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Thinking-Cooking, Lord Sugar, and a pile of chickens

What's the first sign of madness again? Suggs with a microphone in his hand... well apart from that, I think it's supposed to be talking to yourself. But I am sure dreaming about work is somewhere in the top 10 signs to keep a look out for. Maybe not a sign of madness, more a sign that you need a holiday?

But anyway, in my dream I'm on The Apprentice. We're in a could-be-anywhere 1980s shopping centre somewhere in the UK. We're selling stuff. More importantly we're selling Thinking-Cooking stuff. And - to be fair to me and my imaginary team mates (I don't remember our team name but no doubt it was Team Intrepid or Team Terrrific or something of that ilk) we're selling well. Things are really shifting - only I'm personally struggling to get any real sales under my belt.

I'm starting to panic, but then there's a sudden bizarre turn of events. Our stall is full of food, for demonstrative purposes... a pile of chickens, some sausages, some fish, a bit of fresh fruit, some salad. And this guy wanders to the stall... he pulls out his wallet, takes out a wad of crisp banknotes, and offers £1k - for the food.

Smell what sells.... that's what Lord Sugar says. Normally before adding 'you're fired'. So I smelt the money, took the cash, and gave him the food. And with it we won the task, after what Lord Sugar called 'tremendous diversification on the spur of the moment'. So I survived another week... will be interesting to see if I dream the next episode.


So when do most people do their Christmas shopping

So if you believe the hype - and the press (I mean, who wouldn't believe the paragons of virtue that is Fleet Street...) Britain does its Christmas shopping either online or on Christmas Eve. Online if you're organised and prepared to shop around. On Christmas Eve if you're not, run out of time, panic and head out on a desperate mission, Switch card in hand.

But when do real people do their real Christmas shopping? It's November 20th as I write, and I wonder what percentage of people have already nailed it... and equally what proportion of the UK has not even given it a moment's thought, preferring instead to ignore the inevitable, despite the ever-increasing amount of slushiness in the advertising schedules.

I mean what's that bear and rabbit with a cover of Keane (the band, not Roy) in the background all about? Does that really make anyone want to go in House of Fraser? And if Iceland's adverts are to be believed, you can just buy the whole of Christmas there, frozen. Even the tree. Sadly Kerry Katona's nowhere to be seen though these days.

But seriously, when does the real world consider it acceptable to do your Christmas shopping? October? No, stupidly early, the toy fads your children asked for won't be in fashion by the big day! November? Still seems early to me, only just getting rid of the copious amount of pumpkin I hollowed out for Hallowe'en. So December it is...

But when in December? Well Christmas Eve to me is just bonkers. Who wants to go shopping in Christmas Eve? Not me for one, I want to go home and watch Arthur Christmas with the family. Or Miracle on Whatever Street it was. But the earlier they're bought, the longer they might have to stay hidden. So the first week of December is still too early. Too late and you're veering into panic territory, when you might still be tempted to by any old rubbish and get out of there.

Thus, by using science that Stephen Hawkings would have been proud of, I am pleased to announce the acceptable date to do your Christmas shopping - Saturday, December 16th. 


Take the stress out of Christmas lunch

Roasting bags for turkeys

So, the children have been up for what seems like eight days already, your sitting room resembles an explosion in a wrapping paper factory, and you're already regretting supplying some of those toys with batteries, as the sporadic toy coming back to life with a gentle 'I'm still here, play with me...' is already driving you to drink...

And at that point on Christmas morning - at least in my world - you may head for the dubious refuge of the kitchen, the world's biggest turkey which seemed a good idea at the time, the EU sprout mountain, a 'small glass of wine' - and prepare 'dinner'.

Now, how many people truly know how to cook turkey to perfection. Not that many I reckon. It takes hours and hours to cook, can easily dry out, and rarely crisps properly. Step forward, into your moment in the spotlight, the Thinking-Cooking Roasting Bag for Turkeys - an answer to your festive prayers.

Now I've heard about these, I hear you cry, but do they actually work. Well yes, and what's more, the Thinking-Cooking Roasting Bag for Turkeys is the creme de la creme. The Rolls Royce of cooking bags if you will, the caviar to our rivals battered cod. There are cooking bags and there are cooking bags. They are not all the same...

Tell me more I hear your cry (isn't it amazing how far your voice carries...). Well, these bags are made from a type of nylon which is perfect for this type of application. Nylon, yes I did say nylon. Nylon cooking bags have a few distinct advantages over their less effective polyester cousins..

