Every now and then I come across a kitchen gadget that I just LOVE. It’s not often I stumble upon three. Three gadgets that this busy mama loves – and why? Because they Make Life Easier. Which we like. I recommend you get your hands on these, and quick.
Wooden toast tongs
Utter genius for anyone who likes toasting awkwardly shaped bread-related items with a tendency to get stuck in the toaster, or else be finger-searingly hot once they’re done: think hot cross buns, bagels, waffles, odd crusts and so on. So how do you get them out? You need slim, bamboo tongs with a cunning magnet on the side TO STICK THEM TO THE TOASTER SO YOU DON’T LOSE THEM (yet more genius) – and enable you to make toast one-handed – of course. Get through breakfast with panache. Buy them Lakeland for just £1.99.
Spice jar measuring spoons
Frankly, I can’t believe I’ve lasted 39 years without a set of these. Slimline measuring spoons that fit into narrow spice jars. They will actually help make cooking quicker, easier and less messy, I promise. There’s not much more to say really, other than these are completely brilliant and I consider them essential! Available from Amazon, John Lewis and Lakeland and made by the brilliant guys at Oxo Good Grips.
Sparkling wine opener
I’ve never been a fan of opening prosecco or champagne bottles – I have an innate fear of the cork literally exploding out of the bottle and causing a major incident. So I tended to always get a friend to do it. No longer with this little gadget, the Sparkling Wine Star, brought to you by Le Creuset (www.lecreuset.co.uk) – simply remove the foil, attach star to cork and twist. Pour and relax. An absolute must for every knackered parent out there.
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.
Ah, holidays… some see holidays as a chance to spend time together as a family, peacefully reflecting on the meaning of life, passing days quietly doing relaxing activities together… Hmm, not in this household. More like a chance to spend 24 hours a day together in a place that’s hotter than the sun (Spain), jump in swimming pools, eat far too many crisps, and cope with whining children who ‘just want to get this one thing’ from the tacky souvenir shop….
Ho ho. But seriously, Spain was great. We spent two days in Barcelona followed by eight down near Valencia, combining pool time with visits to the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias, the waterpark in Cullera (fantastic fun) and, er, the local Carrefour. Yup, one of my holiday highlights was browsing the aisles in the local hypermarket – I spotted unusual bathmats, some lovely wicker baskets, some great clothes, and as for the kitchenware – there were gadgets I’d never even seen before (I didn’t think this was possible).
Frankly, you can’t beat a European supermarket. And what did I come home with from Spain? Yup, three mini storage containers in orange, yellow and green, ‘para las frutas’ – I couldn’t resist them, as I loved the bright colours. Truly rock n roll, baby.
Hasta la vista,
Buying my first very own Le Creuset felt like a giant leap. Having grown up with a Francophile French teacher mum, Le Creuset was a name I had known all my life. On holidays to France, mum would make a trip to the quincaillerie, or hardware store – for this was about the only place the heavy orange enamel pans were sold in those days – and stock up on heavy lidded pots. And so, buying a large red Le Creuset casserole at the age of 25 or so, marked a milestone for me. No longer a student, earning money, living with my boyfriend in London, owning a Le Creuset. I was a grown up! (How did that happen?) And now I have two children, and the red Le Creuset has a little brother, a smaller blue one, and I couldn’t live without (any of) them.
They are expensive, I admit, but boy, do they last. And boy, are they versatile. Which is why we love Le Creuset, and why these amazing enamel, heavy duty pans get a mention on the blog. Every busy mum – or dad – trying to get dinner on the table needs a Le Creuset, I think. I use mine all the time, and can’t imagine what I’d do without them. Whether it’s to make soup or a stew (the heavy enamel base conducts heat really effectively), to make Bolognese sauce (get all your ingredients in, in the usual way, bring to a simmer and then transfer straight from the hob to the pre-heated oven for 45 mins), or for casserole that goes straight from oven to table, they are simply unbeatable. Perfect for the one-handed cook … Yes, you can even stir them one-handed – they don’t tend to move when they’re on the hob – they’re so darn heavy!
To buy or not to buy a Le Creuset: weighing up the options
– Heavy, solid, a Le Creuset is a quality bit of kitchen kit that will last you for decades (they make a great wedding gift)
– Transfer your dish straight from the hob to the oven, and back again if needs be, and then straight to the table (less hassle, fewer dishes to wash)
– They conduct heat really efficiently
– Le Creuset pans look really attractive and come in an array of beautiful hues to match any kitchen colour scheme, including yellow. (And if your enamel chips, they look even more rustic!)
– They have their own Pinterest page! www.pinterest.com/lecreusetuk
– They weigh a ton. Not for the feeble.
– They are pricey, but they do last for ever, practically (see above).
So there you have it. Le Lowdown on Le Creuset.
I know I am a bit late for Shrove Tuesday, but then, given I usually have two kids in tow, I am often late for a lot of things… Anyway, today I bring you pancakes. Who doesn’t love a pancake? Warm from the frying pan, with a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkling of sugar, they are manna from heaven. When I went travelling in Thailand many moons ago (pre-children) banana pancakes made in tiny little pans over a gas flame in the street became almost a daily staple for body and soul – served, as they were, with a swirl of chocolate sauce and a beaming smile.
