Top Ten: Kitchen Food & Drink Tips...

Busy families are always pushed for time and let's face it are only too happy to take (safe) shortcuts in the kitchen to make life a little easier. Here's my 'Top 10' very simple tips in the kitchen with everyday items and ingredients, tips that you may or may not have seen before. 

1) How to easily peel a whole head of garlic 

How simple is this?! I've had a few designs of garlic press over the years, but this is a time saver when roasting or pickling instead of fiddling about with a knife and then there comes the issue of cleaning the holes in the darn garlic press!

2) How to open a bottle of wine without a corkscrew

This is ingenious! How many times have you been to a relative house or a non drinker where they haven't got or can't find a cork screw? It's a good party trick at a BBQ as well and you're too lazy to go to the kitchen, just don't try it when your tipsy!

3) How to chop onions without tears

I never knew about this until recently. Sometimes cutting onions can be excruciating to the average eye, but if you have contacts, sensitive or any other obstacles this could save you a lot of pain, what have you got to lose?

4) How to easily peel a hard boiled egg

"Where do tough chickens come from? Hard-boiled eggs!" No, I didn't think that was funny either, but nor is peeling eggshells and if you're like my wife, if there's one miniscule piece of shell left on the egg, she won't eat it! Now I haven't actually tried this, so please let us know if it works or not?

5) How to stop a pan boiling over

This is my wife's excuse why she won't go anywhere near a hob from being mentally scarred as a child, of course that's just a lame excuse, but this is handy if you've got a lot going on in the kitchen or just have to nip out of the room go for a pee!

6) How to easily peel a banana like a monkey

Yes, that's right, how clever monkey's do it. And as we've evolved from our ape cousins that means they've been doing it a lot longer than we have! Clever eh?.. well can a monkey cook a spaghetti bolognese?..meh, silly monkey's!

7) How to cook the perfect steak with Gordon Ramsey

Love him or loath him, he's a great chef and when it comes to Michelin Star restaurant standard of cooking (he has fifteen stars!), he knows what he's talking about. I love my steaks medium rare, so just watching this video makes me salivate!

8) How to open a bottle of beer with a piece of paper

Another ingenious method to open your favourite tipple, this time in the form of an A4 piece of paper to open a bottle of beer! Sounds impossible you say, well I'd have to agree with you until I saw this video. Another good party trick, or some scatterbrain has walked off with your bottle opener keyring!

9) How to cook perfect fluffy rice with Jamie Oliver

Something that most people get wrong, including me and i'm an average cook. This is simply all you need to know how to make the perfect rice and as a bonus, some great flavouring methods too from another 'marmite' chef Jamie Oliver.

10) How to easily make bread and cheaply

How much has bread gone up in the last 10 years? Well not in-line with inflation. Whether it's due to climate, decreasing farm land or bad politics, shop bought bread is expensive. Here's an idiots guide how to make bread and cheaply!

Do you have any favourite tips? Leave a comment below.

My Top Ten Christmas Tunes

By Mark Jennings

When I set out to do this Top 10 I started to realise what a near impossible task it would be! I nearly ended up doing a Top 20 as there's so many great tunes that get you into the Christmas mood.

Whilst you many not agree with the order of my selections, you can't disagree that they're fab tunes. My main music taste is heavy rock and metal, but I'm a kid of the 70's and 80's and still a big kid at heart, so sit back and enjoy some slightly cheesy and some bloomin' marvelous festive tunes....

10) East 17 - Stay Another Day

My 1st choice even surprises myself, I mean, I don't like East 17. But I do think it's a great christmas feeling song even though it wasn't written for that purpose but for Tony Mortimers brother who commited suicide! ...Anyway, the christmas bells were later added and it became their only number one hit at Christmas in 1994.

09) The Darkness - Christmas Time (Don't Let The Bells End)

Being a rocker, I love The Darkness and when they released this electric little number in 2003 it reminded me of the great upbeat glam christmas hits from Wizzard, Slade and Gary Glitter. It unfortunately never made number one and was kept off the top spot by that bloomin' miserable Tears for Fears cover by Gary Jules!

08) Frankie Goes to Hollywood - The Power of Love

This is again another Christmas hit that wasn't written specifically as a Christmas song. After the success of 'Relax' and 'Two Tribes' they decided to release a ballad and as it was towards December Godley & Creme directed a nativity based video that hit number one in 1984. Nevertheless this great ballad has become a 'stable' (excuse the pun) Christmas tune.

07) Paul McCartney - Wonderful Christmas Time

The late 70's early 80's were hit and miss for McCartney, some blinding tracks and quite a few cheesy ones including this from 1979. I love it for the fact it's got that 'feel good' factor and reminds me of Christmas as a child. It only hit number 6 in the UK, the Christmas number one for that year was my favourite group Pink Floyd with 'Another Brick in the Wall'.

06) Chris De Burgh - A Spaceman Came Travelling

This track from 1976 was a great piece of singer songwriting, something about the Star of Bethlehem being a spacecraft used by Gabriel to give a message to the shepherds and goes on to make a prophecy of the Second Coming or something like that? Anyway a cracking song that got to number one in his home country Ireland but not the UK.

05) Slade - Merry Christmas Everybody

Everyone loves this track right? The heyday of the best Christmas anthems and this number one by Slade in 1973 is probably the finest that has charted an amazing 19 times! This should probably be number one in my top ten, but to be honest I'm a bit fed up of hearing it as well as Wizzards 'I Wish it Could Be Christmas Everyday' which I left off my Top Ten completely!

04) The Pogues - Fairytale of New York

In theory probably one of the most unlikely duets, but this celtic punk/folk classic works beautifully with the lazy drunken vocals from Shane MacGowan juxtaposed with the beautiful voice of the late Kirsty MacColl. In many a poll it's been voted greatest Christmas song of all time and yes it's very, very, good. But i'll think you'll understand my next few selections...

03) Bing Crosby - White Christmas

In my opinion, there's no other Christmas song that makes you feel as warm and cosy inside as this absolute classic. Written by Irving Berlin, the Bing Crosby version is said to be the best-selling single of all time. Originally recorded in 1942 the most famous viewing probably being from the movie 'Holiday Inn' as in this video.

02) Band Aid - Do They Know It's Christmas

Love it or hate it you can't deny that this Migde Ure penned track's got a great 80's bass hook and as an 11 year old before I discovered proper music, a great selection of British pop stars! It hit number one in 1984 and was the biggest UK selling single of all time before that god awful track by Elton John took over in 1997.

01) Jona Lewie - Stop the Cavalry

This has been my favourite Christmas track for as long as I can remember. Another song that's not about Christmas, but just mentions 'Wish I was at home for Christmas' during the First World War and with the brass band playing gives it that christmassy feel. Very catchy and a song that you don't get so sick of like Slade or Wizzard. It was kept of the top slot in the UK by two John Lennon re-releases who was sadly murdered on December 8th.

My Stocking Filler!

Trans-Siberian Orchestra - Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24

I didn't include this in my list because although you may be familiar with the tune, you probably won't of heard the track or the band. Originally this piece came from the band Savatage, but after the death of one of the bands members, a side project was formed and they remain one of the top touring rock bands of the last decade!