I don’t own a food processor, a mixer, a bread maker, a blender or even a piping bag. My microwave is more likely to be used as a timer, than for cooking something to eat. It’s not been intentional, to not own some of the wonderful mod cons out there, but it’s where my kitchen is still at today after 15 years of playing and creating and I’m actually okay with it. Certainly sometimes I would love to not be trying to whisk 8 egg whites(aching arm anyone?), or attempting to cream butter and sugar by hand, but it proves the fact that you don’t need a lot of fancy tools to cook good food. You might use a bit more energy or to be a bit more creative about adapting what you have, but pretty much anything is possible.
There is some tools that I find I love and return to time and time again. These are what I consider my essential kitchen items.
My commercial kitchen days taught me the importance of having a chopping board that doesn’t slip on your bench when you are using it. We used to use wet a tea towel and place it underneath our solid plastic boards to secure it against the bench. These days though, I use a wooden one (nothing too fancy, it came from Ikea), and I find the weight of the board, combined with its little rubber feet, create a great chopping space where I’m never worried about slipping and having an accident… this is particularly important with the next tool….
Good Sharp Knives
The majority of injuries of sustained in a kitchen have come from a dull knife. Slipping on tough food like removing skin from a pumpkin (still got the scar 10 years on from that one) are sure ways to bring out the blood. Sharp knives create precision and enables you to cut where you intend. The important thing for me, is get a good solid knife (they do cost money) like Global, Vitorinox or Mundial, and be prepared to learn how to sharpen them on a steel. They will change your life and often mean you will enjoy cooking more. To Julienne a carrot becomes a breeze, no longer will you hate trying to dice an onion… and you can slice a tomato without turning into a bruised mushy sauce in the process.
Okay a little bit more of a fancy tool I know, but they are brilliant for zesting citrus, grating parmesan cheese, mincing garlic and ginger. A cheap one is good, a sharp professional one is better! I get by on my $12 job, but I long for a serious microplane that does the job better. Really the philosophy is probably a bit like knives.
Sift, puree, drain… I use my metal strainer frequently. Plastic will work ok for draining pasta or vegetables, but when it comes time to filter my stock, sift my plain flour with baking powder to make self-raising, or even just to puree fruit whilst removing seeds, I honestly can’t go past my metal strainer. They’re not expensive, and it’s probably one of the first kitchen tools I bought myself when I moved out of home.
One of the few appliances that helps where a hand is just not enough. It puree’s a breeze, great for soups, smoothies, dips, pesto and making mayonnaise. Mine wasn’t expensive, a bonus from work, which has given me more than its money worth being in its 10th year. Having a stick mixer has meant I haven’t missed having a blender all these years.
Cheap and versatile, I use freezer bags beyond just for storage. Great for marinating meats, you can massage a marinade through and not end up with a hideous mess. I store my freezer meals mainly in freezer bags to free up my plastic containers, and because they take little room and make defrosting at the other end very easy. Freezer bags can also double as a piping bag in a pinch. You may go through a few, but they work. Finally, if I’m taking food to a friend’s place for a meal, storing salad in bags and then just adding to a bowl at the other end saves me clean a mess up in the car, and means it presents well at the other end.
My Coffee Machine…
Okay so yes it’s an appliance, and not really essential… but it’s shiny and fire engine red… and I LOVE coffee! So consider it my indulgence. I use it daily and it makes me smile when I see it in the kitchen. Win win in my book.
Do you have something in your kitchen you can’t live without?