Regular readers will know I am a *little bit* obsessed with storage containers. I know, sad but true. But they’re just so practical. And varied in shape. And with interesting little sections and snap-on lids. Who needs the Tiffany diamond department when you’ve got Robert Dyas’ plasticware section??
Recently the lovely folks at Joseph Joseph caught wind of my love of storage containers and sent me this beautiful nest of coloured containers to test. Well, obviously I love them. They don’t only look stylish, they work really well. The lids are colour coordinated with the container part via a little coloured dot so there’s no risk of mixing them up, and for those who are tight on space, the lids snap together for almost-flat storage, and the containers stack inside each other, making for a neat and tidy cupboard.
The containers are air-tight with silicone seals, see-through (handy) and über stylish. Look!
So it’s bye-bye to the sad old Tupperwares inherited from my mother, and the shambolic cupboard full of plastic boxes with missing lids (or never the right lid…), and hello storage heaven… The corner cupboard in my kitchen has never looked so smart. At £40, it’s the perfect Christmas gift for any stylish foodie!
Disclaimer: I was sent the Joseph Joseph Nest Storage 6-piece container set for free to try out.
Exciting things are afoot on the blog; it is being redesigned *as we speak* which means that pretty soon I will be unveiling the new look for Spring/Summer 2015 on The One-Handed Cook website. Woo hoo.
In other news, Black Friday and Cyber Monday have been and gone, which means that Christmas is practically upon us. I’ve made a list, I’m checking it twice, and yes, I still need to buy about 800 presents. I have started an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of all the gifts, which feels a bit too organised, even for me.
What else is new? Well, my son is obsessed with Match Attax trading cards, my daughter with her Tiny Tears doll and my husband with his new KitchenAid, which he was given for his birthday. A beautiful red KitchenAid just for me him.
In the meantime, here’s something for you: a soup recipe to help chase away the November blues. It’s a recipe my grandma – a wonderful home cook – used to make, and my mum has passed it on to me. Like all my soup recipes, it’s dead easy to make, and completely delicious. You can make it in stages – make the soup and liquidise it later, if needs be. It also freezes really well, so make double if you have the energy – and freeze half for later. Steaming hot, silky smooth, deliciously fragrant Carrot and Tarragon Soup on a cold winter’s day; what could be nicer?
Carrot and Tarragon Soup
A delicious soup for the whole family. Omit the salt – and go easy on the pepper – if serving to babies and toddlers. If serving to grown-ups, the soup looks good served with a swirl of cream and a bit of chopped parsley on top. It will keep in the fridge for several days and freezes well in an air-tight container.
Makes 8–10 portions
You will need
2tbsp light olive oil
1kg carrots, chopped into chunks
1 large onion, chopped
2 largeish potatoes, peeled and cut into eight
1.5 litres (approx) vegetable stock (I use Marigold bouillon)
1tsp freeze-dried tarragon flakes, or 1tbsp fresh tarragon, washed and chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
What to do
- Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan (I use a Le Creuset), add the onions and cook gently for a few minutes.
- Add the carrots, stir well with the onions and continue cooking for a further 5 minutes or so.
- Add the stock, the potatoes and the tarragon. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 20-30 mins. Check that the carrots are cooked.
- Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Liquidise in a blender, keeping an eye on the thickness of the soup. (Sometimes you have too much liquid and other times you may have to add a bit of water.)
- Season to taste. Reheat the quantity you need and pour into bowls.
It’s time to reveal another of The One-Handed Cook’s all-time favourite bits of kitchen kit. This week my hero gadget is the cafetiere.
I love coffee. I love coffee made at home in my cafetiere, and I love coffee in cafés. When my children were babies, it was such a treat to pack up their little tubs of food and bags of rice cakes and retreat to the warmth of a cosy café with another mum for a chat and a coffee THAT SOMEONE ELSE HAD MADE FOR ME. Such a joy. It almost made the lack of sleep worth it, just for that first sip of dark bitter liquid enlaced with creamy milk. Oh yes.
At home I always use a cafetiere for my coffee. It’s an absolute must-have for any tired parent in need of a coffee to keep them going at home, and has four key benefits:
- It’s cheap to buy (take note, Nespresso fans – you’ll soon get bored of forking out for those pod things).
