Big Chef Takes on Little Chef: Heston Blumenthal Tries to Spice Up an out-of-date Menu

Little Chef is in trouble and in their desperation they have called in Heston Blumenthal, he of the bacon and egg ice-cream fame, to turn around the fortunes of the company by completely redesigning the entire menu and bringing it into the 21st century.

Little Chef vs. The Fat Duck

Little Chef is a quintessential British eatery, everyone has memories of visiting one on a long drive on holiday and the symbol was one of the most recognisable road signs on the motorway. But it is quickly losing appeal and in 2007 the company went bust and had to be rescued by a new investment.

On the contrary The Fat Duck restaurant is considered one of the top eating establishments in the world and Blumenthal is often regarded as the most inventive and exciting chefs in Britain and his scientific approach to cooking means that anyone wanting to eat at his restaurant has to book months in advance.

But is a man renowned for unusual and expensive food the correct choice to help a place that for decades has sold cheap but filling meals?

British Twist – Lancashire Hotpot with Oysters and Meat Cooked in Hay

Although he was filled with energy and enthusiasm to rise to the challenge, the mission of trying to make eye catching food but on a commercial scale that can be produced quickly and cheaply soon looked like an impossible feat. Especially as he only has six months to finish it and he usually takes two years to perfect one dish.

The first problem he notices is that not only is the menu enormous but it has more reference to Asian and European food than it does British. So Heston’s idea is to create British classics with a twist, foods that people recognise but will still be exciting enough to rope in the punters. So he came up with cooking scrambled egg in water bath, Lancashire Hotpot with oysters and meat cooked in hay.

Britain’s Top Cook Defeated at the First Hurdle

The initial trial didn’t go down well as both the company and the customers did not seem impressed with the menu Heston has spent weeks creating. This almost went against everything the research had suggested as the people interviewed seemed to say that they preferred the original selection. So after the opening episode it’s now back to the drawing board for Britain’s top cook as he is defeated at the first hurdle.

For what could have been a very dull nostalgia trip Big Chef Takes on Little Chef was surprisingly pleasant viewing. If there’s any downside it’s that you don’t really get to see the thought process that goes into making a new dish, which is a let down for a mind that must be so interesting. Also those who are used to constant confrontations one these types of documentaries would have been let down.

As the bald one isn’t as foul mouthed or intense as his contemporaries there were few fireworks in the first 60 minutes, apart from his occasional discussions with the company owner. By the end a culture clash had been sparked between the Little Chef employees and Heston’s head chefs while he was away for the day that was quite exciting.

The James May of the Cooking World and a Swearing Scotsman to come

Parts two and three might raise the stakes a little and as a way of starting the Great British Food Fight season this was a good choice. The schedules also have back to basic chef turned slobbering food nazi Jamie Oliver and the James May of the cooking world Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall launching new campaigns on pork and chickens respectively.

Then there’s swearing Scotsman Gordon Ramsey who will no doubt be doing more of his monosyllabic instructional recipes (Mince. Basil. Pan. Chop. Cook. Eat. Now) and probably going for a record attempt for the most four letter tirades in one minute.

The Ultimate Kitchen Appliance – the Kenwoood Chef!

Kenwood is that wonderful British company that have been producing great kitchen appliances for years. The name Kenwood has become synonymous with the “Chef”, the ultimate kitchen appliance. It is a machine that can be used with a variety of attachments, thus allowing it to perform a really wide variety of functions in the kitchen. First introduced in 1950, the Kenwood Chef has become a household brand and a trusted multi-functional appliance still of immense use in all kitchens. The Kenwood Chef has four different attachment points, allowing you to beat, mix, and prepare various ingredients, and also perform other tasks such as liquidising, juicing, mincing, and pasta-making. This really is the ultimate kitchen gadget!

Get lean cuts by using the Kenwood Chef mincer attachment!

The Kenwood Chef will allow you to mince meat leaner than lean. Buying minced beef from your butcher or supermarket is a quick and convenient way to get the main ingredient needed for so many recipes, but it is usually easy to see in the meat packet that a certain amount of fat is also minced in the process. Many supermarkets today offer varieties of mince, showing the different percentages of lean content included, but none ever get to the bright red mince I remember my mother preparing when I was young.

