Checklist: self catering

It always happens. You’ve booked some self-catering accomodation and you open the cupboards and notice there are some essentials you’ve forgotten. Cue a trip to the local convenience store, to buy high-priced basics which you find at home.

Here is my personal list:


  • Tea towels
  • Bin bags
  • cleaning liquid
  • sponge
  • good knife
  • loo paper


  • salt and pepper shakers
  • sugar
  • oil
  • salt (for spaghetti)
  • tea
  • marmite
  • instant coffee
  • UHT milk
  • spaghetti
  • pot of spaghetti sauce
  • block of cheese




Peanut Brittle – a tasty, cheap, and unhealthy snack!

This is a really simple recipe which was inspired by the small snacks sold in my local turkish shop. I thought, I can do this!

So here is the recipe:

100 grams roasted peanuts.

120 grams sugar.

Make a dry caramel with the sugar. When you have a light brown caramel, pour all the peanuts in and make sure all the peanuts are well covered.

Transfer the peanut-caramel mass between two silicon sheets, and press down with a heavy pan. Be very careful with the caramel, sugar has a very high specific heat (i.e. it can store a lot of energy) and if it comes into contact with your skin, it will really burn you.

Leave to dry and then break into bits (letting it fall on a hard surface is a good way to do this)

It’s particularly appealing because it manages to combine all the bad things that we like – fat, sugar, and salt. So definitely unhealthy, and a calorie bomb to boot!

Clean your sponges with your microwave oven or your dishwasher


the biggest breeding place for bacteria are kitchen sponges. It turns out that the absolute best way to clean your sponges is to microwave wet sponges for two minutes, or to put them in your dishwasher.

I put mine in the dishwasher weekly. My wife hates it, because they come out gorged with soapy water, but not a single microorganism survives the 55° of the dishwasher, so it’s actually very safe, if disgusting.

Here’s the link to the supporting study done by real microbiologists:

Microwave, dishwasher best for cleaning sponges

These two methods are fool-proof and FAR better than cleaning, bleach, or lemon juice.

Essential kit: a good cook’s knife

Whenever I visit friend’s kitchens, I am often shocked at the bad knives I find there. The rest of the kitchen can be high-tech, but the knives are woefully inadequate.

Your primary tool is a cook’s knife. It should be very sharp.

A good cook’s knife is expensive, around 100€ and you’re starting to have good material quality. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to differentiate optically between good knives and bad ones. The market is saturated with really cheap chinese knives which don’t cut. (The cheap chinese cleavers you find in Asia shops are good too, but they scare me, frankly.)

Why a sharp knife? Well, for one thing, it is safer. Surprised? The issue with blunt knives is that one has to apply considerable force to cut anything tough, and thats the moment the knife slips. With a sharp knife, there is little effort involved. Less effort, less force, so if a mishap happens the damage is smaller. You end up continuously thinking about where the blade would go, though. Don’t put your hand behind what you are trying to cut, nor try cutting things without a cutting board.

To keep knives sharp the best option is to have them sharpened by a professional. If done well, you don’t need to do anything for at least six months.

You will have to learn knife skills, I recommend buying a book. The most important insight: your knife is is like a saw, so you need to make to-and-from movements, not simply press down.

Once you have mastered knife skills, there are a lot of activities which are suddenly a lot faster. Chopping onions, making thin slices of ginger – all easy.

It also means that a lot of the gadgets people use (such as onion slicers) will be useless and you can throw them away.

In terms of choice, I would go for a single cook’s knife. The best place to buy a knife is in a local shop, because you really need to feel them in your hands. There are basically two sorts of good knives, the german ones and the japanese ones. The german ones (WMF, Dreizack, or any of the other Solingen houses) are excellent and will put you back about 150€, the Japanese ones (I know Kai) are much harder, much sharper, but will set you back at least 300€.

If you want to buy a second one, buy a good paring knife (about 80€)

Essential Kit for Efficient Family Cooking: A huge Freezer

If there is a single bit of kit that can dramatically decrease cooking times, it’s a large freezer.

Having the capacity to store for long periods batches of food you make should at least halve your total preparation time. It generally does not add a lot more to cooking times to double the quantities, so, just always cook twice the amout of stuff, and, bingo, you’ve just halved your total preparation time.

Things I prepare in huge batches and freeze:

  • Tomato sauce (for pasta)
  • Pesto Sauce
  • Kräuterbutter (herb butter)
  • Gulash (done in a large crockpot)
  • Vegetable Soup

Note that you should try to keep the small freezer in your fridge as empty as possible, because then it’s really useful. If it’s crammed, it’s useless.

Cooking your own food is the best indicator for a healthy diet

Cooking your own food is the best indicator for a healthy diet : watch this video

Surpisingly, the best indicator for a healthy diet is not calories, or nutrients, but simply: Are you cooking your own food? This video shows the relevant science, along with a frightening look into the food industry.

I like the fact that the author rightly differentiates between processed and highly processed food; I have absolutely no objections to stuff like frozen foods (they are frozen so quickly that the structure is not affected, and they are frozen so freshly that they actually contain more nutrients than the ‘fresh’ vegetables which have been transported all over the place). Things like canned tomatoes are a blessing, milled flour (careful, though, not too much white flour). Puffed pastry -I tried to make my own once, and it’s a huge pain!


Baked Potatoes

If you’ve got a programmable oven, baked potatoes are a great weekday meal which you can prepare in advance. It’s cheap and nutritious, and if you avoid calorie-rich toppings such as cheese and cream and go for a lighter filling, it’s not too calorietastic.

Baked potatoes

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

2 kg large, floury potatoes
2 tbsp olive oil

rub the potatoes liberally in oil, salt generously, put a few holes in the skin
cook in an 180° oven for 1 hour and 20 minutes

Some tips:

  • Notice the pie tart I’m cooking the potatoes in. Leaves the oven clean and I can put the dish in the dishwasher.
  • You can prepare the toppings beforehand.





Here some toppings you might consider: grated cheese, salmon, cottage cheese, quark and chives.