Simon Hopkinson separates the crÿme de la crÿme from the rotten eggs in his gastronomic A-Z

A No more pickled ANCHOVIES (those silvery-looking slivers) as part of a Caesar salad, please.

B A big, bold ban on ersatz BALSAMIC vinegar being used in almost everything -- from ravioli to rice pudding (possibly).

C Italian salted CAPERS are just fine, but now seem the norm (ditto caper-berries) in recipes. In fact, old-fashioned pickled ones remain preferable for almost every dish we have ever known how to cook.

D The description "DRESSED with", for me, has long been preferable to "drizzled with" when referring to a simple lubrication of olive oil or a composed vinaigrette. Don't you agree? I would, if I were you.

E EGG mayonnaise is truly one of the greatest dishes ever created.

F "Green FIGS and cream" (decanted from a tin that has previously been well chilled in the fridge) is a restaurant dessert long overdue for a revival. Five green figs in a bowl, a little juice from the tin and a flood of double cream is, let me tell you, infinitely more pleasurable than most of the tricksy offerings these days (you might possibly need to be at least 40 years old to agree with me, here).

G "Stem GINGER and cream." See above.

H A tube of HARISSA (kept in the fridge at all times) is a useful condiment, particularly as an immediate chilli hit to many a quiet casserole, should the mood take you. A teaspoon or two stirred into a couple of tablespoons of good mayonnaise can also masquerade as a serviceable rouille, to add to that occasional jar of heated-through Breton fish soup.

I New ITALIAN cooking is old Italian cooking with cashmere socks on.

J Some of the very best JEWISH food shopping is to be enjoyed within the food halls of Selfridges department store, London W1 (most say that this has always been the case). The finest fresh chicken livers for making "chopped liver"; salt brisket and whole salted tongues; jars of excellent chrain (beetroot and horseradish relish) and authentic dill pickles. Also, in the adjoining café, some of the very finest salt beef sandwiches to be found anywhere in the capital.

K KOHLRABI: Is it even worth peeling?

L Brasserie LIPP, Paris. One of the only kitchens in this modern, culinary world that I know of which still thinks it might be a good idea to moisten their traditional Sunday "plat du jour" joint of slowly braised (lean) veal with an all-important interior stitching of thin strips of pork fat. That Lipp has been offering up this carefully larded joint to regular clients (some of whom, I am sure, might well recall its very first outing) each and every Sunday for well over 60 of our earth years is, let us be frank, an extraordinary service in itself.

M MINT sprigs are not there for decorating "roasted strawberries", they are there for making mint sauce for "roasted lamb".

N Of all robust salads, the one known as NICOISE has caused more controversy with regard to its ingredients than almost any other -- save, perhaps, the one named after a certain Roman emperor. Having never been entirely happy with the ubiquitous inclusion of flakes of tinned tuna (simply because I have never seen the point of them in the first place), I just add lots of anchovy fillets to my salade Niçoise. And you should, too. Tins of tuna stored in my kitchen cupboard are purely for the cats -- who bite my ankles for it.

O OLIVER: "Please, sir, may I have some more?" No, you may not! f

P PANCAKES ("light crêpes", in fact) filled with "whole tails of squat lobster in a spinach and cheese sauce ... and finished with cheese" is how Tesco describes its "Finest* Lobster Crêpes". And, be assured, the name "Lobster Crêpes" is depicted in GREAT BIG LETTERS on the packet, even though the italic small print beneath then quietly informs you of the above content. "Squat lobsters" are not lobster, and never have been (the former are curious-looking critters, similar in size to small langoustines but lacking that particular texture and taste of luxury shellfish). Squat lobsters are also very much cheaper to buy than lobster. So why doesn't Tesco call this (really quite tasty little number) "Squat Lobster Crêpes"? Well, of course, they couldn't, could they?

"I mean, honestly, Margaret, with all this squatting-lobsters-in-pancakes carry-on in Tesco this week, I think it's about time we resurrected the fish fingers, don't you?" Is this a dish that has been designed to deceive? I wonder. But I'm all ears ...

Q QUICK and easy cookery is like e-mail: often thrown together with little thought and regretted later. A carefully simmered coq au vin, I like to think, remains as something to be spooned into an envelope and posted in the morning. (Do make sure that it has cooled sufficiently before you attempt this.)

R To cook a perfect pan of plain basmati RICE for two, measure out one cup of rice, rinse it briefly and then add only one and a half times its volume of water together with a pinch of salt. Bring to a simmer, cover it and cook over a low heat for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave covered for five minutes. Take off the lid, fluff up the rice with a fork, lay a tea towel over the pan and clamp it down tightly with the lid. Leave in this state for a further five minutes. Perfect rice, every time. Anyone who tells you that basmati rice needs twice the amount of water to rice is a menace.

S The quality of all supermarket cartons of so-called "fresh STOCK" is so appallingly bad, that I can now only look upon them as detrimental to all good cookery practice. Have you tried the fish ones? I'd rather use sprout water.

T Over the last five or six years or so, many British food journalists have returned from Spain full of enthusiasm about their experiences with TAPAS, and the bars within which such items are served. Young entrepreneurs have become equally excited and so opened (so-called) tapas bars of their own, once back home. Such ventures have, generally, been shocking in the extreme. Spanish tapas bars are deeply indigenous to that country; not only because of the people who operate them but, even more importantly, those who frequent them in their own particular fashion. Quite simply, we just don't get it. Not a good souvenir.

U Good quality, well-looked-after kitchen UTENSILS – knives, pans, sieves, graters, spoons, bowls, jugs, whisks and so on -- are, in the long run, far more essential to the running of a happy kitchen than all things electrically driven.

V Unless you happen to be a vegetarian, the very idea of making a VEGETABLE stock is surely one of the most pointless cooking processes ever created for the everyday cook. All at once, a waste of time, ingredients and fuel. Buy some chicken wings, chop them up and think again.

W Marco Pierre WHITE and Michael WINNER like each other very much indeed. So, that's all right, then.

X Jean-Pierre XIRADAKIS, chef-proprietor of the restaurant La Tupiña, Bordeaux. Hail him and all that he stands for!

Y A plate of YELLOWTAIL sashimi with halapeno chillies, at Nobu, is one of the finest things I have ever eaten (apart from the toro tartare with caviare and the black cod with miso, that is ... ).

Z ZANTAC, for indigestion.

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