That’s right, perfect poached eggs. It’s time, I think, to pull together *dramatic movie dun-dun-DUUHNN* a definitive guide to poaching eggs, beyond the pods.
Since I started writing this blog, through its evolution from pure baking to a more rounded focus, one thing has been a constant. The typefaces have changed, my home has changed, and the URL has changed, but this one thing has, for almost three years, remained the same.
I have consistently been haunted by poach pods.
A little how-to on silicone poach pods has been my most popular post for a long time, and by a huge margin. They’re there 11 months of the year, hanging out at the top of blog stats. Tripping me up when I’m looking at actual recipes. Because, let’s face it, we can do better.
wish I could tell you when it happened, but it seemed to occur all of a sudden. One month, nothing, and the next: a whole new city to discover.
Norwich, dear sweet little Norwich, got…cool.
Somewhere between then and now, grotty little shop fronts gave way to swanky barbers and coffee shops, and people started talking about where’s good for brunch. All the boys grew beards and got undercuts. Food started being served on slates and wooden boards. Pockets of the city became like London, full of independents and entrepreneurship, but without the tourists and grime.
“There isn’t enough room on the counter top and you are the only one who drinks coffee.”
“Well…yeah…but…we can move the bread bin? The bread bin is just full of boxes of tea.”
My flatmate and I were having what was, to my memory at least, our first argument. Not a proper one, really, just sighs, slightly raised voices, and eyebrows arched in indignation.
She was right – and oh man, I will never hear the end of admitting that – in that we don’t have an enormous amount of counter space. It’s taken up with by a utensils pot, a spice rack, the kettle, a biscuit tin, a ceramic chicken for keeping eggs in, and the dreaded bread bin, not to mention the bottles too tall for cupboards and the obligatory sugar and coffee jars. Continue reading →
Growing up, I used a hopelessly old fashioned set of scales that has a place in my heart even now. They were the balancing type that required a steady hand when adding ingredients, and a good eye for a horizontal line. The edges of the weights had been worn smooth and rounded with use, and young me didn’t realise that the tiny “oz” engraved in each one meant “ounce”. We didn’t have a digital set for weighing grams when precision was needed, but somehow the lack of accuracy didn’t result in any mishaps, something which many modern cooks would probably have you believe is a total fluke. It was a way of cooking that might not have adhered strictly to the science of baking, but made learning measurements by eye seem a lot easier.
But now digital scales are king, and the ounce has all but been eradicated from modern cooking. There’s been a bit of discussion about measurements on Twitter lately, with every cook and baker loyal to one particular method. With the proliferation of blogging, seeing American measures has become a lot more common, adding another level of translation to using recipes. A lot of people don’t see the point of weighing in ounces any more, and even more don’t understand the cup measurement, particularly us British bakers.
Personally, I use ounces, grams, and cups, depending on the recipe, clearly no longer loyal to my ounces-only cooking roots. So when I was offered scales to review that weighed in ounces and grams, of course I wanted to give them a go.
That picture up there is of a scene I never thought would feature in my life. That is a big-ass pile of fruit and veg. When this delivery from Abel & Cole arrived on my doorstep, I was like a kid on Christmas day.
I’d been toying with the idea of veg boxes for a while. It made sense to save myself from the time spent trudging around with plastic carrier bag handles slicing into the creases of my fingers under the weight of a week’s worth of bananas, onions and various roots. I’m far from alone in feeling this way — in the past year, Abel & Cole’s customer base has increased by 25%, while in the wider market home delivery of organic boxes saw growth of 10.3%.
But frankly, I couldn’t find any reviews written by people I know or follow or just generally trust, so I approached the company myself, asking if they’d be interested in having me do a review. Clare, the PR I spoke to, was really friendly and sorted it all out for me quickly, despite my awkward delivery specifications (more on that later!).
