We’re back!

Hi everyone!

I know I have been absent from my blog for some time now but I do have a very good reason. We’ve moved house! Not far, but like all moves, everything gets put on hold for a while.

The kitchen needed a complete update, so we gutted it and installed a lovely new kitchen which works so well for us. It was totally self-planned, right down to knowing what was needed for each of the drawers and cupboards.

New Kitchen

We have a new gas stove with all the features on my wish list and now have a griddle which is something I have always wanted. I am really enjoying it. Having spent the past month getting used to the way it cooks, I have been changing a few of my recipes as I have been using them. I am always looking for any little changes that might improve them. Any changes I will be posting, as well as introducing some new recipes along the way.

10 Ikea Tips You Won’t Find Anywhere Else

In the process of installing our new Ikea kitchen, we discovered some ways to make it easier that weren’t in the instructions and we hadn’t found anywhere else. We thought we would share these 10 Ikea tips with you.


Tip 1:  Don’t use your Ikea receipt to check your delivery.

If you’re having your kitchen delivered, there can be a lot of packages. We had 159 separate items! And the delivery men don’t waste any time unloading them.

How can you quickly and easily check that all the items are correct and that none is missing?

Don’t use your receipt! It’s organised in the order of each cabinet and its parts, so you might have ordered ten doors but each one will be listed with its cabinet, spread out throughout the receipt. Finding them quickly in the rush is really tricky.

Take a little time before your delivery date, sit down with a nice cup of coffee, and create a one-page spreadsheet. Here’s mine:

Ikea Order List

The columns are for the 8-digit Ikea item number; the quantity of each item you purchased; a blank column; and a description of the item. Go through your receipt, item by item, and enter it in the spreadsheet. Once all the items have been entered, order the table so that the item numbers in the first column are in numerical order – that’ll make them easier to find on delivery day. You’ll also be able to see whether you’ve entered an item more than once. If so, just combine the quantities into one row. Make sure you only have one row for each item number. Then, add up all your quantities and check that it’s the same as the total number of items you purchased, noting that ‘delivery’ counts as an item on the receipt. Finally, print the spreadsheet onto one sheet of paper.

Now you’re all set! On delivery day, look for the item number on each package as it’s delivered, and make a tally mark in the empty column next to the number on your spreadsheet. When you’ve tallied the quantity of each item you’re expecting (i.e. the tally marks in column 3 matches the number in column 2), cross out the item number so that you know that item is complete and you can ignore it. Once all items have been delivered, you can see at a glance if you have more items than you need or not enough.


Tip 2:  Write the name of each item on its package.

After the delivery men have gone, you’ll be eager to start assembling your kitchen. Don’t. You’ll make life a lot easier if you write the item description on each package first. It’s much easier to find a ’36” base cabinet’ than an ’80265398’!


Tip 3:  Group your items together.

While you’re writing the name on each package, group them together into piles – doors, shelves, cabinets, etc. Again, you’ll find them more easily when you start to assemble them.


Tip 4:  An easy way to get the Sektion rail level.

It’s really important that when you fix the rail you get it dead level. The problem is that it’s quite unwieldy, especially when it’s a full length and you’re trying to position one end on a mark on the wall, balance a spirit level on it, and trying to draw a line underneath it, all at the same time ! It’s easier if there are two of you, but that’s not always the case. So here’s a useful tip.

First of all, hammer a nail anywhere in your wall and then hang the rail on it as shown here.

Section Rail

Hold the rail fairly level and draw a line at the bottom of the rail. Then remove the rail and the nail and measure the distance from the centre of the nail hole to the line you’ve just drawn. (This is ‘a’ in the diagram)

Now add this length to the height that Ikea recommends for drawing the line for the rail. (So for the base cabinets it’ll be 32 3/16 inches plus a). Then hammer your first nail into the wall at this height and at the nearest stud to the highest point on your floor. Hang your rail on this nail and then, holding a second nail in one of the rail holes at the other end, slide the rail up and down until it’s level, and then drive the second nail into the wall so that the rail is hanging on the two nails. With the rail hanging in place, you can check that it’s exactly level and you can also make sure that the holes will align with your studs (the holes are 2 inches apart). When all is satisfactory, you can draw the line along the bottom of the rail.


