Quick post!

No recipes – just some of my kitchen essentials and tips – just me having a natter with you!

Cooking With Rapeseed Oil

  Rapeseed Oil – Seriously Healthy!

Ever since I took an active interest in cooking as a serious hobby, I have trained myself to believe that extra virgin olive oil is simply the best thing to cook with. After all, a recent study showed that a diet of nuts and olive oil can help prevent dementia in older age, and I’ve never met an elderly person while visiting the Mediterranean that didn’t swear by the stuff. However, while this is all well and good, and while olive oil is indeed healthy for the mind and delicious when used as a salad dressing, when it comes to hardcore cooking as a whole, it could be doing us more harm than good.

While sunflower oil and vegetable oil were once pushed aside for healthier olive oil, these days, it is more common to find heath practitioners and dieticians pushing something called rapeseed oil. Rapeseed oil is made from those bright yellow flowers that you see gracing fields in the British countryside every summer. Originally grown to provide lubricants for steam engines, the rapeseed flower was eventually altered to include varieties that contained less glucosinolates (that’s the thing responsible for that bitter taste in brussel sprouts), which was the reason it wasn’t first grown for human consumption.

These days the flower makes an oil which is much more palatable than its predecessor and one which is jam packed full of health benefits. It has a much higher smoke point than olive oil, making it far more suitable for roasting and frying. Not only that, but it can pump you full of some serious vitamins AND help to lower your cholesterol!

Some of the benefits of rapeseed oil are:

  • It contains the lowest saturated fat content of any oil – less than half that of Olive Oil.
  • It has 10 times more Omega 3 than Olive Oil.
  • It is a great source of Vitamin E.
  • It is high in monounsaturated fats.
  • It contains no artificial preservatives and is trans-fat and GM free.
  • It is suitable for a variety of diets – vegetarian, gluten-free, Kosher and Halal.
  • It is safe to cook at high temperatures with a burning point of 230c much higher than Olive Oil.

Since starting to use it about 10 months ago, I have seen a significant drop in my cholesterol level and have felt the benefit of the added Omega 3 several times over.

The price of rapeseed oil is significantly lower than that of olive oil as well, which just adds to its value. You can pick up a litre bottle in Aldi for £1.99 or a bigger bottle in Morrisons for the same price.

Next time you are buying oil at the supermarket, stop and think, can you afford NOT to try this great new alternative?

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Essential Utensils!

Essential Utensils For The Everyday Kitchen

Essential Utensils For The Everyday Kitchen

Just as every good workperson has his/her tools, so is it that every good cook has his/her utensils! (You’ll note that I went very PC there).

Yes, if you enjoy to cook on a regular basis, and let’s face it, if you are reading this blog you must like cooking enough to put up with my drivelling on and on and on… then you need a decent set of essential utensils.

I don’t mean the obvious essentials like a kettle, toaster, cutlery and plates etc, I mean the sort of equipment that will allow you to cook quickly, efficiently and easily in your kitchen be it when you have guests over or just for the family dinner.

Lets start with the electrical items, well lets not, because to be honest you don’t NEED these things, anything that a food processor can do, you can do with a knife or a cheese grater, anything that a toastie machine can do, you can do under a grill, anything a mixer can do, you can do with a bit of muscle and a mixing bowl, anything that a microwave can do, you can do in a regular oven… you get my drift here yes?  That said I don’t HATE these machines, quite the opposite in fact, I have a microwave which gets used to reheat food in a hurry or start of baked potatoes, I have a Breville sandwich toaster because both my girls and I are addicted to those lovely gooey cheese toasties which go down a treat on a rainy day.  I also have a waffle oven because it’s in the shape of Mickey Mouse and we have a 4 year old, and, horror of horrors I have not one, but TWO food processors, one regular processor which has a liquidiser attachment and which is great for blending soups and making smoothies or grating huge amounts of cheese, making breadcrumbs and chopping in a rush, and one mini processor which is a fantastic bit of kit which I got for Christmas last year and which gets a fair amount of use chopping onions and herbs and making pesto (you can pick these up for as little as £15).  And yes, I have a mixer, because it’s always easier to use a mixer for making dough, cake mix and whipping up cream etc.  Basically, these things are not ESSENTIAL items to have in your kitchen, but they can sometimes make your life easier if you are very busy.

