My favourite things: Part 1

Over the years that I’ve been into cooking, I’ve obviously developed an affinity for certain ingredients, brands and other items which taste better, work better or make life easier than other things I’ve tried. So I want to share with you a few of my favourite things which might in turn make your life easier, or make your food a bit more delicious!

Maldon Salt

I had always used sea salt rather than the free-flowing table salt in my cooking. However, it wasn’t until I started collecting Nigella cookbooks that I had considered trying Maldon salt instead. As soon as I bought some, though, I could see why she raves about it so much. Even just visually, comparing it to regular sea salt, Maldon is thin and flaky. When it’s sat in the salt pig the light catches it and it looks like a small pile of crystals, which I think is pretty awesome (perhaps I’m easily amused!). Also, I think it dissolves better in food and has a nicer saltiness, if that makes sense.

Marigold Reduced Salt Vegetable Bouillon

I love the Marigold stock powder. I love that you can put in as much or as little as you like, whereas with cubes you’re more limited. I also think it has a nice flavour, although I always found the regular one way way too salty. Other people have said the same thing to me, so I always practically scream in their face ‘OMG THEY DO A REDUCED SALT VERSION IT’S AMAZING’. I’m sure they hate this, but invariably when they try it they know I was right.

Olive oils

My favourite extra virgin olive oil is Il Casolare which I buy from Sainsbury’s. It’s quite expensive but they have it on offer every few months or so (which is about the time it takes for it to run out). It’s got quite a strong, peppery flavour, and is a really rich green colour. I can’t recommend it enough! I never use it to cook with though, just for drizzling, dipping or in dressings. If you cook it you lose all the amazing flavour which is a waste! Use the expensive stuff where you can taste it, and the cheaper stuff for cooking.

For cooking I just use a philipo berio olive oil. I buy it in HUGE bottles and just keep refilling my glass one, as you can see it’s much more yellow than the extra virgin, and I think it has a nice, light flavour.

Bonne Maman jam

I LOVE Bonne Maman. I really like the range of flavours, and I think their strawberry jam is just perfect; just enough chunky bits, sweet but not tooth-achingly so, and a nice consistency. My mum has a pretty huge obsession with their bitter orange marmalade, so I bought some and now I’m hooked. Robertsons just tastes like sweet mush to me now. I bought a pack of the miniature pots of strawberry jam and the marmalade and I LOVE them. Not just because they’re cute, but we don’t eat jam or marmalade all that often, and so a big jar just goes mouldy before we can eat it. Also you can eat your breakfast and pretend you’re in a hotel! Amazing.

Knorr Touch of Taste Liquid Chicken Stock

I cannot say how much I love this stuff. I love that you don’t have to premix it in water (one less thing to wash up), that you can pour in as much or as little as you want (see above re. stock cubes) and that it tastes nice! It just makes life so easy. They do other flavours which I admit I haven’t tried yet, mostly because I’m faithful to Marigold for vegetable stock and oxo for beef stock. But I may give them a go at some point in the future.

Garlic Puree

I admit, I’m lazy. Crushing garlic is a pain in the ass. Since watching Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals I now don’t bother to peel the garlic beforehand, which makes life a bit easier, but my garlic press is really crap and it takes an eternity to pick out all the bits of skin and garlic that get stuck inside it. Most of the time I just don’t bother and use pre-crushed garlic in a squeezy tube. I admit, it doesn’t have quite such a nice, garlicky flavour as fresh garlic does but in desperate times it’s a total lifesaver. I mostly use it to smear on to steaks before they’re cooked. Yum.

Greaseproof/baking paper

I am obsessed with greaseproof paper. My life would be significantly worse without it, and indeed, was significantly worse before I started using it. Yeah, I use it for lining cake tins, but it can work for you in SO many more ways. As I said above, I’m totally lazy. I have no dishwasher, so I try to limit my washing up as much as possible. Every time I use baking trays, I put a piece of greaseproof underneath. Not only does it stop food sticking (there’s nothing worse than having to chisel food off a baking tray, because it ALWAYS ends up as a crumpled mess), it also stops you having to wash the tray up! Also, sandwiches taste SO much better wrapped in greaseproof paper than in cling film or foil. I don’t know why this is, but it’s true.

I’ll also add that when cooking sausages or chicken marinated/cooked in sauce, I always line the tin with a double layer of foil. This not only saves chiselling off burnt sauce and a hell of a lot of scrubbing (a nightmare especially when you’ve been cooking sauces with anything sweet in cause it burns like a mofo), but also for things that yield fat – rather than scraping it off the tray and throwing it away (please don’t ever wash fat that solidifies down the drain!) you can just wait for the fat to cool and solidify, scrunch up the foil and put it in the bin. EASY.

I hope you find this useful! I know that, personally, I find recommendations SO much more helpful in deciding whether to try new stuff than just reading about it in magazines…

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