You’ve got to love food fashion. Just an arrhythmic heartbeat ago, or so it seems, lard was the artery-clogging work of the devil. These days, if you’re not scoffing whipped fat on sourdough, you’re just not keeping up.
I realise that not all of us are lauding lard, but there’s no denying it’s having a “moment”. Across the land, lard – aka solidified pig fat – is being draped over seafood, smeared on toast, flung on pizza and boiled up for triple-cooked chips.
Before the second world war, Britons couldn’t get enough of the stuff, of course. But concerns that it travelled straight from lips to hips, furring our arteries in the process, saw it slither from favour. Privately, chefs have always loved lard for its flavour and versatility – it produces heavenly pastry and crispy, flavoursome tatties – but until recently it has been their dirty little secret. So what’s changed to bring this love for lard out of the closet?
The trend for nose-to-tail dining – eating all parts of the animals we kill for human consumption – has something to do with it. But our views about eating animal fat are also changing. While the official line on saturated fat (the type found in meat and dairy) remains to limit our intake, a growing body of evidence is challenging the accepted wisdom that animal fat increases the risk of heart attack and disease. Some writers such as Gary Taubes, the author of Why We Get Fat, even argue that lard can be good for us. So with the heat off fat, and sugar taking its place in the firing line, it seems we’re enjoying a lardy binge.
Marianne Lumb, the chef and owner of Marianne restaurant, loves lard, especially the fanciest of fats, lardo di colonnata (back fat from Tuscan pigs). “I think it’s so popular in my kitchen because it is so versatile,” she says. “We introduced lardo di colonnata in our canapés by slicing it very thinly and using it instead of rice paper to wrap mint, radish and carrots. I also use it on a scallop dish, again sliced very thinly, and I gently blowtorch it so it goes translucent. It offers delicious flavour and also a real visual treat to a dish.”
She says customers need no persuading when it comes to ordering a dish garnished with fat, although she concedes description is key. “My front of house, Francesca, pronounces lardo di colonnata in perfect Italian, which makes it sound irresistible, compared to just ‘lard’!”
Lardo, pig butter, prosciutto bianco, salo – call it what you will, I love it all, from the herb-infused, whisper-thin posh stuff to the discards nicked from other people’s plates after a steak supper (yes, my family is repulsed).
But I do wonder what my late granny – who used to fondly recall the bread-and-dripping austerity suppers of her childhood – would make of our growing appetite for chic lards and drippings. I’m fairly sure she would have had a good chuckle at my recent experience at the Guild of Fine Food Great Taste awards, where I and other judges were asked to ruminate on a selection of fancy fats. As delicious as they were, I reckon Granny would opt for the stuff scooped from the bottom of the roasting pan – along with the all-important meat crud – any day.
What about you? Do you like your food draped in fat? Or is fat a food fad too far?
Source: The Guardian