Good kitchen equipment can really make or break your efforts in the kitchen. I have a vast collection of equipment and a small, select number of electric gadgets. I firmly believe in buying good quality pieces once, that should last me a lifetime. I know some of the price tags are astronomical, but it’s a price I’m prepared to pay for quality and the simple pleasure of using a beautiful and effective piece of equipment whilst I cook. Here are my thoughts on the Kitchen Kit I think every serious cook should consider owning.
Space is a commodity at a premium in most people’s kitchens, and mine are no different. Electric gadgets tend to take up the most space, so everything I own must be used regularly, serve a genuinely useful purpose, and perform a unique purpose. Here are my essential gadgets.
What works so well about a stand mixer, in my opinion, is the fact that it offers a “hands free” way of working which I love so much. I am a rather disorganized, impatient person, so when I cook, particularly when I bake, I am very bad at mise en place. It is generally a result of trying to attempt 101 things in lightening speed (such is life chez moi), so I love the fact that you can just throw in your ingredients and set it to mix. I do enjoy being able to set the Kitchen Aid to mix and let it get on with it whilst I dig the next lot of ingredients required for a recipe out of the larder. Perhaps this says more about the state of my organization rather than the machine?
Another great feature along this line is the large bowl, which you can just pull out and re-attach. Again, being so scatty in the kitchen, I do like this, as I can just place the mixing bowl on my electric scales, set them to zero and add the next ingredient which the recipe requires. The glass bowl is very useful in addition to the metal one. I use the machine so much, it is useful to have more than one bowl, so that I can put a dirty one in the dishwasher and have a clean bowl to hand to continue cooking.
I have a Kenwood Chef, which serves the same purpose as the Kitchen Aid which I also like. I expect it to serve me very well – I have heard of these machines withstanding several decades of hard work. This is an efficient and powerful mixer, although I do find the lock and unlock mechanism more clumsy than the Kitchen Aid, although the Kenwood clearly has a more powerful motor. It is incredibly useful to have two machines of this sort, especially when recipe testing for my books.
I am the proud owner of a Magimix 5200, which does seem to be a piece of kitchen kit which can tackle any task you could ever throw at it. My machine has all manner of blades, which make it suitable for all types of processing and mixing imaginable. I use it most to make sauces, chopping nuts, salad dressings and for grating, either root vegetables or cheeses. I also use the juicer when I’m making something like blood orange jelly and have endless nets of fruit to juice, or of course, when I’m preparing my marmalade. Having owned a couple of Kenwood food processors and used other brands elsewhere, I have found them vastly inferior to the Magimix, which is a superbly capable, powerful machine. Genuinely game changing.
This Cuisinart blender is the most powerful blender I’ve ever had. It is a really excellent machine, so well made. It is incredibly solid and I particularly like the glass bowl. I make an awful lot of soups and smoothies, and my old blender regularly struggled with tasks that the Cuisinart makes look easy. An example of this are my strawberry and banana breakfast smoothies which I am rather partial to. I always buy frozen berries as they are infinitely more practical than buying fresh, and I also like how cold they make the smoothie. However frozen strawberries can be quite large and I would struggle to get them to blend. This blender also makes excellent purees and crushes ice, too, meaning it is a really powerful, durable piece of kit. A not of caution though, please do not overfill when making soup. I made this mistake when blending hot soup. The blender is so powerful, it literally blew the lid off and I scalded my face (losing a layer of skin) from the hot soup hitting me in the face. You have been warned!
I have a Sage juicer, which I like. I really like having a proper juicer, as, when I rarely drink juice, I love to juice hard fruit and vegetables, such as apple, carrot and ginger, which are impossible using any other appliance. These machines are big, but work very well.
It’s probably easier to start with outside – and in this respect, there is only one appliance for me, my Big Green Egg. I have the Large Egg, on wheels with mahogany shelves on either sides and I adore it. It is just so easy to use and produces the most delicious food. I use it to barbecue, smoke, and cook casseroles, breads and more, using its Dutch oven. It is so simple to light and heats up so quickly. It is completely smokeless, which is a real bonus for me, and also I love the fact that you can cook with a variety of natural charcoals and woods, which all impart their own unique flavours. Just fabulous.
In the kitchen, I like AGA, and also electric fan ovens and gas hobs. My preferred brands are NEFF and Miele. I have got on well with GAGGENAU, too. Miele also make the best dishwashers.
Knives and utensils
My set of Chef’s knives are made by Wusthof and I’ve been very pleased with them. I have a 16 piece set, acquired to the Ballymaloe Certificate Course specifications, which set me back just under £1000. This is quite a modest sum for a good set of knives. For a cheaper option, I really recommend Victorinox, which are available from Nisbets and other catering suppliers and are superb quality knives that are extremely comfortable to use for the money. I use these to teach my knife skills classes and people get on very well with them. I use Nisbets a lot for catering equipment.
I am a huge fan of Microplane graters, and have several, both with fine and slightly courser blades. I use them for some cheeses, citrus zest and ginger. I keep them separate for different ingredients, just in case the flavours taint a little. I have tried a number of other brands and not liked them nearly as much, and, whilst £20+ seems a lot to spend on a grater, I am very happy with their performance for the money. Not only do they work really well, but they are so comfortable and stable to use.
Silicone spatulas are a godsend for me and I use them so much for scraping every last scrap from my bowls, jugs and utensils. When I am recipe testing, I can easily have a dozen on the go. What I don’t do, even though they are supposedly safe, is to cook with them. I really don’t like the idea of plastic touching heat and my food and I worry about its safety. So I only use spatulas cold. I have about a dozen from Le Creuset, and some excellent Zeal spatula spoons from Kitchens in Bath. Whilst I like silicone spatulas, I dislike silicone brushes and prefer to use natural hair ones with wooden handles, which I buy from David Mellor in Sloane Square.
My favourite peeler, and this is a personal choice, is the Y peeler made by OXO Good Grips. It is really comfy and ergonomic for me to use.
The Benriner mandolin is a piece of kit I use loads for all manner to tasks. It’s super sharp, but easy to use and blades are detachable, so you can sharpen them over time.
Other kitchen kit I love
For every day use, I love Pyrex mixing bowls and measuring jugs. They work really well, are heat proof and run through the dishwasher time and time again. Perfect for my heavy use.
Tea towels are something I am also particular about. I like thick, hard wearing, absorbent tea towels for every day use, and that I can tuck into my apron whilst I’m cooking. My preferred brand are Poli-Dri. They are superb. I do like Ulster Weavers cloths, too, and I use the Irish linen ones for polishing, and glass.
Non-stick baking paper is a very variable product. I always use Lakeland’s as it never sticks and works really well. I never use the loaf or round liners as I hate the ruffled effect it gives to a cake. I always line my tins properly. But to save time, I buy the pre-cut discs from Lakeland in a variety of sizes, and the small roll of baking paper designed to be cut to fit the sides of a tin, which is very useful.
Flour shakers and icing sugar shakers are so useful, especially when baking regularly. I have some super chic ones again from David Mellor in Sloane Square, which I hope will last an lifetime.
My all-time favourite pans are made by Le Creuset. I have a number of their casseroles in varying shapes – all in the largest sizes they make – in both glossy white and matt black, and all with the lovely silver handles. I have a real aversion to the black plastic handles. The Le Creuset stainless steel and non-stick frying and sauce pans are also superb. ICM Pentole are also excellent. Whilst it is a very significant investment to acquire a set, it is absolutely with it, for excellent performance every time. I have invested now, so I will have a lifetime of use to enjoy.