Following Christmas, everybody is a little bit short of money. It’s even more important to make sure that you’re able to get good deals, otherwise your money just isn’t going to go as far in the month of January. Here are some tips for finding yourself cheap cooking equipment:
- Look around for sales. January has become known as a month when lots of retailers will have excellent deals available, so this could be the perfect time to purchase that kitchen mixer or cake stand which you didn’t get for Christmas.
- Search for vouchers. You may get vouchers in store for similar products when you buy certain pieces of equipment, or you may be able to find vouchers online.
- Get an in-store credit card for your favourite kitchen equipment seller. You will be able to earn rewards every time you use it, which will often involve money off when shopping.
- Carry out some price comparisons. Don’t limit yourself – sometimes the high-end shops will come out cheaper for lots of kitchen products.
- Take your time. If the slow cooker or pan set which you’ve been wanting for months isn’t available at a price you’re willing to pay, wait a little bit longer. It will almost definitely be reduced at some point.
If you are entertaining a vegetarian this Christmas, or if you just fancy a change, it’s good to be able to cook something fresh rather than relying on shop-bought dishes. Here is an idea for a vegetarian wellington which contains plenty of Christmas flavours:
- Cook 3 onions and 2 cloves of garlic until they are lightly golden. Once they’re almost ready, add in a handful of freshly chopped herbs – sage will provide a very festive flavour.
- Chop a tin of cooked chestnuts and mix with 50g dried cranberries and any other nuts and seeds which you want to include.
- Add in a sprinkling of breadcrumbs before combining the mixture with the onions, garlic and herbs. Mix in one egg to bind.
- On a baking sheet covered with grease-proof paper, lay out one sheet of ready-rolled puff pastry. Spread out the nut mixture down the middle.
- Top it with cheese of your choice. Goats’ cheese is particularly delicious – you’ll need about 150g in total.
- Wrap the pastry around the filling, or try plaiting it for form a lattice if you’re feeling adventurous. It’s not too difficult and there are plenty of video instructions which can be found online.
- Beat one egg and brush it generously over the pastry. Bake at 180° for around 30-40 minutes, until the pastry is a light golden colour.
There are some basic pieces of equipment which every kitchen would be absent without. It’s often the most simple things which get overlooked during cooking, so ensuring that you have a kitchen which is well equipped with the basics will give you a head-start when making more complicated dishes. Here are some of the basic pieces of equipment that you should consider investing in:
- Knives. Have a set of knives which are various shapes and sizes, with both serrated and smooth blades.
- Mixing bowls. Inevitably, you’re going to need a variety of different sizes. Buy a set of nested bowls for easy storage.
- Pans. Have a set of pans that are different sizes, as well as at least one decent frying pan and a wok.
- Wooden spoons. Buy plenty – they will always be useful!
- Whisks. These are essential for cooking anything which you need to rise. You can use a fork as a last resort, but a whisk will always get the best results.
- Garlic press. Chopping garlic by hand is incredibly frustrating and time consuming. A press will leave you with a smooth paste as opposed to small lumps which won’t cook down much.
- Spatulas. Ensure that you have a variety of shapes and sizes for different dishes. You can use them for icing cakes and baking as well.
- Tin opener. There is no real substitute for one of these so you’ll need to make sure you have one in your kitchen.
A smoothie maker or a juicer is a powerful blending machine which can be used to make drinks. In a society where people are continuously trying to eat more healthily, it’s a useful addition to the kitchen if you need a little bit of inspiration about how to get your 5 a day. Fruits and vegetables will blend down into very little, so it’s a good way to get plenty of them into your daily diet.
The fundamental difference between a smoothie maker and a juicer is that a juicer will extract pulp. This is ideal if you want to make thinner juices which are completely smooth. However, do bear in mind that they will need some extra cleaning. A smoothie maker is the most versatile of the two as you can blend basically anything which you want to. The blades are extremely powerful and will be able to blend together most ingredients. It’s ideal for blending more creamy mixtures which contain ingredients like banana or avocado.
Either machine is a highly effective way of improving your diet and lifestyle. Juices and smoothies are ideal at breakfast time as they’re a healthy way to start your day. Smoothies especially can be very filling depending on the ingredients which you use. Most machines will also make the drinks in portable cups so you can take them anywhere with you.
Preparing your ingredients can often take you longer than the cooking process itself – onions in particular are very fiddly to chop. Here is a step-by-step guide to help you to cut onions up finely and evenly:
- Make sure you have the right equipment. You should make sure you use a sharp serrated knife and have a good quality chopping board.
- Start by peeling the onion, slicing off the top and cutting in half down the middle through the root.
- Place the onion with the flat cut side face down on the chopping board. Slice finely lengthways from one edge to the other.
- Slice from the root downwards 4 to 5 times, leaving about 1cm of the onion still attached to the root to keep the pieces in place whilst you’re cutting it.
- Finish off the process by slicing from top to bottom. The onion may feel like it’s starting to fall apart slightly despite having the root in place, so you’ll need to hold it together carefully. Once you get to the end you should just have the root left.
By following these instructions, you’ll be able to slice an onion into equally-sized pieces which will cook evenly. It may take a little while to perfect the method but it will be worthwhile for your cooking.