Tip 5:  Cut the rail 1 inch from the edge of the cabinet.

Ikea recommends that you cut the rail flush with the edge of a cabinet. That’s fine as long as you know precisely where the cabinet will end up. The problem is that after installing a run of, say, seven or eight cabinets, they may not end up quite where you were expecting. That’s OK if the rail’s a bit short but if it’s too long, you’ll have trouble attaching an end panel. I cut my rails about an inch short, which still gave me plenty of rail to attach the cabinet to, but made sure I had no problems with end panels.


Tip 6:  Fitting a cabinet above a fridge.

Fridge Cabinet

This had the makings of a disaster! Mainly because we only wanted a 15 inch deep cabinet and we wanted it to come flush with the front of the fridge. So we couldn’t use a rail on the wall. This meant that getting it level and getting the cover panels vertical was going to be quite a challenge. Particularly as neither the wall at the back, nor the short piece of wall at the side, were anywhere close to square or vertical!

So here’s what we did.

First we fitted the right hand end panel. The fridge is counter depth so we used a Förbättra 25×90 inch cover panel, cutting it 16 inches longer than the height of the fridge (15 inches for the cabinet and 1 inch clearance for the fridge). We used shims to screw the panel to the short piece of wall making sure it was vertical.

Second, we fitted the wall and base cabinets that would butt up against the left side of the fridge, hanging them from their rails and levelling them, but not tightening them to the rails. They were positioned close to where they would end up (a bit more than 37½ inches from the right hand panel) allowing for the width of the fridge, the thickness of the left hand end panel, and of two additional end panels that we attached to either side of the cabinet to give the fridge some ‘breathing space’. Then we attached the left hand 25×90 cover panel to the wall cabinet and base cabinet, making sure that the top was cut level with the top of the right hand panel.

Third, we assembled the cabinet and attached 15×15 end panels, cut from a Förbättra 15×32½ cover panel, to each side.

Finally, all we had to do was fix the cabinet between the two long end panels. Easy to say but harder to do because the cabinet is quite heavy and moves around as you’re trying to screw it into place. Fortunately, I had one of those ‘Eureka’ moments and screwed two pieces of wood to the top of the cabinet, overlapping the ends by about an inch, as shown, that allowed us to rest the cabinet in place while screwing it to the end panels, knowing that it would be perfectly level.

Fridge Cabinet Tip

We screwed it to the right hand panel first and then slid the left panel, with the wall and base cabinets attached, along the rails until they met the cabinet. Then we screwed the cabinet to the left panel.

Lastly we checked that the left panel was perfectly vertical, tightened the wall and base cabinets to their rails and unscrewed the two pieces of wood from the top. Job done!


Tip 7:  Finish off the filler panels.

You almost always need to fill in gaps between cabinets and the standard technique is to cut cover panels to do this. Usually, you can manage to keep two original clean edges but if you do need to cut the panel to fit, you’ll end up with a cut edge as well. If your cabinets are a dark wood finish, the cut edge won’t really notice, but if they are white or off-white, the dark cut edge can be unsightly and draw attention to the cut.

We took a waste piece of cover panel to Home Depot and had them match a paint to the colour. We then bought a tester jar and gave the cut edge of the filler panel a couple of coats before fitting it. Then, when it was installed, you couldn’t tell it was a cut edge.


Tip 8:  Adjust the doors before fitting the dampers.

If you’re fitting dampers to give you soft-closing doors, adjust the doors for level first. Otherwise, you need to remove the dampers to get to the adjusting screws.


Tip 9:  Glue the deco strip for superior finishing.

