It's hard to think that you could radically improve upon such a traditional and old-fashioned piece of kit as a rolling pin. The Sil-Pin (no charm prizes for the name) has been developed by William Levene Ltd and the "deluxe" version is a rather disconcerting dark blue with fetching zinc-alloy coated handles. The rolling part is weighted to give it heft and it has ball bearings for a silky smooth roll. The cunning bit, however, is that the surface has a silicon coating which makes it non-stick - so you're spared the chore of dusting with ever-increasing amounts of flour as you roll out the pastry. You should be able to produce thinner pastry with less working of the dough - the 21st-century equivalent of "light hands"!
The Sil-Pin deluxe is available from good kitchenware shops or direct from www.silvernutmeg.com, £29.99
Piece of cake
Such is the popularity of retro design that it is hard to tell what is modern from the antique originals. Yet most modern plastic boxes designed for keeping cakes have a very efficient seal; so efficient, in fact, that the cake inside can end up sweating. An old-fashioned cake tin, however, has a lid that fits well but is not absolutely airtight: optimum conditions for the cakes inside. The Garden Trading company makes all manner of "old-fashioned" tins and storage containers: its Stream Line cake tin is large and agreeably solid-looking.
Stream Line cake tin, 10x25cms, available from Garden Trading (0845 608 4448; www.gardentrading.co.uk), £20
If only decorating those large show-off cakes was half as easy as Peggy Porschen makes it appear. Porschen thinks nothing of dashing off some chocolate Fabergé-style eggs for Elton John or making the launch party centrepiece for Madonna's tour. For the rest of us, knocking up such complicated, elaborate and beautiful sculptures may prove a little more challenging. This is a full-on book with page after page of jaw-droppingly elegant and technically difficult cakes. But it is also a book to give you hope: everything is explained patiently, stage by stage, and there are plenty of sequenced photographs to help you through. If this book only helps you become a quarter as proficient as Porschen, you will still be able to blow the neighbours away.
'Romantic Cakes' by Peggy Porschen is published by Quadrille, £18.99
At your convenience
Forget the first cuckoo; a much more accurate indication that spring has arrived is that moment when we start to crave a fresh green salad. Perky leaves, a decent dressing - and a few pine kernels to add a different texture. Dormen's has created something useful for the home cook: a pack containing 75g of ready toasted pine nuts. Not having to go through the ordeal of toasting your own in a hot frying pan is what I call a proper convenience food. There's also a toasted seed and nut mix containing pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and pine nuts. They're handy to add some extra bite to salads, and they also invigorate shop-bought pesto.
Dormen's Toasted Pine Nuts, 75g, £1.89, and Dormen's Toasted Seed and Nut Mix, 75g, 99p, available from Booths supermarkets and good delicatessensReuse content