Tag Archives: tips

Essential Kitchen Gadgets & Equipment

Essential Kitchen Gadgets

I loved watching Mary Berry’s cookery programs on TV recently – she’s my kind of cook – non-egocentric, sensible and precise, yet fun. I learned some great tips from her too.

My favourite tip is so simple I can’t believe I have never used it before. When measuring out tablespoons of something, such as flour, soft cheese or mayo, leave a gap between each in the bowl so if you are interrupted by children/phone/doorbell, you can come back and see instantly how many you have added.

I liked to see what equipment she uses
as well – I have my favourite gadgets at
home but it’s always good to get
recommendations from the experts.

I’ve since read about Delia’s favourite gadgets, and Jamie’s too (though he is far more cavalier than I am in the kitchen). And after all this research (and years of practise) here’s my definitive list:

In the drawer


Lemon zesterLemon squeezer & zester

This is the lemon squeezer I used as a child when I baked with my mum. I managed to ‘procure’ it when I left home and I still love it. It fits perfectly on top of a measuring jug and captures the pips while you squeeze. I bought the lemon zester myself and it’s so handy, I often add lemon, lime or orange zest to fish dishes and bakes too.


Wooden spoon, box grater, potato
masher & a spaghetti spoon

Enough said!


Scissors and knivesKnives & scissors

As with pans, buy the best you can and keep knives sharp with a knife sharpener. I only actually use three. A long serrated knife for bread, a smaller knife for fine chopping and a large sharp knife for bigger veg, such as squash and potatoes. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago <link to previous blog> I like to ‘chop’ with my kitchen scissors as I find it much easier for herbs, meats and pizza.


Vegetable peeler

My personal favourite is an Oxo Good Grips peeler – it works a treat.

In the cupboard



Buy the best you can afford and they will last a very long time. My favourite pan is a large lidded frying pan also known as the ‘magic pan’ and was bought for me by my mum one Christmas around 10 years’ ago – it’s still going strong. I also have a pan with a steamer on top, which was a wedding present almost 15 years’ ago and has been used almost every day since.


Electronic scales

Mine are really cheap – I bought them because I like the pattern and they work!


Plastic stuff

Two measuring jugs, a sieve, a colander and a pair of tongs. All cheap and cheerful but they do the job.


Electrical stuffElectrical stuff

I like to keep these to a minimum as I don’t like worktop clutter and I have made purchases in the past that just gather dust. I use a hand-held whisk/mixer all the time for bakes and a stick blender for soups and sauces. I do also have a food processor for pastry and other bits and bobs but it’s not used as often.


Other stuff

I’m hopeless at finely chopping an onion and so I bought one of these clever little Rotomac gadgets that quickly chop at the pull (or five) of a handle. No power needed, just a quick wash afterwards and, even-better, no drippy eyes.


And making use of the Rotomac and lemon zester in this gorgeous recipe from Fantastic Food for Less.

Rich Lemon Chicken

Rich Lemon Chicken

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Calories 238 per portion
Fat 10g (2.8g sat) per portion


  • Olive or sunflower oil 1 tbsp
  • Chicken thighs 1kg (2¼lb) or 6, skinned, boned, meat cut into chunks
  • Onion 1, peeled and chopped
  • Lemon 1, grated zest and juice
  • Chicken stock 300ml (½ pint)
  • Fresh thyme sprigs 2, or ½ tsp dried
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Egg yolks 2
  • Parsley or chives small bunch, finely chopped
  • Cooked macaroni or small pasta shapes to serve (optional)Instructions
  1. Heat the oil in a large lidded frying pan over a medium-high heat and add the cubed chicken. Fry for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned.
  2. Push the chicken to one side of the pan, then add the onion and fry for 5 minutes until softened.
  3. Add the lemon zest and juice, then the stock, thyme and a little salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, stirring, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Scoop the chicken out of the pan with a slotted spoon and keep warm. Beat the egg yolks together in a bowl, then gradually beat in the hot stock and onions until smooth.
  5. Return the sauce to the pan and cook over a low heat, stirring constantly until it has lightly thickened. Return the chicken to the pan and stir in the chopped herbs. Serve with cooked pasta, if using.

