Recently, I made applesauce. First, I seriously underestimated the size of pot I would need to cook down two bramley and two granny smith apples. I chopped them up into roughly inch-sized chunks, leaving out the seeds.

Applesauce, before
Apples stuffed into a pot

Then I turned on the hob and cooked it down. I squeezed in the juice of half a lemon, mainly because I had half a lemon hanging around in the fridge*. It took a while before they softened and turned to mush.

applesauce, cooked
Applesauce after cooking down

What’s most important is I didn’t have to change pot. It halved in volume, and I also stuck them in the food processor so that it would go smooth (I always keep the skins on, so this is a necessary step for me).

My plan for the applesauce is to use it:

  1. as a sweet spread, i.e. jam;
  2. as a sweetener in plain yoghurt; and
  3. as a snack on its own

You can also use the puréed applesauce to make your own apple fruit roll (leather). But that’s another topic for another time.

* I don’t think you should add any additional fruit you like, because they may not go together. I used my lonely lemon because it helps stop things like apples from going brown.

21 essential tools in the Grudging Cook’s kitchen

… a bit less if you don’t cook Chinese food.

Before you get cooking from scratch with as little hassle as possible, you need some basic tools. There are also some other gadgets that I use, electronic or otherwise, that are time-savers.

  1. Stainless steel saucepans — we have a set of old ones from Tefal. They’re pretty robust, unless you put eggs on to boil and forget about them. *ahem* Then they get scorch marks.
  2. Steamer basket — my mum bought one from Denby, it fits on the lip of our saucepans, and uses the lid from our largest saucepan.
  3. Frying / saute pan — we’ve had non-stick, but they just flake and have to be thrown out, so we’ve been using cast iron instead (I think they are pre-seasoned, and are from Denby and IKEA).
  4. Wok — if you like a stir-fry, a wok is important. I have a dislike for the flat-bottomed ones, but as we didn’t have a proper burner for a wok, we had no option. Ours is carbon steel from Typhoon, probably a decade old.
  5. Baking trays x2 — these work for pizzas, crackers, biscuits, vegetable crisps, and fruit leather. I got enamelled ones from ProCook.
  6. Roasting trays x2 — these have higher sides than a baking tray. I use our Denby stoneware trays for roasting and baking random things. They are easy to clean!
  7. Oven gloves and tea towels — tea towels are so multi-purpose!
  8. Mixing bowls — one large, one small. Preferably stainless steel or Pyrex.
  9. Chopping board — With limited work space, I can only use one at a time, and I tend to favour the small bamboo cheeseboard (Christmas present over a decade ago), but if I need more chopping space, I have one from Lone Ranger Woodcraft.
  10. Stainless steel knives — Neil loves a kitchen knife (we even have one specially for tomatoes), but you really only need one big and one small. Serration isn’t important — however, if you intend to bake bread, buying a bread knife is a good investment. We got ours over a decade ago from ProCook.
  11. Knife sharpener — I run the knives through the sharpener (also from ProCook) every time I use them. Neil also bought a proper sharpening steel, but I don’t use it.
  12. Box grater — these are the ones with four different grating holes on each side. Mine’s unbranded.
  13. Wooden spoon — for soup and congee. Easily available.
  14. Wooden turner — for frying. I think this came free with our wok.
  15. Measuring cups — ours are unbranded and stainless steel. An eBay special, I believe.
  16. Tablespoon — for measuring, obviously. I don’t own special measuring spoons, I use our tableware. One tablespoon is 15ml. Our tableware was purchased back in 2003 from Robinsons in Singapore.
  17. Teaspoon — Again, from our tableware. One teaspoon is 5ml.
  18. Food storage containers — We use old Bonne Maman jam jars, as well as borosilicate glass containers from Pyrex and ProCook. We also have larger plastic boxes (for rice, cereal, and so on) from before Neil became a hippie. Sistema is pretty good.
  19. Rice cooker / slow cooker — we have an 8-in-1 cooker from Tefal, and we mainly use it as a rice cooker and slow cooker. Some of my friends have started using the Instant Pot.
  20. Food processor and blender — Kenwood, it comes with all sorts of blades. We used to have a hand blender as well (wedding present), which was very convenient for soups, but it burned out after several years’ service, and we never replaced it. We’ve also got a Nutri Ninja, but you really only need one blender.
  21. Thermal cooker (UK version) — gifted to us by my mum when Anne was born, this is an energy-saving slow cooker (it’s also called the wonder cooker in Singapore, I call it the magic pot). You basically get things up to a boil (it needs to be wet, like a soup, stew, or congee), then let it simmer for around 20 minutes, before taking it off the heat and shoving it in the vacuum sleeve to continue cooking.

The Grudging Cook

I’m starting a new ongoing series here, in yet another attempt to revive my neglected almost 17-year old blog (one more year and it can drink, and vote). It’s called Grudging Cook, because that’s what I am. A number of factors have contributed to this phase in my life that I fear has marked me for life:

  • We have two children.
  • Two members of our family suffer from atopic dermatitis.
  • Neil watches too many Netflix food and environment documentaries.

My dream kitchen used to be all empty worktops and storage for gadgets like toastie makers and electric grills — basically, the less work I had to do, the better. I could probably count on one hand the number of times we cooked at home throughout our three years in China.

Over the last half-decade, I have ventured more into home cooking — and the last year or so, leaning heavily towards plant-based real foods. It has been a challenging learning curve.

My belief is, if I can figure it out, anyone can. I still don’t particularly enjoy the process of cooking, but I reckon I am reasonably competent these days — mainly because I haven’t poisoned anyone recently.

So this series will cover the things I’ve learned, in case it helps anyone who finds themselves in the same position: having had kids, they want to eat more healthily as a family, but have never been terribly interested in how to go from raw to cooked.

Irony. He has it. Without knowing it.

The Week used this quote deliberately, surely (Donald Trump sets his sights on tougher libel laws):

Donald Trump has said he wants to strengthen libel laws, after a controversial book detailed the inner workings of his White House.

If libel laws were stronger, he said, “you wouldn’t have things like that happen where you can say whatever comes into your head”.

Does this mean that at some point in the future, he will question the authenticity of his verified Twitter account? And he will do it via Twitter?

Can you reconcile minimalism and being environmentally conscious?

I was struck by a thread I read on Facebook group on minimalism regarding disposable tableware. There was a shameful amount of people who said they cared more about being ‘minimal’ than the amount of waste they produce.

Newsflash: living simply is not about living wastefully. Choosing to buy single-use over reusable says more about how obsessed you are with your image, rather than actually only possessing what you need for a comfortable life, because you clearly need plates, bowls, cups, and cutlery — otherwise you wouldn’t be buying disposable versions, would you?

You know what’s another word for minimalism? Frugality. People set themselves these ridiculous rules for being minimalist, when it’s really just another way to spend money and being mistakenly virtuous about it.

Admit it. Being a minimalist in today’s world is the new conspicuous consumption, because with easy credit the plebs can buy loads of shit, too.