LIFE IS ALL ABOUT HACKS – how we can save time , make less mess , be more efficient and generally ‘ better ’ is a major concern it seems , but when it comes to kitchen hacks , I think the pressure should be taken off a little . It ’ s all very well being tempted by heated kitchen rails that simultaneously warm red wine while steaming tea towels , or a microherb garden for the ambitious urbanite that slots neatly between floating knife rack and magnetic toaster , but for many of us the kitchen is still very much the heart of the home and often a busy and messy , but relaxing place . These kitchen hacks are very clever , but refreshingly simple too , so you can employ them today and marvel at their usefulness . BY POLLY HUMPHRIS
Tips you need
Know your avocados
All hail the avocado ; one of the world ’ s most glorious , versatile foods , yet one where optimum ripeness is tricky to guess at best . Until now . Next time you ’ re choosing an avocado , pop out the stem – if the colour you uncover is light green , it ’ s underripe ; if it ’ s brown , it ’ s past it ’ s best ; if it ’ s a darker shade of yellowy-green , it ’ s spot on .
Wave goodbye to brown guacamole
You ’ ve sourced the perfect avocado , you ’ ve bought a mountain of tortilla chips and you ’ ve made a heavenly guacamole … but it ’ s gone brown . One of life ’ s biggest mysteries until now , the secret to retaining your guacamole ’ s fresh green colour is to stop it from oxygenating , which you can easily do with water . Simply pour just enough water on top of your dip to cover it , and then cover the container over with cling film . When you ' re ready to eat it , carefully pour off the water , et voila , fresh green guac .
Freeze leftover liquids
Psychologists say it takes approximately 21 days to form a new habit and one well worth forming is to freeze leftover liquids . Sounds obvious , but not many of us do it . Food companies insist on selling broths , soups and stocks in enormous quantities , but instead of letting a portion slowly go to waste in your fridge , try freezing what you ’ ve got leftover in an ice cube tray and then storing the cubes in an airtight container to be reheated another day . There isn ’ t actually much you can ’ t freeze ; the ends of onions , stems and carrot tops make a great base for flavouring soups and stocks , and apparently you can freeze leftover wine too , whatever that is .
Scoop out seeds with ease
Tired of getting repetitive strain every time you try and scoop out the seeds from squash ( and let ’ s not even mention the cramp-inducing marathon that is deseeding a pumpkin )? Three words : ice cream scoop . The edge of an ice cream scoop is sharp , so it cuts through all the fibre and gooey stuff with far greater ease than your hand or a regular spoon can .
Soak up excess fat
Skim a few ice cubes wrapped in a piece of kitchen towel across the surface of any stocks , soups or stews that have developed an unsightly top layer of fat and it ’ ll help solidify the fat into more manageable chunks making it easier to remove with a spoon or , surprisingly , a piece of toast , which , when rested on the top soaks it all up in one slice . A bonus bread tip for you : when cutting onions , fold a piece of bread in half and hold it in your mouth ; it ’ ll absorb irritant gas before it reaches your eyes .
Cooking anything with syrup or honey is guaranteed to leave you , your spoons and your kitchen surfaces in a sticky mess … but , dab your spoon or measuring cup lightly with cooking oil before you scoop up any sticky ingredient and the oil will ensure it slides right off in one neat blob .
No more rusty woks
Scrubbing your iron wok with soapy water is a no-no ; it ’ ll strip away the base seasoning leading to rust , which can leave food then cooked in it with an odd metallic taste . The answer ? Clean it with a paste made from coarse salt and water to remove stuck-on bits of food . For best results , rinse afterwards with boiling water , dry , and then rub with a light coating of vegetable oil .