Salted or Unsalted? (And other thoughts on butter).

A reader wrote about this scone recipe, “I have compared your recipe with the Ballymaloe recipe and you miss out the pinch of salt.” That’s true and if you are using unsalted butter you should probably add the pinch of salt. I love eating unsalted butter but generally have salted in the fridge for cooking so I don’t add more.

Often recipes specify unsalted butter because it gives you control over the amount of salt you add to a recipe (different brands of butter contain different amounts of salt) and it’s often better quality.  Salted butter lasts for up to three months and unsalted only for a month or so. Butter freezes really well by the way.

But this is yet another of those things that I don’t have a particularly strong opinion about – and another example of why I don’t call myself a chef or even really a ‘proper’ cook.

It is so interesting what has happened to butter. Since the 1970s (ie my entire life) we’ve been told by the ‘experts’ that saturated fat is bad bad bad. and for a while margarine was even seen as a health food (yuk). Now sugar is bad bad bad and butter is fine, in fact good for you, as part of a balanced diet. See for example the Hemsley sisters beautiful book The Art of Eating Well which is about eating REAL food rather than fake food and lots of the recipes use butter.

The problem is most people don’t have a clue what ‘as part of a balanced diet’ means, or they know but don’t have access to, or funds for, ‘real’ food. Eating this well costs more and it’s stupid to pretend that it doesn’t. Eating on a very low budget is possible as Jack Monroe shows on her blog A Girl Called Jack but she was already a good and confident cook, it’s clearly been tough for her, and she uses ingredients like Sainsburys basics which i think it’s safe to say don’t come with an organic label. I could easily come up with dozens of recipes using cheap ingredients and the cooking I do for large groups is generally on a very small budget. But the economy of scale means it’s much easier cooking cheaply for large numbers of people. Doing that alone, day after day, with no safety net, no impulse buying, no splashing out on some fancy ingredients? That’s incredibly hard I’m sure, and it takes huge amounts of time and energy to work out what and how to cook and eat well. No wonder so many people choose ‘unreal’ over ‘real’ food.

Update:  another great blog about eating well on a small budget – The Skint Foodie with useful ideas like Mid-week meals for the Time-Poor.