Little Decisions

I happened across this old tweet of mine today and realised that I had written it exactly two years ago to the day. When you find something like that, you can’t help but think what your life would be like if things had gone differently.

My life of two years ago wasn’t a bad one. I was a lawyer working for The Walt Disney Company in Tokyo. It was a good job, that I enjoyed, in the field I trained in, and in an interesting country. All in all, I had a really nice life. While I’d like to be able to tell you all that there was a “piece missing” or that I hated my old life, the fact of the matter is I was really very comfortable doing what I was doing and quite content. So much so that this tweet was actually about the second MasterChef audition I was invited to.

The first audition was in my home town of Adelaide and it was scheduled while I was supposed to be visiting Cuba. Having planned the holiday for months, I declined the audition and went on holiday instead. When I returned to Japan, I called the producers and asked them if there were any other auditions that I could go to and they invited me to come to Sydney. Again, I ummed and ahhed and tried to decided whether I would travel all the way from Tokyo for a long-shot chance at something I wasn’t even really sure if I wanted to do.

In the end, the only way I could look at it was to say “Why not?”

Why not go to the audition? Why not give it a shot? If I fail, my worst-case scenario would be that I continue on doing what I’m doing and I have an interesting story to tell. The best-case scenario, of course, would be that I get through the audition and I have another, more interesting decision to make.

As is no-doubt obvious, I ended up going to the audition, having a ball, and getting through to the next round. The rest is history. There were lots of other moments and other decisions (and actually, I pulled out of the show at least 2 more times over the following few months – but that’s a story for another time), but this was the first one. Every single thing in my life would now be different if I had made that one little decision differently. I wouldn’t have had the amazing experience I have had over the past two years, the new career I have now, and a future that I’m incredibly excited about.

It didn’t seem like an important decision at the time – it was tiny, insignificant and almost laughable – but it was the first one, and it turned into one of the most important decisions I’ve ever made. I don’t think that all the important decisions in life present themselves with banners, fanfare and prancing horses. Sometimes it’s the little decisions that reach further and wider than you’d ever imagine.

I’m sure that right at this very moment there’s someone else, somewhere in Australia (or elsewhere in the world) that’s trying to decide whether or not they should audition for MasterChef or take a different kind of new step. Who knows, maybe in a few months they’ll be the one centre-stage when the gold glitter rains down.

Kitchen Myths: Flambé

One of the most identifiable skills of classic cookery is the art of the flambé. Picture a busy and bustling kitchen, punctuated by fireballs of purple-yellow flames leaping from pans rattled by white-jacketed chefs. Adding alcohol can introduce complex flavours and aromas to a dish, but too much alcohol can be unpleasant and overwhelm other delicate flavours. For that reason, in cookery we are often taught to flambé – to “burn off” the pungent taint of raw alcohol. But how well does it really work?

To flambé, a strong alcohol (usually higher than 20% alcohol per volume) is added to a pan of sauteing ingredients and ignited with an open flame. While flambéing is often used tableside for dramatic effect, the process does have an effect on flavour. The extremely high temperature of the alcohol flame (about 1100C) leaves a very light singed taste to flambéd ingredients within the flame, and the reactions of the burning alcohol with other ingredients can create additional complex flavours and aromas. This process of flambéing also burns off some of the added alcohol to take the edge off the strong and sometimes unpleasant alcohol ‘burn’ found in some strongly alcoholic dishes.

However, the processes of flambéing does not remove all of the alcohol. In fact, a short flambé will still leave around 75% of the added alcohol in the finished product. Even after simmering for an hour, about 25% of the alcohol still remains, and after 2 hours that proportion drops to about 10%.

Considering the relatively small amounts of alcohol added to foods, and the portions of those dishes we eat, the final alcohol content of dishes is not usually a problem. Even a whole bottle of 14% alcohol wine added to a Coq au Vin will first dilute to about 7% amongst the other ingredients, then and after cooking for a hour will result in a dish of only about 2% alcohol. Divided amongst perhaps 4 people, the final amount of alcohol consumed by the diner is quite small. However, those with alcohol sensitivity might want to hold back on that extra serve of a flambéd Bananas Foster, as each plate would contain alcohol from rum roughly equivalent to a swig of a cheeky dacquiri.