Cook’s tips Be careful not to overheat the sauce at the end when thickening with the egg yolks; if it boils, they will curdle. If you are short of time, you may prefer to use 600g (1lb 5oz) of ready-diced chicken thigh meat, chicken breast mini fillets or turkey breast slices.

A Dairy Cookbook recipe.

#recipes #chicken #greek

Step-by-Step Guide to Brick Border Edging

Brick Border Edging

One of the projects that I (when I say I, I actually mean my far more practical other half) want to tackle this summer is the edge between the lawn and the borders. 

Our strimmer seems to run out of strimming
line roughly every two minutes and I end up
on my hands and knees using our blunt garden
shears to hack at the edge of the lawn.

With sunken bricks, you can just mow straight over them and the borders look tidy and stay contained. Overall, this gives a really neat finish to the garden.

Continue reading

Valentine’s Day Recipes & Tips

Tips for a romantic Valentine's Day.


Valentine’s Day Recipes & Tips

I LOVE Valentine’s Day, I know I know, what a hopeless romantic. Many people dismiss it as commercial and an excuse for the card companies and other retailers to make money. I have to say I’m a little less sceptical (although I am sure it is a lucrative industry none the less).

I think it’s fantastic that we have
a day to remind us to cherish our
other halves and take time out to
make them feel special.

We get so swept along with the mundanity and busyness of everyday life that most of us (I am sure that there are those who are romantic every day….not me!) forget or simply don’t have time to spoil our loved-ones.

It doesn’t need to be an expensive affair – you don’t even need to go out. Just have a think about a few special things that you can do to make your special person feel loved:

  • Leave secret notes – choose places where they will be discovered throughout the day; in pockets, the car, cupboards, under the duvet etc.
  • Make a special breakfast tray – croissants, preserves, a pot of tea or coffee.
  • Send a few kisses by text several times during the day.
  • Create your own card with photographs of you both together during happy times. Print them out and make yourself or order online from Snapfish or similar.
  • Lay a very special table for dinner (and if you have children, eat after they have gone to bed). Go to town, with a tablecloth, your best crockery and glasses, candles and flowers.
  • Cook a delicious dinner, see below for some recipe ideas.

Special Lamb Shanks and Valentine’s Almond Creams.

Lamb Shanks and Almond Creams recipe

Have a lovely time and don’t forget to tell us about your special day! Have you been treated too?


Dairy Diary A-Z of Saving Money

The Dairy Diary A-Z of Saving Money


Dairy Diary A-Z of Saving Money

I usually pride myself in my (mortgage aside) debt-free existence, but following a hefty garage bill, Christmas and family birthdays, I’m afraid to say that my bank account is the wrong hue at the moment, looking decidedly scarlett and not very noir at all! 

SO! I am now on a determined mission to return it to a beautiful black as soon as possible.

As well as having a good stint
on Ebay selling our unused or
unloved items, I have consulted
the Dairy Diary saving money tips.

See for yourself, there are some great ideas here. By the middle of Feb, I hope to have mission accomplished.

Dairy Diary A-Z of Saving Money

Avoid buying new if you can get great quality second-hand

Visit www.uk.freecycle.org for free items local to you or search on Ebay (sort by nearest distance) for low cost articles you can collect.

Buy more plants!

It is often cheaper to buy three small plants than one large one. They will establish themselves quicker and cost less.

Contact your utility supplier if you are over 60

If one member in your household is over 60, check if there are any offers available from your utility company.

Direct debit

You can often save money on bills by opting to pay by direct debit. Most phone and utility companies offer this form of payment.

