Apply some elbow grease and get your kitchen in order for spring and summer. We have tips on cleaning, swapping ingredients and using up rogue packets of storecupboard tidbits.
Blossoming daffodils, verdant veg boxes, squeaking baby chicks… spring is all about new beginnings and brighter times. The clocks springing forward is the impetus we need for putting behind the dark days of winter and tackling a stale kitchen, filled with unseasonal ingredients, Christmas mincemeat and a freezer cabinet of soup and stew. Follow our tips for sprucing up your kitchen and bound into spring with the vitality of a baby lamb.
1. Love your lemons
Go eco-friendly with your cleaning approach and use lemons as a natural antibacterial bleach. If you’re using lemons in cooking, don’t throw away the squeezed halves- rub them over your chopping board to disinfect it, or use to clean and deodorize surfaces.
2. Swap your pasta
If your cupboard is littered with packets of pasta, each containing just shy of one portion, you’re not alone. Throw the tubes and ribbons you’d normally pair with wintry ragus and heavy sauces into a big pasta bake. You cant go wrong with a macaroni cheese, and this version uses up pine nuts too. Then, buy in a selection of more summery shapes. Orzo works well in light pasta salads, while small shapes like trofie, strozzapreti and fusilli are great with light sauces like pesto.
3. Get green-fingered
If you had the foresight to plant bulbs and seeds last year, you should be in for a bounty of brilliant spring ingredients – rhubarb, new potatoes and spring greens are all ripe for the picking in April and May. However, it’s not too late to plant in preparation for summer. No kitchen is too small to accommodate a few pots of fresh herbs – sprinkle a few seeds of basil, coriander and parsley into a pot of soil, keep them under cling film to germinate and expect the first leaves after around five weeks. It’s also a good time to sow seeds of dwarf and climbing beans, shallots and next year’s batch of asparagus. Gardeners' World is a useful resource- their collaborative guide with Good Food answers more specialist questions.
4. Go for soda
As well as being a baker's best friend, bicarbonate of soda is a magic cleaning product too. Ditch the expensive specialist products and use bicarbonate to cut through grease in blocked sinks and remove stains from crockery and surfaces by using a little sprinkled on a damp cloth. As its alkaline, it softens hard water and cuts through grime without scratching, so it’s suitable for cleaning chrome and steel. It also acts as a deodorant – keep your fridge pong-free by regularly wiping it with a cloth sprinkled with bicarbonate.
5. Clean out your cocktail cabinet
Say goodbye to the heavy, comforting drinks of winter and prepare for a season of al fresco supping. Use up those last few dribbles of Christmas Irish cream in a dessert, and use sherry in Spanish tapas, such as garlic prawns or braised pork cheeks – perfect for all the bank holiday entertaining that lies ahead. Then, replenish your stock with fresh spirits. We predict another summer of Negroni sipping, so stay in vogue with a bottle of crimson Campari. And nothing says summer like a cool gin and tonic on a bouncy lawn – add elderflower cordial, fresh mint, cucumber or rosemary and lots of ice.
6. Use your noodle
We’re often left with half empty packets of egg noodles, stray bottles of soy sauce and rice wine at the back of our cupboards, so we’re not shy of an experimental stir-fry or noodle salad. If you prefer to follow a recipe, try this salmon supper that also uses up sesame seeds. If you feel like a break from thick udon and egg noodles, swap them for rice vermicelli, buckwheat and glass noodles.
7. Spring clean your diet
With National Vegetarian Week on the horizon (Monday 19th – Sunday 25th May), there’s no better time to try going meat-free a few days a week. Take up the challenge with help from our vegetarian recipes and make some simple swaps to ease the transition – try lentils instead of mince and halloumi in place of chicken, while family favourites can be easily adapted for a vegetarian diet. Even if you want to return to the carnivorous side in time for barbecue season, just a small period of meat-free living might change your perspective in the long term.
8. Descale without fail
After a winter of endless cups of tea and coffee, chances are your kettle may have a slightly grim interior. Make the most of storecupboard vinegar by doubling it up as a descaler. As it’s a weak acid, it is perfect for cleaning, disinfecting and reducing limescale and mineral deposits. Add half a cup of neat white vinegar to a kettle filled with water and leave it to sit overnight - this should remove any surface scale. If you have a chrome kettle you could also use it on a cloth or newspaper to buff up the outside.
9. Clear out pulses and grains
Some of the most common offenders when it comes to storecupboard stragglers are lentils, bulghar wheat and couscous. Make the most of them in a spring-friendly recipe. Lentils are perfect for salads or teamed with healthy steamed fish. Make bulghar wheat a picnic or barbecue staple – there's no saying no to fruity tabbouleh with grilled lamb chops. Couscous is so easy to use it doesn’t even need cooking – just pour on boiling water, cover with cling film and leave it to absorb the liquid, before adding butter or oil and fluffing with a fork. Then the world is your oyster – with such a blank canvas, you can go wild with spices, vegetables, salad and cheese.
10. Tackle the oven
Surely the most miserable of kitchen cleaning tasks, scrubbing the oven is an emotional black hole. We recommend a concoction of equal parts salt and bicarbonate of soda, and enough vinegar to make it froth into a spreadable paste, plus a squirt of lemon juice. Remove gunk from the corners with wire wool, a sponge, an old toothbrush and metal scraper – you’ll be surprised at how effective such a benign cocktail of products can be!
Will you be donning the marigolds for a stint refreshing your kitchen? Share your tips with us…