19 November 2015

Christmas Cake Recipe for Stir Up Sunday and beyond!

I made our Christmas cake yesterday because my real man gets a bit anxious this time of year in case we don’t have enough tonnage of food for the two of us to eat!

This is the recipe I use which, by making adaptations to various recipes through the years, is apparently getting close to what my real man’s Mam used to make. Also it is delicious. 

Christmas Cake Recipe

This is for a 23cm (9”) round cake tin –probably easier to buy a new pan than try and calculate for smaller or larger cake tins!

275g mixed dried fruit (mine included cranberries which is extra Chritmassy)
120g glacé cherries – cut into quarters
4 tablespoons brandy

~   Mix all of the above together and leave overnight to soak.

The next day …

275g soft dark brown sugar
275g soft butter
275g plain flour
a very generous pinch of salt – maybe ½ teaspoon
1 level teaspoon mixed spice
60g ground almonds
5 large eggs
grated zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon
1 tablespoon Golden Syrup
a generous amount of brown paper
a length of string

~   Preheat the oven to 140ºC/275°F/120ºC fan/gas 1.
~   Grease the 23cm cake tin, line with baking parchment and grease again.
~   Cut two long strips of brown paper sufficient to tie a band round the cake tin plus cut a circle of brown paper the size of the cake tin and cut 3cm hole in the middle.

~   In a large bowl cream together the sugar and butter until really fluffy and well combined.  Don’t stint on this.

~   In a separate bowl sift together the flour, salt and mixed spice.  Then add the ground almonds.
~   In another bowl beat the eggs together.

~   Stir the zests and the golden syrup into the fruit and brandy mixture.
~   Gradually, a little at a time, whisk the beaten eggs into the creamed butter and it is a good idea to add just a spoonful or so of the flour mix at the same time – this will prevent curdling.
~   When fully combined fold in the rest of the flour mixture. When I say fold I mean fold in, not stir– see below.

~   Now stir in the fruit and all its juices – I know it seems a lot, I am perturbed every year but it works.

~   Decant into your prepared cake tin, level the top and tie the bands of brown paper around the cake tin, place the piece of paper with a hole on top and then put it in the oven.

~   Make a cup of coffee (or tea I suppose) and scrape the bowl.  For this reason it is best to make this when your family is out.
~   The cake will take 4½ - 5 hours and ignore for at least 4 hours.  It is really when a cocktail stick or similar inserted into the centre comes out clean.
~   Cool for a little while in the pan then carefully remove and finish cooling on a rack.

Store the cake wrapped in parchment in an airtight tin and every now and then pour a spoonful of brandy into its bottom till Christmas.

Folding In

Although it is difficult to explain an action in words, for those of you unsure of how to fold in I’m going to give it a try because it is important - you want to retain the air that has been whisked in and even to fold in a tad more.

Using a large metal spoon or a spatula cut across the middle of the mixture, slide the spoon or spatula under it to the edge of the bowl and fold that portion over the rest.

It’s quite easy to do, just hard to describe. Keep cutting and folding from different angles, rotating the bowl, till everything is merged together in a light and airy way.

In Other Related News ...

I have just published my Christmas book in paperback as well as the original ebook. In it I give 50+ (much easier and quicker than above!) recipes to make cooking for Christmas a doddle!   

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1 November 2015

It’s British Leek Season – Hurrah!

Did you know that today marks the start of the British leek season which runs all the way through to April?

Jolly good too because leeks are seriously one my favourite vegetables and not just in an accompaniment kind of a way.  For me leeks are a delicious and important main flavour in numerous dishes. I almost always have a leek about the place and I recommend you do the same!

To mark this auspicious occasion I have been asked to write a little about these delicious alliums together with one of my favourite recipes so do please read on.

Firstly and importantly leeks do tend to have a little grit and dirt between their leaves so here is a good way of washing them …

How to Wash Leeks

The easiest way, I find, is to prepare and cut your leeks and then put them into a large bowl with PLENTY of cold water so that the chopped leek floats. Swirl about a bit, let the water calm down and then carefully lift the leeks out so that the soil and grit, which has sunk to the bottom, stays in the bottom where it belongs. Do not strain them.
Secondly here is a great way of cooking leeks which makes them sweet and tender and concentrates their flavour.

