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Kitchen Chairs: Useful Points To Consider

By | Advice

Chairs are something a lot of individuals will probably take for granted when designing their dream kitchen; they’re rarely the focus in quite the same way appliances, work surfaces, or even decorative aspects are. And yet, they’re a considerably important component, arguably one of the most important of all; I mean, as obvious a question as it is to ask, where the heck are you going to sit if there’s no kitchen chairs to be found?

Of course, it isn’t simply a matter of just buying “a” set of chairs; you’re going to need to think very hard about the kind of kitchen environment you’re interested in creating. First things first; do you intend the kitchen to also double as a dinning area? Then you’re going to need to take that into consideration, and invest in a decent set of dinning chairs. How many family members you need to cater for, as well as how many guests you expect to host on a regular basis are factors you’ll need to consider in this regard, as well.

Kitchen Chairs: A Social Hub?

Many people also consider their kitchens general social hubs, if not necessarily the place family members gather to eat; bar-styled chairs may be a better option in such a scenario, although again it’s worth considering how many people you’re going to need to provide seating for. Bar-styled seating will also work far better for your kitchen environment if you intend it to include a central island. And, of course, being conscious of the style you’d like- or that will work alongside the other elements of your kitchen- is an absolute must. Given the flexibility of design and the subjectivity of taste, however, this is merely a matter of preference on the part of the individual.

Thankfully, although it may often be overlooked, most providers will be working very much in your favour when it comes to seating in your kitchen. In fact, we here at Silke can provide almost any kind of seating you’d like, as part of our high quality, ultra modern kitchen packages (note, however, that we do not provide chairs unless they are a part of one of our package kitchens). As always, if you have any further inquiries, do get in touch with us for additional consultation.

Cottage Pie: The British Delight

By | Advice

Cottage Pie is an interesting spin on a typical meat pie recipe; instead of using a typical pie crust or something like filo pastry, cottage pie using a layer of mashed potato as a crust. The meat most commonly used is beef, typically minced, which is spread across a baking dish before a layer of mashed potato is applied to the top of the meat mixture. Some personal recipes will mix different things into the meat mixture, such as onions, carrots, even peas in some instances.

Cottage Pie Meats

The dish actually came about as a means of making use of leftover meat, a practise going back at least as far as the late 1700s (which is when the term cottage pie started appearing in cookery books). The recipe has largely remained the same, although early on, the pie dish would actually be lined with a layer of mashed potato before the meat was added. The name cottage pie came about as a result of the potato becoming a wildly available crop for the lower classes, with the term “cottage” itself often used to refer to fairly humble places of residence for rural workers.

On that subject, though the term shepherds pie and cottage pie are often used interchangeably, regardless of the meat filling contained within, a shepherds pie is traditionally supposed to contain mutton, hence the name. In modern terms however, lamb is often used due and this makes for an absolutely delicious meal, if I do say so myself.

Variations

A few notable versions of the cottage pie exists that are worth briefly documenting. First, there’s the Cumberland pie, which is nearly identical, save for an additional layer of breadcrumbs laid atop the mashed potato layer (presumably to help crisp up the top layer during the baking process even more so then it would otherwise).

The fish pie (or ocean pie) is likewise fairly similar, only it instead calls for a filling comprised of poached fish (typically smoked white fish, such as cod or haddock), and a light cheese sauce partially made from the milk used to poach the Fish. Finally, there’s the St. Stephens Pie; specifically made in commemoration of St. Stephens Day (which falls on either the 26th or 27th of December, depending on the church). The St. Stephens Pie will use a mixture of turkey and ham in place of beef.

Stottie Cake: What is it? Who eats it?

By | Advice

Also sometimes referred to as simply Stotty, this is a bread variant that originated in and remains popular throughout the North East of England. The chief difference between Stottie Cake and most other forms of Bread are it’s heavy mouth feel and texture; though the bread is in fact Leavened, the texture is very reminiscent of dough. Somewhat atypical is the fact that a lot of Stottie Cake is actually kneaded to fit specific measurements- typically around 12 inches (or 30 centimetres) in diameter, and 4 inches in depth.

The Stottie is most associated with breakfast, typically being filled with or served alongside Eggs and Bacon, although occasionally it is also paired up with Ham or Pease Pudding.

