I think people assume because I write a food blog and because I have a past working in catering that everything always runs smoothly in my kitchen. However, that is not the case at all.
My main problem is a lack of focus and concentration. I can cook restaurant standard food when I stand and concentrate on what I am doing. Unfortunately, there are many distractions around me. I work from home and I have four children. That usually means that I am making the evening meal while trying to help with homework, find missing items of uniform and answering work-related emails. I also live in a one-hundred-year-old house that needed a lot of work when I bought it and seem to have lived in a building site for most of the past ten years while jobs are completed.
The result of all these distractions when I am cooking leads to many accidents. I wander off to deal with a situation and come back to a pan boiling over or mashed potatoes stuck to the bottom of the pan. I have also set countless things on fire over the years. fortunately, I am not phased as putting these out!
My biggest issue is toast. This may seem odd as I cook plenty of dishes that include lots of ingredients and can balance herbs and spices perfectly. I can make delicious sauces and cook meat to perfection. Yet, toast is beyond me. It is standard practice in my house for the first lot of toast I cook to get thrown in the bin after a bout of cremation. It usually happens because I think I have a few minutes spare to do something else and forget that I have put the toast under the grill in the first place. If you are reading this and wondering why I don’t just make toast in a toaster, it is because I set the toaster on fire!
Focusing is something I am working on in the kitchen!
Fruit and cheese is a classic combination. Pears stuffed with blue cheese and walnuts is an elegant starter that is visually appealing and not so filling that it spoils the main course. They are also easy to make so you have plenty of time to spend with your guests and are not slaving away int he kitchen. Here is how to make baked pears stuffed with blue cheese and walnuts for six people.
Ingredients for Baked Pears Stuffed with Blue Cheese and Walnuts
- 3 large pears
- 3 oz blue cheese, such as Stilton
- 1/2 cup of walnut halves
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- To serve- salad leaves and balsamic dressing
How to Make Baked Pears Stuffed with Blue Cheese and Walnuts
Preheat the oven to a high heat.
- Peel the pears and halve lengthways before removing the cores to make round wells.
- Place the pear halves on a baking tray.
- Chop the walnut halves and sprinkle into the well of each of the six pear halves.
- Crumble the blue cheese and sprinkle over the walnuts.
- Drizzle the pears with a little olive oil.
- Bake in the oven for approximately 25 minutes, or until the pears have softened.
- Serve half a pear each on a plate with salad leaves and drizzle with balsamic dressing.
Currently in the UK, foods are sold with ‘display until’ and ‘best before end’ labels. These are intended to advise consumers about when foods are no longer safe to eat. However, this system is not without fault. First, if foods are stored incorrectly, they may be unsafe to eat before the specified date. Second, many people rely on the dates provided on the labels and throw food away that is perfectly safe. This results in a lot of food wastage in the UK. There are now new plans to trail an entirely different system.
A high-tech food label has been designed that turns bumpy if a food is no longer safe to eat. Dairy products company Arla is trialling this new label. Their cheese, cream, and milk will have this new label to help consumers to definitively know if food is no longer safe.
The labels contain a gelatine-based gel that reacts to the temperature outside and the packaged food. The conditions cause a molecular breakdown and the labels are designed to deteriorate at the same rate as the food.
The main aim of these labels is to prevent waste. The current labelling system errs on the side of caution and the new labels will provide a more accurate date for which the products are no longer safe. The new label is being backed by food waste campaigners as an effective solution to this problem.
Recently, I realized the number of completely unnecessary kitchen gadget there are available. This realization came to me as I was wandering down the seasonal offers aisle in Aldi and I spotted an omelette maker and genuinely couldn’t think of the benefit of owning one of these gadgets.
I am a big fan of buying things that make your life easier, save you time or improve a particular aspect of cooking. I mean, who can imagine life without a food processor? Even items that only come out of the cupboard once in a while have their advantages. For example, I don’t use my pasta maker often, but when I do, the pasta I make is definitely thinner and evener.
My issue with the omelette maker is that I can see absolutely no advantage to owning one. Omelettes are something that I probably cook about once a month, so the rest of the time it would sit gathering dust on a shelf or take up space in a cupboard.
