‘On the three occasions this year that I’ve made a sourdough loaf, each one has vanished within 20 minutes, piping hot and under half a packet of butter’
At the height of lockdown stockpiling, when everyone else was losing it over the lack of loo roll, it was the disappearing packs of butter that caused my panic to rise. With all the banana bread I’d been baking, we needed more than usual, but so, it seemed, did everyone else.
In a normal week, we go through about five 250g packs of Kerrygold. I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that’s the case seeing as there’s only me, my husband and our five-year-old daughter – but here we are.
I use huge amounts of Kerrygold in my everyday cooking, the No 1 dish getting a larger-than-normal knob of butter being rice. If you whack up the heat and resist the urge to stir, the bottom forms a delightful chewy crust known as tahdig in Persian cooking – tough on the teeth but terrific on the soul. I also use stacks of Kerrygold Unsalted to bake brownies for friends, neighbours and, recently, local NHS staff – it’s something that brings me immeasurable joy. And on the rare occasion that I have a slice of toast for breakfast, I like the butter on top to resemble a slab of cheese. I’m Samantha Wood and I’m a butter fiend.
When I was a kid in the 1980s, we never had butter in the house. It was always, always margarine. Huge tubs of the yellow synthetic-type stuff; cheaper, supposedly healthier, decidedly terrible tasting. Looking back, the only real benefit I’m aware of was that, washed out, the empty tubs made fairly decent Sindy wardrobes.
By the age of 10, I was emulating my mother in rolling around on the carpet doing Rosemary Conley’s hip and thigh exercises. I’d been brought up to believe that butter was the enemy rather than the natural lump of utter deliciousness that it so clearly is. I now believe that, like almost anything in moderation, butter is absolutely fine for you. I’ll say it louder for those at the back who also had their childhoods tainted by the diet industry – it’s absolutely fine to eat butter.
While margarine may have been on the table at home, my love for real butter – specifically Kerrygold – was being nurtured at my grandparents’ house. Buttered fresh bread still conjures up happy memories of Saturday afternoons spent at Castle Mount, their magical house on the coast in Bournemouth. We’d go there every week and my fabulous granny, Marguerita, would spend all afternoon cooking lamb roast before changing into a posh frock with a fresh slick of lipstick and spritz of Estée Lauder’s Youth Dew to serve up. The basket of warm, fresh bread that kicked off every Saturday night supper would always be accompanied by a silver butter dish. There was no margarine tub at Marguerita’s house.
In her novel I Capture the Castle, the author Dodie Smith wrote: “I shouldn’t think even millionaires could eat anything nicer than new bread and real butter …” and I couldn’t agree more.
To this day, even though my butter fountain now runneth over, the very idea of my favourite ingredient still conjures up feelings of decadence. It’s why I take a couple of packs of Kerrygold salted to dinner parties as a gift for the hosts instead of flowers or chocolates, and is probably why we go through five or so packs a week. Let’s be honest, life’s too short not to feel fancy, right?
Butter goes way back. Apparently one of the first references was found on a 4,500-year-old Sumerian tablet from ancient Mesopotamia illustrating how it was made; moving forward, the Romans used butter for medicinal purposes to heal wounds or to treat coughs; and in the middle ages it became particularly popular in northern Europe where cool weather meant it was less likely to spoil.
Given the rate at which butter disappears in my household, the prospect of it spoiling is a remote one. I’ve mentioned that I love butter but I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who adores it quite as much as my husband. If he needs a snack, slices of bread get a thick coating, as do crackers or croissants, and if none of those obvious butter-vessels are available, breadsticks will do. Once, I even caught him buttering a raw carrot. And on the three occasions this year that I’ve made a sourdough loaf, each one has vanished within 20 minutes, piping hot and under half a packet of butter – and he was definitely at the scene of the crime.
But if there’s ever a time for my beloved Kerrygold to really show off, it’s at Christmas. Obviously the turkey gets a right going over but I also rely on it to elevate the rest of the festive feast too. Carrots are always scrubbed and cooked whole in butter, sugar and star anise; there are butter roasted sprouts (because otherwise they’re sniffed at); and homemade brandy butter to top the pudding.
Christmas in my house is a bit of a butter bonanza. So, thinking about it, I’d better start stockpiling.
Indulge your cravings
Make your Christmas one for butter fiends everywhere with these festive recipes from Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter
The Insidexpress is now on Telegram and Google News. Join us on Telegram and Google News, and stay updated.