To Light or not to Light.

Excerpt from “Downsize your home and regain your freedom’
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There is not much new these days to say about candles.

You either light them or you don’t.

The word candle originates from Middle English ‘candel’, from Latin ‘candela’ from before the 12th century and a quick glance at the unfathomable spendor of French Roccoco chandeliers, before the Revolution, shows us they reflect more than just light.

It also shows a preference for;

Looking good in soft lighting.

Hiding the room faults and marks on the carpets.

Saving on electricity or replacing odd lightbulbs long gone.

Trying to get romantic on some level.

Confusing your guest-they wont see much.

Adding a level of elegance to dinning.

Candles cannot make a smaller room look larger in size, but it can help hide what a box it really is. Cost has become a factor in lighting candles as, apart from Ikea small tea lights, they are getting pretty expensive.

If you can find a reasonably priced candelabra for the table, buy it and collect  all the tall coloured tapered candles on sale.

Popping a tea light into the top of a big expensive candle and not buying it down saves it last visually but there nothing of the aromatic smell or light.

Small candles laid out and spaced in lines give a pretty Four Seasons Hotel moment and best on patio’s, small gardens, walled spaces without much wind.

A very good expensive scented candle can perfume a room without even being lit which is especially good for bathrooms, halls, and bedrooms.

Turn big candles upside down and burn the other end if the wick has disappeared too deep inside to reach but pay special attention to where this thing will drip. Candle wax only comes off easily in the films.

T J Maxx has the best collection of well priced, boxed scented candles that make very good gift and cost the same as wine or chocolates. I give alot of candles  or insense sticks these days.

Expensive candles should only be lit with folks you really like:)) I have regretted wasting some great candles.

Madonnas trick of pouring hot wax onto a bare chested man does not work as either he has to be a masochist, or accuses you of assult, after all, it cant be ironed off.

Do not get drunk, cause a fire and burn the house down with a 50p candle.

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Lets talk ‘ice cubes…!’

Excerpt from “Downsize your home and regain your freedom’
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We know ice cubes has nothing to do with ‘Downsizing your home’ …etc etc and the chances you will live/be/eat/drink and sleep alone but lets digress at bit…lets indulgunce for a while.

The most underated, dull, ordinary, standered food item has been the humble ice cube. They have been ignored to the point of gross neglect, and its a shame.

Store away these thoughts and ideas for when you’ Upsize’ back into the mansion, get a job in catering, have nothing else better to do or want to deliver someting unique. You and the guests will end up talking about ice cubes.

Rule 1; Ice cubes dont have to be made out of water.

Water may have been cheap but, apart from fillling up buckets, a few selective individual cubes delicatly placed in lovely glasses can liven up a regular drink.

Rule 2; Ice cubes can go in first and the drink poured over them. Its not a life jacket and does not have to be thrown in as a last resort to bounce then disappear.

Colour your ice cubes. Use the tear off flat pack ice cube bags which are so cheap at the supermarkets (Morrisons £1 bag)

Obviously use natural juices, carrot, cucumber, beetroot, fruits which can be mixed with water to get the right colour and thickness.

If using ice trays, its very easy to layer a couple of colours, but make sure the first layer is very solid first.

For ice trays pop in a pea, rasberry, mint leaf, pommegranite sead, cucumber slice, coffee bean, mini olive, choc drop, nut, or berry. It doesnt matter if they cant drink it and end up fishing it out with their fingers…it will amuse their tiny minds whilst fishing it out:)

If time is a problem buy some ready made fruit juices and use those. Yes it will add flavour but mostly just a sugary taste which is not waht you want.  Drinks loaded with pure ice, just loose the flavour of the drink first.

Tomatoe juice red ice cubes placed into a gazapacho soup adds nice touch. Add Lea and Perins, celery salt etc into the cube and add to Bloody Marys.

Freeze  bags of local cheap grapes when they are cheap and in season and throw the lots into a jar of white wine or sangria.

Freeze lemon/orange/lime rinds and mash them up under a cloth and sprinkle of everything. or drop whole pieaces into pitchers of Sangria.