Further deepening it’s heritage to the northernmost parts of the country, the name Stottie Cake is said to be a rough adaptation of the Geordie slang term “stott”, which means “to bounce”; the logic being that if a Stottie Cake were to be dropped, it would (in theory) bounce due to its texture.

Stotties can be found outside Britain, but in other regions it is more commonly known as Oven Bottom Bread.

Famous fans of the Stottie include world famous boxer Muhammed Ali, as seen here enjoying an onion, lettuce, cucumber and tomato stuffed monster of a sandwich in 1977.

Scones: A Brief Overview

By | Advice

Scones are probably one of the single most iconic British foods around, an honour shared with the likes of crumpets, jellied eels, and pie & mash, to name but just a few. The traditional scone is made using a mixture comprised of either Wheat, Barley, or Oatmeal and Baking Power, mixed with butter and milk before being baked on sheet pans and slightly sweetened.

Occasionally, they are also glazed using an egg wash mixture. They make up one of the core elements of a Devonshire Cream Tea, a light afternoon meal which includes (funnily enough) tea, scones, and lashings of clotted cream and strawberry jam. A number of variations on the scone exist, with one of the most popular including raisins in the mixture before baking, or occasionally currents.

Some more eclectic variations on the scone include savoury scones (typically flavoured with cheese or herbs), griddle scones (which, as the name indicates, are cooked atop a griddle on the stove rather then baked in the oven), and lemonade scones (which use lemonade and cream in place of butter and milk, but otherwise retain the same cooking process); everyone has a favourite.

In addition to being an item of great national pride, the scone is also a point of great debate among us Brits; specifically, the pronunciation of the name, and exactly how they should be taken as part of a Devonshire Cream Tea.

In the case of the former, do you pronounce the name as if it rhymes with Gone, or as if it rhymes with tone? In the case of the latter, do you break the scone in half, apply cream to both halves and spread the jam on top, or do you spread the jam and clotted cream on the inside of the scone? Whichever way around you do it and whatever way you say it, you’re bound to annoy someone.

For me personally? Being the middle class lad that I am, anything other than scone (rhyming with tone) would be a national insult to my peers.

Choosing Your Kitchen Worktop: Where To Start

By | Advice

With so many choices when it comes to choosing your kitchen worktop, it all comes down to a happy medium between the look you are going for, and how you want your kitchen to work for you. Here we take a look at a few of the most popular options.

Granite Worktops

A favourite choice for many, worktops made from granite are extremely hard and resistant to water and, due to its impervious nature, does not allow germs to accumulate. It can be expensive, but the durability it offers more then justifies the initial outlay. Other natural stones that can be used for kitchen worktops include marble, limestone, and slate, but you have to be careful with these as they can mark and scratch quite easily. One thing to remember with granite and stone kitchen worktops is that they are very heavy and may need extra support, so take care when carrying them.

Hardwood

Wooden worktops are a good idea for anyone with precious glass or china, as if you drop a piece on granite it WILL smash; on wood, there’s a chance it might come out unscathed. There are many hardwoods available for kitchen worktops, with beech being one of the most popular. A good tip to prevent stains and marks is to oil the surface before use.

Laminate

If your budget does not stretch to wood or stone, choosing laminate kitchen worktops can be the perfect solution. Laminate is relatively simple to fit, is really easy to keep clean, and it comes in many different colours and patterns, making it flexible from a decorative standpoint; you can even get laminate to look like marble or stone. For practicality and price, laminate kitchen worktops are hard to beat.

Tiles

Ceramic tiles can look attractive, but are not the most practical surface for kitchen worktops. The uneven surface makes them harder to clean, and if they break it can be hard to find a matching replacement. Having to replace just one tile may mean re-grouting the entire surface, making tiles more trouble than they are worth.

Contemporary Materials

The previous materials mentioned have been somewhat traditional, but if you are looking for something more contemporary, you could opt for quartz, glass, or even stainless steel kitchen worktops. Both of these materials are great for hygiene as they are easy to clean. Whilst both look stylish, they are probably not ideal for families with small children, as they are not only quite expensive but show the smallest mark or smear.