By trimming all the fat from a prime piece of round steak you will have a pure beginning point. Popping on the mincer attachment to your Chef is the next step to getting pure lean mince. You know exactly what cut of meat has gone in, and you can have it as lean (or fatty!) as you wish. You can even grind up more than you need and store it in smaller portions in the freezer. Then it is ready to go when you once again fire up the Kenwood Chef to prepare for that great Bolognese sauce that will go with your homemade pasta!

Mama mia – Homemade Pasta via Kenwood Chef!

Let Kenwood transport you to Italia with the pasta maker attachment for the Chef. Readymade pasta from a box is quick and tasty, but it doesn’t compare to the fresh homemade variety of pasta Italian folk take for granted. The pasta maker will take the work out of this job. A variety of styles including spaghetti, lasagne, tagliatelle, rigatoni and macaroni can be made from the Kenwood Chef pasta maker. This attachment suits all Kenwood Chef and Kenwood Major models, and the continuous slow speed output makes it easy to use. So what are you waiting for?

Trendy Kitchen Gadgets

Time spent in the kitchen preparing meals can seem like a lifetime without the proper gadgets. For any kitchen diva that enjoys preparing healthy meals for her family or for the diva that enjoys making gourmet type meals to showcase her culinary skills there are kitchen gadgets to accessorize their kitchens and aid in those preparations.

Many of the gadgets found in the kitchen stores today are colorful, unique, and patterned to add lively décor to the kitchen. They are designed to simplify the cooking world and decorate the kitchen. Useful gadgets can cut cooking preparation time cut while allowing the cook to feel better about being in the kitchen by allowing them to see the beauty in the products.

Companies like Sur La Table make gadgets which are designed to cut down some of the prep time for meals. The Garlic Shake and Chop is one of those gadgets. With the Shake and Chop, cooks can put a clove of garlic into a shaker with tiny blades and within a few shakes, they have chopped garlic. This makes chopped garlic easier and safer than having to chop by hand.

Another new idea is The Chop to Pot by Joseph Joseph. This is a cutting board that allows you to chop the vegetables and then folds up to make it easier to pour the veggies into the pan or skillet that you intend to cook them in. This folding cutting board is a unique idea that could change the way we work in the kitchen.

It seems that every company makes a dish designed for something special, especially in the baking world. Doughnuts have to have a hole in the center, so what does a baker need other than a doughnut pan. These pans allow the baker to pour the batter into the pan in the shape of a doughnut and then bake them.

Also, filling a cupcake can be challenging and hard work. By using the Cuisipro Cupcake Corer, filling a cupcake can be simple. The corer takes the center out of the cupcake so that filling can be inserted in. This frees up some of the time that it would take to otherwise fill the cupcakes.

There are new juicers out now that are combined with a pitcher to make the process of making homemade orange juice much easier. Many companies make these and a quick search online will allow you to compare the different styles and will help you to choose just which one is right for you.

Tableware has also been improved upon in the last few years as well. There are brighter colors, bolder patterns, and even slanted or triangle shaped bowls to accessorize with. These colorful dishes and innovative kitchen gadgets are designed for adding convience and ambience to the kitchen.

Tips for Decorating Your Kitchen Cottage Style

A cottage kitchen is light and airy. Windows can make a cottage kitchen light and open. Small pane windows add cottage flavor and make for nice light in a cottage kitchen. Curtain and drapes are not necessary in a cottage kitchen so avoid where it is possible.

A butchers block with a nice cutting board on top is not only handy it is also pretty. You can get a butcher block counter that can roll around the kitchen for added convenience.

Pots and pans made from shiny stainless steel can be hung on the walls as useful decoration in a cottage kitchen. Have an assigned spot for each pan to hang for a more efficient kitchen. A tea kettle made of enamel or stainless steel can be a useful decoration that sits on top of the stove.

Plants can take up valuable space in a cottage kitchen but they can also add to the beauty and function. You can have some potted herbs in a cottage kitchen like basil, oregano, and sage. Then when you need the herbs they will be nearby and pretty in a cottage kitchen.

Countertops that are made of wood or stainless steel are functional and pretty in a cottage kitchen. When taken care of properly these countertops can be beautiful and last a long time.

A rack of utensils hanged near the stove where they can be easily used when cooking can be pretty and convenient in a cottage kitchen. You can have stainless steel spoons, spatulas, and knives where you can reach them easily when you are cooking.

