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.
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 🙂
I am writing this while listening to The Ministry of Sound 90s Anthems CD. Oh yes. Not my usual Saturday afternoon listening choice, but it sure as hell is taking me back to student days, badly lit discos, getting ready to go out clubbing, and road trips across the country with mates in small cars. It’s funny how certain music can take you back to a certain moment in time. It’s almost as if I am still 20. Almost.
So, weirdly, no clubbing for me tonight, but I am going out for dinner here, and am muchly looking forward to it. In the meantime, I wanted to share one of my current favourite bits of kitchen kit, which helps me do things one-handed in the kitchen.
I recently discovered these one-handed pepper mills and salt grinders from David Mason Design in Waitrose. It is impossible to use a pepper mill when you have a baby in one hand – no matter how much you want to add a grinding of pepper to your pasta sauce, you can’t until you’ve put baby down. Which is sometimes not an option, as we know. But don’t worry, Things Can Only Get Better.
With one of these brilliantly designed mills, you can add pepper with one hand. With the aptly named ‘Triga’ you just pull the ‘trigger’ and you’re off. With the ‘Pepperpod’ you simply squeeze the handles together. I did find that the Triga salt mill doesn’t grind your salt fine fine, however, and is probably more suitable for adding salt while cooking than using at the table. However, they also have the ‘Triga Combi’, which is a pepper grinder at the bottom, and a salt shaker at the top. This is the Rhythm of the Night… sorry, I mean the ultimate in one-handed seasoning! Oh yeah.
It’s been a while since I featured a Hero Gadget on the blog. It suddenly struck me that I had not yet featured my beloved Microplane grater, and I’ve been writing this thing for almost a year (er, how the hell did that happen?). So it is time to put things right.
Put simply, any kitchen worth its salt has to have a Microplane grater. For a start, it works. Every time. It doesn’t bend. It won’t buckle. It is rigid and unyielding (a bit like my six-year-old when it comes to eating broccoli). It looks good; it is robust; it is multi-functional. It stays sharp. It goes in the dishwasher. It is the king of graters. This is truly a gadget for a time-pressed parent who just needs things to work.
I have two Microplane graters: a fine one and a coarse one. The fine one is brilliant for grating Parmesan, or any other hard cheese, nutmeg, chocolate etc. It is also completely brilliant for zesting oranges, lemons and limes. The coarse one is also good for Parmesan, but can also be used for fruit and vegetables – onion, celery, carrot, apple – all have seen the rough side of the grater in my house.
Now of course, it is physically impossible to grate something one-handed. So this is a gadget to use quickly, while baby or toddler is content and occupied. Pop him or her in the bouncy chair or the sling, and pick up your Microplane. It won’t let you down, I promise. In fact it will work so well, the only thing that might let you down is over-zealous grating… watch those fingers, folks.
In other news, the oldest one goes back to school tomorrow. Where oh where have six weeks gone? Yes, I was that mum frantically buying school uniform in my lunch hour today. Amazingly, they had trousers in his size. Nothing like leaving things to the last minute…Oh lordy, now I need to sew a name tag on them…
Happy Back to School everyone 🙂
So, it’s back to earth with a bump after our first ever family holiday in Denmark. It really was the perfect fortnight away. We saw family for a few nights – husband’s mother is Danish so he has cousins over there – and then spent time just the four of us, which was much needed.
After seeing the Danish relations in their beautiful house full of lovely Danish-designed furniture and kitchenware (I had serious kitchen envy… am now saving for an Alessi kettle), we spent time on the northernmost tip of the Jutland peninsula – a beautiful headland called Skagen (pronounced ‘Skay-en’), a place famed for its beautiful light, enormous sand dunes and vast sandy beaches. From there we headed to the west coast, to Henne Strand, where were lucky enough to stay in a traditional wooden summerhouse nestled in its own sand dune, surrounded by wild heather, just a 10-minute walk from the beach. The stars were beautiful, and the silence very welcome. We rounded it all off with three days in Copenhagen, which teems with bicycles, wonderful restaurants, trendy districts and beautiful harbour views. Oh, and I almost forgot – of course, we went to Legoland in Billund, which was superb – perfect for the little one and the big one, and us even bigger ones. We were all captivated by Miniland. Overall, it was organised, fun, nice vibe, hardly any queues. Loved it.