A Great Way to Cook Leeks

~   Top and tail the leek(s), remove the outer layer, cut in half lengthways, slice as you wish and then wash thoroughly as above.
~   Heat a knob of butter (or olive oil or bacon fat) in a saucepan with a lid and toss and separate the washed and drained leeks in the fat to coat.
~   Sprinkle with a little salt.
~   Press something appropriate (a piece of foil, a piece of baking parchment, greaseproof paper or a butter wrapper) directly onto the leeks to cover completely. Try not to burn yourself on the side of the pan.
~   Turn the heat down to low and put the lid on the pot; the leeks should not so much fry in the butter as gently steam in it.
~   Cook slowly until they are very tender – you can stir once or twice during this time and they should take about 20 minutes.

Leeks cooked this way are really useful being great in everything from soups (see here for details of my genius soup recipe) to lovely mashed potato, posh cheese on toast, Alfredo Sauce (for pasta and lots of other things), stirred through cooked peas and even in baked things such as scones or on pizza.  They are, however particularly good with seafood.  I often have them with salmon but a very delicious dish I ate in France a few years ago and then replicated at home is …

Breton Scallop & Leek Galettes

"Galettes" (Galettes de Sarrasin to use their full name) in Brittany refers to a particularly delicious (and, as a bonus, gluten free) type of crèpe made of buckwheat. They are light and crisp with a slightly nutty flavour. The galette recipe is below but if you haven’t got any buckwheat normal crèpes will stand in pretty well.

The main subject of this post is the scallop and leek filling – aha, we get to it at last!

Scallops in a Creamy Leek Sauce

Use either the little queen scallops or the larger ones, in which case slice them before cooking.

2 small leeks – cleaned and thinly sliced
30g butter
50ml dry white wine
150ml double cream
300g raw scallops
salt and pepper

~   Prepare and cook the leeks in the butter as above.
~   Add the wine or stock and allow to simmer for a minute or two.
~   Stir in the cream, bring to a boil then turn down the heat and simmer a few minutes.  Taste and season.
~   At this stage you could set the sauce aside to later.
~   To cook the scallops just reheat the sauce to boiling, turn down to a low simmer, add the scallops and leave on the heat just till the first bubble appears on the surface of the sauce. Set aside, covered, to finish cooking in the residual heat of the sauce. Scallops are very delicate chaps and any more cooking could toughen them.

Divide the creamy scallop and leek mixture between the hot pancakes, fold over the tops and enjoy.

Oh – I’ve just thought of another good leek idea; this is a fancy garnish I used to do a lot when cheffing …

Frazzled Leeks

Cut a leek into long thin strips, rub a little cornflour through them (this makes them crunchy) and deep fry for a few minutes till they are golden. Lift out of the oil with a skimmer and drain on kitchen roll. Sprinkle with a little crunchy sea salt.

Buckwheat Pancakes – make 4 large pancakes or more smaller ones, obviously!

100g buckwheat flour
pinch of salt
1 egg
300ml milk
50g butter – melted

~   Stir together the salt and the flour and make a well in the middle.
~   Break the egg into the well and start whisking it in gradually adding the milk till a batter the consistency of single cream is achieved.
~   Chill for a couple of hours then stir in the melted butter.
~   Proceed to make pancakes as per usual, ie. lightly grease a frying pan, bring to good heat and ladle in about 2 tablespoons of batter. 
~   Roll the pan to spread the batter thinly and cook till the underside is golden.
~   Turn with a deft flip of the wrist or more carefully with an implement.

So that's it from me but for lots more recipes, tips and info on British leeks go here.

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31 October 2015

"Oh Come all ye Tasteful"

~ The Foodie’s Guide to a Millionaire’s Christmas Feast – by Ian Flitcroft

I have been sent the most delightful quirky little book about Christmas food to review and I must say … I like it! So there you have it.

In more detail ..

I was hooked from the start, the first paragraph reads …

“For the unprepared Christmas lunch can be a veritable minefield. Like the Noel-tide truce in Ypres during World War I, this meal is often both surreal and dangerous.”

However be warned – this book, as its sub-title suggests, is about extravagance possibly beyond your wildest dreams, lovely to read and think about but not that easy to achieve.  On the other hand if you leave the gold leaf out of the roast potatoes, for instance, but follow the rest of the instructions then, as he roasts his exactly the same way as I do mine, I can confidently say you will still be very pleased with the result at a faction of the price.

