Category: Reviews

Small space solutions: for a lack of cupboard space

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.

EDIT: They’re back! You can find ’em here.

cupboardNext stop: tackling that shelf full of crap that we’re unwilling to trust to damp-smelling cupboards charming “open shelf” you can see on the end there.

Review: Tala heart cake tin {spiced chocolate cake}

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Valentine’s day, like any expression of love, has always been about feeding for me. Some people show it through grand gestures or physical love, for in my house it’s usually through a big plate of baked goods. This year will be my fourth Valentine’s with my boyfriend (!!!) and I’ve not yet been able to beat the heart/house/lobster shaped gingerbread I made for our first. I’m on a quest to do better.

So when Tala contacted me about a mini heart-shaped tin (springform), I jumped at the chance to get my hands on it. I’ve been a bit of a Tala fan since their cook’s measure saved  me from a cake-less life when I was without digital scales. It meant maybe I could finally beat my personal best.

I have to admit, I was nervous at first, but only because I’m prone to moments of incredible idiocy when it comes to baking implements. I like to stick to shapes that can be easily lined, or, better yet, have corresponding ready-shaped liners.

But this time, I was pleasantly surprised – the smooth lines of the tin mean you can easily grease it without having to use your pinky fingers to get in nooks and crannies. Tala 1 – 0 Hannah.

Unfortunately, halfway through making the mixture for the cake, I realised the recipe explicitly said “do not bake in a loose-bottomed tin” as it would probably leak. Erm, oopsie. It was too late already, and on I went. Remarkably, the tin held up and despite my pretty major mishap only let two tiny blobs of mixture leak out of the bottom. Tala 2 – 0 Hannah.

When the cake was cooked, I left it to cool in the tin for five minutes before staging the smoothest cake-removal operation ever. It’s honestly idiot (me) proof.

Being so short of space, I wouldn’t usually condone buying novelty bakeware. But actually, the tin is so dinky that it takes up barely any room at all, and is easily suitable for other occasions like Mothers’ Day too.

Absolutely 5 outta 5! You can find the tin online here (on sale!) and here.

Spiced Chocolate Cake

Recipe will make one 8 inch round cake, and is super easy – no creaming necessary! Adapted from Be-Ro recipe book. 

Ingredients
100g self raising flour
110g caster sugar
12g cocoa powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
50g margarine
1 medium egg
3 tbsp milk
2 tbsp water
Vanilla essence

Method
1) Preheat oven to 180C and line baking tin (ideally not loose bottomed!)
2) Combine flour, sugar, cocoa and spices, and rub in the margarine.
3) Stir in liquids, the egg, and a few drops of vanilla essence.
4) Bake in the centre of the oven for 30-35 minutes.
I topped it with simple milk chocolate icing, but it would also go well with a more robust chocolate frosting. 

Cooking with Poach Pods {or how to make a perfectly rounded poached egg}

Also alternatively titled, “How to make poached eggs that look a little bit like boobs”.

This post has been updated! Click HERE for wayyyy more info.

Poached eggs have a special place in my heart. I have loved them, with the kind of wistful adoration usually reserved for distant lovers, since my first taste, as part of eggs Benedict at Patisserie Valerie. But I’ve struggled to cook them, always being left with a weirdly gelatinous mermaid’s tale of egg white and never quite getting that perfect yolk.

So on one of my regular escapes from London, I couldn’t help but nip into a Lakeland to get some Poach Pods. And although they’ve been around for years, they were a bit of a revelation – no more trailing egg whites, and I get that elusive beautiful yolk every time. It wasn’t all smooth sailing though – the Pods’ packaging was devoid of usage tips, so on the first time I didn’t put a lid on the saucepan, so after 12 minutes cooking all I got was a half raw, half rubbery egg. Parts of the egg were stuck onto the pod too, as I didn’t realise they needed greasing before use.

But once you take these steps, the Pods are easy to use and deliver excellent results.

Poach

Tips for use

* Lightly grease the pods before use.

* Only half fill the pan you’re poaching in – any more and the water may go over the side of the Pod.

* Cook for 4-5 minutes with the lid on.

* Run a knife around the edge of the egg when cooked to ease it out.

You can buy Poach Pods from Waitrose, Lakeland, and Sainsbury’s.

Image: Poached egg in a toasted English muffin, 5 Weight Watchers ProPoints!