Tiles on the floors and walls look great and are very functional in a cottage kitchen. Glazed tiles can be shiny and they can be cleaned easy when they get dirty. Tile may be somewhat more expensive to install then other types of flooring but they look nice and last a long time.

Wooden bowls are practical and functional in a cottage kitchen. You can leave them sitting out on the counter when they are not in use and they will look like part of the cottage décor. You can store fruit in the wooden bowls like grapes, apples and peaches and the fruit can easily be snacked on. The bowls can also sit empty for those times when you want to use them to whip up a batch of cookies. A jar of wooden spoons and spatulas can also be left near the stove and used for cooking.

Kitchen Gourmet 1.5 Qt Slow Cooker (YD-500): Product Review

The Kitchen Gourmet 1.5qt Slow Cooker is sold at retail through Walgreens, and can also be ordered from their website. At only ten dollars, it is about the cheapest option on the market for a new slow cooker. At this size however, it is really only good for stews, pot roasts, chili and whatever else you care to prepare for no more than two people.

The unit is completely without accessories, as should be expected for ten dollars. The ceramic pot liner is removable to double as a serving dish, and a glass lid allows you to keep an eye on things as they bubble up. The unit has two good-sized hand grips on the exterior, but the ceramic liner has only two tiny grips at the lip, which are a bit small to be adequate and require one to wear oven mitts or some other protective gear if they intend to remove the liner immediately after cooking.

The unit is fairly solid and well-constructed for ten dollars, however, and unless you put it through untoward rigors I can see it lasting for years. As with seemingly all Kitchen Gourmet cookware, however, the power cord is a bit shorter than most would like, measuring only about three feet.

Cooking is even throughout the dish, and the performance is adequate. However, the “slow” in the title is truly a case of accurate advertising here. The unit has three temperature settings – High, Low and Warm, but I found little difference between the Low and Warm settings, as both just seem to maintain the present temperature. The High setting is needed for thorough cooking, and even at this setting expect light dishes such as a pot of chili to take upwards of an hour, and something thicker like a roast can potentially take several hours. The unit seems to be safe to leave unattended, however; the ultra-slow heating seems to preclude any bubbling and spatter.

Lead in crock pots and slow cookers has become a concern as of late. I have found no reports of testing either way on this particular unit for lead in the liner. However, Walgreens is generally good about listing any potential lead in any of their cookware on their website, since they do so much business in California and the state has strict laws about notifying consumers of lead exposure. The Walgreens site goes so far as to warn you when the cookware has lead in the power cord, let alone in the cooking area, and they have nothing listed on their website under this unit for warnings, so I personally take that as enough of sign that it’s safe to use. As always, your mileage may vary, especially if children will be eating from it.

All-in-all, I’m pretty happy with this unit as a budget choice for making single meals for one or two people. It probably isn’t going to be quite big enough to prepare dinner for a family, however, and I can see where the minimal power cord length would be really annoying in certain kitchen settings.

How to Decorate a Kitchen on a Budget

Keep it Practical

Oh no, the economy has wrecked your kitchen remodeling plans and you feel helpless and hopeless. Don’t despair because you can decorate a kitchen on a budget, and be extremely happy with the end results. Sometimes, home improvement projects are avoided all together because the expense can seem overwhelming. The good news is that there are practical ways to decorate a kitchen on a budget. A crisp and fresh kitchen design is only a few hundred dollars away; so don’t let the economy get you down. A dream kitchen doesn’t have to be a fantasy; it can be a reality. A few simple suggestions will help you decorate a kitchen on a budget.

Choose Laminate Flooring for Decorating a Kitchen on a Budget

Laminate flooring is such a practical and affordable kitchen design option. Laminate floors are fantastic in a kitchen because they can incorporate the other elements of the room design. Laminate flooring comes in a variety of colors and patterns, so your options are limitless. In addition, laminate flooring is so much more affordable than real wood flooring. So, choose this cost saving solution because it gives a great kitchen look for less.

Select Butcher Block Countertops

Natural wood butcher block is a good way to save money when it comes to countertop design in a kitchen. Butcher block is natural and authentic, so it makes for a warm and inviting kitchen theme. Decorating a kitchen on a budget is all about choosing less expensive materials that are sturdy, reliable, and good quality. Butcher block is a timeless material like marble.’