Spending time together as a family is like a tonic. Yes, of course, travelling with young children can be stressful at times, but being together, finding a new rhythm, not rushing to school, or checking the clock all the time, discovering new things together, having time to just potter around our surroundings, taking a breather from the city… holidays are the moments memories are made of. So I will be making a holiday photo album, and remembering Denmark with fondness.
In the mean time, particularly food-wise, I will have to make do with Signe Johansen’s wonderful Scandilicious cook books, the occasional trip to The Scandinavian Kitchen in London, and maybe a trip to the Scandinavia Show later in the year.
While we were away, I compiled a little list of Good Danish Things and Bad Danish Things. See below.
Good Danish things:
– Smørrebrød (open sandwiches topped with things like pickled herring, potato and dill, or little slices of cheese, or Danish salami). Son (6) astonished everyone by announcing that he ‘loves’ pickled herring.
– Individual duvets – there are no duvet-hoggers in Denmark, because everyone has their own! Even on a double bed, you get a duvet each. Heaven.
– Cycle lanes – they are everywhere and they are amazing. Makes us look rather backwards in the UK, frankly. Cycling keeps you fit, the whole family can do it together, and it’s safe. Top marks.
– Mini shopping trolleys – we visited a few supermarkets and they all had them for the kids to push around. A godsend. Why don’t we have in the UK?
– Cheese slicers – the breakfast buffet at the hotel in Copenhagen featured an amazing wheel-like cheese cutter with a wire that you rotate by hand and it slices the cheese. Soooo cool. I wanted to slip it into my suitcase. Called a ostekærer it looks like this, and is completely awesome.
– Trendy kitchenware shops – I discovered Danish kitchenware brands Eva Solo (available from John Lewis, Rig Tig and Rosti Mepal, all of which feature beautiful designs and useful gadgets and products. I was in heaven (again!).
Bad Danish Things
– Charging for tap water – this seemed to be the norm in restaurants, and was a bit of a shock given that it’s always free in the UK of course.
– Nearly being run over by a bike every five minutes 😉
If you fancy a trip to Denmark, I suggest you visit Visit Denmark as a starting point.
Hope you’ve had a great holiday with your family,
So, fruit. The packed-with-vitamins, portable, healthy snack of choice for parents … and, frustratingly, sometimes a tough sell, let’s face it. Compared with the unmatched appeal of a biscuit, it can be hard to convince little ones of the merits of fresh fruit sometimes. Although, I’ll be honest, having said that, some fruits take little persuasion for my two to devour by the ton. (I’m looking at you, Mr Punnet of Blueberries, and you Miss Bowl of Raspberries. You know who you are, costing me three quid a pop, or thereabouts…)
Nah, the tough sell is the humble apple.
‘Who fancies an apple?’ I say brightly, looking at the fruit bowl, which is overflowing with Braeburns or Coxes. Lips get turned up, heads get shaken. ‘I don’t like the pips. Have we got any strawberries, mummy?’ I remain upbeat – ‘No, no strawberries today. I’ve got lots of lovely apples though. Mmmm, jucy apples. Who wants an apple?’ No response. ‘Come on, you can have it whole!’ Tumbleweed. ‘I know, I can cut it up for you!’ A head twitches, a nostril flares, ‘No, mummy, I DON’T LIKE THEM CUT UP’ (that’s the scary three-year-old). Silence ensues.
I pause, and then, triumphantly, I pull my final rabbit out of the hat, ‘I know, what about … apple rings?’ Two heads swivel round and four blue eyes light up. ‘Yeah!!! We love apple rings!! Can we have them in a little bowl, mummy!’
And that, dear reader, is how to pitch an apple to a child.
To make apples instantly appealing, get an apple corer, remove the core, place the apple on its side, take a sharp knife, and slice into rings. Ta-da!
Apple rings can be presented on plates, in bowls, worn on small fingers, stacked, repurposed as comedy spectacles (see photo) and, if you pop a suitably sized grape in the middle of the hole, rebranded as a flying saucer (!) I know, I’m a genius *takes a bow*.