His Scrambled Eggs Roulette recipe is a really fun idea and can be as cheap or expensive as you like as it would be easy to make substitutions for the foie gras and the truffles. I also agree with Mr. Flitcroft in his insistence that milk should not be used in scrambled eggs.  (I agree with him on a lot of things from which I deduce that he know what he is talking about!)

There is a truly gorgeous sounding recipe for Smoking Bishop, a mulled wine involving baked and caramelised oranges and a bottle of port, plus the wine, of course. I love mulled wine and make my own mulled wine syrup in the run up to Christmas so that I can enjoy a glass at the drop of a paper hat, but when I’m a bit flush I may try it. 

The partridge cooked with pears and port also sounds wonderful and if I never get round to cooking it I will certainly be trying the port and cocoa mixture it is cooked in, probably quite soon – Mr. Flitcroft says it is ...

“quite a heady mixture and worth a taste”.

I also love and empathise with his suggestion that whilst cooking one has an occasional glass of brandy and I hope one day to try fried lichen!

So – not your usual cookbook but very entertaining (especially for foodies) with some useful ideas such as how to roast chestnuts without an open fire or make your Christmas pud flame spectacularly. There are some good recipes which, if you are not a millionaire, you could adjust by leaving out some of the more extravagant ingredients, and some interesting information – I didn’t know you could get edible myrrh!

This little book would make a great present for any foodies you might know. I’m just trying to decide who to give a copy to.

Oh Come All Ye Tasteful is published today (!) by PaperBooks and you can get it from Amazon and probably lots of other places too.

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20 October 2015

The Best Apple Crumble I've Ever Made!

Our tiny weeny apple tree bore fruit – 5 of our very own Bramleys, my favourite cooking apples. 

Obviously being cooking apples they had to be cooked.  When it comes to apple desserts (as with most food!) my real man and I are in disagreement – he prefers an apple sponge and I always prefer a crumble.

Due to my inherent loveliness I usually make sponge when dealing with cooked fruit desserts but suddenly I had an inspiration which I needed to try out … 

Toffee Apple Crumble – for 3 or 4

4 medium cooking apples – preferably Bramleys
1 tablespoon caster sugar
240g plain flour
pinch salt
160g butter
120g soft light brown sugar
3 tablespoons more caster sugar

~   Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350°F/160ºC fan/gas 4.
~   Peel and slice the apples into an ovenproof dish.
~   Put the 1 tablespoon of caster sugar into a small saucepan together with ½ tablespoon of water AND set a container of about 40ml water beside the stove.
Over low heat stir together the sugar and the water till the sugar is dissolved and then bring to a boil.  Don’t stir once it boils but swirl about a bit when it begins turning colour.
~   Boil to a deep golden brown watching carefully.
~   Immediately it reaches this colour …

… pour in the water you have set beside the stove. It will boil up like crazy and the caramel will solidify and go all interesting. Stir over the heat till the caramel melts into the water.
~   Pour this over the apples and stir together.
~   Rub the butter into the flour together with the pinch of salt then stir in the soft brown sugar.
~   Loosely pile this on top of the apples, level the surface, make a pattern if you feel like it and bake for about 30-40 minutes till the apples have collapsed and are tender and the top is golden brown.

Now the best bit! …

~   As with the caramel above put the rest of the caster sugar into a clean saucepan together with ½ tablespoon of water just to get it started.
~   Over low heat stir together the sugar and the water till the sugar is dissolved and then bring to a boil.  Don’t stir once it boils but swirl about a bit when it begins turning colour.
~   Boil to a deep golden brown watching carefully.
~   When it has assumed a lovely caramel colour immediately and very carefully drizzle it over the top of the cooked apple crumble.
~   It will cool and go hard very quickly.

Important and Helpful Guidelines for Making Caramel

~   Use a wooden spoon so that it neither gets too hot nor melts.
~   If possible don’t use a non-stick pan as they are too dark to see the colour of the caramel.
~   Equip yourself with a good heatproof cloth.
~   Put any additions immediately to hand beside the stove.
~   Never touch hot caramel with anything human or animal.

