I mean, I always spend a lot of time in my kitchen but “a lot of time” has jumped to “prison time” in recent weeks. It’s fine, I like my kitchen. And when this is over I am going to call a joiner and get them in to treat the kitchen to a new load of smart shelves because the ones we have are appalling and we need more storage because there is crap everywhere. And, you know, I don’t just like my kitchen, I love my kitchen – she’s my princess and I like to treat her right.
But I have also been reflecting on the things in my kitchen I have found that make my kitchen life better and I know how you are all such massive suckers for kitchen chat. Don’t pretend you aren’t!!
Anyway here is my list of things that I rank as “most useful” in my kitchen and then maybe you will leave a helpful comment in the box provided and tell us all what yours are.
Is there anything scissors can’t do? I started with one pair of kitchen scissors and then could never find them and people kept stealing them and one year Sam went out with Giles to buy me some things for my birthday and Sam insisted on getting me two pairs of scissors. And I was genuinely thrilled with my gift and delighted that Sam, only four years old, was already getting the idea that I was almost exclusively to be found in the kitchen. Multiple pairs of scissors!!! I now have at least three on the go and any that go blunt and cannot be sharpened are ruthlessly recycled.
In fact, multiple anything. If you find yourself standing in your kitchen saying “Where’s my…” go directly to the internet and buy yourself three more of whatever it is.
Victorinox serrated paring knives. Again, as useful as scissors. I have got three knives but could always have more. See above. Available on Ocado (if you’re still speaking to them).
Stainless steel bowls
I have gone on about these before but they are the only kind of mixing bowls you ought to consider. Light and unbreakable, you could have ten all stacked inside each other and they would take up the same room as one giant ceramic jobby. I like Dexam the best.
Long spoons and scraping spoons
The way you stop jam from ever going mouldy is to make sure you never leave even a speck of butter or a tiny crumb inside. So the thing to do is use a clean spoon to get out the jam (never a buttery knife), then you dump it on the toast or on the side of your plate or whatever.
Once I realised this I invested in a variety of jam spoons – long things with which to scoop out the jam or marmalade. I have latte spoons and spoons with a sort of swan-neck that hook over the side of the jar and then I discovered these innovative silicon spoons that are absolutely the last word in scraping out every tiny last scrap of jam or yoghurt or whatever from any pot or jar.
I have got two and they are incredibly useful for all sorts of little jobs. I am now particularly vigilant about working from the top-down of jars of anything, starting first with the stuff under the “shoulders” of the jam jar because I got really sick of it being the last, gross stuff left. Ditto with yoghurt pots, when I open one I give the whole lot a stir and start assiduously from the top down.
Am I sounding really neurotic yet.
Tiered fruit stand
This will change your life. This fruit stand means no more mouldy forgotten pear or apple at the bottom of the bowl, and you can keep the bananas, (which some believe make other fruits go over more quickly), separate. I like this one, but there are millions around.
A brilliant tip to me from a friend in catering: buy many identical units of food storage box, probably on the smaller-side, that can stack together for space efficiency – base on base and lid-on-lid. Every unit ought to represent “a portion”, probably 400g or so. If you have made a giant vat of stew, you dole it out evenly between portion-boxes. If you want to decant lots of biscuits or fairy cakes or whatever, you simply use multiple boxes. By having many of identical size you will never have a situation like I have at the moment where my tupperware draw is just shameful with almost no containers but 400 rattly bastard lids, all different sizes and shapes. When the time comes I will take huge pleasure in hoofing these out and investing in this identical set.
Small baking trays
Even for a family of four, there are many instances where you only want to cook a small amount of food at one time – some frozen french fries only for the boy, for example because the girl won’t consider them. A vegetarian kiev just for my lunch, perhaps. I find I use my smaller baking trays far more than the bigger ones.
Large ice cube mould
Bring the bar home! All the smart bars in London serve cocktails now with huge ice cubes. I’m no longer drinking cocktails, (I feel like the next bit of lockdown will require an inner strength that I can only achieve through sobriety), but I still like the way these look in my 6pm kombucha or tonic water with Angustura Bitters.
This wonderful reuseable liner paper just makes everything wonderfully non-stick but in a non-sinister way. You can cut it to fit your most-used baking trays and it’s just the most terrific stuff. Available on Ocado.
Light kitchen tongs
The best kitchen tongs ought to be light and nimble, an extension of your own light and dextrous digits. I find most kitchen tongs are stiff and unwieldy and really not much use. For full magic you most specifically need the Kitchen Craft tongs, which are the Darcey Bussell of kitchen equipment: light, strong, graceful.
This is a thing made exclusively, I think, by Borough Kitchen. This is a great thing on the same principle as the light tongs – a traditional wooden spoon is too clumsy and stupid for the true work of a wooden spoon. These stirrers are long-handled with a dainty paddle at the end and just do the job infinitely better. My sister saw mine and stopped dead still and pointed and went “What is that. I need it.”
I have a medium-sized mandolin, which is very useful for slicing vegetables very finely and quickly for something like potato dauphinoise (ha! Dream on) or more likely a coleslaw. But it is rather large and I really fancy this small one for the endless slices of cucumber I seem to slice at the moment or for shallots or garlic or any number of things.
I’m really not surprised that Mrs Hinch’s books are enjoying rocketing sales. It’s suddenly like 1950 again. I’m obsessed with my house in the lockdown. Obsessed. And I find I genuinely don’t mind clearing out tricky drawers or cupboards that have so far eluded me. I even rearranged the cataclysmic mess of make-up that I keep in our downstairs loo, (not in the loo you understand, but on the shelves above the cistern), that had grown too revolting for even me to stand.
How about you? What are your best friends in the kitchen right now? And have you gone full Aggie McKenzie or what.