Tricks for Lifts/Elevators
  1. Hack that lift!

This link describes a way to make a lift ignore all the other floors that it has been called/sent to, and go directly to your floor. The article states that the trick works on Otis lifts; Michael at my office has also successfully tested it on our Thyssen lifts.

  1. Cancelling Floors

Some lifts allow you to cancel a request for a floor; useful if you press the wrong button by accident. Just press the button for the floor that you want to cancel three time in quick succession.

  1. Lifts with Attitude

I worked in an office in Kuala Lumpur where the lifts really seems to have attitude. I worked on the 20th floor (the top floor), and I would often get into the lift, push the button, go up a few floors, and suddenly find myself back on the ground floor. It turns out that the lift can only remember a certain number of floor requests; past that point, when you push a button, the button lights up for a few seconds (long enough to fool you into thinking that it will stop at your floor) and then goes off again. To make it even more annoying, if the lift is travelling down, floors that are up cannot be requested from inside the lift; you have to wait until it turns around again before re-requesting your floor.

The trick is, each time people get off, try again to request your floor, until the lift remembers.

Cooking: Tricks for Thickening Sauces

There are many different ways to thicken a sauce. The best way to do it depends on what you are cooking, and at what stage in the process you discover that your sauce needs thickening.

  1. Cornflour

Using cornflour (corn starch to some of you) is widely suggested in western versions of recipes for Chinese food, but I don't like it for that purpose; I can always taste the cornflour.

Throughly mix some cornflour with a small amount of liquid and add it to the sauce, stirring well as it cooks. What liquid (water, milk, wine, beer, etc.) you should use depends on what flavour your sauce is; choose something that is already in the sauce, or something that is flavour-neutral.

Arrowroot is a useful alternative to cornflour which doesn't alter the flavour of the sauce, but it can be hard to find.

  1. Wheat Flour

There are two basic methods for thickening a sauce using wheat flour.

  1. Make a Roux

Mix equal quantities of fat (e.g. cooking oil, lard, butter, etc.) and flour and gently cook, stirring constantly. Once cooked, add the mixture to the sauce.

  1. Sprinkle in the Flour and Whisk

Slowly add flour to your sauce, whisking it in vigorously. Alternatively you can make a slurry (four and liquid), and then follow the same procedure. The sauce needs to be thoroughly cooked after adding the flour, otherwise it will taste of flour.

  1. Eggs

Whisk one or more eggs, add the egg to the sauce, and cook gently until the sauce starts to thicken. Then remove the sauce from the heat, before the egg gets overcooked and curdles the sauce. This is the basic method used to make spaghetti carbonara.

Because of the issue of overcooking the eggs, thickening this way needs to be the last stage of cooking, directly before serving.

  1. Tomato Purée

Thickening with tomato purée is good for tomato based sauces, and can be done at any stage of cooking. All you need to do, after adding the purée, is to stir it in. It is used, for example, in bolognese sauce and in chili con carné.

  1. Nuts

Nuts are a great way to thicken sauces. You can use ground nuts (almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, etc.). You can also use nut paste (e.g. peanut butter); tahini (made with sesame seeds, not nuts) can be used in the same way.

Thickening takes about 5 minutes of cooking, after adding ground nuts.

I use nuts in my satay curry, in badam pasanda and in cashew chicken.

  1. Soy Ketchup (Ketchup Manis)

Generally, I use soy ketchup instead of soy sauce, in my recipes. It thickens the sauce a little, whereas soy sauce makes the sauce runnier.

jar opener
Opening Jars

We have all had problems from time to time with opening jars. Here are some methods that can help.

  1. Use a jar opener

Many stores sell jar openers (see the photo to the right), which work well.

  1. Bang the Jar

Bang the bottom of the jar and/or the edge of the lid. This tends to loosen the lid.

  1. Hot Water

Run hot water on the lid, which will make the lid expand and loosen it.

  1. Use a cloth or oven-glove

Use something to improve your grip on the lid and jar, such as a tea-towel or oven glove.

  1. Use a Strap Wrench
Strap Wrench

You might have a strap wrench (see the photo to the right) in your toolbox. If so, it is great for opening those difficult jars.