I think it must be my age, but I rather sneakily enjoy Good Housekeeping these days. I don’t have a subscription, that might be a step too far, but I do read them when I come across them.
This month’s has an a to z, best of the best of their tried and tested household gadgets, and I was fascinated, obviously, by those they had chosen for our kitchens:
The Boss Blender from Sage by Heston Blumenthal – blimey, at only a penny off £500 I’d want this to be damned good! To be fair, it is a bit more than just a blender, as it will heat your soups or smoothies that you make if you want to. Still, I’d have to really like soup a lot to spend this kind of money. I’ve got a £30 bog standard blender, and a pan. That’ll do me for now.
De’Longhi Nespresso Latissima+ -I’m not a massive fan of pod machines, though I get that they are easy, convenient and mess-free. Apparently if that’s key for you, then this apparently is the business.
Magimix Cuisine System 5200XL Food Processor – gosh, this one seems to have lots of accessories, not to mention three bowls with it, which is perhaps what you’re paying £339 for. But sounds like it’s well built, so it should last you well through lots of processing.
BrevilleVKJ595 Spectra Illumination BRITA Filter Kettle – not sure how I feel about this one, and even Good Housekeeping say that the illuminating kettle casing “adds an element of fun”. It’s a kettle, I’m not sure I need it to be fun. Built in filter is a good thing, only 1 litre capacity is ok for me on my own, but possibly not quite so much when the hordes descend.
Le Creuset Toughened Non Stick Pan range – I love my Le Creuset casserole dish, I’ve had it nearly 30 years and it’s still going strong. I can see why these pans might well have come out on top of the testing, even though they are heavy. I’d pick these as well.
KitchenAid 2 Slice Toaster -ok, on principle I am not having one of these. I’m a Kenwood girl, not a KitchenAid. And I don’t care how good it is, I’m not spending £100 on a toaster.
I am sure that all of these are as fantastic as the testing proves them to be, although I think for many of us they are going be out of range from a budget perspective. Their website gives more reviews of all the items in each category, so you might be able to find something within whatever your budget is.
Now, I’m just off to check out the secrets of the GH Kitchen.
Now, quite a lot of these I could agree with. I mean, I didn’t even know you could get a grilled cheese maker, and in my house an egg scrambler is a pan and a wooden spoon! Likewise a rice maker, and a doughnut pan is just beyond frivolous. Though I have owned a waffle maker in the past, but no longer. Pointless.
But there are some things I would take exception to. Like a crock pot. I love my slow cooker and use it regularly. Not just in the winter, and not just for stews, I love being free to go off and do something else all day and have a good meal waiting. I’ve used it for rice pudding, for jam, for pickle and for porridge ready for the morning. It’s staying.
I don’t have a KitchenAid (I’m still waiting for the lottery win) but I do have a Kenwood Chef, and wouldn’t be without it. But then I do a lot of baking, and by having Ken, then I often bake on the spur of the moment because it makes it so much quicker. And I watched MFL make sausages with Ken the other week, which amazed me. Who knew?
So, it’s a bit mixed from me on this. What would you definitely keep in your kitchen, and what can you well imagine doing without?
I think it’s probably quite clear that I am both very fond of my baking, and therefore also have an unhealthy amount of love for Lakeland too. A new catalogue and new gadgets is always a moment of quiet joy.
So I’m really not sure about why I’m not sure about the Victoria Surprise Cake Set. I mean, I love, really love a great Victoria sponge. I love it when the filling isn’t mean. I even have a passing nostalgia for those sponge flans that my Mum used to make for buffets, even if I hope the sachet jelly is now long gone.
And so in theory the Surprise Cake Set should be a good thing. I am just not really sure if I need another set of round tins in the cupboard. Could I give my guests a surprise in a different way without it involving cupboard space? I mean, if I was looking for a gift for the baker who had everything, then I guess this would be a good gift. But for those of us with limited space then maybe not.
We’ve made it back from our northern escapade exploring the highways and byways of some of the North of England. No bones about it though, I am a complete homebody and there is nothing to beat that moment when you first reopen the front door.
Well, apart from when “someone” forgot to put the kitchen bin out before we went away. But that’s a tale of forgetfulness to save up for another day’s brownie point scoring.
For now, I’m enjoying wandering round my own kitchen, marvelling at all the useful bits of kit that I can put my hand to, and the extraneous ones we had whilst away. For a start, there are decent knives with sharp cutting edges, and steel on hand for when they’re not. There are my mugs, ones that hold a decent cup of tea, not half measures.