How to Win MasterChef

Picture Credit: Someone with waaay too much time on their hands

The finale of Season 3 of MasterChef Australia is just a few days away now, so I thought it would be a good time to revisit some of the skills we contestants learn throughout the competition. The style of competitive cooking on MasterChef is very different from cooking in a commercial kitchen or cooking for your family at home, and it can take some time to get used to. Yesterday the News Limited papers published an article I wrote sharing a couple of tips for getting ahead in the MasterChef game. There was no online version of the article, so I thought I would share it with you here.

For those of you that want to put their hat in the ring for next year’s MasterChef title, applications are already open. You can apply here.

The article “My recipe for success”, as it appears in The Daily Telegraph, The Herald Sun, The Advertiser and The Courier Mail:

“The finale of this year’s MasterChef is just a few weeks away and from nearly ten thousand hopefuls a few months ago we will soon have another winner joining Julie and me in our little club. For anyone wanting to try out next year, here are my six tips to help you come away with the MasterChef crown.

1.  Find your own style. 

At home, we might like to try different things and we all have our strengths and weaknesses, but in the MasterChef kitchen you need to think beyond that to find your own style of food. Even if you can cook everything from Asian Abalone to Zimbabwean Zucchini, you still need to work out exactly what warms your cockles.

I love Asian food and it’s what I cook at home, but for the first few months in MasterChef I was making fancy European dishes that I thought would impress the judges. It wasn’t bad food, but it wasn’t getting me anywhere in the competition. It was  only when I started to cook the food I loved that I started winning challenges.

People cook the way they like to eat. It’s natural and authentic, and that’s what the judges want to see. As Jimmy will happily tell you, it’s better to be a one-trick pony than a dead duck.

2. Cook to the challenge

Cooking in the MasterChef kitchen is very different from cooking at home. There are absurd time limits, weird ingredients, ridiculous themes and long tasting procedures. You need to think about all of that when you decide what to cook. Give yourself plenty of time and don’t try to be too ambitious. Good food doesn’t have to be difficult, and in fact, for amateurs like us, it usually isn’t.

In terms of tasting, the first thing you realise in challenges is that the food on MasterChef is usually cold when the judges taste it. The contestants cook in the morning and then the food goes into the fridge while the kitchen resets for the tasting and the benches are cleaned by magical elves. However, before that break the judges will zip around the room for a mini pre-tasting to give them an idea of what to expect in the real thing.

The easiest way to make an impression is to leave enough time and ingredients to make a second plate that the judges can taste warm without ruining the dish that needs to be presented later. If the judges have a chance to taste your food the way it would normally be eaten, you’re immediately off to a good start.

If you want to be really clever, you can even add a touch more salt to the dish that will be tasted cold, because the saltiness of the dish will mellow as it cools.

3. Tell the story

Food is better in context. If we think back to the favourite meals we’ve eaten, we rarely remember the food alone. We remember the company, the restaurant, the atmosphere – the whole experience.

The judges have tried thousands of dishes in the MasterChef kitchen, and so it is sometimes hard to create that special experience around yours alone.

To make your dish stand out you need to explain not just what is on the plate, but also why it’s there. Is it inspired by a childhood memory? A simple family favourite? An edible homage to a Rolling Stones song? This doesn’t mean that every plate needs to be dedicated to an elderly relative, but it does help to give the judges an idea of why you made that dish and what makes it tick.

4. Know the judges’ tastes

All the judges love good food, but they still each have their preferences. George likes food prepared with professionalism and discipline – that means your dish should be well-seasoned, clean and elegant – Gary loves unpretentious food made with humility and strong technique, and Matt likes ‘smart’ food where he can see that thought has gone into the dish.

When you cook for the same guys day-in and day-out and hear their feedback on everything you make, you pick up on their likes and dislikes. If you can make a dish that tickles all the judges in all the right places, you’re looking good.

5. Listen and learn

The person who wins MasterChef is not necessarily the person who comes into the first day of the competition as the best cook. If it was, we could have probably just given Marion the title in the first episode last year and called it a day.

The entire process takes ten months from audition to finale, and for the whole period you are living, breathing and (of course) eating food. In that time you have an opportunity to learn from the people around you – the judges, the guest chefs, the other contestants. Absorb information like a sponge and accept every piece of judges’ advice and criticism as like manna from Heaven. Then put it all into practice in the next challenge.