- It makes decent coffee. Experiment with the amount of ground coffee you put in; you can make a really good cup. Trust me.
- You can make a cafetiere of coffee one-handed; simply just boil the kettle, add scoops of coffee (how many depends on what ungodly hour your little one clambered in to your bed in for a cuddling/wriggling/head-butting session), wait for a bit, and then push down the button, and pour into favourite cup.
- You can buy little cafetiere jackets to keep the coffee in your cafetiere hotter for longer – an essential purchase for all parents – you’ve made the coffee, but who knows when you are actually going to be able to drink it? When you do get to it, you want it to actually be hot! I got mine on Amazon, and it really works.
Enjoy your coffee this fine November morning. Even better, enjoy it with a friend :)
If you could choose only 10 kitchen store-cupboard must-haves,
what would they be?
Lifestyle blog Tombola Times has set out to reveal the nation’s Top 10 Must-Have Store Cupboard Items and got in touch asking if I’d share my most essential items with them. Not an easy task – there are so many ‘must-have’ things in my cupboard, that choosing just 10 was tricky!
Having the right things at hand in the kitchen makes it easier to eat well, and means you can always rustle up a delicious meal, even if you are short of time or inspiration. So I accepted the challenge, and you’ll find my Top 10 kitchen cupboard essentials for busy mums and dads below…
TT have even set up a survey asking for your ultimate kitchen cupboard items, and they’ll be collecting all the answers and publishing the nation’s favourites next month. So do take part here https://www.tombola.co.uk/times/food-lovers-ultimate-store-cupboard/ and share your store cupboard essentials. Everyone who takes part in the survey has a chance of winning the nation’s Top 10 Store Cupboard items in the form of a lovely hamper. So get over there and make your selection! I am sure you have some products you swear by that are different to mine, for instance. (Pray, do tell…)
Here are my Top 10 Hero Kitchen Cupboard essentials, complete with notes on each item. NB They are in no particular order; all are essential!
1. Free-range eggs
Versatile, cheap, nutritious – if you’ve got eggs and some salt & pepper, you’ve always got a quick and easy meal. Poached, scrambled, boiled, fried or used to make a quick carbonara sauce for pasta – eggs are the ultimate convenience food.
2. Arborio rice
Keep on hand for when you have leftover roast chicken or vegetables and make a delicious creamy risotto with stock and Parmesan grated in. Kids love it.
3. Tinned chopped tomatoes
A must for every cupboard – whether you’re whipping up a Bolognese, a casserole, or a simple pasta sauce, tinned tomatoes are packed with flavour. My favourite brand is Napolina.
Where would we be without it? Many’s the time I’ve thought ‘what the heck are we going to have for dinner?’, spotted the pasta, eyed up the contents of the fridge, and created supper out of practically nothing. Best brand? De Cecco, without a doubt.
5. Tinned albacore tuna
We are fans of Sainsbury’s albacore tuna, which tastes about a hundred times nicer than bog-standard tuna. A great lean protein source, it has a lovely flavour, a good firm texture and is delicious in salads, pasta dishes or with mayo in sandwiches.
6. Soy sauce
I buy Kikkoman’s soy sauce; always have, always will. It’s fantastic in stir-fries, adds bite to salad dressings and makes a great marinade for chicken, fish or steaks.
7. Olive oil
I tend to use extra-virgin olive oil in dressings and to drizzle on food, and a lighter olive oil for cooking. High in monounsaturated fat it’s a healthier choice for the family.
8. Maple syrup
The best one I’ve discovered is Waitrose’s organic maple syrup – it tastes simply divine. Drizzle maple syrup one-handed on to pancakes at the weekend, add to cakes and muffins when baking, or pour onto plain yogurt and dot with fresh berries. Yum.
9. Peanut butter
My favourite is Whole Earth’s Crunchy Peanut Butter as it contains just peanuts, oil and salt. It’s brilliant on its own on toast or rice cakes, with bananas and maple syrup on pancakes, or added to stir-fries for a satay-style kick.
I don’t think I could cook without fresh garlic; along with salt, pepper, and my array of herbs and spices, it’s what gives my savoury dishes depth and flavour. Love it.
Of course, if I could pick 11, red wine would definitely be on there! ;) What do you think of my list? Would yours be different? Take part in the survey here and share your store cupboard essentials.