I was lucky enough to be sent a Pancake Kit by the lovely people at Oxo Good Grips, who produce fantastic kitchen tools, it has to be said. My kit comprised an Oxo Good Grips batter bowl, an Oxo Good Grips Silicone Balloon Whisk and an Oxo Good Grips Silicone Flexible Pancake Turner. I was particularly excited about the batter bowl, because one of the things that is tricky to do one-handed in the kitchen, while holding baby in one hand, is stir something in a bowl because invariably the bowl will move. Not with this bad boy. It has a non-skid base to stabilize the bowl when mixing. Genius. Now, Oxo may not have designed this bowl with the one-handed cook in mind, but boy, is this one-handed cook happy about it!
I made my pancake batter – see below for recipe – using my lovely batter bowl and gave it the one-handed test, with my whisk in my right hand and, not a baby this time I confess, but a cup of coffee in my left. This is how I did it: I put the batter bowl on my platform scale and weighed the flour straight into it, put it back on the kitchen worktop then added the pre-cracked egg and the extra yolk, the pre-melted butter, a pinch of salt, started whisking, and then added the milk bit by bit until I’d made my lovely mixture. The bowl holds 2 litres, and has high sides, making it splatter-proof, too – very handy. The handle makes it comfortable to hold, and it has a wide lip for easy pouring. I can see this becoming my go-to mixing bowl for cakes.
As you can see from my One-Handed Cook logo, I am a big fan of the whisk! The Oxo Good Grips balloon whisk is also a lovely thing to use – for me, what makes it different is the fact that the handle is shorter than most, which actually gives you better control, and the rubbery handle feels really nice and doesn’t slip out of your hand (hence the ‘good grip’ bit – keep up). I also love it because it’s red, and if you know me, you’ll know I like a colourful kitchen gadget. The pancake turner is super-flexible and very thin, so perfect for turning not just pancakes, but anything really, because it’s large and helps prevent things falling apart – you could use for omelettes, fish, burgers etc. Finally, the other good thing about all these Oxo Good Grips items is that they all go in the dishwasher once you’ve finished. Result.
See below for my tried-and-tested pancake recipe and filling ideas. I am a bit addicted to this lovely crunchy sugar from Barbados at the moment – it’s called Plantation Reserve Barbados Amber Sugar, it’s a traditionally produced cane sugar and the crystals provide the most wonderful crunch and contrast beautifully with the soft pancake or soft banana. Honestly, you have to try it – it’s the perfect accompaniment to all sorts of things, such as porridge, pancakes, puddings – in fact, all things beginning with ‘p’…
Make the pancake batter at least half an hour in advance of cooking, and then they can be cooked one-handed at tea-time, I promise. I know, I’ve done it. Note that the first pancake often goes a bit wrong, but once you find a rhythm and your pan’s nice and hot these are a cinch to make. Plus the mixture will keep, covered, overnight in the fridge – more for breakfast! Yum.
What you need
100g plain flour
pinch of salt
1 egg yolk
50g melted butter (I use microwave)
What to do
1. Put all the ingredients bar the milk into your bowl and whisk together with a balloon whisk. Gradually add the milk, whisking as you go. Pour through a sieve into a jug and leave to stand, as above.
2. Using a 15-20cm frying pan, heat a small knob of butter on a high-ish heat, and once it’s sizzling hot, add a small ladleful of batter mixture to just cover the base of the pan. ‘Swoosh’ it round the pan by picking it up and moving it around.
3. Use a pancake turner to lift the mixture away from the edge of the pan a little and once the edges turn pale brown (after 30-60 seconds), use it to flip the pancake over and cook for a further 30-60 seconds.
4. Tip out onto a plate or some greaseproof paper.
5. Serve with lemon juice and sugar. Or sliced banana and Nutella. Or squeezy honey and blueberries with Greek yogurt. Or whatever takes your fancy!
These are absolutely yummy and take me back to my own childhood. Grate some cheddar cheese and chop two slices of decent-quality ham. Once you’ve flipped over your pancake, add the cheese and ham mixture to the middle, in a line, and fold the two sides in and over the mixture. Cook for about 30 seconds and then flip the folded pancake back over for a few more seconds, to ensure the cheese is well and truly melted. Serve.
There was an article in the Daily Mail this week which highlighted the fact that us Brits are guilty of buying kitchen gadgets that we think we will use and love, but that in reality just sit in the cupboard gathering dust. As a result, toasted sandwiches, along with homemade panini and coffee, cost us an average of £10.68 each time we have one because these gadgets are so rarely used. Yikes. And you thought Starbucks was expensive…
I confess I do have a toasted sandwich maker, and it does actually come out from time to time, simply because it can make even the most boring cheese sarnie vaguely interesting, and the children like them. But I know there are other gadgets lurking that I never use – paella pan I had to have (used once), pasta machine (used twice), mouli-legumes (hate the bloody thing, wish I’d never bought it – cleaning the thing is an absolute nightmare), brandy glasses (used once since we got married a hundred years ago), miniature nutmeg grater… What was I thinking?
Having said that, I have some hero gadgets I absolutely LOVE and couldn’t live without, many of which I am sharing here on my blog. So far we’ve had my one-handed tin opener (a godsend), my easy-peasy lemon squeezer, super pink tongs (they don’t have to be pink) and the amazing one-handed colander. With more to come (I know!).
So rid yourself of the unnecessary kitchen clutter, reclaim your kitchen drawers, chuck out those novelty oven gloves, pass on the breadmaker you’ve never used, repurpose that ‘hilarious’ guitar-shaped spatula and start afresh. You’ll thank me in the long run.
Your kitchen buddy,
I want to know what gadgets or pieces of kitchen equipment did you simply have to have, and are now lying unloved in a cupboard somewhere, or worse in the loft? Come on, ‘fess up – I want to hear the good, the bad and the ugly!