Heartbreakingly we didn’t have any clotted cream so had custard when hot and double cream when cold but I am so pleased with it I wish I had come up with the idea when I was still cheffing. I would have adapted it to make individual Crème Brulée / Apple Crumble hybrids, maybe caramelising the top with sugar and a blow torch instead of the method above.
In Other News …

~   For lots of other apple recipe, particularly good for Bramleys, see here – A Glut of Apples.

~   Remember I made sourdough bread for the first time last week?   Well I’ve kept my mother going and today made a black pepper sourdough bread because I figured I put black pepper on almost everything so why not?

~   This is only really of interest to cookbook writers - I have started a Theme on iAuthor, called “Food ~ Cooking, Eating and Reading about it” where foodie writers can add their books which I will then also add to a board of the same name on Pinterest, if you are of such ilk give it a go.

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15 October 2015

My Friend Gave me Half of her Mother!

There have been stages in my life when I have made all my own bread; winters in a Cornwall as I didn’t get out much, when I first arrived in the BVI because the bought in stuff was crap (it is now much, much better by the way!) and when I worked as the pastry chef at The Last Resort (which was such a fun place owned by friends of mine) where we baked huge (and strangely fast!) loaves of rustic bread to serve to the punters. Never, however, have I tried sourdough – until now, and even then it’s not my fault!

My friend Carol gave me half of her mother (a strange sentence if taken out of context) which I fed and watered and chatted to for about a week and now I have made this …

... and I am so pleased with it! Chewy, tasty and a lovely crunchy crust.

Carol gave me half her starter together with a note of what to do with it next …

~   Every day halve the starter (and either throw half away, give it to a friend or make a loaf of bread).
~   Stir 100g strong flour (brown or white is fine) and 100ml warm water into the remaining starter and beat briefly with a wooden spoon or similar.

~   Decant into a clean non-reactive container (at first I was being all old fashioned and traditional using a Kilner jar but now I just put the keeping batch in a clean bowl each morning) and over with a damp cloth NOT a lid.

~   Leave at room temperature for 24 hours and repeat the process.

Apparently you can put it in the fridge for a few days and not bother feeding it which is good if you have to go away on a short trip.  Carol said she had heard of people cancelling their holidays so as to keep feeding the thing and also of Sourdough Starter Nurseries!

Making the Bread

Carol referred me to an article in The Telegraph but as, after halving the starter, I only had 100g for making the bread I had to scale down, which was good as my real man is not one for fancy stuff like sourdough and one loaf at a time is good enough for me. So these are my proportions …

100g sourdough starter
200ml tepid water
330g strong flour
5g salt
1 tablespoon water

~   Stir together the first 3 ingredients, cover loosely with a plastic bag (if you have such a thing now that the carrier bag law has changed! ***) and set aside for 20 minutes or so.
~   Mix together the salt and tablespoon of water and stir into the dough, replace the plastic bag and leave an hour.
~   Tip out onto a floured board and form into a square-ish shape. Pull out one side of the square and fold over the top of the rest of the dough.  Repeat with the other sides.  Return to the bowl and bag and leave another hour.
~   Do the same again.

~   And again only this time have ready a basket lined with cloth (a clean tea towel for instance) and sprinkled with semolina. I did have a basket but no semolina so used wholemeal flour and it worked fine.  Once the stretching and folding is done form into a smooth ball, tucking in edges underneath and place smooth side down in the bowl.  Dust the top of the dough with a little more semolina or flour.

~   Cover with the plastic again, allow to rise for about 2 hours by which time it should have approximately doubled in size and then put in the fridge overnight (or 2 nights if you prefer).
~   Remove the dough from the fridge to warm up a bit and preheat the oven to 230ºC/450ºF/210ºC fan/gas 8 and put a baking sheet in there so it will be good and hot when you are ready to bake.
~   Gently turn the bread out onto the hot baking sheet, slash the top a few times for extra prettiness and crust and bake for about half an hour till it is risen and crusty, smelling great and sounds hollow when you tap the bottom.

~   Cool on a rack until you can bear it no longer and they try a piece.

I had a slice asap with one of my favourite toppings, butter and a sprinkle of crunch sea salt) and then a lovely lunch with two of my favourite cheeses, St. Agur and Cornish Crackler, some grapes, lots of black pepper, glass of red wine – what’s not like? to coin a phrase.