6. Embrace the experience

A big part of winning the MasterChef title is about keeping yourself in the right frame of mind to cook well. It’s not easy. There are the long hours, the early starts, the isolation from your friends and family, and lots of pressure. But the trade-off for all of that is the chance of a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience. Once you accept that fact, you can relax, make friends and have fun. Happy cooks make happy food, and I certainly could not have won MasterChef without the friendship and support of the other contestants… but those guys probably didn’t want to hear that.”

Post-MasterChef Life: One Year On

It just dawned on me that it’s been 1 year to the day since I won MasterChef. Exactly 365 days ago Callum and I were centre stage in the most watched non-sport TV event in Australian history. We came out of the MasterChef house into a whirlwind, and it’s been a manic 12 months since. To mark the occasion, I thought I’d just look back at the year that’s been:

     I’ve received tens of thousands messages of congratulations from within Australia and all over the world. England, India, the USA, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, the United Arab Emirates, Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, the Netherlands, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, France… the list really does go on. In fact, it might even be easier to list the countries I haven’t received messages of thanks from. The sheer number of messages has been enormous, but please believe me when I say I’ve appreciated every single one.

     I’ve worked in some of Australia’s best restaurants, including Tetsuya’s in Sydney and The Flower Drum in Melbourne. I’ve cooked every day and developed my cooking skills more than I thought possible in just one year. I’ve written more than 300 recipes and spent countless hours in the kitchen, enjoying every minute.

   I’ve written a cookbook, and fulfilled a lifelong dream in doing so. It’s something that I’m extremely proud of and it’s received some fantastic reviews (like this one… and this one… and this one). It happens to be selling quite well too. I’ll even be attending my first Byron Bay Writers’ Festival just next week… as an author. It’s incredibly humbling when somebody tells you they’ve cooked one of your recipes and it’s changed the way their family cooks and eats. Never in my life would I have thought I could make a tangible difference, however small, to people’s lives through food.

     I’ve filmed for TV in Australia, New Zealand and soon Malaysia; done literally hundreds of interviews for TV, radio and print; and photo shoots galore. It’s all a bit much really, but it doesn’t get in the way of the food. One thing I am really happy about is that I am getting a chance to write a lot more for magazines and newspapers. I’ve even had the opportunity to take Australian journalists and bloggers around Malaysia to show them what I love about the food of the country of my birth.

     I’ve travelled on more than 120 flights, spent nearly 150 nights in hotel rooms, and travelled nearly 200,000 kilometres. That’s an average of new city every three days, and a total distance of nearly 5 times around the world! It’s exhausting, but post-MasterChef life is certainly good for the frequent flyer points.

I really think it would be easier if I just started flying myself.

     I’ve moved back to Australia from Japan. I spent a 6 wonderful years living in Japan and travelling around Asia – eating, learning and working – but it is so nice to be back home in Australia.

     I’ve won awards like FHM Australia’s “2011 Food Hero”, and been variously nominated for others as strange and diverse as “Favourite TV Star” at the Nickelodeon Kid’s Choice Awards. Walking red carpets and signing autographs for squealing fans is certainly not something I’m used to.

     I’ve met some amazing chefs from around the world including Rene Redzepi, Heston Blumenthal (again), Florence Tan – the Queen of Nyonya Cuisine, and especially Iron Chefs Hiroyuki Sakai and Chen Kenichi, who I had the pleasure of dining with in Melbourne recently and who I will be working with in the near future.

     I’ve cooked banquets at the World Expo in Shanghai, demonstrated at the Auckland Food Show and countless other shows around Australia such as Taste, Good Food Show, MasterChef Live and Fine Food Australia.  I’m soon to travel to South Africa to demonstrate at the Good Food Show over there and am cooking a series of degustation dinners in North Queensland. These are all extraordinary experiences that I am incredibly grateful for. In my wildest dreams I never would have imagined my life would involve travelling the world, cooking and eating. It’s amazing fun and it never feels like work to be talking to people about good food.

So, what’s next?

The biggest project I’m working on at the moment is a plan for a casual Japanese restaurant (izakaya) here in Sydney. There’s nothing concrete to announce at this stage but we’ve put hundreds of man-hours into it so far with the hope of opening very early next year. I know it’s been a long time coming, but for me and my partners in Japan it is more important to get it done right rather than fast. Stay tuned for more on this one.

I have a few trips coming up to Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa and Japan. I’m soon hosting a tour to Japan to assist (and cook for) victims of the tsunami and nuclear disaster along with the fantastic Iron Chefs, Hiroyuki Sakai and Chen Kenichi. I’m also planning a stage in one of my favourite restaurants in Japan.

