Since the publication of my book “Just A Few Seconds,” several people have emailed me to ask whether my cooking has improved since the chapter entitled “A Recipe For Shoestrings.” In it I wrote how during a very difficult time in my life I was living on a budget of £1 a day for food. Some people are able to do wonders with £1 spent wisely on ingredients but I am definitely not one of them. I was not only on a shoestring budget my meals actually tasted like shoestrings.

Since then, I met and married Federika, who specialising in dishes from all corners of the globe but particularly from Peru where she grew up. I am never going to win any awards for my cooking but she has taught me a lot and in particular shared that secret that all you crafty cooks have been keeping to yourselves: The Kitchen Timer.

Until I discovered the kitchen timer I used to rely on the smoke alarm which is a method I am told experienced cooks frown upon. In a terraced house in the UK, it was not a problem as I would always put the smoke alarm within easy reach so I could turn it off quickly. But one day while I was living in Los Angeles I was heating a chocolate muffin for my breakfast when the phone rang with a call from a prospective agent. I completely forgot about the muffin until the smoke alarm went off but being accustomed to this event I continued talking to the agent whilst removing the muffin from the oven and jumping up and down on a chair trying to blow cold air onto the alarm. As most of the buildings in L.A. are made of wood everyone is paranoid about fire so just as I thought I had everything under control and had the agent interested, the building manager started banging on my door and screaming at me to let him in. I never realised cooking could be so difficult. Here are a few more tips that I have discovered that I would like to pass on:

  • Keeping the kitchen floor clean from grease saves you from having to wear a crash helmet when you cook.
  • A baguette is not a small shopping bag
  • Using an apron means that cooking doesn’t always require a change of clothes
  • Crab apple is not a seafood
  • Putting a box of elastoplasts near the cutting board not only saves time searching for them but means no more mopping blood from the floor.
  • The oil you use for cooking is a different to the type you use in your car
  • Oven gloves save a lot of pain.
  • When breaking an egg it is better to use the edge of a knife rather than a hammer.
  • Chicken shit is not a substitute for Guinea fowl.
  • You don’t get black eyed beans by punching ordinary beans
  • You can’t make white sugar go brown by leaving it in the sun all day
  • Hitting a halibut with a hammer doesn’t make it a flatfish
  • You can’t scald pasta by telling it off.
  • Milkshakes were not invented by Arabic dairy farmers
  • Molasses are not moles’ bottoms.
  • Strong currents in Muesli are not dangerous to swimmers
  • Rigatoni is a kind of pasta, not the rigid state of a deceased Italian ice cream seller.
  • If you are running short of Tofu for that special dinner party try adding half a litre of water to a roll of toilet paper and blend in with one large packet of wallpaper paste. No one will ever know the difference.

If you have a cooking tip you would like to share with others please send them in.