Nothing irks me more than opening a cookery book and reading the statement:
“Follow one set of measurements only – do not mix metric and imperial”.
It is a mantra that is nearly always used in error, demonstrating a shockingly poor grasp of basic mathematics on the part of the author.
If the author of a cook book has an ounce of common sense, he or she will preserve the relative proportions of recipe ingredients in both imperial and metric units. At the same time, total amounts are adjusted slightly so that they make up sensible numbers of whole ounces, or tens of grams. When this method of conversion is used, imperial and metric units cannot be mixed.
Badobadop has never once encountered an author who has a gram, let alone an ounce of common sense. Celebrity chefs tend to work in one unit standard and then convert to the other using a conversion table. When this inferior method is used, relative proportions are not accurately preserved, but at the same time, there is no disadvantage in mixing units when making up recipes. Those who use this conversion method do not understand the principles involved. Their lack of understanding is highlighted every time they wrongly advise against mixing imperial and metric units in their books.
Now I can hear you all mumbling:
“What’s the old duffer on about now? What difference does it make whether I use pounds and ounces or kilograms and grams?”
Well actually it makes quite a lot of difference, and I have a case in point to demonstrate my argument.
We all love that queen of the baking world, Mary Berry. If you care to look at page 350 of her Baking Bible, there is a recipe for rich shortcrust pastry. Everyone knows that to make perfect shortcrust pastry, you need twice the weight of flour to fat. In imperial units that is exactly what this recipe calls for; 6 oz flour to 3 oz butter.
Mary Berry’s recipe book states 175 g as the metric equivalent of 6 oz, and 75 g as the equivalent of 3 oz. This gives the ratio of flour to fat in metric units as 2.33:1; a significant deviation from the 2:1 ideal. When I noticed this diabolical faux pas I had to ask myself how the Great Mary Berry could make this mistake. Surely she, above anyone else, would have taken the time to consider relative proportions when converting her units. Disappointingly, she didn’t. She followed all the other mathematically challenged celeb chefs, and performed a straight conversion using a table.
The conversion tables Mary Berry used are given on page 6 of her book. The gram equivalents to ounces have been very coarsely rounded to the nearest 25 g! This gives the potential for huge errors in converting between metric and imperial units. However, mixing units does not make matters any worse. Despite this, printed right at the top of the page is that irksome mantra:
“Follow one set of measurements only – do not mix metric and imperial”
Mary, Mary, Mary!………….
“Shame on you Mary. If this is the best you can do, perhaps it’s time for you to hang up your apron strings and hand your mixing bowl over to the Good Food Guru!”
P.S. Writing this rant got me worried that I may have been guilty of the same, unforgivable sin; so I looked back at Badobadop’s recipes. Where it is important, ratios have been considered. For example the pastry in my blackberry and apple pie uses 2:1 flour to fat regardless of whether metric or imperial units are used.
There is nothing like a traditional cottage pie. It is the epitome of comfort food, and perfect for the encroaching autumn and winter days. This recipe makes a satisfying meal for a sizeable family of six, or dinner on two consecutive days for a smaller family of three. The Good Food Guru has done it again!
Fry the fat off the mince and set the mince to one side in a bowl.
Put the olive oil, onion, carrots swede and mushrooms in a large saucepan and stir-fry on a high heat until the vegetables are beginning to brown.
Add the mince and continue to stir-fry for a minute or two longer.
Add 450 ml of water, two beef stock cubes/stock shots, 2 tsp mushroom magic, four bay leaves and a splash of Worcester sauce, then bring to a simmer, stirring as you go.
Put the potatoes in a large saucepan of salted water. Bring to the boil and cook for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes soften throughout.
While the potatoes are simmering, put two tablespoons of flour into a mug and add a little water. Stir to a thick paste, before adding some more water and stirring further. Keep adding water and stirring until the mug is half full, and the flour is evenly distributed without any lumps.
Season the mince and vegetable mix with salt and ground black pepper to your personal preference. The GFG suggests 2 tsp salt and ¼ tsp finely ground black pepper.
Just before the potatoes are done, take the mince and vegetable mix off the heat and allow to cool for a minute or two. Add the flour-water mix and put back on the heat. Stir constantly until the mixture thickens and comes back to a simmer.
Preheat your oven to 180 C (350 f).
When the potatoes are done, drain off the water and mash with a potato masher. Add the milk and the butter, then continue to mash until a smooth, creamy consistency is achieved.
Take a large casserole dish and pour in the meat and vegetable mix. Remove the bay leaves and add the peas. Stir to distribute.
Using a desert spoon, evenly cover the surface of the mix with blobs of mashed potato. Even out and texture the surface with the tines of a fork and put into the pre-heated oven.
Leave to bake for 35 minutes, or until the potato topping has begun to brown.
Serve in large bowls to your ravenous and appreciative family!