Best and worst kitchen gadgets

Ed at Tomato wants to know our best and worst kitchen gadgets. I have cupboards full of both. Rental house brown wood veneereal cupboards, as it happens, not the slinky monochrome he’s got.

The comments so far are a lovely mix of the purr of the satisfied owner and then bewilderment at the price, stupidity and lack of suitability of things that once seemed worth purchasing. I’ve been enjoying thinking about the rubbish lying around here and watching the things that I use every day, wondering if you could work it out on a matrix. After entertaining myself for a little while I decided against it because the pleasure we take in making stuff in the kitchen will often be very subjective.

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Hidden treasures: Choku Bai Jo

I’m not alone in enjoying a perv at the contents of someone else’s shopping trolley. Another Outspoken Female has posted her weekly haul from the Vic Markets at confessions of a food nazi and asks what other people’s shopping looks like; Stephanie from Elegant Sufficiency wants to see the receipts.

Choku Bai Jo is, so they tell me, the name of a kind of farmers’ outlet store in Japan. Luckily for me it’s also a fruit and veg shop in nearby North Lyneham (in the inner north suburbs of Canberra), and it’s where I do most of my shopping.

chilliesSome of the varieties of chillies available, clockwise from bottom left: Jalapenos, Harbaneros, Shisotou and that dead ordinary “long” kind you can get everywhere. To the right are delicious baby endives.
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Learn from my failures: how not to make recipe substitutions

I nearly called this post “I can believe they’re not Nigella’s Breakfast Bars!”

Like the lipsmacking voluptuary, I’m not much of a morning eater. I also like the idea of yummy home-made snacky bars to shove down the throats of starving children. I remembered hearing that Lawson’s recipe was a good one, and a quick googlescout unearthed it here.

It involves mixing a large quantity of relatively healthy sounding muesli-ish things with a whopping great can of sweetened condensed milk. It didn’t say “sweetened” but I that’s the only kind, isn’t it? The dulce de leche kind? I had everything but in the cupboard, so I decided to make it up as I went along.

I had some evaporated (unsweetened, low-fat) milk, but it seemed utterly wrong. What I needed was a certain … an unctuousness, a delectable musky sweetness – as Nigella well might say and indeed probably has ; ) Best I could do was mixing up a bunch of fruity sugary sticky things and hoping like hell that would bind the oats, coconut, seeds, nuts and dried fruit:

nigella breakfast bar Not a can of sweetened condensed milk

3/4 C sliced dried figs
1 T apple juice concentrate
dried orange peel
1/2 C water

Bring all ingredients to the boil in a small saucepan then cover and turn the heat off. (That is if you use proper dried figs that are actually dry, not those odd “soft juicy figs” that have a weird cola aroma and no texture to speak of. If you’re using those ones just carry on and never mind waiting.)

Stabblender the cooled mix with half a cup of apricot jam, and then add water to make it up to 1 1/2 cups and stir it into your dry ingredients. Bake for an hour at 130 C, grateful that you sniffed something awry with the “250 degrees” the recipe stated on Northern hemisphere sites.

btw, THAT PICTURE IS EFFING LIES! The result was horribly crumbly – you could excavate a “bar” from the tin with some effort, but they were flaccid and unappetising. Even thought they were a complete failure in textural terms, they did turn out to be very tasty muesli once you’d properly crumbled them up. I’ve just made up a second batch for Owen at his request.

I used half (soaked) goji berries and half currants, a mixture of sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds and cashews in place of peanuts. To make the recipe again in the hope of making sturdier bars would require increasing the quantity of binding fluid. I’d still use the figgy mix but I’d add the sweetened condensed milk to make up the quantity (and perhaps a bit more) instead of the water I used here.