What is Operation Jam Jar?

Operation Jam Jar is all about getting back to basics in the kitchen.

Check out my efforts at cooking from scratch - cakes, soups, biscuits

Learn how to make things that you would normally buy at the supermarket - wraps, ice cream, pizza bases

Try to live a more 'country' lifestyle in the city - making your own jams or relish

Get the skills to enjoy cooking in a thrifty way, and have a bit of fun while you do it

Sunday, May 1, 2011

These are a few of my favourite things…

It’s funny how you can get a bit attached to inanimate objects over the years.  But I bet most of you have a few bits and pieces that you kind of love but can’t always explain exactly why.  I was drying up today and started thinking about the things that I just couldn’t do without in the kitchen.  But also things that I just kind of love for no particular reason.  Here are my favourites.

1.    Pyrex glass measuring jug – unlike other measuring jugs the numbers never fade, and I love how it feels quite heavy in your hand.  I have to admit though, that lately this jug has had to play second fiddle to a new (well, old) jug.  At Vinnies a few weeks ago I bought a really old-fashioned glass jug, the kind where the measurements (including pints!) are actually moulded onto the glass.  I paid $4 for it and saw the exact same one in an antiques shop yesterday for $48.  Go to second hand shops – you find the best stuff there. 

2.    Electronic scales – before I got into baking I was never too bothered about being exact with my measurements.  But when you are cooking cakes or biscuits (anything sweet really) it really helps to have your quantities right.  With these little babies I can be really specific and then only have myself to blame if things goes wrong.  My lovely friend Suse bought these for me and I just love love love them.  And the tare feature – wow.  I didn’t know what that was until I got these.  You can put a bowl on the scales and press tare and it takes the display back to 0g.  Then add your 100g of flour, press tare again, and you’re back to 0g so that you can add your butter.  Magic.

3.    Huge roasting pan – this is a super heavy lidded pan for the oven that you can also use on the stove top to brown the meat before hand.  Another gift from the lovely Suse!

4.    Slow cooker – I could dedicate a whole other blog to my love of my slow cooker.   If you don’t have one, do yourself a favour and head to Target today, I think they’re around $40.  You can pop everything in there, leave it for 6-9 hours while you go about your business, and when you come home you may (like me) forget that you put it on and think that someone has broken into your house to cook you dinner.  Think shanks, chicken thighs, hearty soups, legs of lamb, gooey desserts, and even overnight porridge.   

5.    Stove top coffee maker – my gorgeous sister in law Daisy bought my husband and I a coffee maker for our wedding in October 2008.  We have easily used it at least 5 times per week since.  It is Un Real.  I used to spend around $20-30 per week on coffee from the cafes near home and work.  But I actually really like this home made coffee better.  For the cost of one coffee from a café we can buy our packet of coffee from the supermarket and this lasts a week. You place water in the bottom, your coffee in the middle, and by some amazing feat of science it pushes the coffee liquid into the top, ready to pour. It produces a strong yet sweet coffee that really makes you feel awake, alive, alert and enthusiastic.

6.    Big heavy wooden chopping board – this was purchased only recently from Glebe markets.  It’s one of those gorgeous looking and lovely smelling big thick boards made from local wood.  According to the label it’s perfect for cutting (really??), or serving bread and cheese.  The first time I used it to chop carrots I made a little scratch in it, and a little cry escaped my lips.  Luckily my husband was there to assure me that it IS for cutting (did I not read the label?) and that everything would be OK.

7.    Old fashioned champagne glasses – at our wedding they served the champagne in those awesome shallow champagne glasses with the wide tops and I just fell in love.  I bought a set of 6 from eBay that have a gold rim and etchings of palm trees on them.  They make everything taste better.

8.    Jars, jars and more jars – I have perfected my technique now so that when I go into a second hand shop it takes me but a moment to hone in on any awesome jars that they have.  I look for the clip top ones, or ones with the strong rubber seal.  If they look good, have some sort of pattern or are an interesting shape, I’m sold.  Recently I managed to sort out my whole pantry and place everything (yep, even Gravox) into jars.  I even borrowed my office label maker and made labels for everything.  Super anal, yes, but now I don’t have overflowing bags of flour or dried up icing sugar in my cupboards anymore.  My current favourite is a teeny tiny clip top jar that my mum found at Vinnies in Dubbo.  That’s another thing – always check out second hand shops in the country, they’re a gold mine.

9.    Old-fashioned cook books – I love nothing more than flicking through an old recipe book like the Farmhouse Kitchen which I bought in England for a pound.  It makes me smile to look at recipes for Somerset Apple Cake, Rhubarb Stirabout or Gooseberry Fool.  I learn so much from these books, for instance that it’s really quite easy to make your own mayonnaise or meringues from scratch (and, according to this book, they should be made on the same day as one uses the yolks and the other uses the whites).  I love the little comments about impressing your friends with Baked Alaska or how a husband should always come home to a warm tea-cake.

I’d really love to hear about your favourite things and why they are special for you.   

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