I declare upfront - as you can see by this picture of our kitchen. I do not share her dislike of a zen kitchen and I don't agree you can't cook properly in such a kitchen. Whilst it is true, it does not always look like this, I find that as with an office, I can't concentrate properly if there is crap everywhere.
I do however share her dislike of pointless appliances (and I speak as someone who doesn't even have a microwave, which sometimes makes me feel like a wartime bride). This is partly because we don't have a huge amount of benchspace, and you have to have appliances to hand if you are going to use them. I found her list of what she considers critical very interesting. You can see from this image (taken some time ago, I would say at least 10 years) that she has always liked her kitchens to have everything within reach.
Nigella in her kitchen (photo by Paul Clements)
These kitchens illustrates perfectly why I don't like lots of stuff piled up. Where is the bench space?
Here is Nigella's list of key appliances and kitchen equipment:
1. Potato ricer
2. Rice cooker.
3. Timer (must be portable so you can do other things whilst food is cooking).
4. Electric whisk (if you have ever tried to make meringue by hand whisking you will see the wisdom of this).
5. Free standing mixer like a Kitchenaid.
6. Stick blender.
7. Food processor.
8. Thermometers (meat and candy).
And in her Kitchen Hall of Shame? Appliances including a yoghurt maker, professional icecream maker, electric jam maker, electric grater and electric waffle maker.
I actually love my icecream maker. If you have children, as you can whip up a sorbet in no time at all. I also think those manual pasta makers are fun to do with the children, but otherwise you don't use them much.
My completely and absolutely must have kitchen appliance is a stick blender like the ones Bamix make, which I use for soups, curry pastes, pesto, chopping nuts, mincing meat and everything in between. They are not very expensive at all.
Being a Good Wife, and always trying to improve myself, it did make me wonder if there was some appliance I might need which I don't have. I started thinking about this when someone emailed me this ad this week.
I can assure you if I received either of these for Christmas I would be officially over the moon:
Magimix see through toaster
I know, I know everyone laughed when this toaster was released. I certainly did. But I have come around a bit. If you are a litle bit obsessive, as I fear I may be, and just a little bit distrustful of your toaster and its cunning plots, you will be constantly popping the toast up to check its shade of brown. So, I admit it, I can now see the logic.
Kitchen Aid Premium Stand Mixer in steel grey
To bake properly, you need a mixer. This is what I am told anyway. I am not really a baker, or a dessert maker, but if I had one I would probably do it more.
And for completeness, my list of pointless appliances:
1. Sandwich Maker (too hard to clean. An Italian friend taught me to make toasted sandwiches in a fry pan over heat, squashing the sandwich down by pressing a plate on it and resting a heavy tin on top. And student-y as it is, I still do it this way).
2. Juicer (too hard to clean. Yes, there is a theme emerging here (laziness)).
3. Rice cooker (in spite of what Nigella says, I find I get really good results using the good old absorption method over the stove top). We did have one once, and I am ashamed to say I threw it out after a few years.
4. Popcorn maker (please. You can hold the lid on a pot can't you?)
5. Exploitative Baby Food appliances (you know, the ones that prey on your paranoid fear you will kill your baby by food poisoning him or her - baby food trays and containers, mini baby food mashers and choppers and heaters etc. Read Smitten Kitchen's sensible suggestions about how to do baby food without all of these extra things).
6. Gimmicky things like a 'Muffin Maker' (in an online spiel for this I read this pitch 'Compact and easy to use, it cooks three large, light and fluffy muffins without the hassle of pre-heating the oven.' Because you know what a hassle it is to twist a knob right? And besides, who ever needs only three muffins?)
And finally, I have heard speak of a magical German appliance called a Thermomix which can allegedly chop, beat, mix, whip, grind, knead, mince, grate, juice, blend, heat, stir, steam and weigh food. So, you put the ingredients in, and 30 seconds later, risotto is produced. It sounds like something JK Rowling would come up with. Like the see through toaster I started laughing when I heard about this. Does anyone have one?