Here there is a non designer toaster, but it sure as heck does a better job at toasting than the three times the price version. I know, we had one of those before, it was rubbish at toasting and then it blew up. There are dozens of different things for if I feel the urge to knock up a cake or six, which feels quite likely if only because I promised my team back at the day job that I would.
And then there’s the beloved Gaggia. Well actually, I love it that much, missed it so much all the time it was in the repair shop, and knew I’d need good caffeine for all the stuff I was going to be doing, that I took it with us. Look, it’s not as though I was going to France and would need the space to bring back wine. If I’m staying in the UK, then the Gaggia comes too. And didn’t Iappreciate it?
So whilst the cottage we rented had a great kitchen that was one of the best equipped for holiday let that I’ve ever had, there really is no place like home for me. And my home is never, ever having one of these:
I’m a pretty big fan of Amazon, for bringing so much stuff within reach of our rural location. Yes, I would support my local bookshop, but their inventory is nowhere near this size, and my reading is quite niche.
And Amazon bring all sorts to the door. Except I don’t tend to think of them for anything outside of books,DVDs and CDs. So a bit amazed when looking at what’s in the Kitchen and Dining section. Loving some of these new things!
* Lego Lunch Box – I love these! Really wide age appeal I should think, boys and girls, young and old. As we all settle in for a frugal winter, if you’re going to be taking packed lunches, do it in style!
*Delonghi KG79 Professional Burr Grinder – I think this is just relatively new to Amazon rather than completely new. Still, if you’ve got a caffeine freak or home barista, then they need a decent grinder, because they need to be grinding their own beans.
* James Martin Digital Steamer – I’m not mad keen on excess gadgets in the kitchen, but I guess a steamer is not a bad one, if that’s a style of cooking that you like a lot. Personally, I’ll be sticking with the old fashioned steamer over pan of water approach, but if you love gadgets this may tick the boxes for you. Maybe I need to give one a dry run to see if we use it.
* Philips HD7860/60 SENSEO Quadrante Coffee Pod System – if you don’t want the fuss of all that grinding and tamping, not to mention cleaning, then maybe this is the coffee maker for you. My mum in law has an early version, and it does produce a good crema, and it depends on how richer a pod you buy. I prefer this to the aluminium pod system that’s around, at least you can compost what you use with this! Styling is sleek, results could be more than passable.
Browsing the Lakeland website, as I am wont to do, I came across a new range from the Hairy Bikers. Now I have to admit to a bit of a soft spot for Si and Dave, and we loved having them here in the village when they were filming at the Red Lion. It was a long day and they still made time for a quick word with MGG, an autograph for her and a signed cookbook for a village raffle.
I don’t know if I’ve missed this launching some time ago, but it’s certainly new to me. Not exclusive to Lakeland, they have about 10 lines, and there are quite a lot more lines on Amazon. As you’d expect, the products cover every kind of cuisine, from some great looking proper pie dishes, through a good, solid-looking tagine and a Spanish-style Cazuelas. Of course, these are the sorts of things you don’t need many of, and you’d hope not to have to buy too many times, so you may as well have good looking ones!
Celebrity chef ranges are nothing new, and some are better than others. I like the look of this, they feel authentic to how Si and Dave cook, although I have no idea how much involvement they had in its creation. Still, if it was just a badging exercise then at least their names have gone onto pretty decent looking products. Worth a look, I would imagine that there will be a few foodies getting these as a gifts over the months ahead. Not to mention there’s their Christmas book to be thinking about!
In a completely different context, we were talking about knowing your audience the other day, which led onto a conversation about the blog. Now, I never think of having an audience, but I guess from looking at the search terms that land people here, you can work out a thing or two about the casual reader.
So, for the first 6 months of the year, the most popular searches to land here have been
1) Foodie gifts, and various derivatives thereof. Which, given the title, is really no surprise at all, and would be rather worrying if it wasn’t that popular! Hopefully there is plenty of scope to find what you were looking for, or even for things you hadn’t even thought of looking for.
2) Bedazzled Cupcakes. Great local cupcake company, who obviously have a lot of fans out there. I’ve written about them a couple of times, as I see them regularly at local food events, and MGG tends to make a beeline for them.
