How To… use a SPONG meat grinder.

 

For help starting out homemaking, check out The ESSENTIAL Beginner Homemaker’s Guide. For help budgeting all your everday and not-so-everyday essentials, from food to transport to clothes, check out On A Budget: The good homemaker’s guide to economizing.

20 Food Charts To Take You From Beginner To Pro.

I don’t normally do posts like this, but I recently realized what a collection of charts I was accumulating and how useful they have been to me. So, as a special treat of sorts, here are my top 20 useful charts that should help any beginner cook (and even some great cooks) learn some skills. Maybe you can save them as a file or maybe you can print them for your walls. Maybe you already know 99% of this or maybe you haven’t a clue yet. All I know is that these charts helped me and therefore I will share them.

First our utensils. Chasing Delicious have a great range of unit conversion charts.

1: Unit conversion by volume.

20 Charts To Take Your Cooking From Beginner To Pro.

2: Unit conversion by weight.

20 Charts To Take Your Cooking From Beginner To Pro.

Next, there is a range of kitchenware you might want to consider getting.

3: Kitchenware.

20 Charts To Take Your Cooking From Beginner To Pro.

4: Knives.

20 Charts To Take Your Cooking From Beginner To Pro.

And finally, some tips on storing food once you’ve got it.

5: General storage guidelines.

20 Charts To Take Your Cooking From Beginner To Pro.

Once the kitchen is all in order and stocked and we have an idea what the recipe is saying, we may want to look at cooking technique.

Again, Chasing Delicious have some great guides.

6: Cooking methods.

20 Charts To Take Your Cooking From Beginner To Pro.

7: Mixing methods.

20 Charts To Take Your Cooking From Beginner To Pro.

8: Techniques using eggs.

20 Charts To Take Your Cooking From Beginner To Pro.

Definitely check them out for their Kitchen 101 charts. 🙂

Or you could try some quick and healthy simple cooking by mastering your pressure cooker.

9: Pressure cooker.

20 Charts To Take Your Cooking From Beginner To Pro.

But it doesn’t just boil down to the right technique. There are little differences between very similar foods that can make big differences in the end result. Try and use these guidelines next time you’re cooking…

10: Grains.

20 Charts To Take Your Cooking From Beginner To Pro.

11: Pasta.

20 Charts To Take Your Cooking From Beginner To Pro.

12: Boiled eggs.

20 Charts To Take Your Cooking From Beginner To Pro.

13: A turkey.

20 Charts To Take Your Cooking From Beginner To Pro.

But we still aren’t done. We know what to cook, what quantity to cook and how to cook it, but what about seasonings? If you want to improve your seasoning, look no further than these charts.

Try and use flavour pairings not just to work out how to season one item, but to work out what foods taste best together. If they have no shared seasonings, they may be a bad combination!

14: Flavour pairings.

20 Charts To Take Your Cooking From Beginner To Pro.

If you are making a certain type of food, check which spices work with which recipe. If you cross-reference flavour pairings and cooking pairings you should find some fail-safe ideas for your next recipe.

15: Cooking pairings.

20 Charts To Take Your Cooking From Beginner To Pro.

Whether you’re cooking meat or vegetables, a roast a braise or even a pan-fry, a dry rub rarely goes amiss. You can even use it as a sort of marinade for the surface of your food.

16: Dry rub mixes.

20 Charts To Take Your Cooking From Beginner To Pro.

If you’re looking to cook something with an ethnic feel, but you don’t have the right spices or aren’t sure what exemplifies that cuisine, try these combinations.

17: Spices by Cuisine.

20 Charts To Take Your Cooking From Beginner To Pro.

Or if you aren’t sure and want to rely on the tried-and-tested but add a bit of a twist, why not mix your own sauces?

18: Sauce mixes.

20 Charts To Take Your Cooking From Beginner To Pro.

Finally, the drink can matter as much as the food you’re serving. For dinner parties or fancy meals, or just for ordering when you’re having a meal out, these guides can be a great help.

19: Wine pairing.

20 Charts To Take Your Cooking From Beginner To Pro.

20: Beer pairing.

20 Charts To Take Your Cooking From Beginner To Pro.

And those are my favourite food charts. I hope you found at least a couple useful!

I won’t be making many posts like this, but if you have any awesome charts to share I’d love to see them. 🙂

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

Essential Kitchen Utensils and their Uses.

Everyone has an assortment of different utensils, gadgets, gizmos and tools in their kitchen. Some just have a single, generic frying pan, a single, generic pot and a few stirring and serving utensils. Some have an entire armoury of kitchen paraphernalia. Some have a number of items passed down generation upon generation. Some have everything right up to date. Some have a kitchen full of new and interesting gadgets. Some try and stick to what they can work with their own hands.

So, what’s my kitchen like, then? Well, like most people’s, it’s a bit-of-this and a bit-of-that. Pretty much everything I have is used regularly or becomes vital whenever I use it. I’m not a big one for gadgets and generally like to stick to the good old fashioned stuff.

So, here’s some of the things I have in my kitchen and what I use them for.

 

1: Electrical Goods.

-Microwave with actual settings. A step up from just a heat dial and a timer. For porridge, reheating drinks and reheating food, largely. Really good if you want to warm gelatine right through, reheat a coffee or help something defrost. Far superior to a microwave with five settings and a timer you can’t actually set to anything precise.

-Hand-held blender. Whenever I make soup, ice-cream or smoothies, this bad boy comes out. Perfect for everything, easy to clean and brilliantly quick to get ready for use.

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2: Slicing.

