How To Remove Coffee and Tea Stains From China Cups
My lovely Royal Copenhagen mugs are a magnet for tea stains. I refuse to use harsh chemicals (bleach, denture tablets, hydrogen peroxide, etc.) on their delicate surface, so what to do? How to remove coffee and tea stains from the inside of your precious cups?
Yes, indeed. Just plain old table salt.
Rinse out the cup with cool water, and then sprinkle a thin layer of table salt all around the inside of the cup. The moist surface keeps the salt adhered to the cup. Let it sit for a minute. Now put your index finger to work. Well, not work really — just a gentle circular massage of the cup’s surface where the stain is. Within seconds you’ll see the stain absorbed into the salt. The salt turns a mucky colour. Keep massaging the surface until the stain is completely removed. It’s quick. It’s fast. It’s easy and cheap and, trust me, it works.
When I discovered this method of removing stains from fine bone china cups, I shouted at Mr Misk: “ WOW! Come look at this! Come quick!”
He ran. All excited. Thought I’d won the lottery. Obviously, he wasn’t nearly as excited as I was because he thought he’d just become rich rather than just stain-free. But that’s men for you. I get excited about stain removal; he doesn’t.
How do you remove coffee or tea stains from your cups?
My mum loved to burn potatoes. Well, that’s what I assumed. Turns out that she just burned potatoes. No love involved.
It’s like this, you see. My dad loved crispy fried potatoes, and true to form, my mum never quite knew when to stop. That makes sense when you have a few facts, like she didn’t learn to drive until she was 45, and until then she only stopped when she wanted to. Now she had to stop for red lights, stop signs, pedestrians crossing the street, squirrels, cats, dogs … stopping for potatoes was a brake too far.
Mum was cooking potatoes without benefit of Heston’s secret. I now know how to make roast potatoes that my dad would’ve loved. Fluffy inside, crispy, golden and crunchy outside. Heston uses 50:50 beef drippings and olive oil. The beef dripping’s not necessary; I used all olive oil with perfect result. But that’s not the secret.
Heston’s secret is two-fold: 1. Use fluffy roasting or baking potatoes. Red skin ones are best, and a large size so you cut them into to equal size chunks. Small ones won’t work well because you need three flat sides. If they’re too small, you’ll only have one flat side because you’ve cut each one in half rather than lots of chunks. You’ll understand why later when you try it yourself. And now for number 2. Cook them in gently simmering water until VERY VERY soft and they’re starting to fall apart. Not parboiled like Delia taught us. They should be at the stage where you think “Oh, no! I’ve overlooked them!” If that’s what you’re thinking after 20-25 minutes, then you’ve boiled them perfectly. Hurrah for you.
Slowly, carefully, as if fighting the effects of gravity, drain the cooked potatoes into a sieve or colander, and allow to cool completely. They’ll dry as the steam rolls off them. The edges should be separated, flakey, ready to fall off into mush. If you’re too heavy-handed when draining them into the sieve, the potatoes will collapse into mush, so easy does it. Now, fire up the oven to 200c, and place a roasting pan with about 1/2-inch of (olive) oil in it so it gets very hot. When the oil is shimmeringly hot, add the potatoes using a spoon (gently!), roll them in the oil so they’re covered with a thin slick, and put the potatoes in the oven to brown. Turn over each chunk at 20 minute intervals, and watch them carefully so they don’t burn. Mine were ready in 45-minutes.
Heston’s Roasted Potatoes
Ingredients: (serves 4)
1 kilo large red-skin potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
4 sprigs each of rosemary and thyme wrapped in cheese cloth
(if you don’t wrap the rosemary in a cloth, the needles come off and make a mess on the potatoes. I had to pick them off by hand.)
