hintsandthings.co.uk »Kitchen

Food and cookery related hints and tips, shortcuts and remedies to a variety of common problems.


super mum

Instead of struggling to spread mashed
potato over a shepherds pie
, spread the potato onto a sheet of
greaseproof paper and then carefully tip the it over the pie. Then simply
roughen the potato to get those favourite crispy edges, or sprinkle cheese


To help eliminate
the strong smell of cauliflower
when it is cooking, pop a piece of
bread in the saucepan.

Ann from

For those who like Italian cooking. Make sure you
use olive oil for cooking and
extra virgin olive oil for dressings only;
using extra virgin in cooking is a waste of your hard earned money!

Aaran Mansell

To prevent
soak a banana in its skin in a bowls of cold tap
water (not iced) for about 30/45 minutes – peel and use as normal.

This was
contributed by Michael Tubby who assured me it works everytime,
unfortunately this has not been my experience, but well worth a try at

An easy way
to separate egg yolks from whites
is to break into your hand and
let the white slip through slightly parted fingers.  You may find it
easier to break into a cup first.

Farrant sent us this one – I have always used the method of breaking the
shell into two halves then gently transfer the yolk from one half to the
other whilst allowing the white to slip into the relevant container.

To separate an egg without getting
your hands mucky. Break egg into a saucer, invert an egg cup over the yolk
and pour off the white.  You then do not get pieces of egg shell, or
the yolk if making meringues, etc.

Audrey Wood

If you are cracking eggs or separating them and a
piece of shell falls in
, the best way to get it out is to use the
egg shell itself as a scoop to retrieve the piece.


To see whether an egg is boiled or not
just twist the egg on a table, if it twists fast it is boiled if not it is


To crumble Oxo
and the like without getting messy, unwrap the envelope but not the
outside wrapper, squeeze the cube (still in it’s wrapper), then remove the

Thanks to Tony for
this contribution.

When eating hot
soup and bread,
for a change, try seasoning the bread instead of the

by Lucy Spence

grease/fat can be removed
from casseroles/stews etc., but dropping in
an ice cube – the fat will stick to the cube and can be removed. 
Alternatively, a slice of fresh white bread placed carefully on the surface
will absorb most of the unwanted grease.

To stop the jam
bubbling out of jam tarts
before the pastry is cooked, simply keep the
jam in the fridge before use – simple but effective.

Lavender sent us this one

To enable the reuse
of cooking oil with the risk of cross contamination of flavours
, cut
a 1/4 sized piece of ginger and fry in the oil/grease and it removes any
lingering odours/flavours.  Use more ginger for larger quantities of

We have
Florence Vasques to thank for this one.

To add
flavour to baked beans
, chop some onion and place on plate and cook
in a microwave on high for a few seconds, mix into beans with some brown
sauce, heat as normal.

Melvyn Hull
made this contribution.

sauce added to baked beans also makes a nice change especially when

To prevent gelatine or aspic sticking to
the pan or mould, first spray with PAM then pour the mixture in as usual,
then place in the fridge.  Once set let is sit at room temperature,
turn over and it will slide out.

Yolanda Hay
sent us this tip.  I must be honest I don’t know what PAM is –
presumably a non-stick spray.

Judging how
much rice or pasta to cook
can be difficult as it expands during
cooking.  Place dry rice (or pasta) on a side plate i.e. a smaller
plate than usually used for your meal, until the quantity looks right. 
Then boil as usual.  The cooked rice will fill the larger dinner plate
to the same extent.  Just do this for each portion required, works
whether cooking for one or twenty-one.

thanks to Anthony Swain for this one

My granny always
taught me the best way to measure rice portions is to fill half a
mug with uncooked rice, this will be enough for one person, fill the whole
mug for two people etc… its absolutely fool proof!

Naomi (&

If you have a glut
of tomatoes,
freeze them whole, then when you need for cooking run
them under the tap for a few seconds and slide off the skin.  They can
be sliced while frozen and are also quick and easy to deseed when half
thawed.  Once frozen tomatoes can only be used for cooking purposes,
they are not suitable for salads.

by Carole Manuel

lemon juice
in ice cube trays then when recipes call for tablespoon
of lemon juice just toss in a cube.  Works for all citrus fruits.

gem from Carole Manuel – thank you.

you don’t put the lid on when boiling green
vegetables they stay greener.


Years ago
they used to put bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) in the water when cooking
green vegetables, this retained the colour but it has since been decided
that it also reduced the vitamins.

cooking brassicas (cabbage
etc.) add a bayleaf this will reduce the smell during cooking and also give
a subtle flavour.

to Chris Anthony for this tip.

the vegetable water
from boiled vegetables for gravy, this way you
get more flavour and don’t waste the goodness that has come out into the

gem from Lydia Dawson,

When making a rich fruit cake keep some
of the unfruited mixture aside.  After putting the fruited mixture into
the cake tin spread the unfruited mixture over the top.  This avoid
those horrible burnt bits of fruit and also makes icing easier.

by Marilyn Kenna

If you
need to keep peeled potatoes put them in water then place a slice of bread
on top, this stops them going brown.

gem from Teresa Walters.

If you ever decide to cook mince but it’s
frozen solid and you don’t have time to defrost it naturally, just place the
pack of mince into the microwave, and set to 30-40 seconds on HIGH**** 
After the time is up open pack and scrape off the softened mince
from the outside of the block.  Then repeat process over and over, each
time removing the softened meat, until it’s all ready to cook!  (You
will need to cut down on the length of time on the microwave as the frozen
remainder gets smaller!) 

Elaine du

I do
have cautionary notes on the above;  

**** Microwave
wattages differ widely and, therefore, the time and temperature mentioned in
this tip will vary according to each individual oven being used.  These
days many models have a defrost setting – check your handbook for best
settings to use.

Meat should be cooked
as quickly as possible after defrosting in this way.

If the outer edges
become warm allow to cool before proceeding. 


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