Kitchen Hints and Tips: Getting the Most out of your Kitchen
Pots ‘n’ Pans
1. Stop your chopping board slipping around
There’s nothing more annoying – or dangerous – than your chopping board sliding around on the worktop while you’re trying to chop something. An easy fix is to place a wet piece of kitchen roll under the board to help it grip. So simple, so safe.
2. Stop your saucepans boiling over
This is super easy! Just lie a wooden spoon across the top of the saucepan when boiling veg. It won’t boil over again. Trust me.
3. How to clean a filthy pan
This is one my grandmother taught me. When you’ve cooked something in a frying pan that has really stuck on fast, and you don’t fancy hours of scrubbing, then pop it back on the heat for 20 minutes with an inch of water and a squirt of washing-up liquid. It will boil away happily and the grime should come off much more easily.
4. How to clean a blender easily
Don’t waste your time with a sponge or brush trying to get into the fiddly bits of a blender or blitzer, instead, fill it a third of the way up with warm water and dd a few drops of washing up liquid, then blitz again for ten seconds. Then just pour away the waste.
1. Check your eggs are fresh
If you’re unsure how long an egg has been in your fridge and you don’t want to crack it open to find out, then try this simple trick instead: drop it in a glass of water. Good eggs sink, bad eggs float.
2. Replace eggs in recipes
If you don’t eat eggs then you may often find that certain recipes are off limits to you. But did you know there are things you can use as substitutions for an egg which serve the same purpose?
1 egg = 1/2 banana, mashed
or 3 tbsp chickpea flour and 3 tbsp water
or 1/4 cup applesauce.
3. Catch broken egg shells
If you’re trying to crack an egg carefully then the last thing you need is the shell breaking into your bowl. Rather than trying to fish it out with your fingers or a teaspoon, as those pesky bits always get away, use a bigger bit of the shell as a scoop instead. If you just hold the shell gently, the broken pieces will seem to jump into the shell.
4. Separate eggs easily
Crack your egg into a bowl carefully, making sure not to split the yolk. Using an empty (clean!) drinking bottle, hold the bottle mouth over the yolk and squeeze the bottle gently. When you let go, the bottle will suck the yolk up inside, leaving the white behind.
Make your Fruit Fruitful
1. How to keep bananas for longer
Wrap the top of the stalks where the bananas are joined in tin foil and you get a few more days before they turn brown. Also, did you know, bananas last longer on the stalk anyway? So try to keep them attached to each other right up until you want to eat them.
2. Ripen fruit quickly
If you’re desperate for something to ripen so you can use it tomorrow, then place it in a bag with an apple overnight. The gases given off by the apple will do the hard work for you.
3. How to get the most juice out of citrus fruits
If you need lemon, lime or orange juice, you can maximise the juice you get out of the fruit by simply rolling it on your worktop to break up the inside slightly and release the juices. You can also pop them in the microwave for ten seconds to help it along.
4. Keep cut apple from browning
If you need sliced apple for a recipe or you have a cut apple left over, and you don’t want to use it straight away, you often find that it has gone an unappetising brown colour by the time you get round to it. But there is an easy fix! When chopping it up, just put some water in a small bowl (enough to cover the apple slices) and squeeze a few drops of lemon juice into the water. Then drop your apple slices straight into the lemony water until you’re ready for them and hey, presto – no more brown apple slices!
Looking after your Ingredients
1. Keeping cheese fresh
If your cheese always dries out once opened then paint the cut end with butter or margarine before storing to keep moisture in.
2. Fix cloudy/solid honey
Honey can go cloudy and solid with fluctuations of temperature, which can make using it difficult. It’s still perfectly fine to eat but if you prefer your honey clear or need it runny, then just pop it in the microwave for 20-second bursts until it goes back again.
3. Get extra life out of stale bread
If your bread is a bit to stale to be anything other than toast, then don’t toss it out just yet. Wrap it in damp kitchen roll and blast it in the microwave for 10 seconds at a time until the bread takes the moisture back up and is soft enough to eat.
1. How to peel ginger easily
This is another easy fix – just use a teaspoon! It’s much easier to manoeuvre a teaspoon around the corners of the ginger and you don’t waste too much.
2. Peeling a Butternut Squash
I really enjoy eating butternut squash but I don’t enjoy preparing it! The skin can be really tough to peel off and the entire vegetable can be hard to chop. No more! Prick the squash with a fork all over and then pop it in the microwave for three minutes. Careful – it’s hot! The peel will now come away really easily and the flesh will be softer to chop.
