Saturday 13 September 2008

All-time top ten brilliant kitchen hints and tips

Cheeky of me, I admit, to claim that these are the top ten, but as a life-long collector the useful hint-'n-tip, I offer these kwik-'n-easy, bright-'n-breezy, hot-'n-tasty suggestions, in the spirit of good house-whiffery.

Mrs Wicks, are you proud of me?

The source of the tip, where I can remember it, is in brackets.

In no particular order:

1. To open a packet of plastic-packaged spaghetti: With one hand, grip the packet vertically, midway down. Slam the bottom of the packet hard against the countertop, and the spaghetti will spring upwards and burst through the top of the packet. [Rick Stein]

2. To make a clean tear in clingfilm [clingwrap or saran wrap]: Take the roll out of the box, and hold it vertically in one hand with the bottom of the roll resting on the counter. With the other hand, take the top edge of the clingwrap and make a swift downward tear. [Nigella Lawson]. Or buy clingwrap with perforations.

3. To get the pulp out of a tomato, without having to peel it and go through the whole boiling-water palaver: Cut the tomato in half, across its waist, and press the cut side against the coarse side of a cheese grater. Vigorously grate it up and down, continuing until the half-tomato has flattened against the grater, leaving only the thin membrane of peel in your hand. Only the pulp will be grated, and you can chuck the peel on the compost heap. [Madhur Jaffrey, I seem to remember.]

4. To get the last bit out of a bottle of tomato sauce [ketchup]: Screw the lid of the bottle on tightly. Hold the bottle firmly in one hand, and wildly swing your arm around, from the shoulder , like a propeller. The centrifugal force will drive the sauce to the mouth of the bottle. [This tip appeared on a cooking programme on telly in South Africa in the Eighties and caused a sensation. I wish I could remember whose tip it was.]

5. To open the metal lid on a glass jar of jam, chutney, pickle or preserve: Hold the jar upside down, and give it a bloody sharp tap against a hard surface, such as a tiled floor or stone/ marble/tiled countertop. I don't know why this works, but it does. Usually. If it doesn't, and the vacuum is too persistent, pierce the lid by stabbing it with the point of a sharp knife.

6. To peel a garlic clove quickly: Place the clove in the microwave oven and cook on high for exactly seven seconds. Now smack it with your fist. The clove will shoot out of its skin like a rat out of an aqueduct. [Also, garlic freezes beautifully, when it's crisp and fresh.]

6a. I forgot this one, so am putting it next to the garlic. The best way to peel fresh ginger is with the edge of a dessert spoon. Hold the ginger in one hand, and the spoon in the other, with the hollow side of its bowl facing you. Now scrape at the skin with the edge of a spoon. Oh, and did I mention that you can freeze ginger?

7. To make perfect, fat-free popcorn with no burned bits or oily residue: place a small handful of popcorn [about 100 ml]in a clean brown or white paper bag. Add no oil or butter. Make two small, neat folds in the top of the bag and microwave on high for one minute, or until you can no longer hear any popping sounds. [More details here]

8. To lift charred, baked-on grease and grime off a roasting dish or pan: Fill the pan with cold water. Add an all-in-one dishwashing tablet and allow it to dissolve completely. [If it's a smallish pot or pan, you won't need the whole tablet: remove it when it's half dissolved, and save the other half for the next gunky pan]. All the burned-on bits will float away. Old-fashioned washing soda also does the trick.

9. To clean kitchen appliances - such as a food processor or cooker hood - covered with gunky grease: Spray oven-cleaning foam on the appliance, leave for a minute or two, then quickly wipe clean with a damp cloth. [My discovery, but don't blame me if the plastic gets eaten up].

10. Reheat a bought fresh or frozen pizza in a pan on your stove top, and get an ultra-crispy base.

That's my top ten eleven.

Oh, I forgot one, from the sainted aunties of 'How Clean is Your House'. If your corners have cobwebs, tie a slightly damp duster or kitchen towel around a tennis ball, and lob it into the corners. A good activity for whiny children. The aunties also suggest - and this works - cleaning disgusting mould out of white fridge seals with an old toothbrush and lots of toothpaste.

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