Mary Berry – renowned as the Queen of British Baking – has whipped up a recipe for ‘home happiness’ in her new book, Mary’s Household Tips & Tricks – Your Guide To Happiness In The Home.
“My focus may have been on cooking, but it’s always centred on the home. In my books and TV programmes, I’m always keen on sharing tips to help people,” says the cook.
“This book’s not about creating more work, or telling people what to do, it’s just passing on a collection of tips, things I learnt from my mother, my own ideas gleaned from years of practical experience, as well as helpful hints from friends and family.
“Home should be a place where, if you have a family, they want to visit and can come in and instantly relax,” Mary adds. “We’re very lucky – my husband and I have been married 50 years and don’t really argue – life’s too short. Never let the sun go down on a row is our motto.
“The one thing Paul and I really disagree about is how the house is decorated,” she says. “My husband likes the style he grew up, which isn’t exactly mine! For example, I’ve got tie backs on the curtains, but if I go away, he removes all the tie backs and puts them away in the cupboard. Similarly, he’ll move cushions he dislikes out of sight. Then gradually I put them all back again. It’s a farce really!
“Our kitchen is a practical, attractive space where everyone tends to congregate – family, friends and our two dogs – and where all the decisions are made,” reveals Mary.
“I have collections displayed, from china hens to vintage christening mugs. There are all sorts of easy tricks to making a space more practical. For instance, if you have good quality cupboard doors, fixing spice racks to the back of them is very useful. That’s the perfect dark place to store them, because light causes spices to fade and lose flavour.”
Here are Mary’s top tips:
“My house is tidy but definitely not immaculate! I like to keep on top of things though, so every so often I’ll sort out the chaos in my wardrobe and clear out some clothes. I also clean out kitchen cupboards and drawers every six months – I empty them, use a clean cloth and hot soapy water to wash all surfaces, and dry thoroughly. I’d suggest lining pan drawers with ridged rubber matting (available from online catering companies).”
If wax has got onto a wool carpet, place kitchen roll or grease proof paper on top of the affected area, then iron it. The wax will melt and stick to the paper. (Take care with synthetic carpets as they don’t take well to heat!)
To clean a dishwasher, run a wash with white vinegar. Use around 250ml placed in a container on the bottom rack – just run a normal cycle and it will be like a new machine.
For the washing machine, run an empty cycle to clear the drum, and add a cut lemon to a short empty cycle, to keep the machine fresh.
To pep up your microwave, put a cut lemon in a bowl of water and microwave on full power for one minute – condensation will release stains around the sides and make it easy to wipe clean.
Break an oily nut – such as a walnut – in half, and rub the exposed area over scratches in the wood. The oil of the nut should help them to fade and appear less noticeable.
“I use a steam mop to clean my tiled floors and I don’t think it’s too much to say that it’s changed our lives. Steam mops are quick to heat up, can be used on any sealed floor surface, and the reusable micro fibre pad collects dirt with minimum effort,” advises Mary.
To remove hard water and limescale toilet stains, wear rubber gloves, flush the cistern and remove a mugful of water from the bowl – I use a tin mug – so you can see the rim of the limescale line clearly.
While the water level is low, pour or spray the loo cleaner around the limescale in the bowl. Make sure you get the product around the top and where water drips down the back of the bowl too. Leave for 30 minutes (or according to the product instructions), then rub with a fine scourer or brush. Pour the water in mug back into bowl, then brush and flush the cistern again.
If you have newly-painted walls, counteract the smell by cutting two onions into quarters and leaving them cut up on a plate overnight.
Protect carpet if you’re having a party by using rolls of polythene film, used by builders to protect flooring. Make sure you buy the appropriate film for the floor surface – the one for carpet shouldn’t be used on hard flooring.
When putting cut flowers in a vase, remove any leaves which come below the water, otherwise they’ll make it turn green and smell. To clean irregularly shaped vases or containers, use a handful of rice and a good glug of white vinegar. Swirl around briskly, so the rice can clean corners, before rinsing and drying.
“A half and half mixture of vinegar and water is a traditional window-cleaning solution and an alternative to chemical sprays. Alternatively, use a window/glass-cleaning spray and a micro fibre cloth, which won’t leave bits of lint on the surface