Using the Freezer
1. Always freeze things flat
Whether it’s sauces, soups, stews or such, by filling freezer bags with liquid and then lying them down flat, you save valuable room in your freezer, can stack up the bags easily and can label and access everything quickly. Genius.
2. Stop ice cream going rock hard
I haven’t tried this one yet but a friend of mine who lives in a hot country swears by it! If you place your whole tub of ice cream in a freezer bag and push out as much air as you can, then the cold of the freezer somehow can’t get directly to the ice cream tub and so it chills nicely but remains easily scoopable. I’m looking forward to trying this in the summer!
Onions and Garlic
1. How to peel an onion without crying…part one
Everyone seems to have a tip about how to prevent crying when peeling onions. Some are old wives’ tales, some are frankly ridiculous and some are absolutely genius! My favourite is to wear my glasses while I chop. It stops the juice from the onion squirting in my eye. If you don’t wear glasses then a pair of swimming goggles is great. The other thing you can try is chewing gum while you chop. It makes you breathe in through your mouth rather than your nose, thus cutting down on the onion ‘fumes’ you inhale.
You try – and let me know what works for you!
2. How to peel an onion without crying…part two
When I was researching this article I asked around lots of friends and family for their tips on onions. My Dad (a chemist) said it’s simple – just microwave the onion for 30 seconds first and it won’t make you cry. Thanks, Dad!
3. Easy ways to peel garlic
I absolutely love garlic and use it, probably, every day. But nobody wants to spend ages peeling the skins off garlic cloves with their bare hands, not even me. So, here are my top five easy ways to peel garlic:
5) cut through each clove once, down the middle. Generally, the rest of the clove will fall out easily.
4) put loose cloves in a sealed jar and shake like mad! Warning: this takes a lot of elbow grease!
3) push the entire clove, skin and all, through a garlic press. The skin will be left behind.
2) place loose cloves on a chopping board and bash with either the flat of a knife or a saucepan!
And finally, for the #1 tip for peeling garlic – it’s back to the microwave again.
1) Yes, microwaving your entire bulb of garlic for 15-20 seconds will ensure the cloves pop right out of their skins!
4. Removing the garlic smell
Finally, you’ve chopped up your delicious garlic…but do you really want to smell like an Italian restaurant for the next two days? Well, look no further than your own kitchen to help. Find something stainless steel (a spoon will do) and rub your hands all over it. The smell will transfer from your hands to the spoon and you can simply wash the spoon afterwards. So simple.
1. How to chill drinks quickly
We discovered this beauty on our honeymoon! Fill your vessel (bucket, bowl, or in our case – hotel sink!!) with cold water and ice but then add the secret ingredient…SALT! The salt causes the temperature of the water to drop really quickly which means 1) your ice cubes don’t melt straight away and 2) you get icy-cold drinks in minutes!
2. Chill your wine, without diluting it
This is one of my favourites! Dropping an ice cube in your wine naturally dilutes your tasty glass. But have you thought of using grapes? After all, that’s what you’re drinking anyway! If you freeze whole grapes and use them in place of ice cubes, they serve the same purpose without affecting the flavour. Yum!
Herbs and Spice (and all Things Nice)
1. Growing herbs successfully
Everyone knows how lovely it is when you can pick your own fresh herbs to use in your cooking, but many people struggle to get herbs to flourish. What’s more, our cold British winters often kill off anything you’ve managed to cultivate in the garden. So, the kitchen windowsill is the best place for herbs to winter. But, did you know that you can over water them? Herbs like to drink as and when they want, not when you want, so water them from the bottom in a dish and they’ll thank you by thriving!
2. Bring out the flavour of spices
Lots of recipes call for you to toast your spices first to bring out their flavour. But if the thought of putting spices into a dry pan makes you hot under the collar, then just pop them in the microwave for 10 seconds for the same result.
3. Drying herbs
Again, the microwave is your best friend here (isn’t it useful?). Put a sprig of the herb you want to dry in a piece of kitchen roll and pop it in the microwave for ten seconds. It will come out perfectly dry and easy to pull off the stalk.
4. Freezing herbs
Don’t forget, you can freeze any leftover herbs to add to sauces and stews later. Just wash and dry your herbs, chop them as finely as you like and pop in an ice-cube tray. Then, top it off with olive oil to keep the herbs fresh. When you come to need a cube, there’s no need to defrost it in advance – just pop it in whole and let it melt into whatever you’re cooking.