Thank you all, loyal blog readers for your support over the past couple of years. Every time a new follower signs up, or I get a comment or a ‘like’ I know that writing this is worthwhile! Looking ahead, I have decided to start to grow The One-Handed Cook into a website and my blog will form part of the new site. You can read it here: www.theonehandedcook.com
You will find lots of recipes, gadgets and advice for busy people juggling babies, work, family and life – as well as some new strands and, of course, this blog!
Please do check it out and spread the love for my fledgling brand.
Come and follow me anew on the website!
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.
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.
If you can think ahead when it comes to preparing meals –whether for the children, to eat together as a family, or for two invariably tired parents, then you have already won half the battle in the kitchen, I find. It’s taken a while, but I have learnt that cooking ‘stage by stage’ is a great way of helping me feel like I am (kind of) on top of things. By ‘stage by stage’ I mean using little windows of opportunity when the little ones are asleep/occupied in their high chair/at school to get ahead – so, for example washing and chopping vegetables in advance and storing in the fridge, or pre-roasting root veg to stir into a salad or pasta dish – this helps make prepping supper one-handed with baby on your hip a breeze!
Being a spontaneous kind of girl, at first this notion of planning and doing meal prep in advance really went against the grain, but I have persevered, and now I find it an incredibly useful approach to cooking, especially given the hours I work, and the precious weekend time that I want to spend with the family.
If you can get into the habit of being organized, planning meals, and cooking in stages you will feel calmer and more in control in the kitchen. You will also find you spend less time trying to rustle up meals on the fly and cooking when it’s reached ‘tipping point’, i.e. when the children are hungry and whiny, which can, let’s face it, be very stressful. And no-one likes to be stressed in the kitchen!
To help you feel less stressed and more calm and in control in the kitchen, here are my top time-saving tips for busy people:
- Use the windows of opportunity available to you throughout the day to get ahead: prepare vegetables, make a white sauce, prepare the couscous – even just 5 minutes used well can help you cut down on cooking time later on.
- Keep a well-stocked store cupboard – this is one of the secrets to success in the kitchen. If you have a selection of ingredients to hand then you will always be able to prepare something quick, easy and interesting.
- Put aside some time to plan the week’s meals. Having an overview of who is eating what and when will help you plan the shopping and reduce waste.
- Don’t be afraid to take shortcuts if you are pressed for time and your week is going to be madly busy: no-one else is going to know (or likely care) if you buy ready-prepared vegetables. Don’t judge yourself either – do it and move on.
- Stock your freezer with practical things (bags of frozen veg, homemade stock for later use, prawns etc.) and also interesting bits and bobs so that even the most unexciting prospect can be transformed. A tin of tuna and some sundried tomatoes can suddenly look quite interesting served with some posh bread from the freezer and a drizzle of olive oil. (A tub of fancy ice-cream can go a long way, too…)
- Make double and freeze half for another meal. Stocks, curries, stews, pasta sauces and soups all freeze really well. Feel smug as you get it out the freezer next time 🙂
Let me know your time-saving tips!
Hope these help.
With special thanks to Jenny at The Gingerbread House for letting me reproduce her wonderful Playmobil clock photo to illustrate this post!