6 small garlic cloves bashed with the side of a knife
olive oil, enough for a layer 1/2-inch deep in a roasting pan
Peel and cut the potatoes into equal size chunks. Put them in a pot of cold water with the whole/bashed garlic cloves and the cheese cloth bag of herbs. Bring up to a boil, uncovered, and then reduce the heat so the potatoes cook at a low simmer until very soft and starting to fall apart along the edges. About 20-25 minutes. Carefully drain into a colander or sieve, slowly slowly slowly, so they don’t collapse into a mushy mess. Discard the cloth with herbs, but set aside the garlic cloves, and allow the potatoes to cool. The cooler the better, actually. Cool, cooked potatoes absorb less oil than hot ones.
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F when the potatoes are cool.
Pour 1/2-inch of olive oil or vegetable oil into a roasting pan large enough to hold all the chunks in one layer. Put the pan in the oven so the oil can reach a shimmery high heat.
Now, carefully spoon each chunk of potato into the pan of hot oil. Turn gently so each chunk is coated with a thin slick of oil, toss in the boiled garlic and pop the pan back into the oven before the oil can cool too much.
Roast for 45-60 minutes, turning the potatoes about every 20-minutes so they can brown on all sides.
Don’t throw away any of the little crispy bits that have fallen off the potatoes. They’re delicious. Drain on a layer of paper towelling, and serve hot with a sprinkle of flaked salt.
Note: This recipe is based on Heston Blumenthal’s. I’ve omitted the beef drippings, reduced the time in the oven roasting, and a bit of other faffing about that he’s famous for.
My Molly loves treats but some of them are not particularly healthy. Some have a large amount of sugar, and in my opinion a dog should not be introduced to sugar. I want to know what Molly is eating. Fat? That’s what the ingredient list said on a popular brand of dog treats. I want to know where that fat comes from, what animal or vegetable. Molly is precious to me, and I want the best for her.
She likes these dog biscuits a lot. There’s very little animal fat in them, as I used vegetable fat (Trex) with just a hint of bacon drippings to tempt her nose.
These are easy to make. Peder helped! Mix by hand, bake for 20-30 minutes, turn the squares over, turn-off the oven and continue baking and drying-out while the oven cools-off. Bon appetit, puppy.
Homemade Dog Biscuits
200g strong wholemeal flour
50g wheat germ
½ cup bacon drippings or vegetable fat like Trex
1 large egg, beaten
118ml/ ½ cup cold water
Preheat the oven to 350F/180C.
Mix all of the ingredients together my hand. If it’s too dry, add a few drops of water. If too wet, add a pinch of flour and knead into dough.
Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surfaced to about ½-inch thick. Cut into squares or shapes as small or large as you think your dog might like. Line a baking sheet with parchment, and place the dough squares on it. Use a wooden skewer to poke 4-5 holes in each biscuit.
Bake for 20-30-minutes until lightly browned and firmed, turn biscuits over, and return the baking sheet to the oven. Turn the oven OFF, and allow the biscuits to cool and finish drying in the warmth of the cooling oven. Leave in the oven until it’s completely cool. Store in an air-tight container.
After the kitchen renovation, and long months without any refrigeration or power, I was certain that Sedrick-the-Sourdough-Starter was gummy history. I couldn’t interest him in anything; nothing brought a rise out of the boy. I couldn’t stand the idea of chucking him out though, so I stuck a bit of him in a Ziploc bag and stuck the bag into the freezer … where I promptly forgot it. Several months later, I started a new starter, rediscovered Sedrick freezin’ his boots off in freezer, thawed him out … gave him a good pep talk, and tossed him into the new starter. Gaazooks. Sedrick immediately came to life, and within 2 hours the glass bowl was nearly overflowing. It’s true; it’s hard to keep a good boy down. Sedrick lives. And we made a delicious loaf of sourdough white.
a bag of bread flour
an organic apple (I have apple trees)
a large clear-ish plastic or glass bowl with a lid (or use cling film)
tepid water from the tap (kitchen faucet)
a scale for weighing the flour and water
Grate a small organic apple, but don’t go near the core. No need to peel the apple. Set the grated apple aside.
Now in a large plastic or glass bowl, stir together 250g bread flour and 250g tepid water until all of the lumps are gone. Stir in the grated apple. Cover with cling film, and set in a room-temperature location in the kitchen where you can look inside the bowl from time to time. By day 2 or 3, you should see a few small bubbles breaking the surface. Fermentation has started. It LIVES!