Happy cooking, folks!
This is a commissioned post.
I recently had a great session on food styling for blog photography with a food stylist. We had a great session making these Smoky Baked Beans and Bangers, and I really enjoyed using my Playmobil ghosts to make them feel a bit autumnal and spooky. This would be a nice dish for a Bonfire Night gathering.
I love the dish styled in the gorgeous red enamel saucepan. This was picked up in a charity shop! I have to confess, much as I love a browse in a secondhand store, kitchenware is not something I would have thought of looking for, so that inspired me straight away.
This is an easy dish to make and perfect for autumnal evenings now the nights are drawing in. Healthy cannellini beans are full of fibre and the dish contains no added sugar, unlike tinned baked beans. Grating the onion, carrot and garlic is a ‘grate’ (sorry) quick tip and means less chopping, obvs.
Smoky Baked Beans
You will need:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, grated
1 carrot, grated
1 garlic clove, grated
1 tsp mixed herbs
Pinch smoked paprika
400g can chopped tomatoes
1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
Cooked mini sausages, and mini pitta breads to serve with the beans.
What to do:
- Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Add the onion and carrot and cook for 3 minutes until starting to soften.
- Add the garlic, herbs and paprika and continue to cook for a couple of minutes.
- Add the tomatoes and beans, bring to the boil and let them bubble for 5 minutes or until thickened.
- Season with salt and pepper before serving with mini sausage pittas.
Happy Bonfire Night, and be safe.
I recently had the pleasure of spending a day with professional food stylist Rosie Reynolds, who gave me some expert food styling advice for food blog photos. Rosie and I met through work, and she was so enthusiastic about my blog, she came to see me at One-Handed HQ for a Halloween-themed baking, decorating and photo session.
We baked delicious chocolate cupcakes, which we decorated using jelly snakes to make Snake Cupcakes, and with chocolate icing and cola laces to make Spider Cupcakes, which we then had great fun setting up in a spooky Halloween tableau (above), complete with skeletons dangling down, all lit by candlelight. In the words of Miranda: such fun!
Rosie has a great eye, and one of the best tips I learnt from her was to take the photo and then look at it really carefully on-screen before deciding what to add in or what to remove to get the best possible shot. Make the change, then take another photo, and compare the two. Usually the secret is taking something away to simplify things and let the food take centre stage.
Another great tip is to try to keep the food and the styling as natural as possible – if you’re serving a casserole, for instance, don’t be afraid to dig into the food and swirl it around with the serving spoon, so it looks accessible and yummy. For cakes and puddings, a few crumbs scattered around make it look even more delicious and homemade.
For best results, shoot in natural daylight (these photos were all taken on my iPhone) and think about the background you are presenting the food on – again, natural surfaces are great for such purposes. Wood, tile and slate are good; have you got an old wooden trunk, or some tiles left over from a building project? Even an old door with peeling paint can be great for overhead shots. Sometimes the most unexpected things can work really well. Take a good look through your cookbooks or BBC Good Food and take inspiration from what they use. Pinterest is useful for ideas, too.
We had a great time styling these shots (and eating jelly snakes). I picked up some really useful tips for future posts and I hope you like them, and enjoy the cakes. Of course, they’re very sweet, so a bit of a treat for little ones. I presented them whole to the children and then cut each cake in half as I thought a whole one would be too much for one child. (I was right.) They absolutely loved them – a real Halloween hit!
Happy Halloween, folks.
Spooky Halloween Cupcakes
40g cocoa powder
3–4 tbsp boiling water
125g butter, softened
150g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
4 tbsp fat free natural yogurt
125g wholemeal flour or plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
For the icing
50g butter, softened
3 tbsp cocoa powder
3–4tbsp fat free natural yogurt
250g icing sugar, sifted
Splash of hot water if needed to make a nice smooth icing
Cola flavour laces
75g packet jelly worms
To make the cupcakes:
1. Preheat oven to 180C/160C Fan/Gas 4. Line a muffin tray with 10 paper cases, set aside.
2. Sift the cocoa into a bowl. Stir in the water to make a smooth paste. Tip in the rest of the ingredients and beat with a wooden spoon until smooth.
