SUPER DUPER SOUP…
By Linda Parker
At the time of writing this (26th Feb) it’s actually snowing, and apart from worrying about the daffs and crocus that are springing up everywhere, I’ve decided to concentrate on brushing up my soup skills … to keep warm more than anything else!
So, I have been using the Dualit Vortecs ® blender and whizzing up a huge freezer-full of fabulous soups. I’ve used up all the vegetables, (don’t bother trying to use up an aubergine, they go a bit slimy in soup!) and feel rather pleased that we now have a grand stash of emergency keep-you-cosy soups. After mostly using my trusty Dualit hand-blender for a few years now, I’ve been trying out their top of the range Vortecs ®. It’s a life-changer, honestly. It sits out on the worktop, is very easy to keep clean (the jug, lid, spatula, and blade removal tool) can all go into the dishwasher. It has a 2L capacity and if you let the soup cool to below 60 deg C before blending, it has an auto-pulse setting. The six blades are super-fierce (four blades are more usual) and the 1000W motor deals with anything and everything – and when the weather finally does improve and it’s summer cocktail time, it produces beautifully crushed ice too. Yes, it’s an investment buy at £149 but well worth it, especially for smoothie fans too. Put it on your birthday list! See it here.
I am pretty sure that most of us secretly want an AGA. Even non-cheffy chefs are likely to love the idea of an Aga and all the associated warmth and homely cooking aromas wafting around the house. These are big-ticket buys, and of course, will be around forever, so which colour to choose is a big decision! So it makes me very happy to see that there are four new colours available – Blush, Dove and Linen (shown above) and a gorgeous Slate colour too, which will look perfect in a dark or pale kitchen. The AGA Contemporary Neutrals Collection is chic and luxurious, and these colours are available on the AGA 60 (60 cm wide and suitable for smaller kitchens), and the Total Control and Dual Control models, with either three or five ovens. Investigate the Total Control or Dual Control options here when you start planning your next kitchen project.
Any of the new AGA colours, including the Slate, would look fabulous teamed with the new surfaces from Cosentino. They’re launching the new collection at the KBB show at the beginning of March (04-08). These are from the Dekton ® Industrial Collection, it’s an ultra-compact surface that’s highly versatile, UV, scratch, stain and thermal shock resistant and can be used for internal and external surfaces, flooring, cladding and bespoke furniture. The uses are virtually limitless, and would be a very good choice for open plan kitchen-living-dining spaces that can be extended to outdoor use as well. Visitors to the KBB trade show should make a diary note to visit the stand, M90. The new Silestone ® N-Boost quartz surfaces look very interesting, Silestone ® Eternal in Classic Calacatta is destined to be on everyone’s wish-list! Check it all out here.
As ever, it’s well worth keeping an eye on the latest creative kitchen designs from Schmidt Kitchens. Apart from anything else, their brochures are always packed with inspirational room ideas – this simple white kitchen reaches a whole new level – because it’s styled with very dark walls (go for navy, black or charcoal for a similar impact). This is the Nebraska collection with a solid oak frame and ash-veneered centre panel with an open-grain lacquer finish. Shown in Celeste, 16 other colours available. The Quartzo worktop comes in a new 20mm depth – slim worktops are super-trendy and pleasingly, make around a 20% price saving too. View the range here.
One of the best kitchenware brands around is Stellar. They cover all the basic kitchen kit needed in a sophisticated and reliable way. I’ve used a Rocktanium mini frying pan for a couple of years now – it’s extremely useful and hardwearing, has probably been used at least once a day, and shows no signs of wear or losing its impressive non-stickability! It’s the perfect size for quickly browning onions and anything that needs to be started off before going into the stock or soup pot. So it’s great to see that there’s now a matching three-piece Reflection saucepan set. I also love the Stellar Beechware Extendable trivet which uses partially concealed anodised aluminium batons, and looks neat and stylish left out on the worktop. It stretches out to fit pans from 14cm to 20cm diameter, and is a bit of a bargain at £8.40. Look at the full Stellar range at www.stellarcookware.co.uk
Even though it’s snowing now, it’s probably a bit too late to start thinking about installing a wood burner to keep the temperature up this winter. But, it’s a good time to start planning the installation of one for the autumn. I know, believe me, it’s extremely hard to pin down anyone to assess an installation job and provide a quote, and that’s without prising an actual installation date and price! Anyhow, I’m going to investigate the Worcester-Greenstyle Bewdley Wood Burning Stove as a possible project for the end of this year. That’s because the stove that I did buy (second-hand, on a whim) is the size of a tank and far too big for my house. It’s more suited to a farmhouse apparently. So, at the moment the Bewdley (see it here) is a more practical and efficient possibility. I’ll keep you updated …
Despite the snow, let’s be cheerful and look ahead to Easter. These would make great little seasonal gifts, or just put them straight into everyday circulation; Chicken & Carnation mug and matching tea towel, £12 each, both Thornback & Peel. See the range here.
And finally … my love of the ‘ultra violet’ colour of the year, all-things jungle-printed and that glorious and uplifting shade of aqua is going to be perfectly catered to by the latest collection of home ideas from Wilko. It’s all very reasonably priced and can update a kitchen, bathroom or dining space for a few pounds in a few minutes. Go on, you know you want to! Find your nearest branch here.