My favourite kitchen tools


Last month I posted a link to two of my favourite kitchen items, the Thermapen and the Vinturi. Well those off-the-cuff posts proved so popular that I thought I'd share a few more of the kitchen bits 'n' pieces I'd be lost without.

The Lodge Color 6-Quart Dutch Oven ($77 | £75)

EC4D33_2LeCreuset? Pfft, no chance. THIS is the best dutch oven out there. I honestly use this thing 4 or 5 nights a week, it's that useful. You can do everything with it; slow cook, braise, deep fry, stew, boil, etc. It does everything a Le Creuset can do for a fraction of the price. It weighs a TON but that's a good thing and it cooks evenly. I absolutely love this thing. It's super cheap too, compared to a LeCreuset, £77 in the UK and $75 in the US. Definitely worth the investment, it will last forever. Oh and it's a breeze to clean.

Aeropress ($25 | £24)

I'm not a coffee connoisseur by any stretch. I have no time or space for a meth-lab level home brewing workshop like many of my friends  seem to enjoy, but I like a good cup from time to time. I'm not sure how I heard about the AeroPress but boy am I glad I did. Despite looking like an over-complicated sex toy, the AeroPress is genius and extraordinarily simple to use. Filter goes in place, coffee goes on top, water on top of that, apply pressure, and hey presto great coffee.

Ok but why? Well "The AeroPress uses gentle air pressure with creates a smooth rich flavour with lower acidity and without bitterness. Other coffee makers drip hot water on to a bed of ground coffee which results in over extracting at the centre and under extracting the flavour from the edges, but the AeroPress brewing system results in uniform extraction for the ultimate in full coffee flavour." Got that? It's the coffee equivalent of salting a steak. And boy does it work. Best part though? It cleans itself as you're using it and all your left with is a neat little hockey puck of coffee grounds which you just pop out into the bin. Hilariously, this little device was invented by the dude who invented the Aerobie flying disc! 

Salter Slim Design Electronic Platform Kitchen Scale (£14)


I have no idea how I existed without a kitchen scale for so long. Actually, it might explain why my cooking was so bad for so long. Hmm. Anyway, you can't go wrong with a digital kitchen scale and I just happen to like this Salter one in particular. It's a good price (£14), easily shifts between different units of measurements, and has stood up to the rigours of my kids "helping" me in the kitchen. When you're looking for a digital kitchen scale, make sure it has a "reset to zero" function so you can place a bowl or container on the scale to hold your ingredients and then reset the scale to zero so the scale doesn't include the weight of the container in the calculation. Super simple but so useful.

Lodge 10" Cast Iron Skillet ($23 | £26)

700_remodelista-cast-iron-skillet-04I have wanted, nay, lusted after a cast iron skillet for years. This will quickly be one of the most used items in your kitchen. Start a dish on the stovetop, transfer it to the oven, bake epic pizza, and of course make the best pancakes you've ever had. It comes pre-seasoned so you don't need to worry about that process, it's extremely well made and will last for generations. And remember, once you own a piece of cast iron cookware, don't clean it with soap and water ever. K?

 Thermapen ($96 | £36)


I know I've mentioned it before but this is the single greatest kitchen tool I've ever owned. Every single cooking and recipe site I've been on recommends the Thermapen and with good reason; it works flawlessly. In every situation and scenario, the Thermapen performs brilliantly and the literature that accompanies is actually helpful, unlike most instructional materials. It gives target temperatures for every type of meat under the sun and all manners of "doneness". The Thermapen has no problem dealing with liquid either so if you're deep frying, making candy, or brewing coffee, the Thermapen will quickly become your best friend. I love, love, love this thing.

How I lost 12lbs in 30 days (and that's not the best part)

weightjuly2013 Recently I finished an interesting experiment. And as a result I'm 12 lbs lighter. But that's not the headline outcome, not by a long shot.

About a year ago I started my weight loss journey and I'm delighted to say I've managed to keep 50lbs off ever since. However in the last few months my diet lapsed a bit, I was traveling a lot, and embarked on a new career chapter - none of which are conducive to a healthy lifestyle. As a result, I gave back a few of the pounds I lost. Maybe 5 or 6, tops. But it was enough for me to reconsider my approach to food, drink, and exercise.

But instead of going back to the regimen that was so successful for me in the first place, I thought I'd try a body hacking experiment. What would happen if I adopted an ultra-strict regimen with no cheat days? What would the effect be on my physique, my mood, my sleep, my concentration? The results were fascinating.

I decided for 30 days I would have:

- NO white or refined carbohydrates (e.g. sugar, pasta, bread, potatoes, flour, etc)

- NO dairy

- NO alcohol

- NO red meat

- NO soda

- NO coffee

(For context, I drank 3-4 cups of coffee per day, at least one diet coke, and a glass of wine in the evening.)

The elimination of soda and coffee was to see the effect on my teeth and on my sleep and concentration.

Removing white/refined carbs, alcohol, red meat, and dairy was to see the effect on body composition and weight loss.

I wanted to see a) if I could even do this for 30 days and b) what the overall effect on my body would be.

I began the experiment on a Monday.

As I wandered bleary-eyed into the office on the first day, I instinctively lunged towards to the coffee machine but managed to catch myself before deploying the mediocre "americano" into my chipped and overused mug. I opted for green tea instead, a habit I maintained for the entire 30 days.

The rest of the day looked like this:

Breakfast: Protein shake first thing in the morning followed by fruit when I got to the office.

Lunch: The office salad bar (leaves, vegetables, hard boiled eggs, smoked salmon, tuna, etc) or cold grilled chicken and vegetables.