Chuck out all but 100g of the soupy starter, and “refresh” its food supply with a new measure of 100g bread flour and 100g tepid water. Stir. Cover again. Say nightie-night. You have a living creature in that bowl now, so we teach good manners by example. We say ‘good morning’ and good night’ and ‘wake up your lazy so-and-so; you’re going to miss the school bus’. Stuff like that.
Day 5: Did your starter climb up the bowl a bit? Can you see a new high tideline on the inside of the bowl? I use a clear plastic bowl so I can mark the ‘refresh’ level with a pen, and then compare where the new tideline is to see how awake the starter is. By now, mine was trying to run off in the middle of the night for some iffy rendezvous. Refresh your starter by chucking out all but 50g of old gooey-wiggly-batter-like starter, and stirring in new food: 100g bread flour and 100g water.
Day 6: Refresh your starter (toss out all but 50g to which you’ll add 100g bread flour and 100g water. That’s a total starter weight of 250g). Wait for 6-10 hours, and if the starter grows up the side of the bowl at least double its original height, your starter is ready for use. If it doesn’t, feed it again, and see if it has more oomph the next day. If your kitchen is cold, you’ll need to be patient.
If you’re going to bake bread the following day: Give your starter a stir, and then add 100g bread flour and 100g tepid water. You should now have roughly 450g starter ready to use the next morning. The starter will feed on the fresh bread flour overnight. BUT … Don’t use ALL of your starter. Measure out 50g in the morning, feed it, and store it away – then you use the remaining 400g.
If you’re NOT going to bake bread for a few days, store your 250g of starter in the fridge, feeding it once a week as described above (chuck out all but 50g starter to which you add 100g bread flour and 100g tepid water). Some of your starter can also be frozen as a back-up should your little jewel pop its clogs. Been there; done that.
Out on the internet there are plenty of methods and recipes and percentages for making a sourdough starter. You can use grapes or apples. I’ve known people who use pineapple. This just happens to be the easiest “recipe” for me to remember because the hydration percentages are 100g weight for each, and I just retained 50g of the old starter which always gets fed 100g of bread flour and 100g tepid water. I use tap water, by the way. It works fine. No need (imo) to buy bottled water for this, although many bakers do. Thames Water works brilliantly for me. I pay for the darned stuff; might as well use it is my thinking.
So next step. Let’s make sourdough bread!
400g newly-refreshed sourdough starter at room temperature
175g strong flour/white bread flour
25g softened butter
50g tepid water
8 g table salt
7g instant yeast
(if you want certainty of a good rise, add 7g instant yeast for a hybrid loaf, although I don’t think you’ll need the yeast as your starter should easily carry the weight of this amount of flour and water)
Pour your starter into a large bowl, add the flour bit by bit stirring it into the starter, slowly add the water, stirring until a soft dough forms and all the flour is picked up from the bottom of the bowl. You may not need all of the water. If you’re using a stand mixer, throw in the first 3 ingredients, mix well, add the water if needed to form a soft ball of dough (tacky is okay but not super-sticky at this stage – I’m not good at handling very wet dough).
Allow the dough to rest for 5-minutes, and then mix in the salt very, very well. I spread the dough out on a lightly floured work surface, sprinkle on the salt, and knead it into the dough. Let rest.
Now knead the dough for 5-10 minutes by hand until it’s soft and silky. Or use your stand mixer, and knead with a dough hook for 5-minutes at low speed. Do a windowpane test after 5-minutes. If the dough ‘breaks’ before the windowpane is visible, knead a bit longer.
Lightly oil a large glass or plastic bowl, shape your dough into a ball, and set in it the bowl to rise. It took my boy Sedrick about 3-1/2 hours to rise the dough enough for my liking.
Gently remove the dough from the bowl, lightly press into a rectangular shape, and then fold each short end into the middle of the length, and then roll the two folds into one log-shape. Press the seam at the bottom closed (tightly), and press the ends closed and tuck (slightly) under. Allow to rise on a baking sheet or in a tin, covered by a towel or inside a large plastic bag until doubled in size (about an hour in a warm room).
