Lamb-tastic



Salt-marsh lamb has always enjoyed a good reputation. What is fascinating is that these sheep from a "salty" environment have unusually sweet meat, rather than the salty, savoury tang that you'd expect. Cranston's is a large and prosperous family-run butchery (founded in 1914) with two large food halls – one in Carlisle and one in Penrith – a number of shops, plus a thriving mail-order business. This year, Roger Cranston has persuaded two local Solway farmers, Richard Irving and Mike Waning, to produce a limited amount of salt-marsh lamb for customers at two of their stores – it's a local and seasonal delicacy and will only be available until the autumn.

Cranston's Cumbrian Food Hall, Ullswater Road, Penrith CA11 7EH (01768 868680); Carlisle, 44/46 Fisher Street, CA3 8RF (01228 521345); www.cranstons.net

Jelly good



There's a certain irreverent, joyful aspect to the best Australian businesses and the Natural Confectionery Company is no exception. They make jelly sweets from simple ingredients like natural fruit juices and extracts. In April 2003 the company was bought out by Cadbury Schweppes and now these jellies are to be launched in Britain. The Jelly Snakes are particularly impressive – they taste good, they come in bright colours and they're admirably snake-shaped. The masterstroke, however, is the Little Book of Big Fun, which includes a snakes and ladders board – when you slip down a snake you get to eat him! This product has a magnificent child-quietening capability, good for at least 40 minutes of motorway driving.

The Natural Confectionery Company jelly sweets, available from Woolworths, £1.39

Burger king



It's a truth universally acknowledged that burgers will only ever be as good as the meat you make them from. But the problem is that as soon as you embark upon a top-quality, lean-steak burger, you always have trouble getting it to hold together on the grill. You can cheat and add binders, such as breadcrumbs or egg, but a better way to keep your meat in tact is to invest in a burger press. Made in Sweden, the Sagaform Hamburger Press is an elegant piece of kit, even if it resembles a medieval torturer's plaything. Incidentally, the best burger recipe is to take coarsely minced steak (about 15 per cent fat), add salt, pepper and a splash of Worcestershire sauce, then knead it while adding a little Guinness (for extra flavour and to help the binding).



The Sagaform Hamburger Press costs £14.95; www.formahouse.co.uk (020-8646 9655)

Ahead of the pack



Mary Berry has the kind of aura that makes you take your hands from your pockets and stand up straight. She also has an uncanny ability to put her finger on the cooking problem that troubles you most and then provide a practical, no-nonsense solution. Her latest book, One Step Ahead, is built around a simple idea: each recipe features a holding point so that you can prepare the recipes ahead of time only finishing the dishes when you need them. This is intelligent home cooking, and an idea that will make many a dinner party run smoother. Some of the dishes freeze well (roast stuffed quail, burlington beef) and some just "hold" well (rosti potatoes, summer fruit jelly). A clear, sensible and useful book.

Mary Berry's 'One Step Ahead' is published by Quadrille, £19.99

Comments