I’m working on plans for my second book and hope to have that out within the next year. Writing my book last year was a wonderful experience, and it was so gratifying to see all the positive feedback. Still, I hope my next book can be even better!

While not the most exciting development, I know this blog is long overdue for an overhaul. I hope to start writing more regularly and especially posting more recipes and photos of what’s been happening. Stay tuned for a newer and more interesting site over the next few months.

They say that moving house, changing jobs and getting married are the three most stressful things you can do in life. In the past year I’ve done two of those things, but it’s been far more wonderful than stressful. I’m truly thankful to all of you for making this possible.

Smoked Banana Ice Cream

The things on the left are the smoked bananas

I came back from the gym and a long bike ride today and immediately made ice cream. I think there is something fundamentally wrong with my approach to exercise… Still, the results were delicious. This is actually one of the best ice cream’s I’ve ever made.

Smoked bananas are a snack food around Asia, and can be found in some Asian grocers. Small bananas are sliced, strongly smoked and partially dehydrated. The flavour may not be to everyone’s taste. A friend recently described the taste as ‘chewing on a wet cigar’, but don’t let that ringing endorsement put you off. The flavours and aromas are strong and complex with rich tobacco, vanilla and molasses notes, the sweetness of brown sugar and a mellow banana flavour. Those elements tempered and adjusted in ice cream form create a beautiful combination. I’ve used a heavy custard base here to stand up to the very strong flavours in the smoked banana.

This ice cream has a thick, creamy texture (it actually holds without melting for 5-10 minutes at room temperature) which matches extremely well with the smoky sweetness of the banana. The strength of it is that you probably couldn’t sit and eat a whole tub in a sitting – it’s more of a ‘one-scooper’ – but it would work well as an accompaniment in a multi-element dessert. In the future I might be tempted to serve this with a slice of toasted coconut cake, or even some croutons of banana bread for texture. Either way, I think I’m going to need to go to the gym again…

  • 70g smoked banana
  • 350ml full cream milk
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 400ml cream
  • ½ tsp vanilla paste

Roughly chop the smoked bananas and place in a small saucepan with cold milk. Bring to the boil and then remove from the heat and leave to cool and infuse for 30 minutes. Puree the banana and milk in a blender until very smooth.

Beat the egg yolks and caster sugar together until foamy, pale and tripled in size. In a saucepan, bring the cream to the boil and then quickly whisk half of the hot cream into the egg mixture. Transfer the whisked egg mixture back into the remaining cream in the saucepan and whisk over low heat until it forms a loose custard that will coat the back of a spoon. Strain the custard into the banana mixture and fold together. Transfer to a metal bowl sitting inside another larger bowl of ice and water and cool the mixture quickly by continuing to stir it for 5-10 minutes. Freeze in an ice cream churn until set.

MasterChef Top 24 Welcome Letter

Those of you that watched MasterChef last night would have seen a letter I wrote to the new contestants welcoming them to the MasterChef house. I had a few people ask me what the letter said in full, so I thought I’d reproduce it in full here.

“Dear Contestants:

Welcome to MasterChef!

This is the part where I’m supposed to tell you to get ready for the ride of your life, but there is really nothing that you can do to prepare yourself for what lies ahead. You are about to embark on what will be one of the most wonderful experiences you will ever have. Over the next few months you will do things you never thought you could, see things you never thought you would and learn more about yourself than you ever thought possible, but best of all you will share those experiences with the people around you who will become close friends for life.

There will inevitably be difficult times, when you doubt yourself and your decisions, but be strong and stay faithful to the parts of yourself that have brought you to where you are standing right now. Be yourself, do your best and cook what you love. Rush headlong into the challenges you will face with joy, poise and passion, and I’ll see you on the other side of the whirlwind.

Best of luck,

Adam”

The Ramen Po’boy

Ramen is a family of Japanese noodle dishes that takes its name from the Chinese noodle soups featuring the pulled ‘la mian’ noodles. Basic ramen usually features a shio (seasoned chicken stock), shoyu (stock with soy sauce) or miso soup base, with alkaline noodles, tender pork chashu (from the Chinese ‘char siew’), menma (simmered bamboo shoots), nori and seasoned eggs. It’s usually eaten in the late evenings either as an after-work dinner for neighbourhood salarymen or at the end of a night of drinking. Yes, ramen is the Japanese answer to a regrettable kebab on the way home from the pub.