Preheat the oven to 220c. Place an empty roasting tray on the bottom rack of the oven to warm. When the oven is hot, put your loaf of bread in, and immediately close the door. 2-3 minutes later, open the oven door and very quickly pour hot water into the roasting tray to create steam. Quick! Close the oven door so you don’t let too much heat or steam escape. That steam will allow your bread crust to expand so you’ll get a good rise. Bake at 220c for 30-35 minutes until it sounds hollow when you rap the bottom of the loaf.
I managed to pick up a large package of on-the-stem cherry tomatoes the other day. They were past their sell-by date but they looked okay – not fuzzy or rotten. When I opened the package, the tomatoes felt just slightly soft, so I fired up the oven to 200C, sliced the tomatoes in half, drizzled some olive oil on the tomatoes, sprinkled a bit of flaked salt on top with some chopped garlic and fresh oregano, and roasted them for about 4-minutes.
Totally delicious served with some sourdough bread to mop up the juices, and it cost less than £1 for two servings. Buying past the sell-by-date produce is a good way to save a bit of money!
Do you have a favourite way of saving a bit of money at the grocery store?
See all of these apple peels? I have bucket loads of them! Guess what …
I just saw a recipe (that’s not really a recipe at all) for using up these bits that would normally go straight into the compost pile. Actually, I don’t have a compost pile anymore – during the garden remodel that corner of the old garden is now filled with a couple of fruit trees. I’m not sure if I’ll resurrect another compost pile or not. Maybe a little one that doesn’t insult the newly planted box bushes or the rock garden with its little alpine cuteness.
Anyway, back to the apple peels. Spray them with a bit of water, sprinkle them lightly with sugar (or Splenda in my case), spread them out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and bake at 120C (low temp) until they are crispy and rolled up like old dead tree bark. Sounds appetising. I plan to try this tomorrow, as it’s “Let’s make more applesauce day!” (groaning heard from Mr Misk)
Has anyone else tried doing this? Was it successful or am I wasting expensive electricity on a half-baked whim?
It’s harvest time, and even if you haven’t grown tomatoes this summer, you can still make this delicious basic tomato sauce that will wow your taste buds. It’s good. Really good.
This is a slightly tweaked version of Marcella Hazan’s Basic Italian Tomato Sauce. I like spicy, so I’ve included black pepper, cayenne pepper, and a bit more butter added at the end to thicken and gloss the sauce. I also didn’t have enough home-grown tomatoes, so I bought some and pumped up the volume with a 400g tin of whole peeled tomatoes.
The amount of butter is a bit sinful, but it’s not worth the effort if you reduce it or substitute it. It adds a gorgeous sheen and richness.
Rich Red Tomato Sauce
2 pounds of fresh tomatoes, seeded and skinned (or 2 large tins chopped toms
8 tablespoons cold butter, cubed (5T to start and 3T stirred in at the end)
1 large onion, peeled and cut in half diagonally
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Flaked sea salt to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
If using fresh tomatoes, pop them whole on a baking sheet into the freezer and allow them to freeze hard. Remove and thaw. The skins will slide right off, and you can squeeze out the seeds and excess juice easily into a strainer. Keep the strained juice for soup stock. Chop the tomatoes into chunks (remove core and stem), and place them in a heavy-bottom, oven-safe pan with the salt, pepper and cayenne. Stir well. Add the onion cut into 2 equal halves, and 5 tablespoons of cubed butter. Bring to a slow simmer on the cooker, and then place the pot uncovered in the oven at a low temperature (approximately 150C/300F/G2) that maintains the simmer for 1 hour, stirring once every half hour. If the tomato chunks are still firm, continue cooking another 30-45 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning. If a smooth sauce is required, use a hand-blender (stick-blender). I usually press any solids against the back of a spoon, keeping some of the chunks intact for use as a pasta sauce. Serve with shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
EASY AS PIE: HOW TO MAKE CHICKEN POT PIE FROM LEFTOVER ROAST CHICKEN
Sunday roast dinner was a free-range chicken from Norfolk. Paid a king’s ransom for it, too. Chicken isn’t a cheap alternative to roast beef anymore. So when I roast a chicken for Sunday dinner, I am already thinking of ample leftovers to make proper meals a few days later. But what to do with the leftovers. Warming them up and pouring on reheated gravy is just too boring, and too same-same. And rather disgusting, too.