Because they’re long, like the Sektion rails they can be unwieldy and awkward to fix. I made it easier in two ways. First, I worked out how far back from the front face of the cabinet I wanted the back of the strip to sit. For me it was 2 inches. I then tapped in some 1 inch nails, 2 inches back, at the end of each cabinet, leaving most of the nail exposed. The strip was positioned correctly just by setting it against the nails.

Second, I found that the top panel of wall cabinets sits slightly lower than the tops of the side panels. When the deco strip is placed on the top, it sits on the higher side panels and leaves an unsightly gap above the top panels. So I glued the strips rather than screwing them, using a gap filling adhesive. I used Gorilla Construction Adhesive which sets in less than a minute and properly hardens in 24 hours. (In the UK I would have used Gripfill.) This had an added advantage. We installed LED strip lighting above and below the wall cabinets, and without filling the gap with adhesive, the light would have shone through the gap.


Tip 10:  Make a template for door and drawer pulls.

TemplateNothing looks worse than drawer and door pulls that don’t line up properly. And getting them right can be fiddly and tedious. Here’s a great tip. Use a template. You can buy them from a hardware store but I made a simple one for myself. On the right there’s a picture of what I made.

I used an offcut from the luxury vinyl tiles we had used on the kitchen floor, although any similarly sized piece of wood would do. It was about 10×5 inches. You also need three pieces of dowel (I had some Ikea pegs left over).

Drill three holes for the dowelling, sized to give a tight fit, roughly where shown in the picture. Then draw a straight line against the edge of the two holes that lie along the longer edge. Now, using a square, draw a second line at right angles to the first line so that it sits against the edge of the third hole. With the dowels in place, this will now sit on the corner of your door, the lines representing the top and side edges of a base cabinet door.

Then decide where you want your pulls to sit and measure the distance from the side edge to the centre of the pull. Draw a line on the template, parallel to the longer line, at this distance. Then, mark on this line where the holes should be for the pulls. Finally, drill the two holes using the same size bit that you’ll use to drill the holes in the cabinets. You now have a template for all your doors.

The way I’ve pictured my template, it will work on a base cabinet with the hinges to the right. If your base cabinet door has hinges to the left, just turn it round. For wall cabinets, simply turn it upside down.


Tip 11:  Caulk the gaps.   (I know…I said 10 Ikea tips. Think of it as a decimal baker’s dozen!)

CaulkingFor a really professional finish, caulk where the deco strip meets the cabinet frame. To go with our off-white cabinets, I used a white silicone caulk. It’s much easier to do this with the doors off. Fortunately, they unclip and clip on again very easily.

You can do this anywhere else where there may be gaps, e.g. deco strip mitres!

Hot Cross Buns

Hot Cross Buns


Update  My recipe previously included all spice because I couldn’t find the mixed spices used in the U.K. Whilst you can use any spices that you like, I’ve now adapted the recipe to more closely resemble the traditional British flavours.

Tastier than store-bought, we enjoy these traditional hot cross buns at Easter and all year round! I have to thank Paul Hollywood of The Great British Bakeoff for the idea of adding an apple to the recipe. It adds to the flavour and gives them a softer, more moist, texture.

I use a KitchenAid stand mixer with a dough hook but you can knead by hand if you prefer.


Hot Cross Buns
Prepares: 12 buns
  • Step 1
  • Preparation time: 30 minutes
  • Waiting time: About 2 hours
  • Step 2
  • Preparation time: 10–15 minutes
  • Waiting time: 1 hours
  • Step 3
  • Preparation time: 10 minutes
  • Cooking time: 20 minutes