This worked really well so thank you Carol and thank you Laura Hart whose recipe this basically is. I shall be making a loaf about once a week now and will try some variations, nuts and seeds and crunchy sea salt and so on.

In a way it seems a lot of faff to make a loaf of bread but in another way it doesn’t! It just takes 3 or 4 minutes once a day and very little work to actually make the bread.  

Another friend (I’m dead popular, me!) told me of a similar thing called a Herman cake which I haven’t tried but if you’d like to here is the link.

Good News Addenda ...

We went away for a few days last week and, unsure what to do with said mother and asked Twitter.  This was my answer and it worked perfectly so now I am just going to feed her once or twice and then keep her in the fridge till I need more bread.

In Other News ...

It seems that I haven’t posted for a while for which I apologise – don’t have any excuse or reason, don’t know what happened!

Not connected to the above but I have been experimenting with posting on Medium which is a Very Interesting site to browse so whether or not you read what I have written or follow me (oh go on!)  I urge you to have a look round here.  

*** As many people have said on Twitter …

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27 September 2015

“Homemade Soup is No Place for Narrow Dogmatism”

Thus wrote Robert Farrar Capon, an Episcopal Minister, Professor of Dogmatic Theology and Exuberant Foodie writing in America in 1969.  He said …

Homemade soup is no place for narrow dogmatism. Do anything that comes into your head except over salt.  It is impossible to go wrong.

And …

“Soups, whose variety is only limited by the length of a man’s life!”

This is a man after my own heart and these my thoughts exactly, only better expressed!  Soup is so easy to make, so delicious and so comforting.

I have a very simple, very flexible method of making soup (one of my useful genius recipes) which can be varied to create an incredible variety of soups, from simple Leek and Potato to Caribbean Callaloo, Caldo Verde, Cullen Skink and even some soups that don’t begin with the letter C!

The basic recipe makes enough for four as an appetizer or 2-3 as a “meal in a bowl”, depending on what you add and how hungry you all are.

30g/1oz butter OR 2 tablespoons of olive oil, to be healthier and still delicious
2 med/large floury potatoes such as King Edward or Maris Piper
(*** see below for a new breed we’ve just discovered)
stock or water
salt and pepper

~   Peel the onions, halve them lengthways and thinly slice into half-moons.
~   Heat the butter or oil in a saucepan with a lid and toss and separate the sliced onions in the fat to coat.
~   Sprinkle with a little salt.
~   Press something appropriate (a piece of foil, a piece of baking parchment, greaseproof paper or a butter wrapper) directly onto the onions to cover completely. Try not to burn yourself on the side of the pan.
~   Turn the heat down to low and put the lid on the pot; the onions should not so much fry in the butter or oil as gently steam in it.
~   Cook slowly until the onions are soft enough to cut with the edge of a wooden spoon. You can stir once or twice during this time and they should take about 30 minutes.
~   When really tender peel and thinly slice the potatoes and add them together with enough stock or water to just cover them. You may need more liquid to finish the soup but it’s best not to use more than necessary at this stage; less splashy when mashing or puréeing.
~   Bring to a boil, turn down the heat, cover with the lid and cook till the potatoes are tender.
~   Taste and season till delicious.

Et voila, as they say in America, you have a very good, cockle-warming soup but there is so much you can do with it, so very much more that I have written a book giving not only 60+ recipes for soups based on this but also all the information I can think of for using different fats, seasonings, herbs, spices, vegetables, cheeses, dairy and other additions so that it is easy to confidently create new soups.

As a taster here is a recipe straight from the book …

Roasted Garlic & Parmesan Soup

For a more intensely cheesy flavour, if  you have both time and the leftover rind of a piece of Parmesan cheese, simmer said rind in the stock you will be using for about an hour before making the soup.

1 x basic recipe
1 whole head of roasted garlic – instructions in the book or see here
about 1 tablespoon olive oil
90g/3oz grated Parmesan cheese plus more for serving
150ml/5 fl oz double (heavy) cream

~   Make the basic soup.
~   When ready squeeze the soft roasted garlic from its skins into the soup and purée until smooth.
~   Return to the pan
and stir in the cream and Parmesan.
~   Bring to
a simmer, taste and adjust seasoning again.
Serve hot with croutons and more Parmesan.