Christmas gifts: a baker’s dozen

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Christmas can be really tricky. With only two weekends to go until the big day, and the chance of one-time delivery shrinking with every day that passes, I can’t help but feel like the pressure’s on. I’ll be that person huffing and puffing on public transport on Christmas Eve. I’ll be the one hopping around with one leg in a pair of tights as I hurry to get ready for the evening.

In my family, we’re all medium-snobby about something different, which makes it doubly hard. We’re appreciative of good things. I have one brother who, after several years of chocolate addiction*, has quite a taste for the sweet stuff, and another who’s pretty specific about what wine he’ll drink. My mum’s easy peasy – whereas my dad asks for socks and cheap sweets when he secretly appreciates some fancy fruit and nut. But a love of good kitchenware has been passed down to us all, whether that means super sharp knives (brothers) or excellent bakeware (me).

So for this baker’s dozen, here’s thirteen whatchamajigs that are, in my experience, indispensable to a budding baker, that this little “bakehouse” couldn’t run without.

Click here for more Christmas gift ideas.

One. Be-Ro Home Recipes cookbook. A lot of us food-fans are guilty of having bookshelves groaning with tomes on cake, bread, and cookies. You’ll probably find the odd volume dedicated to perfect pastry hidden down the back of the sofa. But a lot of us have one book that we always come back to – and for me it’s the Be-Ro book, which contains the first recipes I learnt. It’s no frills, and contains all the basics you’ll need – and with regular updates since the first edition was published in 1923, its recipes are definitely tried and tested.

Two. Lakeland tin liners. They’re the best loaf liners I’ve ever used. Simple.

Three. Good quality vanilla extract. Oh sure, you can buy vanilla flavouring, which is wayyy cheaper. It also doesn’t really have a vanilla flavour. Equally, who can afford to use vanilla pods? Vanilla is one of those flavours that’s really a case of go hard or go home, and you can’t beat a good quality vanilla extract in…well…a lot of things. You can buy a litre of Neilsen-Massey vanilla extract at the bargain price of £24.50 here.

Four. Measuring spoons. Because all my mismatched teaspoons don’t seem to have a standard measure.

Five & Six. Edible glitter & sugar paste food colouring. I learnt early on that people are really impressed by these little things that add minimal time to the baking process, just by turning a cake into a rainbow cake, or giving your cupcakes a bit of shimmer. Rainbow cupcakes are a really easy way to make new friends. As for the virtues of sugar paste colours in particular, the fact that they’re so concentrated means they’ll last for ages and won’t make your icing soggy.

Seven. Digital scales. Now, I’m pretty old school about my cooking sometimes. But after all, it is chemistry, and judging scales by eye when your sight is poor is a recipe for disaster. During the first month in my flat we had no scales, just a Tala measuring cone to go by. Some of our creations that month were…interesting.

Eight. Pampered Chef decorating bottlesNo piping bag disasters here! This icing bottles can be a little fiddly to wash up but are so worth it for ease of control and the fact that it makes tasks like injecting jam into cupcakes effortless.

Nine. Silicone tartlet mould. You know when you have to make enough desserts to feed about 30 people and you just can’t fathom how a pie or a cake will cut into that many pieces? Problem solved. I’ve used this mould to make feeding a crowd easier – and the results are pretty cute too.

Ten. Joseph Joseph nesting bowls. It’s time for an embarrassing story. When I first started getting into baking, I read a lot of American blogs and couldn’t for the life of me work out how to measure in cups. I went into our drinks cupboard and looked at every cup in there – and they weren’t the same size. Was a “cup” just a rough measurement? It can’t be! I went around absolutely puzzled for ages before I discovered cup measures.

These bowls include cup measures (thank goodness) and are an amazing space saver in my teeny kitchen – leaving more space for more goodies!

Eleven. Good palette knife. Because we’ve all had to hack at the underside of a biscuit with a normal knife when it’s stuck to the worktop and it ain’t pretty.

Twelve. Spatulas. It’s a bit of a simple one, but how else are you meant to lick out the bowl thoroughly use all your mixture?

Thirteen. Round cookie cutters of varying sizes. I have loads of cookie cutters. A whole jar full. I have bunnies, and houses, and a lobster. Yeah, I’ve made a gingerbread lobster before – he was delicious and not at all snappy. But sometimes you just need a plain cutter, you know? This Tala set is magic – it contains 6 reversible cutters, and only costs about two quid.

And you know the really great thing about buying people baking equipment? The consequential influx of baked goods that just need eating…

*The “addiction” has not been proven, but damn, he got through a lot of Milky Ways.