My friend Paul of Kendal Cottages asked the question, “What would you look for in a self catering property?” I thought it would be interesting to approach it from a cook’s point of view. Mr ND and I have stayed in various self catering places over the years, some good and some bad. I like self catering because it gives you the option to eat in or out or even just have cheese on toast if that’s what you fancy at the time.
We had a week on a houseboat on the Canal du Midi in France. The galley was tiny but excellent. You don’t need a lot of space, just a few essentials. The French really do seem to know what they’re doing when it comes to cooking. We also stayed in a self catering place in Bugibba, Malta. (I can almost hear all the BE Malta people screaming, “Arrghh! Not Bugibba!” But we were going through our house nightmare at the time and booked a package deal just to escape for a week.) We also had a self catering villa for a couple of weeks in Barbados. That must have been a really memorable trip as we didn’t even write about it. LOL! (Or if we did, then I can’t find it.) And then there was the suite at lebua at State Tower, Bangkok that was the best hotel either of us have stayed in – ever! I would love to go back there. (Hint, hint.)
But let’s get back to the subject. “What would you look for in a self catering property?” I think we need to be realistic rather than idealistic here. There’s not much point in wishing for the latest, greatest American-style fridge, a Smeg cooker, and Henckels knives (about £50 each). So let’s make an inventory:
Cooker – preferably gas and ideally at least four rings. Six would be wonderful, two would be doable but not very nice. A dual fuel model would be the best, just like we have in the Not Delia kitchen. It has three gas burners, one electric ring, and an electric oven. The oven can also be used as a grill, although we don’t use that as we have a commercial salamander, but I wouldn’t expect to find that sort of thing in a self catering property.
Microwave – even just a cheap one would be a bonus. Microwaves are always handy for heating ready meals if you can’t be bothered to cook and don’t feel like eating out.
Fridge – You don’t need anything really big if you’re only there for a short while. I’d like if the fridge had at least a small freezer compartment. That would be handy and also useful for making ice cubes. An extra fridge for drinks would be great, but again, I think it would be too much to hope for.
Sink(s) – I like a double sink but I suppose I could get by with a single one. I wouldn’t like it very much, though.
Work space – You don’t need a lot of space. If space is limited in the property it needs to be well designed to make a handy work station. In terms of size I’d expect at least the equivalent of two standard-sized kitchen units (unless it’s on a tiny boat).
Knives – These are essential. You are very limited in what you can cook without decent knives. And good knives don’t have to be expensive. If it were my property, I would include a set of knives such as the one I raved about from Nisbets. Five knives and eight utensils all for £22.99. How can you go wrong with that? And by the way, mine has been in frequent use for several years.
Chopping board(s) – It wouldn’t really matter to me whether they’re plastic or wood. Ideally I’d like more than one so I could do more than one thing at a time without having to keep washing the board. I would be happy enough with two boards. One would be doable but not enjoyable.
Pots and pans – Cheap pans are a waste of money. You can’t cook properly with them and they wear out fast and need to be replaced constantly. Invest in a professional set; most come with a lifetime guarantee. My preference is for Meyer (made in Thailand, although I bought mine when we lived in London) and Bourgeat (made in France). Some Le Creuset kit would be wonderful but too much to hope for in a self catering property.
Crockery and cutlery – Just the usual plates, knives, forks, spoons, etc, would be fine. Personally, I’d go to IKEA and buy starter sets. They’re inexpensive and look nice. While you’re there, why not buy a few extras such as some oven-proof dishes?
Other things – I think I’ve already mentioned the essentials, but a few other things would be a bonus. It would change my experience and opinion of the place from good to great. These other things might include oven gloves, baking trays, wooden spoons, and even a few recipe books. But I’ve written enough here so I’ll save that for later…