Friday, December 2, 2011

F-F-F-Friday - Gadgets

When it comes to cooking, I have to admit that I'm a traditionalist. Now don't get me wrong, it doesn't mean I'm stuck in the mud about things or anything like that, but I do believe that if I can do it with a knife and a minimum of gadgets, I'd do it. That said, I've recently come to realise that some gadgets are good.

My Global knives. I *LOVE* them.
You can't go wrong with a good set of knives.

For example, ever tried to whisk eggs into a meringue by hand? Or mayonnaise? Slow and not to mention tiring! Or having to finely chop and mince an entire bulb of garlic or two by hand? Also slow and the arm starts to get a little tired after a while. Oh, hang on! I've already mentioned slow and tiring!

Anyhow, I love my stick blender, especially when it comes to making soups. I do not need to pour out hot soup or wait for it to cool before processing it. It does a fine job. Just need to make sure that whatever stick blender you get, make sure it has the most powerful motor you can find. Trust me on this one, you'll thank me later.

I also think a mixer is fabulous. For whisking egg whites, mixing cake batter, and all things associated with baking and making assorted desserts. Doing any of that by hand is not a fun thing. Also, for making your own mayonnaise (which tastes heaps better than bought stuff, by the way!) it's much easier to dribble the oil into the eggs if the mixer is doing the whisking for you, and it's much more consistent. There you have it, gadget number two.

Recently, I had to mince a whole lot of garlic. An entire bulb of garlic which is equals at least 10 cloves. Now, one clove of garlic is kinda fun to mince by hand and I like keeping the knife skills sharp but 10 cloves just starts to get tedious. This is where one does not poo-poo a gadget, not at all! I used the mini food processor attachment that came with my stick blender. Stuck the peeled garlic cloves into it, pressed the "turbo" button and it took about 3 seconds. It was so fast, I was surprised! An excellent use of a gadget as a productivity tool.

A note on garlic: forget the garlic mincer or garlic press thingy. Seriously, when it's just one clove of garlic, use a knife! It's quicker and much easier to clean. I've been told that a garlic press is a bitch to clean. The Boy bought a garlic press for me. It's still in its packaging!

Aside from those gadgets, there are not many other gadgets I use in the kitchen when cooking, except for one thing - the latest addition into my kitchen ... a Thermomix.

It's supposed to be a food processor, blender, mixer, mincer, chopper, cooking, kneading, one-stop shop wonder machine for your kitchen. It does all of the following for you - chop, beat, mix, whip, grind, knead, mince, grate, juice, blend, heat, stir, steam and weigh food.

It was sold to me as a "this will do all your cooking for you and you will never have to cook the traditional way again" gadget, but you know what? I like cooking - cooking the old fashioned way. It took me MONTHS of hemming and hawing before I finally decided I would get the gadget. Of course, since it was expensive, more consideration had to go into the decision making process. I did not want another gadget that would sit in the cupboard not being used.

When I finally decided to get the Thermomix, it was because I wanted it for the following reasons - baking, food processor, blender, mincer, some mixing, possibly some chopping but NOT cooking. It was also because I was considering getting a food processor and I would be getting quite a few additional gadgets (if I decided to get additional gadgets) on top of the food processor. The Thermomix is an incredible food processor, with a motor you just cannot kill.

The Thermomix arrived and I have tried cooking with it. I did NOT like it at all. It did not feel like cooking. I felt cheated of the whole cooking experience, which I really enjoyed. The thing I love about cooking is the cooking itself. Having a machine do my cooking for me just was not right.

I tried a salad for lunch, that took about 3 minutes to prepare and then 5 seconds in the Thermomix to make. That was it! Lunch was done. Needless to say, I felt cheated. I can't even say I made lunch.

Then I tried it again for dinner and decided to make a chicken curry using a Thermomix recipe I found (I will convert the recipe for regular cooking in another post, since it was a pretty tasty curry). Again, very unsatisfying. It tasted good enough, but that's 'cos I know how to adjust my spices to make it tasty, but I think it required more cooking time to give it more depth of flavor (something that slow cooking would give it). It was cooked, but it was not cooked enough, if that makes sense. How long did that take me to make? The prep was about 7 minutes and the process with the Thermomix was about 30 minutes, including each step with the different stages, chopping, mixing, heating, cooking. It would have been done in 20 but I extended the cooking time another 10 minutes, just to give the spices some time in the "pot" to develop.

At least now I have given "cooking" with the Thermomix a try and can say that I've done it and it didn't grab me. I'll stick to the reasons that I bought it for - which is to help me with my baking, making ice creams and sorbets and for The Boy, he's excited about it crushing ice. We've killed a few blenders crushing ice in the past.

Don't get me wrong - these are NOT the only gadgets in my kitchen, but these are the ones that I use the most of. There are others, of course, that I've accumulated from the past that still take up space in my cupboards that I don't use quite as often. There's my egg boiler / cooker - which I love, my rice cooker, muffin maker, juicer, old blender, sandwich maker, electric wok ... and possibly a few others I've forgotten. They are going to get turfed pretty soon, to make more room. It all depends on how ruthless I'm going to be when I clean up the kitchen.

Do you have any kitchen gadgets that you particularly love? What do you use the most often? Do you have a gadget that you could not live without? Why limit it to the kitchen? What other gadgets are there in your life that you love and could not live without?

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