-Several sets of knives. You never own enough knifes. At the least, you should have a heavy chopping knife, a long, thin, sharp knife, a paring knife, a coring knife and a serrated knife. I’m still missing a very heavy Chinese cleaver, which I’ll have a look at getting soon. But by having all of these, you will always be able to slice up anything you need doing. And, trust me, having cut steak with a vegetable knife and carrots with a fish knife, there’s a difference. Also make sure to have a sharpener handy. Rule of thumb: the better the knives, the better the sharpener should be and the less frequently you should need to use it.

-Rolling grater. Seem to have died back in popularity since the 90s, but infinitely useful. Just put the grater you’re using into the hole, attach the handle, press the food you’re grating into the top and turn the handle until it’s all grated. So much less mess and less risk of cutting yourself than a normal grater.

-A vegetable peeler. I use mine largely for slicing hard vegetables like carrots and potatoes into thin slices. If you want to make a stir-fry, courgette noodles or home-made crisps, a hand-held vegetable peeler does a better job than most mechanical slices.

-Strong-handled multipurpose scissors. I can’t count the ways I use these, even in one day. They open thick or thin packets, crack chicken bones, slice bacon, cut up herbs and greens, remove twine… Anything you need to cut up quickly and neatly, they can do the job.

 

3: Pots and pans.

-Two pots, two frying pans. One big enough for 2-3 servings, the other for 4-5. Also helps when you need to fry or boil multiple things. It makes a massive difference, being able to make a dinner and a lunch in one pot, or a properly sized paella or tortilla.

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As a side-note, I love the layout of my pots and pans. Kind of abstract and artsy. Also saves space. A lot of space. 🙂

 

-One huge cooking pot. Our bad-boy can hold up to 12 portions of any given dish. The use is typically for perma-stews. We have two around this size, but one is sufficient.

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-A wok. Woks are brilliant. The shape of them transfers the heat and interacts quite differently with the food than a normal pan would. It makes them perfect for dry-frying things, steaming things and stir-fries.

 

4: Baking trays.

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-One deep one (not depicted) for meatloaves, breads, jelly, etc.

-One cupcake one, for quiches, mini-tarts and pies. You can also use it to set chocolate in.

-One flatter tray, for normal-sized tarts, flat cakes and flat breads.

-A couple of entirely flat trays for cookies, bread, baked potatoes and other things where you want to minimize difficulty in removing and risk of sticking.

-A very deep tray, for roast dinners and vegetable bakes.

-Something with a grill attachment on it. For grilling and cooking things you REALLY don’t want to stick.

 

5: Assorted cooking utensils.

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Try and have a copy of everything in metal. So I have my wooden spoons, but also metal spoons; a plastic potato-masher, but also a metal one.

-Stirring spoon/s.

-Serving spoon/s.

-Ladle/s.

-Potato masher.

-Tongs.

-Spatula/s.

 

6: For eating.

-An endless supply of cutlery. Trust me, forks and teaspoons do a disappearing act when you least expect it.

-A pint glass and a 250ml glass for every person in the household.

-At least two dishes per head in every size. This is to guarantee that you’ll have one if one breaks, or is mislaid, or if you have a guest. There’s two of us, so we have four giant plates, four big plates, about six small plates, two small bowls, four large bowls, two rimmed bowls, two sushi bowls and two terrines. (Not all depicted.) As you can see, we could do with a few more of some of them, but we rarely have guests who we wouldn’t just serve a giant plate of food to (we rarely have guests that would want anything more [or we rarely have guests, full stop]).

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-A nice dinner service. For parties and guests who want that sort of service. Doesn’t need to be expensive, just nice.

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7: Random kitchen paraphernalia.

Things you never imagined you would need, but that take the strain off so many jobs that they’re worth having.

-At least two sizes of funnel. This saves you so much time with bottling and jarring things.

-Measuring spoons. They’re not used too often, but when following a recipe or dosage they’re very useful.

-Assorted chopping boards. I have one in wood, one in plastic and one in glass. This is to minimize damage to each. Heavy cleavers are best used on plastic or wood, bread is best sliced on wood, glass is more hygienic and easy to clean…

-Many assorted tupperware boxes and water bottles. Two in every size you use would be optimal.

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-A pestle and mortar. Better than buying grinders for every spice you need to grind.

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-Scales. We have one small and one large, but having one that goes up to 2kg should be all you need. Also, digital scales can be better, but I prefer the old ones that don’t need any electrics to run them.

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-Save all decent glass jars for pickling, brining and canning. That way, whenever you want to make a jam you don’t have to buy/find/borrow one.

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-Keep a small jar or pot for every type of fat you cook with and every type of thing you cook that produces fat. This way you can save the various fats and use them for frying, flavour and gravy-making.

Lamb fat, lard, olive oil, tallow, chicken fat. Cutesy animal faces optional.

Lamb fat, lard, olive oil, tallow, chicken fat. Cutesy animal faces optional.

 

Of course, I’m missing some of the things I consider essential and am trying to get my hands on some. You can do without them, if you must. In fact, one deep pan, a plate each, a teaspoon, dinner spoon, fork and knife each, a chopping board, a small knife and a wooden spoon could do you if you try hard enough. But having all of these makes life easier and they’re not particularly expensive.

And I also own random things I rarely put to good use or plain don’t need, such as my slow-cooker, salad mixers and pint-sized coffee mugs.

 

What other essentials would you add to the list? What ones would you take away? What kitchen gadgets did you buy on a whim are now sitting in your cupboards? Or perhaps you’re a proud owner of a banana slicer or have a travel mug that actually works? Please share in the comments. 🙂