Energy saving

Only boil the water you need to make a drink or cook your vegetables and put a lid on pans. Rather than leave electrical goods on standby, switch off at the plug. Visitwww.energysavingtrust.org.uk or call 0300 123 1234 for more details on how to save energy.

Fabric remnants

Visit a local market or jumble sale for pieces of pretty fabric. Use these to cover cushions, produce a trendy patchwork throw, or wrap around a plain canvas for stylish artwork. An instant uplift for any room! Visit www.makeitandmendit.com/how-to-make-fabulous-cushions-from-old-clothes for more great ideas.

Get a water meter

You may be able to save money on your water bills by installing a water meter. Visitwww.moneysavingexpert.com/utilities/cut-water-bills to find out if it is a suitable option for your household.

Have a day out

Check out local press or websites for free local events.


Make the most of your savings with a cash ISA (Individual Savings Account). Visitwww.money.co.uk/savings-accounts/tax-free-savings-accounts.htm to compare the best available.

Join a club

Garden enthusiasts, consider joining the Royal Horticultural Society www.rhs.org.ukAfter your initial membership fee you will enjoy free entry into gardens and reduced prices for shows. If you love parks and historical buildings, consider becoming a National Trust member www.nationaltrust.org.uk

Kick the habit

If you are a smoker, consider giving up. Apart from the obvious health benefits you will save lots of money too. Visit http://smokefree.nhs.uk for help and to find out how much you will save.

Lower your phone bill

Visit www.uswitch.com to find out about cheaper call costs. There may be some cheap companies not listed. Check out www.moneysavingexpert.com for up-to-date information.

Mobile phones

If your mobile phone account gives you free ‘cross network’ minutes, it is often cheaper to call another mobile phone from your mobile phone than from your landline, which can be very expensive. If you use your mobile phone infrequently, it may actually be cheaper to swap to a Pay as You Go account. Visit www.uswitch.comto compare.

New car

When thinking about buying a brand new car visit www.which.co.uk/cars/choosing-a-car/buying-a-car/hot-car-deals to find the very best of the current deals available.

Open a store card

If you plan on spending a significant amount in one shop, it is worth applying for a store card. Various shops offer 10 per cent off the total amount spent when you open an account with them. Cut it up straight away, though, to avoid further temptation and pay off the balance immediately!


Time for a change? Revamp tiles, kitchen cupboards or shabby furniture with a lick of paint. Much cheaper than new ones!

Qualify for points or cashback

If you pay your credit card balance in full at the end of each month, consider switching to a credit card that offers cashback or other benefits such as airmiles or vouchers. Visit www.moneysavingexpert.com/cards/cashback-credit-cards

Review your life insurance

It’s worth shopping around for a better deal on your life insurance. Call 0800 316 3166 or visit www.lifesearch.co.uk

Switch your gas and electricity supplier

Visit www.energyhelpline.com or call 0800 074 0745 to find out which is the best deal for you. Simply give your address and energy usage (refer to an old bill) to discover which supplier is the cheapest.

Treat yourself to a weekend break

Shop around travel agents or visit websites such as www.lastminute.com for bargain breaks one or two weeks before you plan to depart.

Use loyalty cards

Ensure that you hand over loyalty cards every time you shop. Most stores, including Boots, Homebase and Tesco, offer points when you spend with them. Save up your points for a treat or to use in the run up to Christmas.

Visit the Citizens Advice Bureau

For information on what credits and benefits you may be entitled to visit your local Citizens Advice Bureau or go to www.adviceguide.org.uk


For money-saving advice, visit www.moneysavingexpert.com

X high street stores

Scour your local charity shop for new or nearly new clothes. Look out for your favourite brands – many shops sell clothes that are so new the labels are still intact.


Visit www.yahoo.co.uk to send an email to a long-distance friend. It’s cheaper than sending a letter. www.123greetings.com to send a greetings card.

Zero % interest

It’s best to pay off your balance every month, but if you do owe money on your credit card switch to a company who offer zero per cent interest.

Visit the Dairy Diary website for more information.

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