More than just a dish, ramen is an icon of Japanese culture and lines for the more famous ramen stores can stretch for literally hours. Each store will add their tiny signature to a bowl of ramen – an infusion of yuzu, a specific seasoning on the chashu, or even preparing their broth with mountain water from a specific spring.

In this dish, the elements of ramen meet the traditional New Orleans po’boy. Sorry there are no step shots to accompany the recipe, but I wasn’t intending this as a blog post really. It was just Sunday lunch.

The Ramen Po’boy

(makes 1)

  • 1 x 12-inch half baguette
  • 4-5 slices chashu (recipe follows)
  • 1 nitamago (recipe follows)
  • 2 small sheets Korean toasted nori
  • Kewpie mayonnaise
  • 1 cup shredded iceberg lettuce
  • 2 tbsp chopped chives
  • unsalted butter
  • dijon mustard (you can use seeded mustard or American mustard if preferred)
  • 1/4 cup menma (to serve, commercially available from Japanese grocers)
  1. Cut the baguette in half almost all the way through, butterfly and grill on both sides until toasted. Spread the base side with butter and the top side with dijon, seeded or American mustard (seeded and American are more traditional for a po’boy but I prefer dijon).
  2. Scatter the base half with shredded lettuce, liberally top with the Kewpie mayonnaise and then crumble over the Korean nori.
  3. Fry or grill the chashu slices until warmed and browned and layer onto the sandwich.
  4. Slice the egg into half and then each half into thirds. Cover the chashu slices with egg and scatter with chives.
  5. Serve the po’boy with the menma on the side.

Chashu

  • 1.5kg pork belly

Stock A

  • 1.5L strong chicken stock
  • 1 sheet kombu
  • 5 shiitake mushrooms

Stock B

  • 500ml water
  • 250ml light soy sauce
  • 100ml sake
  • 3 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp salt
  1. Remove the skin from the chashu and roll it lengthways. Tie the roll with string at 1cm intervals and cover with cold water in a large stockpot. Bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Discard the water and with your hands wash the pork in warm water to remove any blood or scum. Chill the pork in the fridge for 1 hour.
  2. Bring Stock A ingredients to a simmer and immediately remove the kombu. Add the pork and simmer for 1.5 hours. Remove the pork.
  3. Bring Stock B ingredients to a simmer, add the pork and simmer for a further 30 minutes until the pork is quite tender and a skewer can be inserted through the centre easily. Remove the pork and chill in the fridge until ready.

Nitamago

  • 5-10 free-range eggs (as many as you like)
  • 500ml water
  • 250ml light soy sauce
  • 1 sheet kombu
  • 5 dried anchovies
  • 3 shiitake mushrooms
  • 40g katsuboshi
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp five spice powder
  • 1 extra star anise
  • 1/2 small onion
  1. Bring all ingredients except the eggs and katsuoboshi to a simmer and remove the kombu. Add in the katsuoboshi and allow to stand for 30 minutes. Strain the mixture and reserve the liquid.
  2. Boil water and plunge in the eggs for 7-8 minutes. Remove and immediately shock in iced water. Peel the eggs and steep in the liquid for 1.5 hours. Remove from the liquid, cover and chill in the fridge.

Blackstrap Banana Cake

This year has been a crazy one for me for a number of reasons – in the past few months I’ve been trying to adjust to (1) a new career, (2) some pretty serious public recognition, (3) moving countries, (4) a truly ridiculous travel schedule (averaging 1 flight every 2.5 days for the past 4 months) and on top of all that I’ve been trying to fit in writing a book  as well.

My friend Danny and his wife Mel have been lifesavers throughout all of this; helping me out and supporting me with every aspect of these numerous transitions. They even understood when I had to leave straight from giving a speech at their wedding (where I was Danny’s best man) to fly to Shanghai to cook some banquets there for the World Expo a couple of months ago. I wanted to give them each a bit of a special Christmas present this year so I decided to write a recipe specifically for Mel, cook it and give it to her together with a copy of the recipe.

I love banana cake but I sometimes find it too sweet and a bit boring. This is a super-moist ‘adult’ version of a banana cake made with less sugar and the addition of organic blackstrap molasses. The molasses gives the cake a real complexity and a slight sourness that I think is wonderful. This is Mel’s recipe now, but I thought I’d share it here with you all too (I’m sure she won’t mind).

