Thursday, 11 June 2015

The Betty B All-Purpose Super Cleaning Spray

If you go into a store and look at the aisle with cleaning products, you'll end up dizzy from all the different kinds for different purposes in garish colours and adorned with warning labels. Just imagine the endless amounts of chemicals we pour down our drains every day just from cleaning and then take a moment to look up what they do to our water supplies. And yet, for all those extensive lists of ingredients, many of them works surprisingly poorly.

I have been making my own cleaning products to and fro for years, and after much trial-and-erroring here's what I have decided is the absolute best for almost all home cleaning purposes (except, as always, very delicate stuff like your great-great-great grandmother's Georgian chairs and such, and, obviously, untreated wood of all kinds as it will dry it out).

The basic idea is this: you need something that works well on grease, that can be used on surfaces intended for food, and that works on limescale (essential for all areas where water is used like kitchen and bathroom). If possible, it would also be nice if it worked like a mild disinfectant, wouldn't it?

As a basic ingredient, some sort of soap-like substance is good for, you know, its cleaning qualities (I've figured out that soap cleans; isn't it great? My mother must be so proud). I use eco-friendly washing-up liquid, something that shouldn't be very hard to come by in any part of the world. Since you don't use very much, a bottle will last you a long time so even if your local store doesn't carry any good alternatives, buying online won't be too much of a hassle. And the good thing about washing-up liquid is that it will be tested and approved to use on dishes meant to eat from, right? So that's a nice guarantee for you that you can use it around the kitchen.

The next thing you want is something acidic. This is great for grease, and since limescale is basically calcium carbonate, it will react with acids (remember how acids and alkalines react to each other from chemistry class?) and become carbon dioxide (which is a major ingredient in the air we breathe) and water. Also, acids have certain disinfectant qualities as most bacteria don't like too acidic an environment (something your stomach knows and makes use of on a daily basis).

The acid in DIY recipes for cleaning products found online is often given as vinegar (or the much more concentrated ättika here in Sweden), but it isn't the only option. Vinegar smells like, you know, vinegar, and not everyone likes that, so instead, you can use citric acid, which is an industrially produced substance that is naturally found in citrus fruits among other things. Citrate, the conjugate base of citric acid is one of a series of compounds involved in the physiological oxidation of acetate from fats, proteins, and carbohydrates, and forms a vital part of cellular metabolism, and citric acid is used in the food industry as an emulsifying agent to keep fats from separating, to caramel to prevent sucrose crystallization and in all sorts of sour and/or fizzy things. In short, it's not some weird poisonous chemical – although as all acids, it can be dangerous in high concentrations. You can usually find citric acid in the food department of your grocery store.

Then, in order to get the right concentration and not just super acidic washing-up liquid, you need water. This can hopefully be found in your kitchen in generous amounts.

This was what I started out using, but I have added another, super-ingredient – alcohol. And because I'm lazy and want to be sure it's OK to ingest, I use some from my drink cabinet. That's right; I clean with cocktail ingredients, that's how badass I am. So why do I do that? Well, first, as everyone who did not grow up under a rock in the woods know, alcohol is a great disinfectant. It also helps dissolve the washing-up liquid into the water and obviously works as a preservative (hint: tap water isn't sterile), plus I find it helps with grease and leaves glass absolutely spotless. So, yeah, alcohol.

Now you can basically clean anything already, but it'd be nice if your cleaner also smelled nice, wouldn't it? That's why I add some essential oils as well. Which you pick is up to you, but I like a green, fresh feel to mine so I use tea tree oil (again, something with disinfectant qualities), rosemary and lemon. I also use gin as my alcohol of choice, because I like the added scent of the juniper. The choice, however, is entirely up to you.

The exact ration I use are:

2 tsp washing-up liquid
1 tsp citric acid powder
2 tbsp gin (or vodka)
2 cups of water
10-15 drops of tea tree oil/10-15 drops rosemary essential oil/10-15 drops lemon essential oil
or, 20 drops of any essential oil you fancy

Pour everything into a spray bottle, shake and clean away. I always keep this on hand in the kitchen since it's great to wipe down surfaces with, but I also use it for the bathroom (but sometimes I go for more perfume-y smells there, like lavender or geranium rather than tea tree and rosemary). It's excellent for washing windows and all sorts of glass surfaces (it's great for cleaning your spectacles) and works wonders on limescale. Just spray and wipe.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

How to put on a duvet cover

One would think that being the age I am, I would know how to put on a duvet cover, but no. For years, I have been struggling and sweating and swearing when all the time there was this.

It works, and I'll guarantee you'll be thanking me for this tip!

Monday, 29 July 2013

I Like a Nice Cup of Tea

What with tea being rationed, you had to make sure to get as much as possible out of every cup. This little British WWII film shows you how. A delightful little gem, I think!