So here is my list of must have essentials for a good running kitchen…

  1. A good set of knives is definitely one of the most essential things in the kitchen, I have a complete Jamie Oliver set along with a diamond sharpener (which is awesome) but you need not break the bank with a whole knife set, the essentials are a good chef’s knife for chopping, a good paring knife for peeling and cutting smaller things in your hand and a bread knife for cutting.. well bread really.
  2. A decent chopping board is next on the list, although health officials will tell you that plastic is better as it doesn’t trap bacteria, I find a couple of wooden boards, one for vegetables and one for meat, are much better, the larger and thicker the better, you don’t want them warping and bending on you unless you’re happy to use your board to cut off a couple of fingers.  You can also use the boards for serving food as well as preparing it!
  3. Pans are another obvious essential, you ideally want to have a set of 3, a small pan for sauces and gravies, a medium pan for veggies and smaller portions and a large pan for potatoes, pasta etc.  I have an additional large pan which I use for soups, curries and stews as well but it isn’t essential to have one of these unless you make a lot of them.  You also want to make sure that your pans are good quality with heavy bases so that heat distributes evenly when cooking with them.
  4. Another pan that is essential is a good sauté or frying pan, I also recommend buying a good cast iron griddle as well for that BBQ char on meats.
  5. A decent selection of wooden spoons is something I wouldn’t be without, you will use more than you think when cooking and as they are inexpensive to buy, it’s a good idea to have a few handy for different pans so you don’t have to keep going back and forth to wash them.  Also included in the wooden utensil list (though not entirely essential) are a spaghetti fork, stir fry spoon and rolling pin.
  6. Get yourself a decent grater, now I’m not talking about those ones that are £1.00 in supermarkets which grate 4 different sizes of cheese, I’m talking about the handheld ones, with a good one (starting off at about £3.50) you can grate lovely fresh parmesan over pasta or lemon and orange zest into a cheesecake, you’ll use it a lot more often than you think you will so go out and get one.
  7. Another tool that I wouldn’t be without in the kitchen is a set of prongs, I use them when making almost every meal! I used to have silicon ones but they were a pain, so I invested £2.50 in a pair of stainless steel ones from Asda. I use them for everything from turning sausages and meatballs in the pan to fishing rolls out of the oven!
  8. A crock pot (or slow cooker). OK yes, this isn’t an essential because the oven does the same job, but you can’t leave the oven on while you’re out at work can you? So the humble crock pot is on my list of kitchen essentials because they are inexpensive and invaluable in the kitchen, I use mine for all manner of things, slow cooking meat, stews, even pot roasts!
  9. Finally, you can use saucepan lids, but I personally recommend a good colander or sieve for draining vegetables and pasta.  The amount of times I lost my dinner down the sink because I lost my grip on a saucepan lid whilst straining just wasn’t worth the hassle any more so I went out and bought a colander and never looked back!

And that’s it, along with a few other items which you can pick up along the way such as mixing bowls and serving dishes, this list will give you the tools to cook up a veritable storm in the kitchen!

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What The Heck Is Liquid Smoke????

Liquid Smoke

Liquid Smoke - Schmmokin'!

You’ve probably seen me now rattling on endlessly about the marvel that is Liquid Smoke, but do you have the slightest clue what it is? No, neither do most people I talk to about it INCLUDING one of my best friends in America where the flipping stuff is from!!!

Basically, if you love the smooth smoky flavours that only a log burning BBQ can offer you but you don’t have the time, equipment or indeed the inclination to cook using this method – you need this stuff…

It is essentially smoked wood in a bottle. You’ve probably already tasted it, ever had cured smoky bacon or processed hot dogs? Then you’ve probably already had Liquid Smoke without even knowing it.

So here’s the science bit… A substance produced from smoke passed through water, Liquid Smoke consists of smoke which is produced through the controlled burning of wood chips or sawdust (usually hickory), which is then condensed into solids or liquids and dissolved in water. This method is called destructive distillation and the solution produced can be then be modified to develop a wide range of smoke flavours.

Many chefs and cooks don’t advocate the use of Liquid Smoke, but I treat it just like any other herb or spice in the kitchen.  Overused it can be horrible, but used with care, it can produce some of the best flavours you will ever taste! I use it in pulled pork, rubs, pasta dishes, burgers, meatloaf, soups, sauces and more… it’s great in baked beans and it really is my best friend in the kitchen.

You can buy Liquid Smoke mostly online, I haven’t yet found it in supermarkets in the UK, but I do know that it is widely available in the US, you can import it or buy on a marketplace such as eBay, though be careful, you could end up paying more than if you visited a UK supplier such as Hot Headz.  This is the brand of choice for me, followed by Stubbs because they are the easiest to find in the UK, but when I visit Boston this summer I will be testing out a few other varieties!

Check out these sites for decent Liquid Smoke, I do prefer Hot Headz for a couple of reasons though,

1. it is additive and preservative free and

2. it has a handy little dropper in the neck of the bottle so you can’t overdo it!



Happy pretend smokin’!

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Hello there!

If you are reading this then you are most likely one of the following…

  1. A food fan
  2. A friend or family member who is interested in my cooking and ideas and who wants to support me
  3. My mum (Hi Mum, love you!)

Either way that is fine by me! I am one of those people who absolutely LOVES food, and I’m putting this site together to share my love of cooking, my passion for trying out new recipes and messing with classic dishes and to hopefully get some insight into what others think of my food! I am a self-taught cook, who doesn’t any cooking at all for a living, I’m actually a Graphic/Web Designer by trade but I just love to cook for my family and friends and try out new ideas on them, some work, some definitely don’t (strawberry cheesecake made with jelly for one – yuk!)…

I’m planning on giving tips on the little things and accepting advice from those who know better. Sharing recipes and images with you and hopefully introducing a lot of you to things you never thought you would try and cook or eat in a million years!  I will attempt to show you everything (without sounding too conceited) from baking delicious treats to cooking up mouth-watering different cuisines, side dishes and even tips on herb gardening and seasoning’s… I will also share my secrets to saving a pretty penny in the supermarkets! And for the record… NONE of this stuff is difficult to do…

But that’s about all I have time to say right now, I have a wife and child who are waiting patiently for me to bake up a storm in the kitchen this weekend, starting with a classic Victoria Sponge with fresh cream and jam, amazingly moreish pecan and fudge brownies and some fantastic choc-nut and fudge cookies (remind me to tell you how I couldn’t bake to save my life until recently), not to mention the choritzo and mushroom stuffed pan fried pork I plan on cooking for dinner tonight… AND I want to get out into the garden to plant some new Bay plants… phew… will it ever end?

For for the minute at least, thanks for visiting, please come back and see what I have to show you later on and happy cooking!!!

So long for now…


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