In addition to soup recipes and useful soup making info I also include recipes for stocks, garnishes, some handy ancillary recipes and what to do with leftover soup including a rather surprising idea.  And remember ...

“Good manners: The noise you don't make when you're eating soup.”
Bennett Cerf

In Other News apropos of the *** above

Instead of buying a few potatoes every week we buy a sack every couple of months or so, it is far more economical that way.  We always have a choice of potatoes to buy and this time were a breed I have never heard of before; Sagitta. The lady in the shop said they were good all-rounders and up to now we have been very pleased indeed with them.  They make excellent mash, gorgeous jacket potatoes (the skin is slightly thicker than normal and we do like our skin – I rub it with salt and oil before baking which makes it extra good), sautéed potatoes were excellent and they worked very well in this soup recipe.  So, if you see them give them a go.

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14 September 2015

10 Stupid Food Hacks and a Blatantly Obvious One!

I am all for good ideas that will save time, make cooking easier or meals better (which is why I wrote an ebook of 219 useful cooking tips - see end of post) but some of these so called hacks I have been seeing on the internet recently are ridiculous!

Here are 11 that I am totally hacked off with!

1.   Halve little grape or cherry tomatoes by placing them between two plastic lids. Press down the top lid and gently slice through the tomatoes. A yogurt lid is suggested for this.

How many tomatoes can you do at a time with a yogurt lid (or, more accurately, two)? Ten-ish? How long does it take? I think it would be quicker, easier and safer to cut 10 or so little tomatoes in half with a knife than try to hold them in place between two lids and slide a knife between. Is it really beyond people to do this 10 times?

2.  Use a Panini Maker to Make Omelettes – well really!  A panini maker will just result in some cooked egg which is nothing like the light moist dish deserving of the name “omelette”.

 This is how to make an omelette, it is nowhere near as difficult as you might think, in fact it’s quite easy.

~   Break 2 or 3 fresh eggs into a bowl (you’d have to do this with a panini maker too).
~   Season and lightly beat together just to break the whites into the yolks, there is no need to whisk till fully amalgamated (same for a panini maker but I think it would need to be fully whisked).
~   Melt a knob of butter in a non frying stick pan (or grease your panini maker).
~   When the butter has melted and starts to foam swirl it about the pan and pour in the eggs.
~   Allow to sit over the heat for a few seconds and when you see the edges start to solidify gently lift them with a spatula, tilt the pan and encourage the runny egg on top to flow to the side of the pan and under the cooked egg.
~   Keep doing this till the top of the omelette is merely moist.
~   Add any fillings and fold one half of the omelette over the other.
~   Slide onto a warm plate.

3.   Squeeze lemons with tongs – why?

Hands are a great tool for squeezing lemons (useful hack – wiggle your clean fingers in the cavity of the fruit to squeeze out every drop) and you can use your other hand to catch the pips. 

Purpose made lemon juicers work perfectly, of course, they get all the juice  and they catch the pips.

Tongs - I’ve just tried doing this and found it tricky, uncontrollable, squirty and they don’t catch the pips.

4.   I recently read two suggestions for “coping” with butternut squash ...

i)   Use a mallet to tap your knife into the squash – this sounds dangerous to me.

ii)  To avoid “hours of terror” before preparing a squash and “many excruciating minutes” cutting it, prick it with a fork and put in the microwave for a few minutes first.  That might help and is certainly preferable to bashing a knife with a mallet!

Alternatively just a large sharp knife for cutting and a smaller sharp knife or potato peeler for peeling will do the job nicely.

~   Lay the squash on its side and cut off the very end with the stalk – cut 1.
~   Now cut it just at the end of the long straight bit before it swells out – cut 2.
~   Stand this piece on one end and using the small sharp knife cut off strips of peel in a downward direction or use a potato peeler.
~   Cut off the end of the rounded half of squash – cut 3.
~   Stand it on a cut end and cut off the peel as above or use a potato peeler.
~   Cut it in half – cut 4.
~   Using a sharp edges teaspoon remove the seeds and membrane in the middle.

See here for delicious ideas for using your squash (including a way that needs less cutting and no peeling).   

And here is a “hack” of my very own ...

With large round solid things like butternut squash instead of moving the knife back and forth to cut it I wedge the blade where I want to make the cut then hold it still and move the squash back and forth. I find this much safer and easier.  