  • Ingredients
  • 500g (1 lb 2 oz) strong white/all purpose flour (3½ cups)
  • 10g (1 tbsp) instant yeast
  • 10g (1½ tsp) salt
  • 75g (2½ oz) caster sugar/fine white sugar (¼ cup + 2 tbsp)
  • 150g (5 oz) sultanas (1 cup)
  • 80g (3 oz) chopped, mixed peel (½ cup)
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 1 apple, chopped
  • 40g (1½ oz) unsalted butter, softened (room temperature) (3 tbsp)
  • 1 egg, large (U.K.)/extra large (N.A.), beaten
  • 300ml (10 fl oz) whole/full fat milk (warm, about 40°C/100°F) (1¼ cups)
  • ¾ tsp all spice
  • ¾ tsp cinnamon
  • ¾ tsp nutmeg
  • ½ tsp mace
  • ¼ tsp cloves
  • ¼ tsp coriander
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger

  • For the crosses
  • 75g (2½ oz) plain/cake & pastry flour (½ cup)
  • 75ml (2½ fl oz) water (¼ cup + 1 tbsp)

  • For the glaze
  • 3 tsp apricot jam
  • 1 tsp water

  1. Method

  2. Step 1
  3. Chop the mixed peel and the apple into small cubes, grate the zest of an orange into the mixture, and put to one side.

  4. Weigh out the salt, sugar, and yeast, and add to the flour in the mixer bowl, putting the yeast and the salt on opposite sides of the bowl. Then add the sultanas and the fruit that you chopped up, as well as the spices. Mix all these dry ingredients together. (This allows the flour to coat the fruit and prevent it sticking together.)

  5. Add the butter, egg, and milk, and mix on speed 1 until it is all evenly mixed. This only takes about a minute. Then mix on speed 2 for another 8 minutes. While this is kneading, lightly oil a large bowl for the dough to rise in.

  6. The dough should now be smooth, the sides of the bowl should be clean, and the dough should come off the dough hook without sticking. Tip it out onto a lightly floured (or oiled) surface and shape it into a ball. Put it into the oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel or cling film.

  7. Leave it to rise until it's at least doubled in size.* At room temperature, this should take a minimum of an hour but it's fine to leave it for 2–3 hours. The longer the better – it improves the flavour.

  8. While waiting, prepare a large baking tray – line with baking parchment.

  9. Step 2
  10. Tip out the risen dough onto a lightly floured surface and knock the air out by folding it in on itself a few times. Divide the dough into 12 equal portions and roll each portion into a smooth ball. (To do this, flatten the dough with your hand flat, then moving your hand in a circular motion, gradually lift the palm while leaving the finger tips on the work surface, forming a cage around the dough. Do this quite quickly.)

  11. Place the dough balls on the baking tray, laid out four by three, about an inch apart. This will give them room to grow so that they’re almost touching after proving. (You want them to join up when baking so that you have to tear them apart when finished.) Cover with a tea towel, or place inside a clean plastic bag, and leave to prove for about an hour. You can tell when they're ready when they've doubled in size again and the dough springs back readily if you poke it gently with your finger.

  12. Before the end of the hour, preheat your oven to 190°C/375°F/gas mark 5

  13. Step 3
  14. For the crosses
  15. Mix the flour and water into a paste and add to a piping bag with a fine nozzle. Make one half of the crosses by piping across each row of buns in one sweep, starting on the tray and finishing each sweep on the tray at the other side. When all the buns are piped in one direction, turn the tray and repeat, forming the crosses.

  16. Bake for about 20 minutes or until nicely browned.

  17. For the glaze
  18. Warm the apricot jam with a teaspoon of boiling water and brush over the tops of the buns while they’re still warm.

  19. Allow to cool on a wire rack.

  20. Unless you can't wait, freeze the buns and defrost when needed.

  21. Tip
  22. It's not easy to accurately divide the dough into 12 equal portions. I weigh the bowl with the risen dough in it, turn out the dough and then weigh the bowl again. The difference is the weight of the dough. Divide that by 12 and then weigh each portion as you cut it, adding or subtracting bits of dough until they're approximately right. With this recipe they worked out to be about 103g (3⅔ oz) each

  23. * Doubled in size means doubled in volume. This means that if the dough is in the shape of a ball, the diameter increases by about 25%.

Updated: March 10, 2017