A clean sweep for the new season…
By Linda Parker
After the latest patch of beautiful sunshine, and a surfeit of cakes’n’bakes, we strayed back into barbecue territory, using an old pot-bellied cast iron model we found in the garage, backed up with a few disposable bbq trays to take up the slack when needed. Having recently discovered the joy of shopping in Lidl, I decided to keep it simple with a run of meals that were simply barbecued meat, fish or burgers, teamed with huge bowls of salad and a few portions of rice or couscous.
For end of summer inspiration, try Yotam Ottolenghi in The Guardian… His recipes and ideas are a revelation, often with complex lists of ingredients, but don’t let that put you off, his writing is a joy to read, even if you don’t follow the suggestions to the letter. However, I’m now well out of the bbq groove and anxious to get back to some serious comfort food cooking. No doubt I will gravitate towards Nigel Slater’s seasonal ideas, again from the Guardian, and impossible to resist.
Is it wrong to be looking forward to casseroles and hotpots when it’s only September?!
As far as the Great British Bake Off is concerned, I have been keeping up…
I’m still seriously impressed by the ideas and concepts that are featured, but I have sensibly realised that it’s all far too ambitious for me. And in fact, I’ve had more giggles and been more entertained by The Great British Bake Off – An Extra Slice hosted by Jo Brand. It’s basically like watching Big Brother or Celebrity Big Brother’s Bit on The Side without watching the main show…Very funny, and superbly entertaining, without having to go through the bother of watching (or baking) the main course!
After the flurry of experiments with new gadgets and more than a few new recipes, it was obvious that the kitchen and surroundings needed a massive clean. Add a few visits from the new puppy and general good-weather-doors-open dust and grit, and it was obvious that drastic measures were needed….
Any kitchen benefits from a good old-fashioned seasonal clean, and ours is and was, no exception. I’d been sent the new Vax Cordless Air vacuum cleaner to try; this is the second cordless cleaner I’ve been lucky enough to trial, and it’s equally as good, if not better, than the first one, which is the GTech AirRam, at £199 which is 100 watts.
The advantage of the Vax model is that it has a hose and tools, so you can get into the corners and crannies and do the sofa cushions as well. As they are both rechargeable models they won’t get caught up in the EU-meddling regarding the maximum power ‘allowed’ for vacuum cleaners.
Is it just me, or is it logical to think that a less powerful vacuum cleaner needs to be used for longer than a more powerful one to do the same job. I will find out some facts and figures for my next blog. Anyway, in a nutshell, if you need a super-efficient, cordless upright vacuum cleaner that is a joy to use and which will effortlessly clean astonishing amounts of dust and grit from both hard floors and carpet, go for the Vax, and if you want something slightly less bulky, go for the G Tech AirRam.
For a more serious clean for hard floors, tiles, vinyl, lino and stone floors, and to avoid getting down on hands and knees to scrub, a steam cleaner is the way to go. I’ve used several over the last few years, with the Steam Glide from Oreck and the Hard Floor Advance+ from Vax both highly recommended, and no complaints from any of the users who helped me try them out.
I was always a bit dubious about steam cleaners, but once you’ve used one, and as long as you don’t find it too fiddly to operate, it’s a simply splendid way of keep hard floors looking good. Except if, like me, you get over-enthusiastic and then start planning to re-polish and re-finish quarry tiles in an attempt to re-create that perfect new-tile look. In fact, realistically, quarry tiles look better with a little wear and tear. So the home team talked me out of that one; in reality I don’t think any of them fancied helping me do the job!
Once the floor cleaning was done we decided to tackle the oven, which was where the heavy-duty electric-toothbrush style cleaner came in. I wouldn’t have said the oven was too bad, but shamefully, it looked a million miles better after a session with the sonic powered precision cleaning Turbo Brush from JML, £14.99.
Gleaming racks and side panels looked truly impressive, and the small brush heads ensured that every seam and corner was pristine. And to ensure it stayed that way I bought some heavy-duty oven liners …. Similar ones are available from Lakeland, but ours were found on eBay and cost under a fiver. When you learn that a single-oven cleaning service costs in the region of £65, it makes a fiver on an oven-liner very worthwhile. Well, either that or I should set up an oven-cleaning business…
And finally, to give the whole kitchen a bit of a spruce-up we set to work with a bottle of Kilrock Blast Away Mould. I’ve tried hundreds of kitchen cleaners over the years, my all-time favourite range is Astonish (usually around £1 for a single item, with a glorious array of stainless steel cleaners, ceramic tile cleaners, polishes, and now joyfully, they do laundry liquid as well), closely followed by the kind-to-hands and the environment range from Method. Leather wipes and granite spray from the Method range are particularly effective, and pleasant to use too.
The Kilrock Blast Away Mould cleaner, er, rocked. It cleaned places I didn’t even know were dirty, and all for a bargain £3.99 for a spray or brush-on gel. We tackled grubby grout lines and stained sealants around the basins and sinks, and it made a huge difference. It’s perfect for bathrooms too of course, and we used it on the sealant and grout lines in the kitchen –but make sure it doesn’t stray onto wood, enamel, granite or marble.
After the marathon cleaning sessions I felt a real sense of achievement and could practically feel the glow of a halo beginning to form. Let’s see how long it takes to wear off, and in the meantime I’m also going to sort out the gadget drawer and saucepan stack and get all our utensils and pans in order for the autumnal onslaught of comfort cooking.