Paint Unsightly Kitchen Cabinets

The expensive part about decorating kitchen cabinets is the effort that is required to build a custom kitchen frame for your cabinets. Since you already have solid cabinets and cabinet frames, all you need is a new paint color. In order to decorate a kitchen on a budget, you can keep the current frames and don’t mess with the piping. Simply, remove the front door of the cabinets and paint the frame and panels a fresh new color. For a crisp and fresh new look, you can paint all of the cabinetry white. With the addition of some new modern hardware on the cabinets, you will be surprised how much the pulls and knobs take the kitchen from one era to another. Decorating a kitchen on a budget is simple and affordable.

Add Sheet Metal for an Inexpensive Backsplash Design

Your local hardware store will have sheet metal that can be used for an attractive backsplash. Sheet metal that has been punched or patterned is even more innovative as a kitchen backsplash design element. An old kitchen design can be transformed to create a room that is the heart of the home. Decorating on a budget is easy when sheet metal is used as a backsplash masterpiece.

Scratch and Dent Appliances are Quality Options

Scratch and dent appliances are a great way to save money when you are decorating a kitchen on a budget. These appliances often have minor flaws that are not even visible with the naked eye or they can be retouched with just a simple dab of appliance paint. Scratch and dent appliances are available for a whole lot less money than a full priced retail appliance

Decorating a kitchen on a budget is a worthwhile home improvement project.

Common Kitchen Helps for Recipe Substitutions

Don’t Panic If You’re Out of a Recipe Ingredient

Most kitchens have common kitchen helpers available for recipe substitutions. Don’t go into panic mode if you’re making dinner and you are missing a certain item. You may have a quick substitute right in front of you.

1. Sour cream
Sour cream is often added to casseroles or baking..
Substitute: 7/8 cup sour milk and 3 Tbsp butter or margarine
8-oz.carton plain yogurt

2. Light Cream
Light cream is often used for a white sauce, cheese sauce, casseroles or baking.
Substitute 1 cup undiluted evaporated milk for cup light cream.

3. Buttermilk or sour milk
Buttermilk or sour milk is often used in baking cakes or cookies.
Substitute 1 Tbsp vinegar or lemon juice and enough sweet milk to make 1 cup for cup of sour or butter. Let stand 5 minutes.

4. Lemon juice
Lemon juice is often added to barbeque sauces or other sauces.
Substitute 1/2 tsp. vinegar for 1 tsp. lemon juice.

5. 1 cup sugar
Sugar, as you know, is a main staple in most kitchens.
Substitute 1 cup powdered sugar, firmly packed brown sugar or 1/2 cup honey. If honey is substituted, reduce liquid by 1/2 cup.

6. 1 square unsweetened chocolate
Unsweetened chocolate is often used in frosting and baking.
Substitute 3 Tbsp. of cocoa and 1 Tbsp. margarine.

7. Onion powder
Onion powder is often used in casseroles, making meat dishes, pasta and veggies.
Substitute one small onion for 3/4 tsp. onion powder.

8. Corn syrup
Corn syrup is a sweetener that can be a regular syrup on pancakes or used when making things such as hot fudge or a chocolate sauce for ice cream/other desserts.
Substitute 1 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water. Boil together and stir.

9. Baking powder
Baking powder is used in making bread, cookies, cakes etc.
Substitute 1/4 tsp. baking soda and 5/8 tsp. cream of tarter.

10. Fresh herbs
Herbs are used to enhance flavors in most all cooking.
Substitute 1 tsp. dried herbs, crushed.

11. Bread crumbs
Bread crumbs are added when making meat loaf, ham balls, scalloped dishes and as a topping.
Substitute 1 cup crushed cereal or cracker crumbs. Oatmeal can be substituted when making meat dishes.

12. Pumpkin pie spice
Pumpkin pie spice makes adding spices to pumpkin dishes quick and easy.
Substitute 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. ginger, 1/8 tsp. ground cloves and 1/8 tsp. nutmeg for 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice. Cinnamon is needed, but you could probably go without the other spices. Your finished product will be more bland.

Hopefully these quick and easy subsitutions may save your day.

It’s best to check ingredients before we begin, but time and surprise conditions sometime prevent our having everything we need to complete a recipe.