3. Use two dessert spoons to evenly fill your cake cases – be careful not to overfill.
4. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until your cakes are risen and a skewer inserted into the middle of a cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
To make the icing:
Cream the butter, cocoa and yogurt together until smooth. Gradually add the sifted icing sugar, beat after each addition until smooth. It might be a bit dry, but if you let the mix relax then keep beating it should come together, if not, add a splash of hot water to create a smooth icing.
Divide the icing between your cakes, spread over the surface with the back of a spoon.
Decorate yourself, or get bigger kids to do their own – depending on how good you are at coping with MESS!
Snake Cupcakes: We decided not to ice these, but of course you can if you want to. Simply cut your jelly snake in half, and make a little hole in the side of your cake, using your fingers. Make another little hole on the opposite side of the cupcake to enable your snake to ‘slither’ through the cake – stick the head in one hole and the tail in the other. It’s that easy.
Spider Cupcakes: Spread the top of the cake with icing and use a cocktail stick to prick the icing and make little bumps. Use little sugar balls for the eyes and cut-up bits of jelly snake for eyebrows. To make the dangly legs, cut cola laces in half and tie a little knot at the end for a foot. Use the cocktail stick to make a little hole for each leg.
Life has been far from perfect of late, purely in terms of how busy I am, husband is, and indeed we all are. What with a work trip, the new term and associated school admin, sorting out jobs that need doing to the house, piles of washing, getting up really early in an attempt to Get Things Done, oh, and having a cold for three weeks, sometimes it all feels a Bit Much.
But busy isn’t always bad, and I’ve managed to fit in some fun stuff, too, including a lovely session with an amazing food stylist I met through work who has given me some fantastic tips for the blog (more on that soon), plus it’s Mumsnet Blogfest next month, which I am sure will be pretty perfect. It’s a great chance to get inspired about various aspects of blogging (although I am not sure I will ever ‘change the world’ with a pasta recipe, but hey ho), swap blogging stories, have a laugh, drink some sparkling wine and get a nice goody bag. What’s not to like? I am looking forward to hearing one of my fave authors, Rachel Joyce, speak, learning how to make my blog better and, best of all, meeting fellow bloggers old and new. Whoop.
In the meantime, I have learnt how to make the *perfect* poached egg. (I know!) Eggs are wonderfully comforting, and a simple soft poached egg served with a slice of buttered toast and a mug of tea can do a lot for a busy, frazzled parent in need of some TLC. Preparing something so simple and nourishing, in (hopefully) a moment of calm while baby naps or the children are at school, or simply for breakfast, can be a very pleasant interlude. And as for that satisfying moment when the yolk spills out on to the toast, well, it can be quite therapeutic, particularly if it is soft, runny and cooked to perfection.
Free-range eggs are also a great nutritious dish for the whole family (babies should be over 1 if you are serving the yolk soft) – they’re packed with protein and B vitamins, they’re easy to prepare and cook and frankly, the perfect dish for a quick, healthy energy boost – perfect for anyone on the go. What’s more, if you can crack an egg one-handed, poached eggs and toast can easily be prepared with one hand while a) holding baby, b) filling in yet another form/cheque/reading book record for school, or c) typing an email on your phone to your boss with the other. If you have a Spork, you can even eat it one-handed too. Perfect.
Perfect Poached Egg for one
The trick with the vinegar I learnt from my food stylist friend Rosie. It works a treat!
You will need:
1 free-range egg
White wine vinegar
One slice of sourdough bread, toasted and buttered to serve (my favourite butter is this Brue Valley Butter which I get in my Riverford box every week; it is delicious)
What to do:
- Bring some water to the boil in a small saucepan (fill it about two thirds full).
- Take a teacup and pour in a centimetre or so of white wine vinegar, swill it round, then return the vinegar to the bottle. Crack the egg into the teacup.
- Once your water is boiling, create a whirlpool in the water by stirring it with a small wooden spoon. Add the egg to the centre of the whirlpool, reduce the heat slightly and cook for 2 ½ minutes for a soft yolk.
- Once cooked, remove the egg using a slotted spoon and put on a plate. Use a teaspoon to remove any of the ‘frothy’ white (it comes away easily) to ensure your poached egg has a nice regular shape.
- Place the egg on top of your toast and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.