So I pulled out my new cookery book that I bought for a giggle and a cough at Costco. I’ve wanted this book for yonks but the price always put me off buying it. Well, Costco had it in mountain-loads for a price that I doubt covered the cost of printing. I bought it. “MasterChef’s Complete Cookery Course”. Clear instructions, lots of photos, an intriguing range of recipes and techniques from easy-peasy to pass-the-smelling-salts-I’m-going-to-faint. I can’t wait to try the falling-over-faint ones.
And there on page 98 was what I was looking for: Chicken and Parsley Pot Pie. The recipe wanted leftover chicken (tick), lots of fresh parsley (tick; I have mucho home-grown), chopped onion (tick), minced garlic (tick), leftover veg (tick: carrots), chopped celery (tick), a white sauce from whole milk (only skim milk in this house), and shortcrust pastry. I didn’t have the latter, so off I toddled in my little Smart car, bumping up and down on vicious speed bumps (I hate speed bumps with a passion since owning this car!), and bought some shortcrust pastry. And then I bumped up and down back home, counting the speed bumps. there are 12 speed humps between Tesco and my house. That’s insane.
Anyway … humps aside …
Then I chopped and minced and cubed and stirred and melted and whisked and folded it all together and poured it into a square casserole dish. And then on to the pastry. I took it out of the fridge 10-minutes before opening the package so it would warm up slightly, having been in the fridge for a few hours. Then a light dusting a flour on my work surface, and I spread the pastry out like a soft blanket and measured it. Goodness. Gracious. It was the exact size that I needed: 4cm (1-¼” inches) wider and longer than the actual dish’s dimensions. I took that as a sign that this was meant to succeed. Pastry and I have an unhappy history; it hates me. And I’m afraid of it.
I took a few scraps from the trimmings, and made pretty little leaves, four of them. Oh how I loved decorating the pie. Never thought that I had that ability in me. Old dog; new tricks; you betcha! Woof.
Then the egg-wash. Beat one egg very thoroughly, and lightly brushed the top surface of the pastry with the egg-wash. After that, it was popped into the fridge for at least 20-minutes, or until you’re ready to bake it. A few hours later, Peder was complaining that his tummy was running on empty, so I fired up the oven to 200C (conventional heat), and when it was completely preheated, I did the egg-wash thingy again … and then popped it into the oven to bake for 30-35 minutes until beautifully browned.
It was delicious, and cost next to nothing because it was all leftover from Sunday’s Roast. I think John and Greg from MasterChef would be impressed. Peder was! I will never be too shy to decorate a meat pie in the future, and I certainly won’t be afraid of using pastry!
I can’t include the entire recipe here because of copyright issues, and I do encourage anyone interested in challenging their cookery skills to buy the book. As a published writer, I encourage people to purchase books, no surprise there. For general guidance, here’s an ingredient list with a few pointers on method.
Beyond the ingredients list, I’d like to tell you what I learned from this recipe, and what in my opinion led to its success.
1. The pie filling was room temperature. Not steamy hot, which apparently can cause the pastry to go soggy underneath. And be sure that the dish is filled up!
2. Cut the pastry much larger than the pie dish so there’s room for it to shrink during baking.
3. Make BIG vent holes for the steam to escape during baking. BIG. Not danty little peek-a-boo holes.
4. Egg wash, then into the fridge for at least 30-minutes to rest, then egg wash again and into a hot oven immediately.
And finally, the last thing that I learned from the recipe was MasterChef thinks it’s okay to buy pastry from the supermarket. Just be sure that it’s good quality, made with real ingredients rather than cheap chemicals and additives.