Sunday, 21 April 2013

Seven essentials (and one more... essential)

So that's eight essentials but who's counting? Oh, right, I am.

A list of things I can't do without. Alright I could do without but I'd rather not. The items below represent, in my opinion, the best of their class. Some cost hundreds of pounds, some are under a fiver, doesn't matter... so long as they do their job properly.

These are the actual items I use in my kitchen so they won't be in forecourt condition. They might be a bit worn and stained but it matters nought.

Tongs
These tongs are your boys. It has to be these cheap, pressed metal ones. Forget those with rubbery bits or 'cheerful' plastic obscenities given to you for Christmas that burn if you leave them hanging on the edge of a pan. Easy to clean too. I'm amazed at how many people don't have these in their kitchen.



Magimix Food Processor
Wow. Really!? How tiresome. No surprises here then. Thumb through any and all kitchen magazines and you'll see one of these on most middle-class work surfaces. They are as ubiquitous as the Dualit 4 slot toaster. However, this is no mere style statement.These babies are everywhere because they work well and they are very reliable. Almost stupidly simple to use. There's one off switch, one on and one pulse. I have the model with three nested bowls. I almost never use the middle one though. The small one is great for cheese, nuts or herbs. There's also a grating and a slicing plate which doesn't see much use now I have a mandolin... Argh! A mandolin... which I should also have included in this list. Bugger! OK. That's nine essentials. Shoot me.



Silpat Silicon Mats
You can buy cheaper but not better. The big advantage of Silpat is that it lies flat. Cheaper silicon flaps up and then slaps about excitedly (especially in a fan oven) and makes a mockery of your meringues. Silpat is a brilliant non stick surface. Next time you're in a posh restaurant check the underside of their tuiles and you'll see that tell-tale woven pattern. You might look strange but at least you'll know. 

Without this I couldn't dry fruit. I would be scared of attempting tuiles, meringues and macaroons. I use these two to sandwich my caramel when I make nut brittle. They go into oven and freezer and between the both. They seem to last a long time. These two are five years old.



Sugar Thermometer
Time was when you would take blobs of molten sugar and drop it into water to see what state it had attained. Hence names like hard ball and small crack. Now we use thermometers. These really are essential. You can't make a decent stab at caramel or other sugar work without one. I use mine weekly, if not for caramel, then for honeycomb or Italian meringue. Mine does look battered but so would you if you'd been dunked in hot sugar syrup for twenty years.




Spoonulas
Not spatulas and not spoons, spoonulas are wonderful utensils are made from a heat-proof rubber and plastic and are just the right shape and flex to squidge into most spaces. They leave bowls and pots clean. Being heat proof means I can use them in sugar work. I have about six and I'd like more. They claim to be stain resistant but carrot juice does (whereas beetroot doesn't. Don't know why). You can get them here.




Piping Bags
They come in rolls of 500. You tear one off as you need them. They have a slightly textured, grippy outside. If you look in my fridge in the hours before a serving you'll find several of these, the wide end tied or pegged off, full of cream or cake mix, batters, purées, veloutés and what-have-you. Then I just snip the end off and pipe. Great for portion control. Great for not spooning batter or cake mix all over the place. You can cut them down for detailed piping. You know they're sterile and won't contain soap residue to taint your crème chantilly. Yes they aren't very enviro-cool but they are recyclable.



Kitchen Aid Food Mixer
Losing this would be like losing a limb. I can't remember how I used to cook before I had one. All that standing around with a hand whisk or a huge heavy bowl and a damp tea cloth! As my youngest son says far too often: ain't nobody got time for that. The Kitchen Aid means you can leave the dough being thumped about in the bowl and focus on something else. keep an eye out though as it will butter your double cream in a flash.

I use this machine every day. They are famously robust with an engine you could power a barge with. You can see that the beater's actually worn through now (and that's my second beater!). I use it mainly to make bread, cakes, creams, soufflés and meringue. I have the original bowl and two extra. I also have the juicer attachment for the front. This is the ONLY juicer that makes a good job of limes.

I wish they would produce a copper lined bowl, like the old fashioned sabayon coppers; the metal catalyses the eggwhite to create more volume. Here's the science.

Some come with nasty plastic splash guards but these don't work. I think everyone just sticks a tea towel over the whole job don't they?

Now my friend Jeremy works on Wired Magazine and they've just done a test of stand mixers. Shock/Horror! They reckon this is the best. But then, it is £575! It does look rather gorge though. Anyway, I feel sullied now. Kitchen Aids are in the £350 area.

Of course, looking up things on the internet means I've just found this water jacket. Wow. That would be useful for custards and the like. £40 for a metal bowl though. That's one issue with KitchenAid: nothing comes cheap.



7 Leguas Tequila Blanco
Yes, what a wag I am. Of course it's not a kitchen implement but... I do like a sip of this at the end of a serving. I was a fan of Patron Silver (still am - Christmas is coming) until Dick Bradsell introduced me to this (in his bar, sadly he's not a personal friend). Arguably, this is the finest tequila in the world that you can buy without remortgaging. I know most of you think you don't like tequila but that's because you used to slam that disinfectant flavoured toilet water that costs about a tenner. This doesn't cost a tenner and you don't slam it. Save up!

The cheapest place to buy it is here, but you won't buy will you? If you find anywhere cheaper I will happily have your babies if you let me know.


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