The growing of organic food is a practise that requires a lot of financial risk, hard work and dedication to stick to — farms have to be pesticide-free for 2 to 5 years before they even get certified as being organic. In a climate like ours, managing to do all this and come out with product that the fussy modern shopper deems good looking enough to eat is no mean feat. It’s not just a sticker you whack onto a lettuce so that you can charge 50p more.
So naturally, I expected this to be reflected in the price. And doing price comparisons with supermarkets (online shopping), it was. With comparable items – although in some of the supermarkets there were no comparable items, or items were not organic – Tesco came out cheapest (£13.09), followed by Asda (£14.27), Sainsbury’s (£15.74), Waitrose (£15.98), and Ocado (£16.77). Once you factor in travel, the higher prices of local “convenience” versions of these stores, or delivery, it might not make much of a difference, but overall Abel & Cole were marginally more expensive.
The medium fruit & veg box (£18) contained:
1 red pepper
One of my favourite things about the delivery is that I didn’t have to eat broccoli, which is probably the food I hate the most. You can look ahead to see what the coming week’s box will contain — great for people who meal-plan — and if there’s something you can’t stand (blurgh, broccoli), you can substitute it for something else. In my case, I got celery, which ended up being a handy accompaniment for the houmous I made and to bulk out risotto. And if you want more of something, you can add that to your box provided it’s in season.
But what I didn’t know, despite having heard of Abel & Cole before, is that you can buy pretty much all of your groceries from there if you want and can narrow down your choices according to dietary needs and preference, including gluten free, vegan, and Fairtrade. Oh, and you can get cakes, and baking kits. It’s all incredible flexible and, well, friendlier than most online shopping services.
When delivery day came, I woke up like a five-year-old on Christmas morning, trying to peek out the window to see if Santa the delivery man had been. My flat isn’t an easy place to deliver to, as there’s no shed or porch to leave things in, and I’m pretty sure my neighbours wouldn’t answer the door. I’d given the delivery man the best instructions I could, asking him to leave my box under the dodgy bit of wood in the bin area in front of the flat, and crossed my fingers that no-one would nick it while I was at work.
Well, no-one did steal it, because by the time I left for work, it was there. I obviously struck lucky with my area, living in a place where A&C deliveries come early.
I wasn’t disappointed — it was all good quality. But more importantly, the variety of fruit and vegetables meant that not everything needed to be used in the first few days, but rather it ripened at different rates and lasted longer than a week. It also meant that I was challenged to find new recipes, to be innovative with ingredients I wasn’t familiar with.
The Abel & Cole cook book also comes with the first order. Living in a small flat, my collection is small and I prefer to rely on instincts. But this book had me running to my flatmate to show her something else amazing every time I flipped through it. I’d put page markers in it for later use but there’s no point because I’d be marking about 80% of the pages — even on recipes for vegetables and fruits I’ve not heard of before — from savoury tarts to sweet and sticky puddings. Alongside beautiful photography and inspiring recipes, there are storage tips and flavour pairing ideas throughout. If you buy only one cook book this year, I implore you to make it this one. You won’t regret it.
Alongside this, Abel & Cole have an excellent collection of recipes online, sorted by ingredient, that’s open to everyone, no log-ins required.
Overall, the fruit & veg box was great quality and inspired me to try to new things — I couldn’t have been happier with what was delivered.
If your home has a small kitchen – and I mean really small, not the size Pinterest seems to think is small – chances are you need every square inch you can get. We, the tiny kitchen brigade, have tucked away our dreams of displaying flour artfully in kilner jars, to neatly store them in mental compartments with labels like “For when I move out of London” or “For when I get a pay rise”. For the here and now, any helping hand is welcomed.
As soon as we got the chance when we moved into this flat, we found the nearest Ikea and hopped over there. It was my first time there. I’ve not been back since, for fear of my bank balance.
But the one definitely-worth-it thing we came back with was this shelf insert. If you’re low on cupboard space I’d 100% recommend stocking up on a few of these. Unfortunately, Ikea seem to have discontinued them, but you can get a very similar insert from Betterware.