This is one of the simplest and quickest meals you can make so I cannot imagine why anyone would need this gadget in their lives. You still need to create the omelette mixture, so it is saving no time or effort at all.
I have similar feelings of frustration towards egg slicer. How often do you want to slice a hard-boiled egg and how difficult of a task is this anyway? Another item on my list is electric can openers, although these are fantastic for people who struggle to use their hands, Beyond gadgets, I have equal levels of irritation about pre-sliced mushrooms. Why pay more to save one minute of time?
Is this just me or do other people not see the use of these things?
The fresh flavours of this soup make it ideal for any time of the year. It is one of the easiest soups to make, it is budget-friendly, and it is a delicious meal for vegetarians. Furthermore, it is a great way of using up celery from the refrigerator and apples from the fruit bowl. Here is how to make celery and apple soup.
Ingredients for Celery and Apple Soup
- 1 head of celery
- 1 large cooking apple
- I medium sized potato cut into chunks
- 1 onion
- 25g butter
- 1-litre vegetable stock
- 1 cup of milk
- 2 tbsp freshly chopped chives.
- Salt and black pepper
How to Make Celery and Apple Soup
- Chop the potato, apple, celery and onion.
- Heat the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat.
- Add the onion, potato and celery to the pan and fry for approximately five minutes until onion is softened.
- Add the apple and stock.
- Turn up the heat and bring to the boil.
- Once boiling, turn down the heat and leave to simmer for approximately 15 minutes.
- Blitz the mixture in a blender and return to the pan.
- Season with salt and black pepper and add the milk and half the chives.
- Bring back to the boil for five minutes.
- Serve into soup bowls and sprinkle with the remaining chives.
When people think of parsnips, they usually think of roasted parsnips with a roast dinner. However, they are a delicious ingredient to include in soup. They have a sweet and earthy flavour that works well with spices and the texture is perfect for blending. Here is how to make curried parsnip soup.
Ingredients for Curried Parsnip Soup
- 6 large parsnips
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1.5 litres vegetable stock
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- ½ tsp ground turmeric
- ½ tsp chilli powder
- 1 tsp grated ginger
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- Salt and black pepper
How to Make Curried Parsnip Soup
- Heat the oven to about 180 degrees C or gas mark 4.
- Peel and thinly slice one of the parsnips and spread out on a baking tray. Sprinkle with half the cumin, some salt and drizzle with half the oil.
- Bake the parsnips for approximately 20 minutes, or until they are golden and the edges have become crisp.
- While the parsnips are cooking, put a small frying pan over a medium heat and toast the remaining cumin, the turmeric and chilli powder for one minute.
- Put a large saucepan over a medium heat and add the remaining oil and fry the chopped onion for approximately seven minutes.
- Chop the remaining parsnips and crush the garlic. Add these to the pan with the onion.
- Add the toasted spices and stir.
- Add the vegetable stock and increase the heat to bring the mixture to the boil
- Once boiling, season with salt and black pepper and reduce the heat to medium to simmer for 30 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and blend with either a stick blender or a food processor.
- Serve into soup bowls and decorate with the parsnip crisps.
Mushroom soup is perfect all year round as it is both warming for the autumn and winter months, and a light meal option for spring and summer. It is also a quick and easy meal to make that is budget-friendly. Here is how to make mushroom soup.
Ingredients for Mushroom Soup
- 300g button mushrooms
- 300g chestnut mushrooms
- 3 sticks of celery
- 1 onion
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1.5 litres of vegetable stock
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Knob of butter
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 75 ml double cream
How to Make Mushroom Soup
Clean and slice the mushrooms
.Crush the garlic and then chop the onions and celery.
Add the butter and oil to a large saucepan and put over a medium heat on the hob.
Add the celery, onions and garlic and cook for two minutes.
Add the mushrooms to the pan and add the pan lid.
Cook for a further five minutes.
Add the vegetable stock to the pan and bring to the boil.
Once boiling, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
Season with salt and black pepper and then blend the mixture
Add the cream and simmer for a few minutes before removing from the heat and serving into soup bowls.