My neighbour, who keeps pigs, gave us some ribs. We cooked them, saved the fat and I was happy: finally I had managed to get some decent stuff for frying.
For years I have not been able to fry with a clear conscience. Olive oil? Doesn't like the heat. Butter? Burns easily. My husband buys dripping from a good butcher - ideal for the purpose, but the toxins collect in the fat, don't they? Oh, for organic dripping!
So I have decided to do some research. What do you use if you want to fry really hot? And what is so wrong about good old lard?
Fats are vital for health. Withouth them, nothing works. All fats are a mix of 'good' and 'bad' fats, but some have more good, others more of the bad.
'Good' fats protect you from cancer; 'bad' fats allow it, for instance by compromising the integrity of the cell membranes.
Good fats come from fish, egg yolks, nuts, seeds, olives, and unrefined oils.
Bad fats like trans fats, result from high-heat commercial processing. Your body is unable to deal with them, so they take the place of good fats in your cell membranes. Sources of bad fats are: refined oils, partially hydrogenated oils and commercially deep-fried foods.
Although very small amounts of trans fats occur naturally in milk, cheese, beef or lamb, these do not share the harmful properties of synthetic trans fat.
Saturated fat is not very good, but it's not particularly bad, either. At least your body knows how to burn it for energy. It is also naturally chemically stable, giving it a long shelf life, and the ability to withstand high cooking temperatures.
For use cold, buy only unrefined or extra-virgin, for even 'cold-pressed' oils may have been heated and worse, before pressing. 
Unfortunately, these unrefined oils spoil quickly if heated up. They smoke, which makes them harmful after all.
For deep frying or really hot cooking, use dripping, lard, tallow, suet - these are all animal fats. They don't burn. They are naturally saturated fats which aren't harmed by heat. Unrefined oil or butter you ought to use only if you sauté below 160°C/320°F, and then you have to heat it up very slowly. 
Nowadays, saturated fats are perceived as harmful. For explanations as to why, on the contrary, they are good for you, see .
If you do start to use animal fat though, it should it come from a trusted source. Here are two, though a reputable local butcher might not be too bad either. 
An excellent explanation of this subject is given in www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/cooking-with-olive-oil-yea-or-nay/. For more, see .
Next time: cholesterol made easy!
STOP PRESS: The Pesticide Action Network tells us that the worst ten foods for pesticide residues in the UK are, in order: flour, potatoes, bread, apples, pears, grapes, strawberries, green beans, tomatoes and cucumbers .
Veg: celeriac, turnip, beet, broccoli, cabbage, calabrese, carrots, cauliflower, chard, fennel, kohlrabi, runner beans, salsify/scorzonera, spinach, tomatoes, Jerusalem/globe artichokes, brussels', chicory, endive, swede, celery, corn salad, leek, peas/mange tout, courgettes, marrow, pumpkin/squash, (white) radish, rocket, spring onions, watercress, sweetcorn.
Meat: rabbit, goose, grouse, guinea fowl, partridge, pheasant, wood pigeon, duck, venison, squirrel.
Fish: crab, clam, cuttlefish, lobster, mackerel, mussels, scallop, sprats, cockles, black bream, gurnard, winkle, pollack, grey mullet, American signal crayfish.
SOW: broad beans, land cress, round seeded peas.
Plant rhubarb sets; spring cabbage; garlic; autumn onion sets if the weather is good. The garlic should be suited for autumn planting. Don't use old cloves! Plant out spring cabbage and, in the South, cabbages and winter/spring lettuce.
You don't want bare soil in winter. Try and protect it somehow, to maintain fertility and structure. Green manures or leafmould are the best options. Or leave plant debris, such as a pile of runner bean foliage, covering the soil in winter.
For green manures, this is your last chance. Field beans are the only reliable option for this time of year, though you may get results from grazing rye in milder areas. The Organic Gardening Catalogue carries a wide range of green manures for all soils and situations.
BEETROOT and CELERY SALAD
2 eggs, 2 beet, 3 sticks celery, 4 tblsp olive oil, 2 tblsp vinegar or lemon juice, lettuce leaves, salt, pepper.
Hard boil eggs, slice. Grate raw beet (or slice, if you prefer it cooked) and chop celery, mix, dress. Serve over lettuce, eggs on top.
