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.
So the sun’s come out! Which is nice. I am actually feeling pretty summery all of a sudden, what with all the seasonal fruit – raspberries, strawberries, peaches – and of course lovely cold ice-cream. In a cone, in a bowl, straight from the tub (I didn’t say that)… it’s the perfect thing on a hot day, and of course the children love the stuff.
I like making sumptuous sauces to drizzle on top of ice-cream, so when Le Creuset asked me if I’d like to try out their new saucepan range, I jumped at the chance. Regular readers will know I am a huge fan of their cast ironware, but I’d never tried their stainless steel pans before. So I used the Le Creuset 3-ply Stainless Steel Sauce Pan to make two ice-cream toppings, which I hope you will like – Butterscotch and Summer Berry. Mmm.
I have to say, the Le Creuset 3-ply Stainless Steel Sauce Pan is brilliant, and has swiftly become my new favourite saucepan – it’s just the right size (not too big, not too small), it conducts heat really well and gives good heat distribution – noticeably better than my standard pans. It’s great for making sauces, making porridge, heating soup etc as you can be sure you won’t get ‘hot spots’ where the middle is hotter than the rest. I really love it as it makes cooking hassle-free! (Big tick.) What’s more – attention, busy mums and dads – you can pour from it one-handed if needs be, as it has an all-round pouring rim. Useful.
I also tested the little Le Creuset sieve, which is just really cute and perfect for the second recipe, below, and the Le Creuset balloon whisk with its smart red handle.
And now for the delicious and oh-so-easy sauces:
Beautiful Butterscotch Sauce
When I made this, my husband said ‘This is completely amazing’ – enough said, really. Admittedly, it’s not the healthiest of things, but a drizzle here and there is such a treat… This is good with vanilla ice-cream (my fave is Yeo Valley) and if you’re organized, with ready weighed-out ingredients, can be made one-handed so you can tend to baby while making a delicious sauce. Oh yes. Just stir and go.
You will need:
25g light brown or muscovado sugar
90g golden syrup
1tsp lemon juice
75ml double cream
- Put the butter, sugar and syrup into a smallish pan
- Heat gently, stirring from time to time, until the butter has melted, and keep stirring until it’s beautifully mixed together
- Stir in the lemon juice and the cream and heat gently until simmering
- Serve warm over ice-cream, or allow to cool and serve at room temperature.
Summer Berry Sauce
You can use one type or a mixture of berries for this sauce. Raspberries, strawberries, blueberries – anything goes. Three ingredients and you’re done. You can also drizzle this sauce on pancakes (crêpes). This sauce smells amazing, and tastes equally delicious – like summer in a bowl.
You will need
250g summer berries
2tsp lemon juice
2-3tbsp icing sugar (or you can use caster if that’s all you have)
- Blend the fruit, the lemon juice and the icing sugar in the blender (you may need to add a dash of water to stop it clogging together) until smooth
- Sieve the sauce through a fine mesh sieve to remove the seeds.
- Serve as is, or gently heat in a saucepan.
I hope you enjoy these sauces. Happy cooking, peeps.
You can find the pan here: http://www.lecreuset.co.uk
Disclaimer: I was sent the Le Creuset 3-Ply Stainless Steel Sauce Pan for free to review on the blog. All opinions are my own.
‘If you have lentils in your kitchen, you have dinner. Time and time again I turn to this quick-cooking, richly flavoured legume when I’m in a quandary as to what to make…’
Wise words from food writer and author Martha Rose Shulman, a chef who excels particularly when it comes to healthy, vegetarian meals. She has a passion for Mediterranean food, and her Mediterranean Harvest cookbook is one I come back to again and again.
Like Martha, I love lentils. They are just so brilliantly versatile and easy to use – I love making dal with red lentils, and salads using French Puy lentils, for instance. I particularly love using them in soups – they are the perfect thing to sling in to add substance and bite.
A 500g packet of red lentils costs about £1 from Sainsburys, so they are a good cheap staple to have in your store cupboard. They are a good source of protein and B vitamins, are low in calories and are a good source of fibre – so they are an excellent staple in a child’s diet. My two love it, and the 7-year-old always gives it 9/10 – no word of a lie!
Personally, I find making soup very calming – it’s almost like therapy, as, having peeled and chopped my ingredients, I stand stirring, one-handed, with my wooden spoon, and the wonderful savoury smell of the soup fills the air. I think it is something to do with pausing after a busy morning, or a busy day, and making something to nourish us all. As I taste, and stir again, I look forward to sharing the soup with my husband and the children round the kitchen table. It’s the simple things in life that are sometimes the best.
Provençal Lentil and Tomato Soup
This tasty soup doesn’t require any complicated ingredients and is dead easy to make. I have adapted Martha Rose Shulman’s original recipe to make it even more straightforward, and I promise you it is completely delicious. It keeps well in the fridge, and tastes even better the next day. It is rich, flavoursome and a firm family favourite here at One-Handed HQ.
You will need:
175g red lentils, picked over and rinsed
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 bay leaf
1 litre water
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 celery stalk, diced (optional)
1 jar organic passata
1 sprig fresh thyme
Handful of fresh basil leaves, chopped
What to do:
- Place the lentils in a saucepan with one of the garlic cloves and the bay leaf. Add 4/5 of the water (800ml) and bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.
- Drain the lentils through sieve placed over a bowl (i.e. reserve the cooking liquid), then rinse the lentils with cold water and set aside. Remove and discard the bay leaf.
- Mash the cooked garlic clove with the remaining two cloves in a pestle and mortar. Set aside.
- Heat the olive oil in a large Le Creuset casserole, or similar heavy-bottomed pan, add the onion and celery (if using). Cook for 5–10 minutes, until soft.
- Add the passata, mashed garlic and lentils, and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Then add the cooking water from the lentils, the remaining 200ml water, the thyme, the basil and season to taste.
- Bring to a simmer, cover, and then simmer gently for 30 minutes over a low heat. The lentils should be tender but intact, the broth fragrant. Taste and adjust seasoning.
- Serve as is, or with some grated Parmesan on top, with crusty bread.
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.