3) What is the difference between a mini Melton Mowbray pork pie and a mini pork pie? Say hello to my readers from Morrisons, who have ended up here with every combination of the question, which apparently forms part of one of their NVQs. Given our proximity to Melton Mowbray, we are well versed in the way of the pie and they feature fairly regularly on the blog.
4) SW4 Gin, which I think I’ve only written about once or twice. I still owe them a review, as they kindly sent me a bottle to try, and I’m going to to do a testing with this, Gordons and another of the new London gins. Only problem has been I seem to have a lack of gin loving friends, as BFF is a gin hater and not even prepared to have a sip.
5) Cobb Barbecue – a cooking system I’ve mentioned a few times but not tried yet, but obviously quite a few people are thinking about it. Lakeland seem to be the best source.
6) Three Chimneys Cookbook – I’ve featured many, many cookbooks, but this is the one that I obviously have decent rankings for! Great cookbook, great restaurant, amazing location.
7) Marmite XO – cannot abide the stuff, can’t imagine why you would want an XO version, but it would seem many do.
8) Save Water Drink Wine Framed Print – my sentiments exactly, and one of my favourite gifts this year. Available from Not On the High Street, and available as a print or useful shopping bag.
9) Bread making kits – not sure I’ve written about kits but I’ve featured the Panasonic Breadmaker a few times as well as great books on bread, not to mention breadmaking courses with Richard Bertinet.
10) Innocent bee friendly seeds – I talked about these when talking about some of the initiatives to support British honey bees. In case you’re interested, the seeds were a mix of snapdragons, poppies and cornflowers. Now you know!
An interesting mix, and interesting to look at the variations year on year. Last July was all about Delia Smith, red velvet cake and blood oranges. Ah, the fickle finger of foodie fate, in one year, out the next!
I never used to care about my mobile phone. First it just made calls, then texts, and then I really went upmarket and had one with a camera.
And then that one died.
And on a bit of a whim, plus curiosity, I bought an iPhone. And, other than the appallingly short battery life, I love it!
Officially, love it.
Especially for the world of apps that it brings to your fingertips. Before I owned one, someone said to me at a party that you could tell a lot about a person by their apps, and not having one probably told him a lot too. But a look now would confirm what most people know: I love food, drink, eating out, eating in, more food.
There are a lot of food and drink orientated apps out there, with a lot, of course, directed at the US. So, purely in the interest of research, I’ve been playing with some that seem more intended for those of us here in the UK. Here’s my thoughts:
Jamie’s 20 Minute Meals– had to start here I guess, given how many zillions of downloads there have been of this. The cheeky chap meets high tech and delivers some pretty good after work dinner recipes in his own style. I like the instructional videos for things like the best way to slice and chop an onion, and also how to organise your kitchen. So yes, this is not aimed at the most experience cooks around, but there will be some people who find this great. Recipe groups include soup, risottos, quick curries, salads and even pudding, something for all kinds of tastes. The very inexperienced cook may find it helpful to have a photo of turning the knob on your oven to the lowest setting, but I think most of us can manage without. I’ve used this at work for quick inspiration, used the shopping list feature and then just knocked something out at home. Pretty good, as long as you don’t have your fingers in a mess for when you need to swipe the screen and you can keep it somewhere where it’s not going to fall in pans of stuff whilst you cook. Currently £2.99.
Nigella Quick Collection– where Jamie leads…well, the only amazing thing is that it’s only Nigella from the roster of UK chefs and cooks that seems to have followed. Recipes are sorted, possibly in a Sophie Dahl tribute, by food mood, including comfort, romantic and nibbly. Recipes do have a nifty voice control for going forwards or backwards through the steps, avoiding the possibly messy swiping involved with Jamie’s. The videos look like clips from the TV programmes so not ideal to cook along to, but you can email the recipe to yourself and print it out. The invite function is a cute little quirky extra, and I really like that you can set the units and retailers to UK or US. Is it worth £4.99? I’m not sure, you could buy How to Eat for less than that and have a whole host of meals at your fingertips.
Ocado – this is my favourite app, if only because I normally end up in bed reading Olive or something similar and adding stuff straight away to the next delivery. I love that it gives me options to add everything I’ve had before, or some of it, recommends stuff I might like based on other stuff I’ve bought, and is good on highlighting offers. Bit short on inspiration, but high on convenience.