Ice cubes of rose, orange and geranium waters go well over fruit salads and bowls of melon ot strawberries.

Freeze a shalow bowl of liquid, put a net/foil/papaer over the top and drop down mint sprigs so the stem freezes into the liquid like a mini garden. Use a a central table decoration.

Freeze squares of icream, add some liquer and pop into hot black coffees.  A few squares of sorbet look good over ice creams drizzled with sauces.

Last of all, freeze the left over wines and throw them into the cooking.

“Medium, rare or burnt to crisp?”

Excerpt from “Downsize your home and regain your freedom’
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To BBQ, or not to BBQ that is the question?

Men like it because its pagan, and a justifiable mess.

Women like it because they don’t have to cook, and ‘he’s’ busy.

It tastes delicious and is a great evening outdoors.

Originally a few flames licked at our food brought us into a world of tastes and smells our ancestors didn’t know existed and couldn’t have dreamt of. Something obviously fell into the fire a couple of million years ago we get ‘a roast’! Wonderful.

Buy a BBQ if you have the outside space. The cheaper ones get used, the more expensive ones get admired.

Never ask your neighbours if they mind, as they will say ‘no’, unless they are invited over to eat.

Start early as no one can see meat in the dark, and avoid eating it raw or  drunk.

Remove all children away from flames with tongs.

Dress accordingly, and eat before the guests arrive so you don’t serve raw meat. Starving people serve underdone food.

Invite friends that help carrying and cleaning up.

Most man can’t resist taking over the BBQ until it either heats up or goes out. Its great therapy for them.

Most flats do not allow BBQ’s in the lease  light up, don’t be a nuisance, dance widely, play loud music or light fireworks. Just eat and keep quiet and you might get ‘smelt’ but not get noticed.

A cheap BBQ set  from Argos it will reduce the risk of it getting stolen, buy it in the winter or on sale and don’t expect hit last.  Even gardeners and thieves aren’t fussed about the £9.99 kit from Argos so it will rot before its stolen.

Get BBQ tools from the Pound Shop,  or a cheap market  and expect to loose the lot. You won’t.  Only expensive BBQ implements go missing.

Think outdoors foods; Corns, salads, coleslaws, jacket potatoes, shrimps, fish….cook the lot and you can eat for three days.

Stock up on aluminium foil from The Pound Shop and start wrapping.

Put everything in large coloured plastic washing up bowls (the ones our Chinese cousins are making for us). All the sauces, all the salads, all the corns, knives and forks the lot.

Fish from the markets is the most affordable but get to know the stall holders to get the best deals.

Marinate the meats. Marinate, marinate, season and flavour all day or over night. Its easy in small fridges. Make kebabs, ribs, all cheap cuts and pretend its a holiday so have fun.

Buy cheap paper plates and cups and big black plastic bags for the rubbish.

Blame a child as the excuse for using plastic. Borrow a child if you need to.

CONS:

everyone eats and drinks before you do. Its very rude but they do.

food gets left on the grass for animals

knives and forks get lost

steaks are not cheap

ashes will burn holes

neighbours get angry

PROS:

everyone eats with out asking stupid gastronomic questions/requests

food can get thrown into the trees

plates/cups/foil gets thrown away or burnt

you can use cheaper cuts

lovely fire to sit around

smoking out an irritating neighbour.

I found the hardest thing about a BBQ is making sure your guests do actually arrive, stay sober and don’t touch the flames.

Food in small kitchens

Excerpt from “Downsize your home and regain your freedom’
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Don’t worry, i’m not even going to think of giving you a bunch of ‘small kitchen recipes’.

I had a small kitchen in different countries  and I ate completely differently in all of them, as I love markets and go for whats in season, inexpensive and ripe.

If masses of  huge kitchen utensils are now packed away keep out 2 plates, 2 bowls, 4 mugs, 4 glasses for juice, a frying pan, large pasta pan, med pan, small milk pan, a pile of plastic salad bowls, some cutlery and wooden spoons, bottle opener and can opener .

