandaise mother sauce. It’s a combination of a vinegar-based reduction with peppercorns and shallots, emulsified with egg yolks and butter. Take a look online for how the experts do it.
Also, keep in mind that we make some of the best butter in the world here. Most of the locally made stuff you’ll find on the shelves is of top quality, rich and yellow (ours is almost all from grass-fed cows whereas that’s often seen as a luxury in places like the US) while something like Abernethy (which also does a range of flavour varieties) is a luxurious option.
NEWS BITES IN BRIEF
Plant-based food brand, The Happy Pear, is launching a range of retail products for the first time in Northern Ireland in a new partnership with Musgrave. Established in 2004 by twin brothers Stephen and David Flynn, The Happy Pear began as a small fruit and vegetable shop in Greystones, Co Wicklow, quickly expanding to include a café in 2006, and then into cookery books and retail.
Lough Neagh Artisans Market will make a return to the Lock Keeper’s Cottage in Toome later this month. The event, which takes place on Sunday, August 14, will see more than 30 traders showcasing local produce, arts and crafts from the shoreline of Lough Neagh and right across Northern Ireland.
Hospitality business The Clover Group NI is investing £1.4m in two new venues in Belfast city centre. The projects, which will create a total of 50 new jobs, will see the development of a new hotel in the heart of the Cathedral Quarter and venue, called Brat, which will be an extension of the popular cocktail bar Margot’s.