Greasing up for the sunflower shortage

THERE is alarm in the nation’s kitchens and supermarket aisles over the impending shortage and rise in the price of sunflower oil. It is already being  rationed to two bottles per customer.

It’s yet another oil shortage.

I shall not be worried. While sunflower is a component of very many foods there are other oils to cook with, vegetable (mostly soy), rapeseed and good old olive oil – although undoubtedly there will be knock-on increase in price due to demand.

It’s been triggered by the disgusting Russian invasion of the Ukraine, which produces much of the world’s sunflower oil, and is likely to last several years.

There are alternatives.

For a start we can all eke out our supplies by following the Chinese practice of saving leftover oil from frying and filtering it back into a separate bottle. Waste not, want not.

If you are frying bacon cut off the rinds, or the fat at the edge of your rashers, and put them in a warm pan to render enough grease in which to fry.

Then there is lard. It’s cheap and acts exactly the same as oil for most purposes when heated. Or duck fat. I keep mine in a jar in the fridge. It’s amazing how much you get from a duck.

I also save any fats obtained from cooking processes – bacon, dripping from roasts, renderings from duck or chicken skin, grease from chops etc – in a pot. After all  it’s what our great geandmothers did in the last war. There is a war on now you know.

If you make your own stocks – and everyone should – you’ll get more than enough fat solidifying on top to use.

It will need to be clarified to rid it of impurities but that’s done easily enough. There are plenty of videos on YouTube like this one:

This fat, which will turn snowy white on solidifying, can be used exactly the same as cooking oils. Well almost, sunflower’s smoke point of 450F is twice that of lard. But enough for us.

It may take a little time and effort but it’s one in the eye for Putin.


I’m always up for a duck!

WHENEVER I buy a whole duck I know what I’m having for lunch pretty soon: duck livers on toast. Beats chicken livers any day.

While you rarely find a butchers or supermarket chicken with its giblets (“removed for your convenience,” inconvenience more like) with ducks you do.

So after some basic butchery – the breasts to be pan-fried, the legs to make ragu, the carcase, neck and wings for stock, leftover meat scraps for a small pie, the skin for fat and crispy scratchings – I’m left with the liver.

I fried off some onion, bacon lardons and mushroom in duck fat with garlic and sage, added the chopped liver, then a shake of balsamic, a spoonful of duck stock and a little creme freche.

A few grapes ( so I can call this Veronique), a sprinkle of chives and voila! it’s piled on toast. A bit naughty but I fried that in duck fat, too.

So quick, so simple, a bistro lunch in minutes.