I can’t live with out a carrot juicer, soup whisk and orange squeezer.

To make this easy  there are a few jobs that are exactly the same on a limited work surface or a huge spacious kitchen.

Making a salad.  Fill the sink with everything,  wash it all well and drain in a large calendar. Chop, peel and dice when you next pass buy next.

Making a good large soup.  Wash everything, chop, sauté in large pan, add speices and herbs and water, bring to the boil and simmer. Go and watch TV.

Frying fish is a huge problem as the whole place will smell including your clothes. Put it in the oven or poach it. Go and relax.

Pasta, rice, noodles (get a wok) needs large pan to boil water. Don’t go too far:)

Sauces need a good base, fresh ingredients and attention. Stay and stir or it will all burn you will ruin the meal.


Tips


Clean as you go! You have no room. Use items then rinse immediately and wash as you go.

Buy spices and herbs from the country you are living in or buy in the ethnic shops they come from.

Make enough for two days as your fridge will be small and not full of nibbles.

Shop every day like the french.. A smaller quantity of quality products is delightful to pick up. I have not done a ‘big weekly shop’ for years.

Make dinner in the mornings. Do your preparation in the morning, chopping, peeling and washing, or at least by 4.00pm. Either pop it straight into the oven or let it marinate before serving.

Never cook when your hungry in a small space. You will be frustrated, impatient, you will spill, burn, drop stuff and loose the plot

Have emergency items like ham, cheese, smoked salmon with beelines, caviar, croissants, tinned sauerkraut, tinned spinach, puy lentils, frozen petit pops, sweetcorn, good jams, peanut butter, nuts, dried fruits, cereals for emergency snacks.I always have a large tin of Confit de `Canard in France to heat with red wine in case I have no time. In the UK I rely on risotto rice or pastas.

Do not eat crisps while you cook. Its cheating.

Galley chef

Excerpt from “Downsize your home and regain your freedom’
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Have you ever cooked in a galley on a boat?

No, not many of us have or ever want to. I passed the galley a few times and felt sorry for the poor bastard in there and hoped he found some peace in this world.

Its always surprising just how delicious and complex the dishes are that come out of a galley. So heres your turn.

Your new ‘size challenged kitchen’ has one very good feature…..You won’t be in it for long!!

The smaller studio flats usually have electric hobs-which I hate-they are expensive to run and I want to see flames under my food.

These are equipped with microwave ovens which I also hate.

Think about keeping;

a wok

a griddle pan

a steamer tray

a pressure cooker

a nori mat

a le creuset oven dish with lid

a salad slicer

a juicer

a liquefier

You must now plan your menus! Its not Le Circle and you have a small fridge and few ingredients-so plan. It’s only 7 days in a week and it’s not that difficult.

Sunday morning cooked brunch juice,coffee, eggs any way, trimmings etc

Sunday roast dinner in one/two trays in the oven by 4:00 pm. Boil everything first in a big pot, including the chicken and it will massively reduce the cooking time and reduce it drying out

The idea is to get TWO meals out of every preparation; One day then another, the following day.

A salad becomes gazpacho

A pie becomes a soup

A roast becomes a soup

A rice dish becomes e.g.fish cakes

Monday evening leftovers. Liquidize what is left for a veg chicken soup

Tuesday fish either in the oven or steamed

Wednesday Thai lamb curry with fishcakes

Thursday pasta and salad

Friday couscous in the oven with any meat

Saturday market day for all the fresh produce-salad for dinner

Or put everything left over into a nice pie dish and top with best quality ‘ready made pastry’ and bake into a pie.

Or wrap salmon/fish in tinned spinach and then ‘best quality pastry’ pop into the oven and its now ‘en croute.’

Or liquidize everything into a broth and top with croutons.

Or liquidize old salad, add chopped tomatoes, onion, cucumber and chill its now a gazpacho!

marinate all the meats and fish, it will add flavours

I could go on…..

Pies, salads, juices and soups will save the day every time!