Thursday, 18 July 2013


I've mentioned before that in Sweden during the war egg powder wasn't used to the extent it was in Britain. In fact, I haven't seen egg powder in the sense "dehydrated eggs" in any recipe here. Instead, we had something called "SMP" – "SMP White" and "SMP Yellow" (or "SMP Yolk", the word for yolk in Swedish is simply "yellow"). Usually there's no explanation of what it is or how it is to be used; it's clearly assumed that everyone knows.

Due to circumstances I shan't go into here, I was given a "SMP Cookbook" a few years ago "for bakeries, coffee shops, restaurants and food establishments" that explains a little more in depth what it actually was.

SMP White, it's said, is a protein product in powder form "extracted from one of our most valuable nutrional foods – milk." It gives a protein solution that can easily be whipped into a firm mass with plenty of volume, excellent for meringues, to make light custards and for cooking. 3 gr of SMP White powder + 17 gr of water equals one egg white. To whip it, you mix 100 gr of powder with 1 litre water, and in order to get the best results, you should let it stand for a few hours before whipping.

Apparently this is what it would look like once it was whipped. Not too unlike egg white!

SMP Yellow is said to be made from milk and be "the equivalence of egg yolk". Nor further explanation is given, but it is stated that SMP Yellow can substituted for at least 50% of ordinary egg yolk, or egg powder. It can also be used in sauces, in various dishes, mayonnaise and ice cream and on bread and other products to greate a golden crust. 6 gr of SMP Yellow + 26 gr of water = 1 egg yolk, apparently. When baking, you can mix it dry with the flour.

Look at the happy chef, baking with his fake egg powder! Wouldn't you like to be this happy?

3 gr of the White and 6 gr of the Yellow powder mixed with 43 gr of water is said to equal one egg. You should mix the powder dry and then stir in the water. This blend is can substitute 50% of the eggs in a recipe  when baking and making "more demanding dishes" like omelettes, finer sauces, soufflées etc. For "simpler dishes" like pancakes, bread, simple cakes etc it is claimed to be able to be used entirely in the place of eggs.

Apparently this is an example of a cake made partly from egg substitute.
I'm rather sorry you can't buy it anymore, so when cooking my Swedish wartime recipes, I'll have to use real eggs instead. But it is rather intriguing, isn't it? If it worked, why did they stop making it? If nothing else, it could be good for people with allergies!

Some sort of meringues, I think, made without egg

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Just an ordinary day

So, being an almost vegetarian trying out a ration book life style, what would a typical day for me look like? Last week, it could be something like this:

Breakfast: Two slices of crisp tunnbröd, scraped with hummus with sliced cucmuber. A pot of lapsang.

After that, I take the bike to work, about 5-6 miles, and work for a few hours.

Mid-morning snack: A cup of coffee with a little milk, two more slices of bread, this time scraped with apple sauce.

Then more work, until lunch.

Lunch: porridge made from oats and dried apple, spiced up with a little cinnamon and cardamom, with a little apple sauce and milk.

About 30 min walk to stretch my legs.

Work, work, work, only interrupted by some coffee with a little milk and some snacking on fresh fruit.

Take the bike home, 5-6 miles.

Dinner: The mushroom & cabbage stew (recipe yesterday) with a large helping of plain boiled potatoes and lots of fresh salad.

Later, there's usually more coffee or tea and a crisp roll. I usually get mega-cravings right before bed so I have some (sometimes a lot) of fresh fruit.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Mushroom & cabbage stew

One problem with wartime food is that it's usually not very pleasing to the eye. It makes for rather bad food blogging, because clearly, who gets inspired by brown stew and potatoes? Not the most aesthetic food, obviously, but there you are. Better brown stew with Churchill today than humble pie with You-know-who tomorrow!

This was a stew made with things I already had at home and it's really more winter food than summer-y, but since I made it on a glum and rainy day, I didn't mind.

Serves 4

  • 2 small or one large onion
  • A hefty piece of cabbage
  • Plenty of dried mushrooms
  • Meat or vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp cooking fat (I used olive oil)
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1 + 1 tbsp flour
  • salt, pepper, hot water

Start by heating water and pouring it over the mushrooms, taking care to let them stand and swell for about an hour. Drain the mushrooms, but save the water – it'll make a lovely base for your stew.

Chop the onions and the cabbage. Heat the fat (but not the butter) and let the onions soften and get a little golden. Add the cabbage and let it simmer until the cabbage is starting to soften and look a little golden too.

Mix the butter and the flour, and add it to the pan. Sprinkle the second tbsp of flour over the vegetables and stir. Add the water from the mushrooms and as much stock as you need to get a nice stew-like look to it. Finally, add the mushrooms.

Stir and let it simmer until the cabbage is soft and the stew has thickened a little. Taste with salt and pepper and serve with potatoes and some fresh vegetables (if you have them).

This recipe uses very little rationed ingredients – only the fats, actually, but it's really tasty and plenty filling!