Blackstrap Banana Cake

Ingredients

  • 125g softened unsalted butter
  • 90g caster sugar
  • 100g beaten egg
  • 8g bicarbonate of soda
  • 280g plain flour
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 75ml full cream milk
  • 75ml pouring cream
  • 55g organic blackstrap molasses
  • 3g vanilla paste
  • 280g banana puree (about 2 large overripe bananas)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (fan forced). Cream the butter and sugar together, then add the beaten egg a little at a time until all the egg is incorporated.
  2. Sieve together the salt, bicarbonate of soda and flour. Separately, mix together the milk, cream, molasses and vanilla paste. Add half of the dry mixture and half of the wet mixture to the egg mixture and fold until incorporated. Repeat with the remainder of the mixtures and then fold in the banana puree. Do not overbeat.
  3. Pour the batter into a greased loaf tin and bake for 45 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tin, then turn out and wrap in plastic. Leave overnight before eating.

I also gave her a card I made with the recipe printed on it.

Adding a copy of one of her favourite books in the iconic Penguin Classic style makes it a more complete gift.

So that’s Mel’s present taken care of, but you’re probably wondering what Danny is getting. It’s this…

My 10 Favourite Kitchen Tools

Hi all: It’s been an age since my last blog post, but I have been absolutely flat out on my book, work experience and about a billion other things. I do have some more substantial posts in the works, but I thought I’d just put this up quickly so that you all don’t think I’m dead. – Adam

My 10 Favourite Kitchen Tools: listed below clockwise from top right.

These days most of us just point our furniture at the TV and eat our meals off coffee tables, but it wasn’t so long ago that the kitchen was the heart of every household. I’ve always been a big believer in that, and having a personal connection with your kitchen is all important. Here at 10 things that make me love working in my kitchen. What are your favourite kitchen tools?

1. Kitchenaid Artisan Mixer

This is the most usable mixer I’ve ever owned. It’s tactile, simple and intuitive – the way all appliances should be. Fun fact: Marion uses hers to whip mashed potato, which is something I am definitely going to try.

2. 18cm Japanese Copper Pots

I don’t know the brand of these but the size, weight and feel of them is just about perfect. I bought a whole bunch of these when I moved back to Australia from Japan. Aside from being great to cook with, they also look ‘the business’.

3. Timers and Scales

I don’t tend to use many measurements when I cook (except desserts) but regardless, timers and scales are among the most used tools I have. Scales are great for portioning and timers take my sieve-like memory out of the equation.

4. Sugimoto Vegetable Cleaver

My grandma took a chunk out of this trying to chop up a frozen chicken once but my knifesmith managed to cut it down save the blade. After that it was about 2 cm thinner, and that actually made it even more usable.

5. Short-handled Wooden Spoon

This spoon used to belong to my ex-flatmate’s Italian grandmother who used to make the most amazing tomato sauces. The short handle is great for control, but I like to romanticise the fact that it’s probably been used to stir 1000 pasta sauces.

6. Stanley Fatmax Cutter

I use this more than any knife in my kitchen. Rather than opening a bag of spices with a $400 wa-bocho, having a purpose-made opening cutter in the kitchen is a much safer and easier option. I use it for opening boxes and bags, cutting the tops off bottles and basically for cutting anything that isn’t food. The extra fat handle fits really well in the hand.

7. ‘Pig Sticker’

I don’t know exactly what this is called but basically it’s for poking hundreds of holes in pork belly and suckling pig to give a perfect crackling. It’s great for shoulder roasts as well.

8. Le Creuset 20cm French Oven

This is a small casserole that is the perfect size for 2-4 people. I use this so often in winter that I just keep it on the stovetop and don’t even bother putting it away. There is something magical about a casserole simmering away in a cast iron pot on a cold and blustery winter day.

9. Chinese Ceramic Utensil Jug

I bought this pretty jug in Shanghai a few years ago and was intending to use it for summer cocktails, but then I thought it would be such a shame to hide it away in a cupboard for 364 days of the year. Now this sits next to my cooktop and holds all the utensils that I use regularly.

10. Basic 5L Stockpot

This is a very small stockpot that is perfect for weekly batches of stock for a small family. I usually buy and joint about a chicken a week and this fits the bones and carcasses perfectly. I make about 3L of light chicken stock every week in this, which is a perfect small volume of stock for regular home use.

Note: I paid for (almost) all of these products and I am not sponsored by any of the brands mentioned.