‘January is the time to give your kitchen the equivalent of a valet service and dissolve any last vestiges of goose fat.’
An overstuffed, chaotic and ever-so-slightly smeary kitchen is a sign that you had a great December. But enough. These are the things we should all be capable of doing in our kitchens at some stage this month. If you manage to tick off the following five to-dos, your kitchen will be primed for another year of feeding …
Clear out your fridge
While defrosting your freezer might best be left for the night before the removals van turns up, cleaning your fridge out is slightly more pressing.
First, wash all removable containers and door shelves, the main shelves, door, sides and back of the fridge, not forgetting on top and in between the creases of the door seal. A paste of bicarbonate of soda and white vinegar will remove smells – but then again so will washing-up liquid and warm water.
When putting it all back together, dump anything past its use-by date and combine duplicates where practical. Remember to wipe all jars down before replacing them. Everything that is in constant use should be at the top, front or in the fridge door.
And keep the fridge tidy: lidded dishes are ideal for organising cheeses, leftovers, soups and general stragglers. They will also eliminate the need for foil and clingfilm covers.
Do the decant thing
If you’re purchasing lidded glass dishes, get a dozen glass Kilner jars, too. The secret to an organised pantry is being able to see what you have. That means tipping all your crumpled, split packets of couscous/rice/sesame seeds into mouse-proof glass jars of various sizes. If you live in the US and have $4,500 burning a hole in your pocket, there is a company called Blisshaus that will come into your home and do this for you. You do not need them. Nor do you need a Dymo embossing label-maker, although it will help distinguish your nigella seeds from your black sesames.
Bleach your grouting
How often does your tiled floor get a good, old-fashioned, red-knuckled scrub down? Again, there is bicarbonate of soda and white vinegar for the purists, and Domestos for everyone else.
This is a job that needs a methodical approach. Work in lines with diluted bleach and a small brush, such as an old nail brush. Pay particular attention to splatter zones: in front of the oven, beside the sink and around the dishwasher. If you have small children, your entire floor is, as you well know, a splatter zone. Once you’ve scrubbed, wipe or mop up the foam with warm soapy water as usual.
Clean your appliances
Your kettle is probably well overdue a descaling. The crumb tray in your toaster is, I bet, overflowing. Give all appliances a wipe down and a buff with a dry cloth. Similarly, top up your dishwasher with salt and rinse aid, and run a cleaner on an empty cycle. It’s the equivalent of a valet service and will dissolve any last vestiges of goose fat.
Cleaning your oven is the devil’s work. There are SWAT teams that will come and do this for you, bringing dip trays and chemicals that unavailable on supermarket shelves. While I am more likely to pay for this than for someone to decant my couscous into a jar, I am also far more likely to simply fill the sink with scalding hot, soapy water and soak my oven racks and pan supports for a good half hour.
The dishcloth effect
Replacing your kitchen “smalls” is akin to buying a new lipstick: an indulgence to perk you up in the face of crisis. Can’t afford a deVol kitchen? Buy a new dish brush instead. Happily, there is a proliferation in brush shops: AG Hendy in Hastings is well worth a day trip. Utility in Brighton is excellent value, as is House By Betty in Pembrokeshire. All of them stock pleasingly utilitarian linen scrim, roller towels, cotton floor cloths and such like to reward you once your deep clean is complete.