Are you still in denial about Christmas? Gifts are one thing, but what about Christmas dinner? Tablets, such as the iPad, are here to help.
One cookery school in Lancashire, the Northcote Cookery School, has a one-day cookery course which can guide you through making Christmas cake, Christmas pudding, mince pies and brandy butter. When you visit, the course recipes are sitting on the immaculate chef’s table which doubles as the school room.
But alongside the paperwork for each student is an iPad, loaded with the same content in an iBook. And it’s true that the iPad is a much more appealing version. Can’t read the text? Zoom in. Want to read about the history of mince pies? Scroll through the words in the colourful box. Splash it with your brandy butter mix, as I did in an overzealous moment of tasting, and the iPad easily wipes clean while the paper version was smudged and sticky. You’ll be glad to know I didn’t spill much and it actually tasted quite good.
10 best cooking apps
10 best cooking apps
If you’re constantly Instagramming your dinner, you’ll love this slick social networking app. Log in with Facebook or Google and join the 12 million users already sharing their favourite recipes and photographs and gathering followers. You can try out other users’ recipes and leave reviews, engage in discussions with fellow foodies on the forums, and enter competitions and collect badges for your activities, such as the elusive ‘Master Chef’ for top contributors. Free, iPhone, iPad Free, Android Free, Windows Phone
2/10 The Perfect Egg timer
Even the most experienced cook can sometimes struggle with the seemingly simple task of boiling an egg. This app makes hard-boiling exact science, allowing users to measure their egg, select a boiling method and even set their altitude, with the help of location services. After choosing how well done you prefer your eggs, the app sets a timer for you and you can relax with your morning coffee in anticipation of the perfect egg and soldiers. 69p, iPhone and iPad
3/10 Paprika Recipe Manager
Replace your tatty collection of handwritten recipes and pages torn out of magazines with this digital recipe file, which allows you to store recipes you find online in the in-app browser and upload your own. Our favourite feature is the screen lock that stops your device turning off half way through a recipe so your screen doesn’t have to come into unnecessary contact with messy hands. You can also tick off ingredients as you go when you’re cooking so you’ll never forget to add the baking powder again. £2.99, iPhone, iPad £3.05, Android
Gojee is a curated collection of recipes by well-known food bloggers, including both food and drink recipes. Users choose recipes based solely on the photographs, which are large, stylish, and guaranteed to make your stomach rumble, and tap through to find ingredient lists and methods. You can search by ingredients you have, ones you dislike, and just what you fancy. Much like Pinterest, you can also build a collage with your favourite recipes and find inspiration in ‘similar’ photographs. Free, iPhone and iPad
5/10 The Photo Cookbook
Perfect for the novice cook, the Photo Cookbook includes simple recipes illustrated with clear, step-by-step photographs, so you don’t have to worry about not knowing the lingo or the exact technique for cutting a mango. Plus each recipe begins with a to-scale photo of all the ingredients, so you’ll never have to puzzle over how big a ‘thumb sized piece of ginger’ is again. The purchase price includes access to over 80 recipes, expandable to 240 with in-app purchases. £2.49, iPhone and iPad
6/10 Kitchen Calculator PRO
This app is an essential for any baker. The simple conversion tool converts measurements between all the usual units of weight, temperature and volume, as well as some of the vague ones commonly used by television chefs including a ‘dash’ and a ‘pinch’. You can also scale up and down recipes to serve different numbers of people. £2.49, iPhone and iPad
7/10 Mary Berry Bakes
Now you can have the queen of cakes Mary Berry in your kitchen with you as you bake. Launched just last month, the app includes 70 fool-proof recipes from the Berry’s Baking Bible, including her gorgeous Wimbledon Cake, plus extra bookmarks and favourites features. Every recipe comes with special tips from Mary and is accompanied by a mouth-watering photo so you have something to aim for. £2.99, iPhone and iPad
8/10 The Multi Timer App
Any cook who has tried to multi-task by whipping up a pudding while the main is cooking or to manage the timings of a roast will know the frustration of only having one kitchen timer. Enter the Multi Timer App, which allows you to set multiple timers at once, name them and save the ones that you use regularly. One great feature that makes this app unique is that once the timer has finished, it continues to run into minus figures so that you can always tell how far you’ve missed it by. Free, iPhone and iPad
Epicurious is one of the best free cooking apps available, simply for the sheer number of recipes it offers – over 28,000 in fact. The recipes shown on the homepage vary according to season: currently featured categories include Easter desserts, Passover mains and spring brunches. As with many recipe apps, you can save favourites and add ingredients to your shopping list, but the best feature is the search function, which allows you to whittle down thousands of recipes by cuisine, dietary concern or just what you’ve got in your fridge. Free, iPhone, iPad Free, Android
10/10 Great British Chefs Kids
This award-winning app is designed to get children cooking with over 100 recipes by top British chefs. The interface is simple and the recipes are easy to follow and come complete with child-friendly names like the ‘campfire chilli con carne’ and ‘bacon roly polies’. Our favourite part is a series of how to videos on basic cooking techniques like separating eggs with breaking the yolk and melting chocolate without burning it, perfect for the budding chef. Free, iPhone, iPad
Images of what your pudding should look like are onscreen to be enlarged and envied. As you start making your festive fayre, the iPad is a more convenient way to read your instructions by propping it up on its stand where it takes up less space on the worktop than a spread-out folder. And if you’re a new or uncertain cook, this is important.
Cooking up apps
Michael Vanheste, Head Tutor at the cookery school, wrote the iPad version of the recipes, instructions and extra content. “It was straightforward to write,” he told me. “I used iBooks Author and it’s easy to add images, animation and more.” The iBooks Author program is a free app available for use on the Mac. “It made it easy to create the content without having to learn technical IT skills such as HTML code. The program is easy to understand and with a little experimenting I’ve been able to impress our customers.”
So far, so good. But what do you do when your fingers are covered in flour, butter and brandy? That’s where some apps are proving invaluable. Like Great British Chefs and its sister app Great British Chefs Feastive (terrible name, great app). Both feature recipes from a selection of leading chefs like Marcus Wareing and Tom Aikens.
The first of the apps has a useful microphone feature where you can avoid touching the screen at all. Simply say ‘Next” or “Back” and the recipe advances to the appropriate step. This is very handy.
Look, no hands
And both apps also include timers so you can touch the clock icon and set a timer to remind you when to take the dough out of the oven. Though if your iPad or iPhone is plugged in and on wi-fi, you can simply say “Hey Siri” and the built-in voice-activated assistant will launch and can set a timer, among other things, without you having to touch the iDevice. And it’s certainly worth changing the time at which the screen locks if you’re using the iPad in the kitchen, so it doesn’t turn off at the crucial moment.
Other apps have different helpful functions. Windows tablet users can turn to Food & Drink where waving your (toffee- or gravy-covered) hand past the front-facing camera turns the page.
Beyond apps, there are plenty of interactive recipe books such as Mary Berry Winter Cookbook (iPad, £2.99) or MasterChef Cookery Course (iPad, £7.99). Features range from touch-interactive recipes to lots of tips on cooking.
For the last word, Michael Vanheste at Northcote had tips of his own when it came to preparing for Christmas cooking. “When you’re going to entertain people around Christmas, whether it’s all the family or just for two, my top tip would be to get yourself organised. Write lists, gather recipes and do your shopping. Have all your ingredients prepared and weighed out so that you can focus on the cooking itself. Work out what you can prepare some days in advance to make it easy on yourself on the big day.”
For cookery courses at Northcote Cookery School go to www.northcote.com/cookery-schoolReuse content