21 June 2010

On the problem of self-limiting adequacy

I'm not sure whether or not it is true, but the story goes that Ofsted has declared that their Grade 3, "Satisfactory" is no longer satisfactory. Or perhaps it is (i.e. "satisfactory"), once again, given that the common inspection framework has "raised the bar". (I've looked up the urls for the links, but don't expect me actaully to read this stuff. I'm retired, remember?)

I hate to say it, but they may be right.

For Father's Day one of our sons gave me a premium, organic, long-matured, etc. rib of beef. I don't usually roast a joint on the bone, so I consulted Delia, naturally (in book form rather than online). Of course her advice was impeccable, and even Susi commented on the better flavour and texture than our usual supermarket joints. (This may prove to be expensive if we have also raised Susi's bar...)

For me, and indeed a generation of conscientious UK cooks (domestic cooks, rather than "chefs"; it's a very different discipline), Delia's books are the bible [that statement is grammatically "correct"].

Next to the guidance on roasting beef was, of course, a recipe for Yorkshire Pudding. (No, I am not going to post a link to a similar recipe.)

It was different from my usual one. That is of course fine; there is no canonical recipe for a traditional dish. And mine works very well, thank you. Most important, it is reliable. Sometimes a pudding comes out as a dome rather than a bowl for some unknown reason; but turn it upside down and it is like all the others.

I didn't try it. I know what I always get with my own recipe, so why risk it? If I were floundering; if my puddings came out like biscuits, I would go for it. And perhaps if I were cooking just for me, I might try it; but I am trying to produce a meal for Susi, too. (And the dog, but being diabetic, he couldn't have the pud in any case...)

So in Ofsted's insistence on "capacity to develop further" they may just be onto something. "Satisfactory" is not only not good enough, but inimical to further development. Discuss...

(Principally, Delia says you don't have to let the batter stand, but then she does add water as well as milk. I've always believed that standing the batter in the fridge until the last half-hour of roasting lets the liquid do something to the flour which helps with the rising process --because it is plain flour after all, and the egg is not whipped to retain air, souffle style. A proper scientist would not take any of this on the authority of the blessed Delia or even St Jamie, but rely on the experiments. OK, fund me!)


  1. Anonymous4:19 pm

    I make a lot of batter, for various sorts of cakes and pancakes as well as for yorkies. It's my theory that the standing stage (my mum used to stand overnight!) comes from a time before tight control of flour grain size. The sainted Nigella uses expensive Italian 00(a fine mesh size also used for making hashish)flour for her batters, controlling this variable tightly, and removing the need for standing. If you do not control this variable so tightly, mixtures with the same masses of components need quite different standing times, or give different results if not stood before cooking.

    Of course both Yorkshiremen and molecular gastronomists do have an opinion: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1085150/Scientists-reveal-formula-perfect-Yorkshire-pudding.html

  2. Anonymous5:44 pm

    One might choose to keep the word "satisfactory", but change the judgement of what may qualify for the label. The word "bar" remains the word "bar" even though the bar has been raised.


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