Choosing Your Kitchen Worktop

There are many things to consider when choosing your kitchen worktop, so remember to take into account practicality, the type of home (bachelor pad, family home), budget, and design. The best advice I can give is for anyone wanting a kitchen to stand the test of time opt for granite or wood, and for those who like to regularly change the style and design of their kitchen go for laminate kitchen worktops.

Maximising Space: Handy Small Kitchen Ideas

By | Advice

It’s a simple fact of life; not all of us have a surplus of space in the home. In fact, as a general rule, most of us will have to be very wise with how we use the space in our home. This goes double for our kitchens; statistically speaking, it’s likely to be the room with the most appliances in it out of any in your home. It will also require a decent amount of space to work with and walk through. Thankfully, we have a few small kitchen ideas to help you when designing your compact kitchen.

Firstly, it’s worth baring in mind that a number of appliance suppliers offer compact models within their product range. Already that’s a massive plus, as appliance size can be one of the biggest space eaters in a kitchen environment. And hey, what’s a compact kitchen without compact appliances? Recently a lot suppliers have started to offer products specifically designed for compact kitchens, or homesteads with fewer occupants (who are more than likely to have the most cramped kitchen conditions). And example of this would be the Mini Kitchen appliance, more commonly known as a Bachelor Griller.

Secondly, arrangement of worktops and appliances is key to the design process. You want to make sure there’s plenty of room for people to not only move through the kitchen with ease, but also make use of the facilities easily. There’s no one size fits all way to go about this, as every client will have different wants and needs, and every kitchen is fundamentally different. Therefore, you will want to consult heavily with installation/design experts during this process. As a rule of thumb, however, we suggest keeping major appliances away from entryways, so as not to disrupt foot traffic.

Small Kitchen Ideas for You

Finally, you need to consider what you’re most likely to use your kitchen for. Much like the prior example, different people will require different things from their kitchen, from cooking to cleaning. This means being considerate of what appliances you’re more likely to need, or how much cupboard space you require. Again, there isn’t a one-size fits all solution; it’s a question each individual will need to consider.

As far as the decorating of your kitchen goes, the rules are a little less rigid. Although obviously you may need to forgo potted plants or extravagant fixtures, having a compact kitchen won’t restrict the style of cupboard you can purchase. Likewise, it won’t restrict the aesthetic style of the appliances you intend to purchases, or the colour you choose to paint the walls. Once more, it is entirely down to the individual, and simply requires careful planning and forethought.

The prospect of a smaller kitchen may be a downer, but as this article full of small kitchen ideas should hopefully prove that it doesn’t need to be!

How Much Does It Cost To Boil a Kettle vs Instant Hot Water Tap

By | Advice

A little while back, we covered Instant Hot Water Taps in one of our advice articles. We briefly touched on the matter of water usage/cost when compared to a Kettle, but today, we’d like to expand upon that point a little further.

How much does it cost to boil a kettle? How does that compare to a boiling water tap? That’s the main question you want answering, isn’t it? Well, the main perk of an Instant Hot Water Tap (and the one most likely to encourage potential buyers) is the sheer convenience it offers the user. As the name implies, they expel boiling hot water straight away, with no waiting time required. This means they can be used, and are often primarily used for, making hot drinks very quickly. They can also be used for tasks such as quickly Blanching vegetables if need be. For this reason, offices or other working environments might include them in their communal kitchen areas.

Kettle or Boiling Water Tap

So, they save on time, that’s an absolute certainty. But how much do they save you in terms of cost? Well, in theory, they should save you a few extra pennies- and indeed, a number of sellers claim that they will save on your water bills. One supplier offers two forms of Instant Hot Water Tap; one that produces both hot and boiling water, and one that produces only boiling water. These are priced between around £800 to £1100, depending on size and type.

Both include tanks sized between 3 to 11 litres which not only store the water, but also heat it electrically. The supplier claims that on average, their tanks should cost around 1p per litre, and only around 3p per day total depending on usage. Quite a noticeable difference between the average daily cost of a kettle, which according to one independently conducted study comes to around 5.46p.

However, that same study calculated that the actual cost of an Instant Hot Water Tap more realistically runs at around 5.27p. A far more minimal difference in costs, but ultimately over time it will begin to add up. And factoring in the convenience an Instant Hot Water Tap offers the user, we think it’s an acceptable trade off.