You need to open the fridge and eat fresh normal food NOT bought bits.

If you don’t plan and organise in advance, you will eat out of packets with photos on them, and your life will become unhealthy and depressing. If you get fat your living space is smaller.

A photo of a luxury boat galley, pinned to the fridge for a month or two, might really help the mind, and save on swigging all the rum:)

Eating Ideas in smaller spaces

Excerpt from “Downsize your home and regain your freedom’
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If you were stranded abroad, were suddenly invaded, besieged at every port, or rejected the Monsanto monopoly you would have to adapt the way you ate and to another cuisine, so adept.

Except this time, its another kitchen and perhaps a fraction of the size. Its same thing.

No person who cooks longs for a smaller kitchen, full of basic cheap alliances and no work space. No one. But if is the new situation I approach it mentally first.

It’s a ‘galley’ and your on a boat, it’s a ski studio and you are on a mountain, it’s a wooden lodge, caravan, in a tent, up a tree or in a cave but mentally, you CANT BE IN A SMALL KITCHEN. Its too stressful and no fun.

Put up some kind of ‘symbol’ to remind you and get your mental approach worked out first. A fish, a photo, a shell, a postcard, a mosquito net, something to give this space a theme and some humour. It will save your mind and save you drinking the cooking brandy.

You will be eating differently as food is very dependant on tools, skills of the chef and expectations of the dinner. All three of these are probably now diminished but you still have to eat and gleen some pleasure from it.

The Dinning Table.

Obviously you are getting a smaller table, or one that tips up straight after use and stores against the wall. Ikea do a ‘corner tables’ that open up for 4 people. I remember the top was terrible quality but a nice thick plastic highly coloured table cloth hides a lot.

A slab/piece glass with menus, newspapers, photos or postcards underneath is cheap and fun and covers so much.

If you have less space only use the coffee table to eat off. Get a couple of cheap wooden chairs, paint them bright colours and chop of the legs to make them shorter and stubby which looks cute and trendy.

If you paint them white tie on ribbons, add cushions, hammer in coloured studs, entwine beads, spray on mural so they are bespoke and cheerful. Think Momos.

Fix up a Food Bar table from Ikea with 2 legs, 2 brackets, 1 piece of Formica and 2 high bar stools. It looks great and

Saves so much space. Blend in the wall, pictures, seat and plant pot and create a theme.

Pull out canvas aluminium framed camping/fishing chairs from Argos are practical, light and cheap and you can throw them under the bed later.

Padded wooden lap trays are not that bad and complete the TV supper experience. You won’t die from eating off a tray, better than a magazine, and its good for the core muscles and balance.

Sit on the floor. Why not? Get cushions, take off the shoes, use a low table and sit on the floor. Our ancestors bonded on the floor and look what happened.

Spread out a washable cotton sheet as a mat and shake it outside every time or get a mini vac so you’re not sitting in crumbs and attracting the bugs. Do not eat onto thick carpets its unhealthy and are difficult to clean and will smell. Cover them or remove them first.

Eat outside as much as possible, eat at lunchtimes before you go home, take home doggy bags, get invited out, get invited over and stay friends with women that have dinner parties. Its better for you and will save the energy trying to cope.

You are going to be changing your diet as the roast pig, stuffed birds, soufflés and fresh ice cream look like they are off the menu:)


PUT ON THE OVEN.


Turn the knob. Its no big deal. We were not born to eat microwaved food and I would never never waste the kitchen space on that ghastly black box.

Get one good oven dish with lid and think French. Sauté and chop and put everything into the dish and cook on low-preferable in the morning. Wash a lettuce etc and make a salad with real olive oil dressing and theres a family meal. delicious simple and not expensive.

Most bed sits don’t have gas ovens and electricity is very expensive on a meter so ovens are a luxury. So its a good hearty soup made on top burner and slowly.

I  never to cook at night. The thought of chopping onions at 7.30 pm makes me ill and i’m no longer hungry.

Cook in advance and in the mornings before you are too tired. Like they do on the continent .

Hungry people order take out!