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Action on Salt

Delia Smith survey

7th April 2008

  • Some meals contain more than a whole day's limit

For Media Coverage: Delia Smith Media Coverage

Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) has added up the salt content of some of Delia Smith’s latest recipes and has found that several have very high salt levels.

In Delia’s new ‘How to Cheat at Cooking’ television series and recipe book she encourages people to mix together ready-made foods rather than cook from scratch with fresh ingredients if they are short of time.  Unfortunately, many of these ready- made products are already high in salt and many of the “Cheat” ingredients that she adds contain large amounts of salt. On top of this, in many recipes she advises adding extra salt.

For instance, the ingredients for “very nutritious and very cheap” Thick pea and bacon soup add up to approximately 12g of salt [1], even without the unspecified amount of extra salt that the recipe says should also be added during the cooking process.  This recipe serves two, so each person would be eating almost their 6g a day salt limit in one meal.  Even divided between four people as a starter, this recipe provides half the daily salt limit.

Carbonara real quick is made with ready-cooked crispy bacon and “lots” of Pecorino Romano cheese, which is one of the saltiest cheeses available.  This recipe for two people contains over 14g of salt [2], again not including the salt added to the pasta when cooking and the extra salt added to the sauce during preparation.  Again, this one meal contains more than a whole day’s salt (6g) per portion.  

Grilled polenta with sage, ham & melted Gruyere is intended to serve two ‘as a snack’ or four as a starter. It contains almost 9g salt [3], so that is over 4g of salt per person for the snack option or over 2g for the starter.

Puttanesca presto – a pasta dish made with olives, anchovies, capers and a jar of ready-made sauce – contains almost 15g salt [4], not including the salt that is added to the pasta when cooking, or any parmesan added later.  This is a recipe for four, so that's at least 3.5g of salt each.

Vietnamese beef patties with a dipping sauce come to over 6g [5]  of salt between two, over 3g each.

“Delia Smith is very respected by the public and has great influence over what we cook.  She has been trusted by millions of people for years to provide easy, everyday recipes,” said Professor Graham MacGregor, Chairman of CASH and professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the Medical School at St George’s Hospital in London.  “It is a real pity that she seems to be unaware of the dangers of eating too much salt, and furthermore it seems as if these latest recipes have not been checked for their salt content.   

“The UK is currently leading the world in salt reduction.  The majority of our food industry is making huge efforts to reduce the amount of salt they add to food and the public is becoming much more aware that eating too much salt has severe health implications.  Unfortunately, this hard work is undermined when chefs and cookery writers appear on television using high salt ingredients and adding large amounts of unnecessary salt to their recipes.  Research suggests that 19,000 deaths from stroke and heart attacks could be prevented in this country each year if we could get down from our current 9g a day to an average of 6g of salt per day for adults.”

“Nutritionists would always advise people to cook meals from scratch, using fresh ingredients and adding as little salt as possible,” said Carrie Bolt, CASH Nutritionist. It really doesn’t take long to make a simple tomato sauce from a can of tomatoes, some onion, garlic and herbs.  Avoiding ready-made versions like tinned mince and jars of sauce would cut the salt content of some of these recipes dramatically.
“If people do want to cook one of Delia’s Cheat recipes – and they are not all high in salt – then I would advise them to try the ones that do not feature high salt ingredients such as anchovies, olives, capers, stock, Parma ham, ready-cooked bacon, Thai fish sauce, soy sauce, blue cheese, and Pecorino Romano cheese.   And there is certainly no need to add any extra salt during cooking.”    


1 Thick pea and bacon soup recipe:
2x300g tins Farrows marrowfat peas = 2.3g salt
55g pack M&S ready cooked crispy smoked bacon strips = 4.1g salt
2.5 teaspoons Marigold Bouillon powder = 5.5g salt
Total = 11.9g salt (not including salt added during cooking)
Total per serving for 2 = 5.95g salt

2 Carbonara real quick recipe:
2 x 55g pack ready-cooked M&S crispy smoked bacon strips bacon = 8.2g salt
40g Pecorino Romano cheese (4 tablespoons) = 2.96g salt
Estimated 40g Pecorino Romano as ‘lots more’ = 2.96g salt  
Total = 14.12g salt (not including salt added during cooking)
Total per serving for 2 = 7.06g salt

3 Grilled polenta recipe:
250g polenta = 3.25g salt
6 slices of  Sainsburys TasteThe Difference parma ham = 4.2g salt
75g Gruyere = 1.125g salt
2 tablespoons parmesan (20g) = 0.3g salt
Total = 8.875g salt
Total per serving for 2 = 4.437g salt

4 Puttanesca presto recipe:
150g Tesco pitted black olives = 3g salt
1 heaped tbsp (15g) capers = 1.05g salt
50g Sainsburys anchovies = 7.5g salt
350g jar Dress tomato sauce with sun-dried tomatoes = 3.225g salt
Total = 14.805g salt (not including salt added during cooking, or parmesan)
Total per serving for 4 = 3.7g salt

5 Vietnamese beef patties recipe:
3 Tbsp (90g) Whole Earth peanut butter = 0.9g salt
1 dessertspoon (10 ml) Thai fish sauce = 2.0g salt
2 Tbsps (30ml) Amoy Soy Sauce = 2.4g salt
2 tbsps (30g) Heinz organic tomato ketchup = 0.9g salt
Total = 6.2g salt
Total per serving for 2 = 3.1g salt

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