British Bake Off Kitchen Appliances

By | Advice

Few things are as thoroughly British as The Great British Bake Off, and indeed the title indicates as such. It’s not hard to see why it’s become such a sensation among the public, and we here at Silke are big fans of the show. Big enough that we’re only to happy to share our knowledge of some of the secrets behind it. Namely, some of the appliances used in the production of the show.

British Bake Off Ovens

The first, and one of the main motivators behind the article, is the kind of oven the show uses, which we just so happen to have in stock; the Neff Slide & Hide Built In Oven. Many viewers have picked up on the titular Slide & Hide function, making the oven a fairly in-demand item. We’ve briefly covered it before, but as a reminder; the Slide & Hide function is a revolutionary door design that slides underneath the oven, rather then opening out in front of it. This greatly reduces the risk of accidental burning, and could save space in a typical kitchen environment. That Neff ovens are also loaded with functionality is an additional bonus, as they can be used to bake, roast, or cook anything you could possibly want to.

Another Neff product used on the set of The Great British Bake Off is the Neff Warming Drawer. Primarily designed for warming plates, it can also be used to keep food warm. In fact, the Neff Warming Drawer is capable of keeping food warm for up to 6 hours!

How about Hobs?

Bosch Hobs at Silke Kitchens Hendon CentralOne of the most exciting appliances used in The Great British Bake Off are the Bosch Induction Hobs. Induction Hobs are a favourite of ours, entirely for the functionality they provide. With Induction Technology, the heat is instantaneous, and only the bottom of any pan set atop it will be heated. This means that things heat up faster, and none of that heat is wasted during the cooking process. They’re also much safer, as they will only heat pans made of ferromagnetic metal, rather then the surface of the hob itself. Add in how intuitively Induction Hobs control, and they’re a real no-brainer purchase.

We love that even with the retro styling of some of their other appliances, such as the Gorenje Retro Freestanding Champagne Fridge Freezer or Smeg’s FAB30LFA 50’s Retro Style Fridge Freezer, The Great British Bake Off is as dedicated to the use of ultra modern technology in the kitchen as we are. It just goes to show that age old traditions and cutting edge appliances really do go hand in hand!

Self Cleaning Ovens: The Ultra-Modern Convenience

By | Advice

Let’s be real with ourselves; one of the single most frustrating kitchen-related tasks is having to clean your oven. For starters, the inside of an oven is a multi-sided surface with upwards of two or three shelves, depending on your unit; that’s a lot of ground to cover. Secondly, the kind of grit and grime that builds up inside an oven is extremely difficult to remove. It’s a daunting, time consuming task that most people don’t set aside to undertake. Thankfully, manually having to clean ovens is something that’s gradually on the way out, as self cleaning ovens become a more viable option for homeowners.

What you may not know is that there are actually different kinds of self cleaning oven. We’ve covered one kind before known as pyrolytic, but as a brief reminder; pyrolytic ovens make use of something called pyrolysis, a process where organic matter begins to decompose at extremely high temperatures, to literally burn off the grit and grime that builds up inside them. Once the process is done, all that remains is a pile of ash that can be dealt with using a dustpan and brush.

Bosch Ovens at Silke Kitchens Hendon CentralOne of the other popular forms of self-cleaning oven are Catalytic Ovens. Rather then relying on an active method, Catalytic ovens rely on a passive, natural process to break down dirt. In layman terms, the inside of a Catalytic oven is coated in a high-metal, porous enamel that oxidise the soil building during normal operation. Some of the materials used in the coating process include copper, vanadium, bismuth, molybdenum, iron, nickel, or tin. Ovens that uses Steam Cleaning technology are also typically Catalytic in nature.

In the interest of being fair and impartial, it’s worth noting the pros and cons of self cleaning ovens as a whole. On the upside, in addition to reducing the stress of manual cleaning, self cleaning ovens are also more heavily insulated then regular ovens. This not only greatly reduces the risk of fire, but also reduces the amount of energy needed for normal cooking. If you’re interested in purchasing a Pyrolytic oven, however, we must point out that the high temperatures needed to burn off the grime buildup can more produce smoke and odours then normal ovens. This could potentially set off fire alarms in extraneous circumstances, and are highly toxic to pet birds. Experts claim that regular use of the cleaning function will reduce smoke or odour buildup, however.