5.   Shred chicken breasts using the K-beater and your mixer – isn’t this a bit strange and a lot of faff for nothing? How about 2 forks or even a sharp knife (again)? WTF?

6.   Use an egg slicer to slice garlic, mushrooms or strawberries – and there was me thinking it was daft using an egg slicer to slice eggs!  Daft, daft, daft. Yet again a sharp knife, only a smaller one this time, is the answer and so much easier!

7.   Chop Herbs with a Pizza Cutter Instead of a Knife – the same site went on to say “even better cut everything with a pizza cutter” which is seriously misguided.  Chop herbs with a long sharp knife and a rocking motion, sprinkle the board with a little salt before you start to stop the herbs sliding around too much.

8.  Quickly Sear Meat in the Broiler Rather Than on the Stove – No, don’t do that  because doing it in the pan (which should NOT be non-stick) leaves a delicious meaty residue ...

... which can then be quickly made into a sauce.

~   Once your meat is browned set it aside in a warm place (here’s yet another “hack” – meat is so, so, so much juicer and more tender if you let it rest for a say 10 minutes before serving).
~   Add a little liquid (water, wine or stock) to the pan. 
~   Bring it to a boil scraping up the cooked-on meat juices and letting them dissolve in the liquid. 
~   If it is a bit runny simmer till reduced a little then add a knob of butter or a splash of cream et voila a delicious sauce.

9.  For Richer Scrambled Eggs, Use Sour Cream Instead of Milk I have never ever whisked milk or cream into eggs for scrambling, no need or even any point, for richer scrambled eggs this is the thing to do ...

~    Melt a knob of butter (not margarine or anything else) in a small non-stick pan (easier for washing up hack). 
~   When partly melted break 2 or 3 eggs into the butter and immediately stir all together, season and continue stirring over low-ish heat. 
~   As it cooks fold the solidifying egg into the uncooked and continue till you have a pan of soft perfectly scrambled eggs and then immediately do this neat trick (or “hack”) from Julia Child ...
~  Whisk in a knob of cold butter. This will stop the eggs cooking any further, retain them at optimal creaminess and make them more delicious than ever. You could use cream or sour cream at this stage instead of butter or even milk if you don’t want them to be too delicious!

10.   I was surprised to read that you can cook vegetables (and other things) in the dishwasher together with a load of dishes. It is suggested that the vegetables are seasoned and then sealed in a jar with a tight screw on lid so that the soapy water can’t get in, it should be placed upright in the dishwasher.  

I don’t have a dishwasher but research has shown that they take between 30 minutes and two hours per cycle, 80 minutes being optimum.  Also that you should probably not open the dishwasher mid-cycle. How well cooked do you like your veggies?

Jack Monroe, and others, make the very valid point that some people don’t have adequate cooking equipment and I sympathise but if you don’t cook why would you have a dishwasher?

To cook vegetables cut them into slices or florets or whatever shape is appropriate, put them in a small pan, just cover with boiling water, add a little salt, bring to the boil, turn down the heat, put on the lid and simmer for about 3 minutes for green vegetables, cauliflower and carrots and 25 minutes or so for potatoes - NOT 80!

This one is a little different ...

11.   Grate your own cheese!!! – This one, of course, isn’t daft it is absolutely the thing to do.  I saw this in a list of “17 F*cking Brilliant Food Hacks That Will Save You A Lot Of Money” but I think it is more F*cking Blatantly Obvious than brilliant!

"This changes EVERYTHING"

Articles on these “hacks” often say “This changes EVERYTHING” or something similar and I agree – you could hurt your eyes with out-of-control lemon juice, stab yourself whilst bashing a knife with a mallet or cut your finger off sliding a knife between two plastic lids separated by rolly- about tomatoes.

My Own Suggestions ...

I wrote a little eBooklet a couple of years ago (perhaps I should have used the word “hacks” in the title!) which contains lots of truly helpful ideas. 

It's just 99p here!

Even cheaper than an egg slicer!

In Other News ...

I have been “helping” my real man with concreting our yard; holding things such as the cement mixer and the wheelbarrow steady. 

It is nowhere near as interesting as one would think so I was not surprised to see on the mixer, among stickers about wearing goggles and not returning the mixer in a dirty condition, that they recommend you read a book whilst working.

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