I am a true believer that the kitchen is the “heart of the house”. So much time is spent in there and so many shared memories with friends and family.
Whether you a new to the kitchen and are wary of its mysteries or an old hat like me these are my top hacks for maximising your kitchen effort and minimising the fuss spent.
1. Invest in spray oil: LOTS OF IT!!
Spray oil is the most amazing invention. You can use it to spray over veggies before roasting, spray into muffin pans to prevent sticking or spray onto a wok to season it after cleaning it. So embrace the spray oil!
2. Always carry a (tea) towel
This is one of those moments where I HAVE to quote Douglas Adams from Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy:
“A towel, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have.
“Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble—sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapors … and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.
“More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitch hiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass,
map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc, etc … any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is clearly a man to be reckoned with.”
It is as true in a kitchen as it is in space (although a smaller towel is recommended). You can wipe up spills, dry plates, remove things (carefully) from the oven, pop it under your chopping board so it doesn’t move, cleanse your hands and what seems like a million other things with a tea towel.
So never enter your kitchen without a tea towel.
3. Mash potato in a mix master
I adore mash potato; it creaminess, starchiness and ability to blend with pretty much every savoury food. But I HATE mashing it. I have burns to prove it.
So a handy hack is to drain your cooked boiled potatoes and then put them into your Mix Master with the beater attached. Cover the machine with a tea towel (yep already useful! This stops the hot potato from flying out of the machine) and very, very slowly turn on the machine. Drizzle in your milk (or cream) with your dab of butter while its mixing. Keep it at a relatively slow speed till the chunks are a bit mashed and then increase speed. Keep mixing until there are not more chunks and fluffy mash appears. Season with salt and pepper.
The beating action with mash the potatoes for you!
4. Pipe sausage rolls
When (I say when!) you are making your homemade sausage rolls (with made from scratch pastry or store brought—I judge you not) put you sausage roll filling in a pipping bag. Then simply pipe it along you pastry in a log shape.
Less mess and sooo much faster than hand shaping the meat filling!
5. Freeze cookie dough
You can buy pre-made cookie dough but the taste is … well … let’s not go there! So next time you make a batch of cookies double the dough. Take the extra dough you don’t need. Shape it into a log. Cling wrap and freeze.
Then when you need cookies simply slice off 5 mm to 10 mm thicknesses and bake as per normal. You can do this from frozen or defrost first. No one will be able to tell the difference from a freshly mixed batch!
6. Buy good knives
Buy the very best kitchen knives you can afford and learn how to sharpen them. It sounds simple but it will change your life! Better three good knives (basically a baby one, medium one and huge one) them a set of 12 knives that are awful quality.
My recommendation would be the Victorinox brand. Not so expensive that they will make you cry but lovely quality. I have had one set (used domestically and commercially) for over 10 years and those babies may just outlast me!
You can check them out at King of Knives.
7. Get your bakeware from St Vinnies
Baking trays can easily be an expensive kitchen item! And you never need just one pan when you are cooking for other people. So my advice is to get down to St Vinnies, Lifeline or your local charity shop. They always have a mixed range of kitchenware (trays, pans, glass baking dishes) and you can snap up a bargain on the bakeware.
You may even be lucky enough toget some vintage bunt cake tins!