I often get asked about kitchen appliances. For example, what ones I can't live without, what do I think of the Thermomix, what do I think about slow cookers versus oven proof dishes, where do I buy my appliances from etc etc. So I've listed below my favourite "I can't live without" appliances. I've split the list into 2 - mechanical (battery/eletronically run) and non-mechanical.
1. Hand held blender for mixing together liquids eg making smoothies or beating eggs, mixing sauces. I have a Cuisinart which I bought from DJs. It came with a nifty stainless canister for making smoothies and beating eggs. I prefer Cuisinart to Barmix because you can pop the bottom half of it off to put in the dishwasher and also because the blade at the end can not come off (unlike the Barmix ….the number of times I’ve spent trying to fish out the blade from the ingredients I’m trying to mix!).
2. Spice grinder for grinding up spices (a coffee bean grinder does the same job). I bought this from Plenty (a homeware store at Westfield).
3. Electronic scales to weigh food. Tip- the more basic/simple the functionality- the better (and cheaper!). I bought a $39 set from Chef's Warehouse in Surry Hills.
4. Food processor for chopping, grating or mixing large quantities of food (eg I use it to chop onions when making pate, grating cheese when making pesto, mixing mince, eggs and veggies when making rissoles, making desserts and sweets instead of hand mixing, chopping cabbage or carrots when making sauerkraut) – all with the same standard blade. This is a perfect example of using technology to our advantage to save time and our hands!! I have a semi-commerical Sunbean café serries food processor (1400watt motor) which I’m pretty happy with (provided you don’t keep the motor running for more than 2 minutes at a time and you handwash all parts instead of putting in dishwasher). If my food processor died and I had to buy another one I would go for the Magimix brand. When I researched this a few months back I discovered that Magimix is the only brand of food processor that is still made in France (and not Asia). It has a reputation of being top of the line, very hardy and is the food processor that most experienced chefs, commercial kitchen stores and applicance repairers recommend. You can buy one online (e.g. Home Depot) for about $500 depending on the size of the motor. I bought mine new from eBay but I recommend you don't do this as it didn't come with a warranty. For large purchases I'd recommend going to a store to obtain the warranty. There's a fab store in Bondi Junction (Oxford Appliances) that I use for fixing appliances and ordering new parts.
I often get asked what I think about the Theromix which so many people rave about. Those Theromix parties seem to be the new Tupperware parties of this decade. I’ve been slightly taken aback at the number of friends – those who generally couldn’t care less about cooking- who have fallen in love with this appliance. So after my 10th invitation to a Theromix party and after yet another non-foodie friend caught the Theromix bug I thought that I just HAD to go to a demo to see what all the fuss was about. And I went with a completely open mind. I would have been happy to sink the hefty $2000 for the machine if it blew my doors off. For those that aren’t appraised of the functionality of this machine, it basically does everything that a typical food processor does PLUS it has the unique feature of heating food as well (like a stove). It can also weigh ingredients as you put them into the machine and can also grind grains. After much analysis, you know, weighing up the pros and cons, chewing the fat so to speak, I decided against buying it for several reasons:
(a) it does the job of about 10 different appliances. The issue is that I already have those 10 different appliances so I felt that the Thermomix was duplicating what I already have.
(b) the sales person was singing the praises of how you can use it to cook food fast. I appreciate that prep time should be fast and easy but my cooking philosophy is LOOOONG SLOOOW cooking to retain nutrients and not to denature the fats and damage the proteins (e.g. slow cooked casseroles)
(c) the volume of food it can hold wasn't any larger than my existing food processor, so I wasn't really upscaling in size.
(d) it aint cheap.
Having said all this, I think that whatever gets people cooking and eating more wholesome meals at home and fewer take-out meals has got to be a good thing! So if you love your Thermomix then Thermomix away!!! Also, if I didn't own any kitchen appliances and was starting up a home from scratch I would seriously consider buying one.
My favourite non-mechanical kitchenware are:
- small stainless steel saucepans (with stainless steel handles) for gently reheating cooked foods (instead of microwaving) or making soups. Add a little water or broth to the bottom of saucepan when re-heating to prevent food from sticking.
- Stainless steel frying pans (with stainless steel handles) of various sizes for frying foods eg bacon, eggs, steak etc. Avoid plastic handles as you can't put the frying pan under the grill when making an omellete as the plastic will burn.
- Steamer for steaming vegetables (quick, easy way to cook vegetables and to retain nutrients).
- Casserole dishes eg cast iron Le Crueset, or Coringware. Not cheap, but a valuable investment that will last a lifetime (or longer). Purchase when on sale from Peter’s of Kenington or other department stores. I don’t own a slow cooker but that would be a fine alternative to these casserole dishes.
- Glass containers and jars (eg Pyrex) for storing cooked food/broth. I only use plastic containers for storing dry /uncooked foods eg large quantites of herbs. Pyrex can be purchased from Coles or DJs. I'm told Aldi sells cheap glass storage containers. Glass containers I buy from Pete's of Kensington, Chef's Warehouse or homeware store.
What are some of your favourite cooking must-haves?