BRAISED CABBAGE with CARAWAY, CARROTS and CREME FRAICHE
600g cabbage, 3 carrots sliced into 2mm rounds, 3 tblsp olive oil, 120ml water, 2 tsp toasted caraway or cumin seeds, 200ml creme fraiche, paprika powder, (soy sauce) salt, pepper.
Sauté carrots, cabbage and paprika powder in oil for 5 mins while stirring. Add water, salt, and caraway, cover and cook till the veg are tender. If water evaporates before that, add a bit more. Remove pan from heat, fold in crème fraiche, season with salt, pepper and a bit of soy.
AUTUMN VEGETABLE STIR FRY
Use any veg you have, such as: squash, carrot, onion, swede, cauli, 200g chick peas or any cooked beans, spinach, 2 tbsp oil, 2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce or chilli powder, salt, (1 tbsp peanut butter), soy.
Chop squash and swede into 1 cm cubes, sauté for 5 mins, covered. Slice onion, add and cook for 2 mins, stirring regularly. Add cauli florets, carrot pieces, Cook for 3 mins, stirring regularly. Add chopped spinach and beans, cook for 2 mins, still covered. You may want to add a bit of water so it won't burn. When the veg are almost done, mix chilli (sauce) with peanut butter, soy, seasoning, maybe some water. Put with veg and stir for 2 mins.
AUTUMN SALAD with SPINACH and FENNEL
400g spinach, 200g Florence fennel, 400g couscous, 100g mushrooms, tin of sardines in oil, 1 onion, salt, pepper, lemon juice (paprika powder).
Make couscous according to directions. Chop vegetable ingredients. Pour the tin of sardines into a pan and warm gently for 1-2 mins, then add onion, mushrooms, and a little bit later the spinach/fennel mix. Heat till done to your liking. Once the couscous has absorbed its liquid, add all this, stir and season. Add lemon juice slowly, tasting in between so you get the right piquancy. Heat everything through if you like, serve.
SPICY PASTA with TINNED FISH for 2.
1 tin fish in tomato sauce, 1 Florence fennel, 1 carrot, 100g pasta or more, smallish onion, 1 clove garlic, plenty of ginger and chilli/cayenne pepper, parsley, butter, salt.
Cook pasta with chopped fennel and carrot in salted water along with ginger and pepper. Meanwhile, sauté chopped onion and garlic. When everything is done, drain pasta/veg and add tomatoed fish and onion/garlic mix. Reheat. Strew on vast amounts of parsley. Season if necessary. Keep the cooking water for soup, especially if it was home grown or organic.
SAVOURY MARROW BAKE
225g grated marrow squeezed dry, 50g plain flour, ½ tsp baking powder, ½ tsp salt, 25g freshly grated cheddar, ½ tblsp minced fresh parsley, 1 tsp chopped oregano, ½ tblsp chopped fresh basil, 2 eggs, 60ml oil, 1small chopped onion.
Preheat oven to 180°C. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, cheese, parsley, oregano and basil. Beat eggs and oil, mix with onion; fold into dry ingredients just until combined. Fold in marrow. Turn into a greased 20x30cm baking dish. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown and set. Cut into squares. Nice with potatoes and some sort of veg.
SOUR CREAM CABBAGE
1 cabbage, sour cream, paprika powder, any herbs/spices you like, 240ml stock/water.
Cut up cabbage, cook in stock/water (with herbs or spices). Put sour cream in bowl. When cabbage is cooked, pour off the liquid and add (some of) it to the cream, stir. Pour cream mix over the cabbage, reheat very gently, sprinkle with paprika powder.
The CHEAPER CUTS: MARINADE
I like marinading, as you can prepare meat or fish at your leisure whenever it suits you, like the night before. Then put it in the fridge and next day all you have to do is put it on the gas, fire, hob, Aga or Rayburn.
The principle is as follows: make a mix containing oil, acid (vinegar, wine or citrus), salt, pepper and flavourings like onions, garlic, herbs and/or spices. Stir in the meat and leave for at least an hour, or overnight in the fridge.
Marinading is suitable for the cheaper cuts, or for meat which is tough and needs a lot of cooking. If you marinade overnight, you won't have to cook it for so long.
Recommended reading: "Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, With Recipes" by Jennifer McLagan.
Next issue: in praise of cholesterol.