Posted by: Stephlechef | November 30, 2011

Hints and tips

I have updated this on my About Me page, but I thought it might be worth doing a blog post with a few hints and tips on cooking equipment and stuff… enjoy 🙂


About my budgets

I am currently in the business of helping national statistics look bad (otherwise known as unemployment), so I try and do a fair bit of cooking and blogging, but again with a general emphasis on “if you’ve got a cheaper way, do it”… and to this end I try and include costs per head for my recipes, where I can. It’s kind of difficult to give an estimate, as it reeeeally depends what you buy (for example, the cost of butter in Sainsburys varies from £1.10 for Basics unsalted 250g, to £1.60 for 250g of Anchor brand. 50p might not sound a lot, but if your sugar, your flour and your eggs are all 50p more expensive everytime you buy them, it adds up!) So, here are a few assumptions about my budgets:

I buy the cheapest price eggs. This is the thing that would be the first to upgrade if I had more money, because I do feel bad (and a little bit grossed out) about not buying free-range, and I do think that the cheap ones taste different, however they work fine in cakes and they are SO much cheaper.

I buy Supermarket own-brand OR value brand flour and butter. Butter especially seems no different if it’s value, but I have noticed the cheapest flour is a bit coarse sometimes. Just sift it a couple of times and it’s the same.

For chocolate in things, like chocolate chip cookies, I’ll usually buy the supermarket own brand, apart from white chocolate, where the value one is absolutely fine, because the cocoa in it is less important! However, if the chocolate is the main taste, in something like frosting or a chocolate brownie, it might be worth buying a brand. Get whatever’s on offer. The darker the chocolate in the recipe, the more you should consider buying branded, good stuff.


About my oven temp

I’m not very consistent with my oven temperatures. Having moved house once-a-year-every-year since I was 18, I have skipped about with my ovens too, gas, electric, fan, blah blah. Don’t forget to reduce the temperature I write if you have a fan oven. Here is a handy guide:


About my measurements

I am also less-than-consistent with my measurements- now I own cups I use them lots, which means getting to try all the American recipes I find on Tastespotting and the like. However all my recipe books are in grams, and I prefer grams for baking simply because I like the precision (although my scales are not very accurate). Anyway, beware of trying to find a conversion to weight from cup measurements, because cups are not weight! So if you are using a cup measurement, I would say the best idea is to measure the ingredients in a measuring jug. My cups’ ml measurements are as follows:

1 cup: 200ml

1/2 cup: 100ml

1/3 cup: 65ml

1/4 cup: 50ml

so I would suggest that when you stumble on the most perfect-looking recipe, and then it’s measured in cups, crack out the measuring jug! (And if you don’t have a measuring jug, blimmin’ get one!!! Don’t get a plastic one- they’re cheaper to start with but they go rank the first time you make something tomato-ey in them. Splash out and buy glass :))


What ingredients do I need?

I have a list of basic ingredients that I think you should always have in the kitchen if you want to try and home-cook a fair proportion of what you eat, and here it is:

In the cupboard:

Sugar – caster sugar and demerara sugar as a base, granulated is also useful and icing sugar for decorating

Flour – both self-raising and plain, and also bread flour if you’re into bread making!

Yeast, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda

A range of pasta- if you’re limited on space, go with a “normal” one – shells/tubes/fusilli, then a long one – tagliatelle/spaghetti, and maybe a wholemeal one to mix things up :)

Rice – long grain and basmati, and risotto rice if you’re feeling flush (it really is worth the bit extra)

Tinned tomatoes – these are a base for sooo much stuff, and are cheapy as anything

Tinned beans or chickpeas, anything you fancy in the pulse world!

Salt and pepper, and some herbs- either a pot of mixed herbs, or going specific, I use parsley and oregano the most.

Spices – unless you’re making curries, when you need a bit more, I would say the ones I use most in sweet and savoury recipes are chilli, paprika, cinnamon and ginger.


Stock cubes


In the fridge:

Butter or margarine


Milk (if you don’t drink milk but need it in cooking, UHT is good to have in the cupboard as an alternative, or failing that, dried milk!)


In the freezer:

Frozen peas

An “emergency pizza” for the days when you just can’t be bothered!!!


What equipment do I need?

There are so many recipe books which focus on a specific type of cooking, and then their equipment list is ridiculously extensive. This list should hopefully equip you with nearly everything you’ll need (or can adapt to work for other things) to make most things! If you’re making some crazy different recipe and it requires you to buy a whole load of new mad equipment, decide whether you’re ever going to use it again, and if the answer is no, I think the best thing to do is ask around… a lot of people have cupboards full of un-necessary, once-used baking tins. So, I think you should have:

Mixing bowls – one big, one medium is a good start

Pyrex bowl with a lid

Baking tray

Whisk (you can use a fork but a whisk makes for much less effort :) )

2 sandwich cake tins

Baking parchment, cling film and foil (foil you can go cheapy, although be careful it can go in the oven, but cheap cling film is so not worth the stress)

Wooden spoon

Electric whisk

A stand-up hand blender (this and the electric whisk are CHEAP to buy the bottom-of-the-range in the supermarket, and they work fine. If they burn out from over-use, it might be worth considering something a bit more quality)

A rolling pin

A big spoon for stirring

Saucepans – one big, one small

Non-stick frying pan


Measuring jug


Sharp knife

2 chopping boards – one for meat, one for veg


And if I think of anything else, I’ll plonk it on :)



  1. This might be one of my favorite posts of yours–helping out us not-as-wise-as-you chefs!

    • I don’t mean to be a smartarse 🙂

  2. No no no!!! I’m being serious!! This is why I wanted you to have a blog, so I could continue to glean all the things that seem to easy and fundamental to you that I no one has ever taught me! You are my virtual cuisine sensei.

    • Haha oh alright then 🙂 Do you know, you seem to be like automatically approved on my blog… everyone else I have to approve the comments and it comes up saying “one new comment”…. not with you!! So theoretically you could post all sorts of abuse and I wouldn’t know about it until daaays later. (But please don’t). Pst, what’s a sensei??

      • heheheheeee, good to know. Borrowed from Wikipedia: Sensei (先生?) is a Japanese word that basically means “person born before another.” In general usage, it means “master” or “teacher.”

      • Ah, but you were born before me!

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