Here’s a bit of interesting trivia to close us out; though self cleaning ovens are closely associated with the modern kitchen, they’re not as recent an invention as you may think. In fact, in 1963, General Electric introduced their P7 model oven, one of the very first to use Pyrolysis as a means of self cleaning. Another form of self cleaning oven that has fallen out of favour in recent times is the Continuous Cleaning Oven. Similarly to Catalytic ovens, the inside is coated in a rough, porous enamel finish, which would cause the soil buildup to spread over a wider area. The thinking is that a wider, thinner layer of grease would burn off more easily during the cleaning process, but in practise it never really worked as well as intended. This is the main contributor to their decline in popularity.

Bagels: A Brief History

By | Advice

A little while back, we went on a bit of a food-related bender. There was a time the article section of this site was full of pieces on food, and the history of it therein. Not too surprising; occasionally, you need to spice up all this talk of worktops and dishwashers with something a little more mouth watering. Today, we’d like to briefly revisit that theme by talking about a favourite foodstuff of the staff at Silke; why it’s bagels of course!

Something may surprise a few of you is that the bagel is actually Polish in origin, and has an incredibly expansive history. Though it’s exact origin is unknown, the first use of the word bagel is dated to around 1610, within the Jewish community ordinances in Kraków. Indeed, they were widely consumed within Polish Jewish communities, from around the 17th century onwards, in addition to becoming a staple of the Slavic diet as well. bagels are formed using yeasted wheat dough, which traditionally is first boiled before being baked, and is then shaped by hand into the form of a ring. The result is a baked treat with a firm and sometimes crisp outer layer, and a soft doughy interior. The ring-based shape is theorised to have been designed to resemble a stirrup, commemorating the victory of Poland’s King John III Sobieski over the Ottoman Empire at the Battle of Vienna in 1683. This theory has largely been discredited in recent times, however. The shape does serve a purpose besides allowing for more thorough baking during the cooking process; the hole allows for several bagels to be threaded on string or dowels, allowing for easier transportation. Bagels are also traditionally topped with something on occasion, typically either Sesame Seeds, Poppy Seeds, or Sunflower Seeds.

The heavy association bagels have with the United States- New York City in particular- is largely down to Polish immigrants settling in the region, allowing for business to thrive shortly thereafter. Indeed, bagel bakeries thrived to such a degree in New York City that a trade union named bagel Bakers Local 338 came to fruition in the early 1900s. Almost all the local bagel bakeries in the area worked with or through Bagel Bakers Local 338, and their craftsmen and associates made them all by hand, daily. The union thrived for decades, until Harry Lender and his wife and son- Florence and Murray- pioneered a means of automated bagel production and distribution.

This process significantly lessened the amount of labour and time needed to make bagels, primarily by removing the “boiling” part of the traditional recipe. Instead, the bagels are baked in an oven with Steam Injection technology from the get go, creating what is often referred to as a Steam Bagel. All commercially available bagels are produced using this method.

Despite the heavy association with New York, one of the other prominent forms of bagel is the Montreal style bagel. The difference between the two comes down to the preparation of the dough, water, and kind of oven used to prepare them. New York style bagels have dough comprised of wheat, yeast leavening, water, salt, and malt, is boiled in straight water, and baked in a standard oven. By contrast, a Montreal style bagel has dough comprised of wheat, yeast leavening, water, malt and sugar, is boiled in honey-sweetened water, and is baked in a woodchip oven specifically. The former often have moister crusts and a fluffier texture, whilst the latter are crunchier, sweeter, and are smaller (although they have a larger hole). The distinction between the two isn’t quite as rigid as maintained, and even the long-standing belief that New York style is better due to local water quality has been thoroughly disputed.

An often forgotten fact is that bagels have been available in the United Kingdom since at least the 19th century. Bakeries in Brick Lane and the surrounding districts sold “Beigels” (the local spelling at the time), usually displayed on metre-long wooden dowels.

Today, bagels are available in a variety of forms and styles, some based on local tradition and others evolving with the tastes and trends favoured by the masses. Notably, a number of companies or bakeries off bagels with sweeter flavourings or toppings then what tradition dictates; one of the most notable instance being BagelK’s (ベーグルK) line of bagels, which included green tea, chocolate, maple-nut, and banana-nut flavours.