Dinner: All manner of chicken, fish, turkey, pork, eggs with every vegetable I could think of. Dinner was easy and satisfying every single time.

Snacks: Almonds, fruit, carrot sticks, etc.

Exercise: Nothing beyond my 4-mile roundtrip walk to/from work.

The first week was the toughest but not what I predicted. Giving up carbs, red meat and dairy was easy. It was the coffee and alcohol that proved very difficult. Coffee was such a habit that its absence in my daily routine was immediately noticeable. And I enjoyed a glass of red wine when I got home in the evening, especially after a hard day. But after the first week, the changes started to happen.

Immediately the weight started to come off. But I also had better concentration, more energy, no afternoon slumps, and the quality of my sleep had noticeably improved. The cravings also disappeared after the first two weeks as well.

I kept the routine up for a full 30 days, no cheat days, no cheat meals. And I dropped 12lbs and inches off my waist. I now wear a small size t-shirt and need a new belt.

But on the 31st day, something weird happened. I was finally free to eat whatever I wanted, drink a load of coffee, have a hunk of cake and wash it down with some wine. But I didn't want to do any of that. Instead, I had my protein shake, my green tea, a salad for lunch, and a protein heavy dinner. It was the weirdest goddamn thing.

I kept thinking, if I'm going to have a cup of coffee then I want the best damn cup I can find. So I waited until I had access to one, and it was totally worth the wait. Made it all worthwhile. Same with wine, red meat, and soda. I actually paid £3 for a can of Diet Dr Pepper imported from the US so the reward would be so much sweeter.

So ultimately here's what I found:

- for me 30 days seems to be what it takes to turn exception into rule, hardship into habit.

- it's easy to lose weight even with kids and an office job as long as you have a shred of discipline.

- carbohydrates are a dangerous addiction with almost no value.

- good food is worth waiting for. If I want something that's not so healthy, I'm going to find the most delicious, well made example I can.

I'm interested to see if I can apply this 30-day mentality to other challenges. Exercise, finance, learning, etc.

American Beer: from guardrail to guardrail


American beer has always been a little bit of a joke. And rightly so.

To international tastebuds, it meant bottled lagers like Budweiser, Miller or Coors - commonly regarded by self-respecting drinkers as bland, corporate and lacking in credibility.

But the explosion in "craft beers" has lead to quite a revolution in the American beer industry. It's actually pretty good stuff and for some weird reason very fashionable.

Somehow, beer from the United States has become not just widely respected, but achingly fashionable.

Visit a chrome-surfaced bar in London, Stockholm or Amsterdam and you're likely to find Brooklyn Lager, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale or Odell's porter on tap.

"There's a hipster cachet to it," says Melissa Cole, ale expert and author of Let Me Tell You About Beer. "Craft beer is seen as sexy right now, there's no doubt about it."

But in my mind it's all gone a bit too far. When you go into a pub or bar in any beer drinking country, you can always find an array of very cold lagers. Simple, refreshing, no pretense. This is basically all American beer was for decades. Very cold Bud lights, Coors, etc. But try going into a "beer works" or "ale house" or some other equally pretentiously-named establishment and try and get a cold lager. Nope. I went into one of these places last summer that was very proud of the fact that it had 24 beers on tap and more than twice that in the bottle, all proudly displayed on a huge chalkboard above the bar. When the waitress came to take my order, I asked for a cold lager, didn't care which one. "A lager? I don't think we have that brand." I could have had any type of nut ale, chocolate stout, coffee IPA, blueberry bock or some other weird concoction (as well as some damn fine ales, don't get me wrong.) But the reliable simplicity of a cold lager has been entirely eschewed in favour of boutique beers. It's like going to a burger joint that serves potatoes wedges instead of fries.

Meanwhile the big beer makers aren't refining their core lager product to appeal to the thirsty, hot beer drinker of today. No they're creating monstrosities like Bud Light and Clamato. For shame.

I'm delighted to see American beer is getting the respect that it deserves overseas, but let's not throw the baby out with the beer water. via BBC News - US craft beer: How it inspired British brewers.

In praise of the humble donut

My favourite magazine in the world is Saveur. I like to refer to it as the National Geographic of food. A recent issue was dedicated entirely to a food that doesn't always get the love it deserves. The Donut.

The genus of donuts is broad and extremely varied, with each species attracting fiercely loyal advocates, and God help you if you question their donut style of choice. What most people think of when they think "donut" is the Krispy Kreme style, yeast risen, fluffy donut which is often found on this side of the pond, occasionally filled with jelly or jam. I never been a huge fan of these but I know people all over the world go absolutely nuts for Krispy Kreme, and it can be an irresistible allure first thing in the morning.

But Saveur reserves special prayers for my favorite type of donut, the donut I was brought up, the doughnut I will knock over an old lady to get to...

Then there are cake donuts, the sturdiest of the bunch; prime examples are dense chocolate donuts or substantial old-fashioneds. Made with a chemical leavener, such as baking powder, the dough doesn't need time to rise and can be fried immediately. These are the dunkers of the donut world, the ones with heft, a satisfying crust, and a moist interior. Unlike yeast donuts, they're still pretty good on day two…assuming you have the willpower to keep them around.

In California you can't walk a city block without stumbling across an independent donut shop, usually still resplendent it's 1960s decor and generally populated by slow talking retirees. Row upon row of every conceivable type of donuts, cruller, Bearclaw, and fritter. But the wonderfully dense cake doughnut is what I will always reach for.

via Deciphering the Donut -