Friday, November 12, 2010

I Love My Stickblender

Nigella Lawson's new book Kitchen has a couple of useful chapters about the way she sets out and designs her kitchens, what she uses in terms of knives etc and very interestingly, the appliances she loves and those she is ashamed of purchasing. 

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.  

As you can see, all food groups are represented in my kitchen (bread, red wine and herbs) 

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).

9. Mezzaluna.

10. Graters. 

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? 


Just Martha said...

Gosh I don't think I have ever seen the bottom half of Nigella since... well... forever! I wonder what a Mezzaluna is? A-n-d I am probably not a good wife either although I could try those tricks over diamonds maybe but not really cooking appliances!! Puleeze.....

Jane said...

Okay a mezzaluna is a crescent shaped double bladed knife thingy with handles - v good for chopping herbs apparently - I think I may have one tucked away somewhere but don't use it. ..

Littlemissairgap said...

When Mothers/Fathers Day comes around my husband and I play "Find the most useless kitchen appliance" in the sale catalogues. It's usually something gimmicky and very naf!
In our house, in no particular order, we love:
1. Popcorn Maker (kids do it themselves)
2. Sandwich Maker (great for leftovers & we're lazy)
3. Breville Keep Warm Kettle (the quietest kettle I've owned)
4. Ancient Kenwood Chef complete with all the attachments and bakelite knobs (a hand-me-down from an old neighbour)
5. THERMOMIX (love it, use it all the time, the only appliance, besides the kettle, which is allowed on the kitchen bench).
I would like a bamix stickmixer as our old one died awhile ago.

Mise said...

Good Jane, I agree with every word of your post, though my kitchen is not as minimal as yours and I cannot buy Kitchen as it's on my list of Christmas hints. But yes, all those appliances are useless, and I'm willing to pare down on the electrical front to just my glorious Kitchen-Aid mixer and blender. But now I want the see-through toaster too. Right now.

Glamour Drops said...

Impressively clear and tidy kitchen Jane! I'm with you - I can't stand clutter on the bench and I like to have metres and metres of benchspace when cooking. Mezzaluna is the best invention ever - one of the cleverest little knives that chops herbs finely in an instant - and it looks very theatrical in front of guests {who always think it looks impressive, when it is really just easy}. I think a seriously good set of sharp knives and a stick mixer is all you really need. But my new Kenwood is wonderful, because it makes everything taste amazing. I never buy biscuits or cake - I make it all instead so it is worthwhile.

Kate said...

I also adore my Thermomix - I have had it for 18 months & I researched it for nearly 2 years before that, being quite concerned about the price. My daughter wants one too - but on a student's non-wage "she's dreamin'". She makes absolutely splendid sorbets eg pear & blueberry which is a most glorious colour. I am not into useless gadgets. My Thermomis is fabulous.

Lee said...

Jane, I am the epitome of a lazy cook and I love my stickblender too! Not only that, I make my toasted sandwiches in a frypan & squash them down. Have a lovely weekend. Lee :)

Jennyff said...

I'm certainly not a gadget person, hardly ever using my mixer, probably because I find washing the bloomin things and putting them back together such a chore. Nigella's kitchen is a bit disturbing, plenty of clear worktop is much more appealing to me.

Dumbwit Tellher said...

Super post Jane. My mom was always tempted by the newest kitchen gadget. Her pantry would be brimming with these 'toys'. I vowed I wouldn't give in to the gadget's & I too have very few. My favorite is my Kitchen Aid mixer & my Dualit toaster. We do have a panini maker which my husband uses faithfully every weekend. I should learned to make them on the stove properly.

You have a gorgeous kitchen by the way!

Have a good..good weekend Jane.

xx Deb

Laura said...

Love the look of that see through toaster! I am obsessive and untrusting of my toaster's ability to produce well browned bread. I have to admit I thought I would hate rice makers, but my other half bought one and after protesting for a year I finally gave it a try. Now I'm not sure how I'd live without it. But then I was always an incompetent rice cooker.

Julie@beingRUBY said...

Oh Jane I have dreams of one day living somewhere with a kitchen that entices me to cook.. and stick blender will be first appliance on the list..

You know I worked with a girl that stuck her finger in whilst blending.. hahaha.. poor thing.. took weeks to heal.. I always think of her every time I see a stick blender

Ok.. ciao.. I'm off to see the sea'girls'... Love that.. thanks!!!! xxx Julie

brismod said...

I love your minimalist kitchen Jane.

The Muffin maker has to take the cake (unintended pun)in futility. I can proudly say I wasn't taken in with the Exploitative Baby Food appliances and the kids seem okay...until they speak. Sshhh!

You should get a Kitchen Aid mixer, Jane. Batter will be a pleasure and it'll look good in your kitchen.

jules @ The Diversion Project said...

with you on the clean benches bit, i find being in the kitchen stressful enough as it is without doing to whole nigella look too. totally agree on the toasty makers and you've reminded me i've always meant to buy a potatoe ricer but still haven't!! as you can see fresh gnocchi does not come out of my kitchen : )

Kristine said...

Oh Jane, I have a Thermomix and I LOVE it. I'm off to Sydney for three days later this week - would you like to borrow it while I'm gone? Normally I couldn't part with it as I use it every day.
Choice magazine just did a review on it and gave it 9 out of 10 (would have been a 10 but for the big price tag.)

Devon said...

I love Nigella. I see her only occasionally on a lazy Saturday evening of food watching and she always leaves a delightful memory of luscious cooking.

Love your kitchen. Would also like to add that the bagel slicer should be on the very top of stupidest inventions of all time. Please people, can't you slice your own bread with a knife???

Jen said...

It is a very English thing to have a cluttered kitchen, personally I need space (there are parts of my kitchen with piles of crap but a very clear bench for cooking action) and I hate appliances out on the bench.
I must be the only person in the Western District not to have a Thermomix, they are the appliance to have around here. I adore cooking so not sure I need something that does it all for you. There are some things they are apparently brilliant for, such as quince paste (no stirring required) but now everyone else makes it and gives it to me. I think I would rather put two grand towards a nice chest of drawers. What I couldn't live without would be: kitchen aid. magimix, stick blender and ice cream machine.
We have a toaster with a setting for "a bit more" if that can be classed as an unnecessary but fun piece of equipment!

Samantha said...

I must not be much of an appliance person . . we don't even have a toaster anymore. We use our electric grill on the rare days we toast. So ghetto.

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