How much fish to buy per person
How can you spot the best beef? Are there sure-fire short cuts to liven up boiled spuds? Where should eggs be stored? In their new book, the founders of Melrose and Morgan answer these nagging questions and many more

Our new book, Good Food for Your Table, is a grocer's guide, a shopping basket deconstructed, including all you need to know about seasonality, provenance, storage, preserving and serving the very best food.

Melrose and Morgan have 10 years' experience as high-street grocers in north London, and this is our opportunity to share that expertise: a well-stocked larder is the backbone of any kitchen, and Good Food for Your Table is a compendium of advice on the best ingredients to buy and how to manage your kitchen cupboard to ensure nothing goes to waste and everything is put to its best use. It also includes a selection of favourite recipes and simple ideas to rustle up a meal.

If you've ever found yourself confused about the difference between mixed spice and allspice, Stilton and Stichelton, quinoa and couscous, this is the book for you. We all want to be more discerning about the food we purchase and eat – this handbook helps you do exactly that. 1

'Good Food for Your Table', by Melrose and Morgan co-founders Ian James and Nicholas Selby, and Louisa Chapman-Andrews, is published by Saltyard Books on 23 October, priced £25

WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN BUYING FISH

Fresh fish

The eyes should be bright and clear, not faded or sunken.

The skin should be shiny and moist, not dull or dry.

The gills should be blood-red, not brown.

The cavity, if the fish is gutted, should be clean.

The body should be firm, not flabby.

The fish should have a sea-fresh smell; it shouldn't smell "fishy".

White fish should have a whitish translucency and no discoloration.

Shellfish

Lobsters, crabs and prawns should feel heavy.

Shells should be tightly closed or, if open, should close quickly when they are firmly tapped.

Shells shouldn't be cracked or broken (discard any that are).

Smoked fish

The flesh should feel firm, look glossy and not be sticky.

WHICH PASTA GOES WITH WHICH SAUCE?

Much has been written about pasta sauces and which is the right sauce to serve with which pasta. (Incidentally, Italians lightly coat pasta in sauce, rather than drowning it.) Some simple rules can be followed:

Light sauces and dressings

Long pasta such as spaghetti, linguine and tagliatelle

Thicker sauces and light ragus

Pasta shapes: farfalle, conchiglie

Heavy, rich sauces

Tubular pasta: rigatoni, penne, macaroni

Storing Cheese

When keeping cheeses in the fridge:

* Keep them wrapped in their waxed paper.

* Place a damp cloth in a lidded plastic container, sit your cheeses on the cloth and place the lid on top.

* Keep blue cheeses in a different box, as their aroma can permeate the others.

* Keep the sealed box in the lower part of the fridge until required, checking every few days on their condition to ensure no new moulds are developing.

* If you can't be bothered with the box, keep the wrapped cheeses in the salad drawer of the fridge with vegetables, where the humidity will help.

Fruits to serve with cheese

It's not essential to serve fruit with cheese, but if you want to here are a few suggestions. You don't need to go over the top. Keep it very simple; one type of fruit is enough.

* Summer Berries

Strawberries, blackberries and raspberries all suit fresh cheeses, particularly ricotta.

* Figs

Fresh Turkish figs were made to go with lighter soft cheeses, both cow's and goat's.

* Muscat Grapes

Pair these floral-scented flavour bombs with any soft and mild cheese.

* Dates

Try a fresh Medjool date with a soft goat's cheese.

* Pear

Works well with all blue cheeses, particularly Stilton and Stichelton.

* Apple

Sharp, crisp, nothing too sweet. Suited to hard cheeses.

Pepper hotness (by Scoville heat units)

Bhut Jolokia 1,000,000

Habañero 100,000-200,000

Cayenne 30,000-50,000

Chile De Arbol 10,000-23,000

Chipotle 3,500-10,000

Paprika 100-900

HERBS GO WITH…

Basil

Avocados, capers, courgettes, mozzarella, olives, Parmesan, salmon, strawberries, tomatoes.

Bay

Beef, blackberries, custard, lemons, pears, peppercorns, rabbit, red cabbages, rice pudding, venison, white sauce.

Chives

Crème fraîche, mayonnaise, omelettes, oysters, potatoes, sea bass, soft cheeses.

Coriander

Black beans, chilli, coconuts, crab, limes, pork.

Dill

Carrots, eggs, fennel, goat's cheese, potatoes, sea trout.

Marjoram

Aubergines, oranges, poultry, sheep's cheeses, tomatoes.

Mint

Broad beans, chocolate, lamb, lemons, mangoes, peas, pineapples, potatoes, yoghurt.

Oregano

Cumin, feta, garlic, lamb, rice, tomatoes, yoghurt.

Parsley

Capers, chicken, chorizo, citrus, mushrooms, olives.

Rosemary

Bacon, beef, chicken, garlic, lamb, lemons, rhubarb, scallops, shallots, venison.

Sage

Beetroots, butter, calf's liver, chestnuts, onions, pork, prosciutto, pumpkins.

Tarragon

Asparagus, butter, chicken, cream, crème fraîche, Dijon mustard, eggs, pork, shellfish, yoghurt.

Thyme

Coriander seeds, goat's cheeses, lemons, oranges, pink peppercorns, red onions.

The best Porridge Toppings

* Argan oil, toasted pumpkin seeds and dark dried apricots

* Date syrup and walnuts

* Chopped toasted almonds with sour cherries

* Sliced white peaches and blueberries, with live yoghurt

* Crumbled jaggery and cardamom-infused milk

* Honey-poached apricots and crushed pistachios

* Pink grapefruit, chopped pecans and agave syrup

* Sliced banana fried in butter, coconut milk and toasted coconut

* Grated apple, roasted hazelnuts and cinnamon

* Summer berries and wildflower honey

* Smoked streaky bacon and maple syrup

* Christmas morning: Pedro Ximénez-soaked sultanas and cream

BUYING MEAT

Chicken

* In our opinion, there are only two options: free-range or organic. It’s as simple as that.

Beef

* Buy British.

* Hanging gives the meat time to become tender.

* Meat should be dry-hung for a minimum of two weeks (some like it as much as 60 days).

* Buy grass-fed where possible.

* Avoid meat that has been wet-aged.

* Meat should be deep red in colour and look dry.

* It should be firm to the touch.

* Look out for marbling – the fat running through the muscle – which helps in the cooking.

Lamb

* Buy British; it is mainly outdoor-reared and grass-fed.

* "Spring" lamb is only ready to eat from early summer and into late autumn.

* Meat should look moist and pink when young, and brownish-pink, not red or bloody, when older.

* It is best hung for a week.

* Hogget and mutton are richer than lamb, but not as tender.

* Hogget is one to two years old. Mutton is two or more years.

* Lamb is up to one year old.

Pork

* Buy British (there's lots of continental pork around and the animals may not have enjoyed the welfare standards you would expect).

* Look for outdoor-reared or free-range pork.

* Meat should be deep pink in colour and should have a close and fine texture.

* Look out for marbling; it will be more evident in rare breeds.

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