Zagat – this is obviously a paid for app based on the best selling guide, and does give you the benefit of being a lot lighter to carry around than all the guides. The UK coverage is focused pretty much on London, with over 2,200 entries, compared to 1 in Cardiff. I also find it a bit difficult to navigate, as it’s not intuitive how to go back a step, and seems to need to go back to the start each time. Reviews are concise but interesting, features opening times, credit card policies, and other categories, that include cheese tray served, dessert specialist, game served and winning wine list. I love the out-takes from places that you don’t want to try that pop up too. At £5.99 it’s not the cheapest app, but there’s a lot to it, if you like Zagat’s style.
9 to 5 Food – this is billed as quick, money-saving recipes for busy people, so I guess a little similar to Jamie without the celeb name or production values. And at the same price, I would question whether it really is worth it, and who would buy it other than those of us interested in researching foodie apps. I would say it was pretty basic, very text based and the writing is not that compelling. I wouldn’t waste your money.
iCook– there is a huge range of cookery styles available in the iCook series, and I’ve been trying iCook Curry. For 59p it’s ok, you could probably Google all the recipes quite easily, but it’s convenient and gives you 18 recipes. Some on here were quite normal (Chicken Tikka Masala) but then included things like Persian Biriyani and Murgh Chana Balti. Instructions are clearly written, but not extensive, but I imagine most competent cooks would be fine with them. The series includes cupcakes and gourmet burgers, and also some more generalist volumes too. Would probably give it a B minus, and could try harder.
GoodFood – the magazine has two apps, festive recipes and healthy eating. I’ve got the latter, although would probably like the recipes in the former better. There’s a pick of the day, recipes for each meal and videos for things like preparing a whole fish or how to grill peppers. It’s okay but not particularly inspiring. At £1.79 I’d save up and buy a copy of the magazine.
Good Food Guide– You don’t need this and Zagat I would say, and this is obviously much more comprehensive in its coverage of the UK. I like the near to me function, giving you everything around where you are, or you can combine this with keywords. The listings include those places that won Reader awards as well as Editors’ awards, those with notable wine lists, and those that have been in the list the longest. I would say this was £4.99 well spent if you want to eat out a lot.
I am sure I’ve not exhausted the list of apps available, as it increases every day, so I’d love to know what you’ve found, what you think I should have a try of. And there are gaps. I can’t find anything relating to farmer’s markets (although you can get a National Farmer app), or much from the big wine makers or retailers. You would have thought that wine pairing would be great as an app. I am sure it will happen!
Meantime, I’m off to the Little Chef to test out their Afghan menu!
Nearly time for Father’s Day, which is always one of those events that catches even me by surprise. It needs something else just after it, like the way Mother’s Day works with Easter. And events involving chocolate always have my attention!
So, if I were shopping for a Father’s Day gift for a dad with a strong interest in food and drink, what would I be thinking of? Here’s a few thoughts:
For cheese loving Dads – If there’s not a decent cheese shop nearby, then I would try one of the gift boxes from Pong. The Best Dad in the World gift box includes Oxford Isis, Bath Blue, Swaledale Old Peculiar and Banon, plus great cheese biscuits from Fudges. Neal’s Yard are also offering a great selection, not biased by the inclusion of Colston Bassett Stilton. And for something even more artisanal, then try Sole Bay Cheese, who have about 70 different cheeses on offer at any one time. You can buy a selection, or a voucher to let Dad make his own choice. (UPDATE: sadly Sole Bay Cheese is no longer trading)
For bread loving Dads – surely the bread loving dad already has a Panasonic breadmaker? I would send him to a class at The Bertinet Kitchen, because this is fabulous for moving on your breadmaking skills and is also in the beautiful city of Bath. There are versions from one day to five, and would cover everything from regular bread through to French and Italian varieties. Or if it’s out of budget (3 days is £500, plus your other costs) then you could buy him Richard’s books instead, Crust or Dough.
So, what kind of foodie dad is yours? Love to know what you’re buying him. I know men have a reputation of being difficult to buy for, but I think food lovers are easy to buy for, as there are so many possibilities. I haven’t even got started on the travel possibilities! But if you want some food for thought, drop him a ticket to Paris and then check out Meeting the French (read this entry on He Eats to get an idea on what he could get up to).
I’ve been away for a week, which means there’s a whole load of catching up to do, on boring stuff like washing and bills, and interesting stuff like new gifts that would suit different kinds of food lovers. Whilst it might take a while for me to review properly, here’s the things I’m thinking about: