Tala: Cooking & Life Essentials from the U.K.

I love spending the night cooking up a storm. That feeling of creating something from scratch that is both delicious and nourishing - especially when cooking for others - is one of my favourite things.

But those days are few and far between thanks to busy work and life schedules. The most time I spend at the stove these days is cooking up a meal for the fam for the holidays. 

So in order to indulge in my passion and still have time leftover for work, friends, family, etc., I went in search of products that help organize, clean and streamline the process. 

I found it all at Tala, an English housewares company specializing in kitchenware, utilities and beauty care around since 1899.

Take a look at my new must-haves:

Being half-British, tea has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. It soothes and calms me.

So having the right tools is important. I have the best kettle of anyone I know that brews it to different temps depending on the tea, I use pretty good (though not expensive) tea, and my cupboards house only big mugs to fill a two cups worth, because there's no way I'm having just one teeny cuppa.

Kettles get scaly over time, so this little stainless steel ball will keep it in tip top shape. It saves you the time and energy of having to clean it with vinegar every so often (it's practically impossible to not have the first cup taste like vinegar) and the bonus? You can pop it right in while you boil the water. No need to waste time, water or electricity boiling an extra pot just to de-scale it. Brilliant.

And I thought my tea was great before.

Over my career, I have interviewed many famous chefs. And in my current job where I interview chefs on a weekly basis, I can tell you that many of them still use a wooden spoon and have kept a collection of old well worn, well loved ones over the years.

The key I think is finding one that isn't rough along the handle, wide enough that it's comfortable to hold (those long, skinny ones will have your hand cramping in no time) and with a good enough scoop to work in a variety pots and pans, dishes and sauces. 

Not only are these spoons the perfect combo, they are dipped in pretty pastels of blue, green and pink, making them a decor accessory as well as your most beloved kitchen tool.

Note: You can also purchase single spoons.

Oh my god, even if you don't do much cooking or baking, you are going to find ways to work this into your everyday routines ("Let's brûlée the bacon!").

And you certainly don't have to make creme brûlée to make this a worthwhile purchase:

- Go ahead and char the edges of your steak
- Have a s'mores party in the living room
- Make restaurant-worthy grilled sushi 
- Don't have a gas stove? Bister peppers in a hot second.

This is hands down one of the most fun tools you'll ever own.

I am not a sweets girl, so pie for dessert is not something I do outside of my job (I write about food and restaurants). But savoury pie? I can dig into a shocking amount. You name it - shepherd's, cottage, chicken pot, curry lamb, frito, steak and onion, Australia,  Zimbabwean - and I want it. 

So when I discovered this elegant oval pie dish, it was a match made in heaven. Over in the UK the oval pie is probably de rigour, but over here it's something I have seen only a few times over two decades (it's almost always square or round). The oval just adds a regalness to what is often a peasant, comfort food dish.

It's the perfect size for one (14.5 cm x 11.3 cm x 3cm), solid and sturdy, with a 10 year guarantee.

This is something I'll use for the rest of my days.

p.s. Of course you can use it for dessert pies. I'm just weird and was born without a sweet tooth.
p.p.s. It is the perfect size to baked a large Loaded Baked Potato (or as they say in the U.K., Baked Jacket Potato), as well as a personal-sized lasagna.

Everyone has a different method for storing dry goods. Many of my chef friends use heavy mason jars. Others use a variety of old tins or tall canisters.

I used to have everything organized and in containers, but somewhere along the way I fell off the wagon and my sugar is still in the white paper bag it comes in, my flour that I borrowed from my best friend - the best pasty chef in the city - is still in the large zip bag she brought it in and well, you get the idea.

For the longest time I have wanted to organize them and put them into beautiful containers, but nothing I have already is big enough, and when I went shopping for new sets, they were either atrocious, the wrong size (how much coffee do you need access to on a daily basis?) or way out of my price league. I though getting older ones might be the way to go, but the vintage sets I liked were so rusted or needed an industrial wash and sanitizing. Blech.

So when I found these beauties, it was the best of both worlds - the old diner-y look in new materials. The sizes too are perfect. Smaller than most of seen, I can have my items out without having to give up prime counter real estate. They're ideal for condo dwellers, those with alley kitchens, and single folks that don't need enough ingredients to feed four.

And you just have to purchase them once and then you are set forever. Just fill with your favourite flour, sugar, coffee and tea and suddenly your kitchen looks prim and proper.

Ahh, that's much better.

p.s. Browse all the storage containers. Look, you can organize your rice and pasta too!

It's probably safe to say that these tins are meant to keep sweets in. After all the tody handwritten script along the top edge of the tin includes the words "crumbly cookies," "perfect pastries," "glorious gateaux," and "scrummy chocolate cake," to name just a few. But these tins outfitted with feminine polka dots and stripes have made their way into my office. 

It is hard to find storage worthy of display, but these sweeties do the trick. And they do a great job of holding all the bits and bobs that come across a writer's desk. 

p.s. There are other designs to choose from.

Microfibre cloths will change your life. If you love to clean, you'll love how effective they are over regular cloths, paper towels and dusters. If you don't like to clean, you'll be thrilled to discover how quickly you can get the house in top shape without any elbow grease and not having to give up your whole Saturday.

But a polka dot cloth (pictured above)? Simply adorable. How can you not be happy with this little cutie in hand? It comes in a pack of two. They are also available plain and striped.

No matter what colour of suede or item of clothing, it is going to get messed up. Quickly too. To the point where it's embarrassing to wear anymore. But you just bought it, you say? It doesn't matter. It has a limited time and that time is ticking.

The best way I know to extend the life of your suede, whether it's clothing, shoes, purses, belts or other accessories, is a good brush.

And this one is p-h-e-n-o-m-e-n-a-l.

It looks like a mini BBQ grill brush, but trust me - it's an all out wardrobe rescue.

My dove grey suede shoes that I just got already look three years old. Dirt and scuffs cling to it like barnacles on a boat. A swift going over with this brush and voila - I'm all set for date night (note: do not vacuum before doing this as delicate suede particles fall everywhere. Vacuum after).

If I'd only had this before, I could have saved all those jackets, purses and totes that I loved.

- Elliott Wooden Basic Varnished Clothes Brush

Clean and refresh your clothes and upholstery in one fell swoop. I'm pretty sure these are what butlers use, though it's just a hunch as I've never head one.

The handle is perfection - smooth, curved, comfortable - and the black-and-white bristles soft enough to brush away hair and lint, but won't damage your clothes or couch.

It feels quite posh to be whisking a brush about. Like getting the horses ready in the stables, I suppose, but better because now you look absolutely smashing.


Tala has an impressive the range of top quality products (I'm going to have that pie pan forever) in a variety of unique and charming styles and designs. My home is more organized, clean and cheerful now (brûléed bacon!), so shop now.

Stephanie Dickison

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