Firstly, they are much stronger. Remember, a turkey is a large and heavy bird - the last thing you want is your bag breaking. Secondly, they will last.... by that I mean the bag will remain unaffected by a few hours or more in the oven, unlike alternative cooking bags which often go brittle and eventually fall apart.

And perhaps more importantly, they are more effective for browning the bird. They are virtually non-stick - most cooking bags will stick to the skin, meaning you lose some of the best bit when you remove the bird from the bag. And they will retain all the moisture and flavour, for a succulent Christmas turkey.

Try it, you'll be impressed. Try our chicken bags for a roast first if you're still not convinced and don't want to gamble on the bid day. We can guarantee you'll like them. To get the best results simple pierce the top of the bag before cooking (top rather than bottom to avoid leakage) and cut open the bag for the last 20 minutes to brown it off to perfection.

And, to quote my French speaking colleague, voila.... the perfect solution to Christmas dinner made easy for less than the price of a Sunday paper.



Hallowe'en is coming, Hallowe'en is coming...

Hallowe'en is coming, Hallowe'en is coming... okay, it doesn't quite have the same ring to it as Holidays Are Coming on the Coca-Cola advert that has been broadcast from November 15th until Christmas Eve for the last 178 years. Do people in America really go outside in the cold and watch out for brightly-lit trucks?

No, back to the real issue at hand. Hallowe'en. Not Halloween, don't let me see that. Don't get me started on that one. As a former journalist I know for a fact that Hallowe'en is correct - even though many newspapers miss out the apostrophe. Presumably as they don't have enough faith in their journalists to put it in - or indeed enough faith in their readers to know it's been missed out. But it should be there... mind you, your average shop worker in the UK wouldn't know where to start with an apostrophe from what I've seen.

Anyway, the pumpkin mountain at the local co-op, the array of black, white and orange sugar-filled sweets, the zombie costumes in Asda and the fact that it is - in the words of my long-departed grandma 'getting a bit parky' - all tell me Hallowe'en is very much on the horizon. And it does bring with it some benefits....

Now I'm not talking about going out trick or treating with the kids. Even as adults that won't be allowed, it is just not happening. 

No, I am talking about pumpkin of course. Because the odd vegetable that many people hollow out for their kids and don't have a clue what to do with is actually very tasty. I could eat bowl after bowl of curried pumpkin soup, and pumpkin cake is surprisingly tasty - if you like carrot cake, you'll like pumpkin cake.

But even with all that made, you'll still have loads left - especially if you've got a few children. And so we've put some pumpkin-inspired recipes online, and will put a few more up over the next weeks - all of which can be made using Thinking-Cooking products, notably the Si-bag Meal-Maker, Baby & Toddler Meal-Pouch and Slow-Cooker Liner.


Citizens of the world, this can't be allowed...

Citizens of the world, we need to take a stand... something outrageous has happened. Picture the scene, it's around 9.30pm and I've made an emergency dash to my local shop to make sure we've bread in the house. The girls' sandwiches would have been somewhat disappointing and quite frankly un-sandwich like without. 

It's mid September. It's still, to be fair, pretty warm. I approach the counter with my loaf, and my eyes are drawn to a large stack next to the counter that a few days before wasn't there. A few days before it had been Mr Kipling's Fondant Fancies if you're at all interested, a regular staple of tea at my grandma's house.

So what, I head you ask, had replaced the Fondant Fancies and cause such horror and outrage. So much outrage that I'm contemplating an open revolt. Mince pies. I'll repeat that for the benefit of those of you who refused, like me, to believe it. Mince pies. In mid September. Mince-flipping-people-only-eat-them-at-Christmas-pies.

Now I know once Epiphany is out of the way the shops bring in the Easter Eggs. And to be fair, Cadbury's Creme Eggs truly should be sold all year round. I could even have grudgingly accepted Hallowe'en merchandise, albeit that would still have been too early in my world. But mince pies in September is just ridiculous.

I mean who, just who, is eating them now. When the football fans chant 'who ate all the pies' are they actually referring to the mince pie mystery and offering a damning terrace-based opinion on the crass commercialisation of Christmas. Probably not, but they are right to ask and someone should answer them.

I, for one, can eat about four or five mince pies around Christmas before I'm quite frankly sick of the sight of them. Open revolt... who's with me?