Archive for the ‘equipment’ Category

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Zest for life

June 2, 2009

lemon zestFurther to our earlier discussion of simple but essential kitchen gadgets, I hereby withdraw my remarks to Hughesy about the humble zester being interchangeable with a grater.

For I now am in love with a six-dollar zester – it takes up no space, and is perfectly designed to take exactly the right depth of citrus peel for flavour and texture.

I realise now that a grater either takes too much or (in the case of our super-fine Microplane), too little, with the latter result being a sort of vaguely citrusy fairy floss instead of the sharp, fresh zing required. And digging too deeply, of course, means icky bitter pith. 

And as for lemons, oranges and limes, and why these zesty friends must be included in  life’s truly essential ingredients – well, you all know. ‘Sundry items too numerous to mention’, as the old clearance sale adverts in the Cooma-Monaro Express used to say. We’re talking sharpening up and /or sweetening everything from lamb shanks to roast chook to fruit salad to curries to chocolate cake.

Maggie Beer puts citrus peel in everything – from this incredibly delicious Moroccan poached ocean trout (have cooked several times, it’s from my treasured copy of  Maggie’s Table that chefbro Hamish gave me for Christmas – personally signed and everything, following their cooking gig together in Shangers) to the completely different but equally luscious  Haloumi & Citrus Lentils (ditto).

Skye Gyngell is another lemon freak, and her wonderful book A Year in My Kitchen is one of my favourites.  Here’s what she says about lemon zest:

The zesting of a lemon could never be described as a recipe, but this is an ingredient I use so often that it warrants a mention …  

Lemon zest works beautifully when tossed into a simple salad whose leaves include basil, mint, chervil and rocket. The addition of grated Parmesan, lemon juice and good olive oil is all that is needed, in my mind, to creat a perfect green salad. 

The tangy zest also cleans up the flavour of many desserts that would otherwise seem a fraction too sweet. Similarly, it works well to counteract the potentially cloying flavour of pickled fruits. In essence, lemon zest is a simple, quick way to add freshness to your cooking. There is no real secret, just be sure that to use the finest holes on your grater and only use the yellow part of the skin. The white pith tends to taste very bitter. Grate your zest as close as possible to the time that you are going to use it, as it will dry out fairly quickly if left out uncovered, or indeed even covered in the fridge overnight. 

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Cry me a river

May 17, 2009

onion gogglesSenor and I are having an argument about whether I should purchase a pair of these exceptionally snazzy onion goggles.

My view, of course, is yes! Although since our earlier discussion on the topic I have to say Hamish and Jamie were both right, and while I still bawl each time, practice is making – well, marginally better. My dice are neater and the chilling and sharpest knife does make a difference. But still, I can definitely see myself in these.

Senor, however, has been rolling his eyes. I’m used to that. Then, warming to the topic, he quite seriously suggested a scuba mask, because then “at least you can use it for snorkelling as well”.

Please. I can just see myself welcoming the guests at the front door with one of those on my head, I replied. At which S looked for a minute from this picture to me and back again, incredulous, and said, “Are you telling me you’re concerned about what they’re going to look like?”

I still think they’re funky.

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A song to the tong

April 24, 2009

tongsOne of the great pleasures of all this visiting and house-sitting we’ve been doing while our place is renovated is having the chance to play in so many different kitchens.

I have developed quite a list of new gadgets to stuff into my capacious drawers (ooh!) when I eventually get them. 

And a few new sets of tongs will be on the list. I love tongs, and cannot fathom how anyone lives without them.

Over Easter I visited my sister and was aghast to find not a single pair of tongs – not even a crappy old supermarket pair – in her kitchen. As I whined and ransacked every drawer in the place, berating her for her tongage shortage, she looked on, nonplussed, and asked what was wrong with a fork.

A fork. How could she possibly substitute a fork for tongs, I gasped. And she said, with rather too much relish for my liking, ‘Well I probably don’t fry things quite as often as you do.’  

An outrageous slur, of course. There’s roasting, too. And sauteing, and flash-frying, and … hmm. But Senor has also pointed out there’s the whole serving aspect. And barbecuing. And fishing pasta out for testing whether it’s cooked. And – surely other uses!??   Read the rest of this entry ?

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Under pressure

April 16, 2009
I'm told they don't look like this anymore ...

I'm told they don't look like this anymore ...

I read with great interest this article by Suzanne Gibbs on pressure cookers  in last week’s Good Living section of the Sydney Morning Herald, primarily because my friend Steph (aka the Empress of the Chick Pea) is always banging on about how she just whipped up this or that traditional nine-hour confit/chick peas/cassoulet in her trusty pressure cooker in a matter of seconds. Well, almost.

Anyway I have always been terrified of the things, even though our mum cooked half our childhood meals (the half of our diet that wasn’t cooked in the electric frypan) in a pressure cooker without incident. I can’t actually remember what she cooked in it now, but I can still recall exactly the sound of the little jiggling whatsit on the top and the slowly rising whistle of building steam … eeek!

But my fear of pressure cookers isn’t just about explosions – it’s possibly more the idea of having to adjust cooking times for every damn thing – I’m soooooo bad at numbers (ask anyone) I can barely double a recipe, let alone do whatever might be required to cook a chick pea in half a minute rather than two hours, or whatever it is.

The other thing is my reluctance to have yet another giant (and heavy?) appliance taking up kitchen cupboard space – but perhaps in my gleaming new kitchen-to-come there will be room for such a thing.

But I’ve only just embraced the diametrically opposed slow cooker last year – clearly I need convincing. But the experts don’t – Suzanne Gibbs even scoffs at the slow cooker revival, saying of her trusty pressure pot:

“To me, it works better than a crockpot because you don’t have to do it all before going to work and have it cooking all day,” she says.

Hmm. Anyone else have experience with the fancy, funky modern numbers that have replaced the terrifying old steel buckets with the tinkling toppers?

Empress, I await your argument …

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Your mother’s kitchen gear you wish you had

March 25, 2009

frypanIn a beachside holiday house recently I had the pleasure of using this rather spesh Sunbeam electric frypan – the kitchen was small, there were three of us cooking at once, and I needed to cook split peas. This sunshiny baby emerged from the cupboard and became my new best friend. Quite a flash version too, with very good thermostat and a half-lid-opening arrangement. It reminded me of my mum, who through the seventies seemed to cook everything in an electric frypan, from roast lamb to cheesy puffs.

Last year, reminded by a newspaper article of the joys of the CrockPot, I bought a slow cooker – the modern version – and now can’t wait for winter to get it humming again for curries, soup, casseroles and shanky brothy things (even caramelised onions in it once which worked amazingly well).

The other mainstay of my mother’s late 70s kitchen, apart from some dubious cork tileage and a lot of mushroom-coloured Laminex, was a Kenwood Chef mixer-cum-blender with forty thousand attachments, which weighed a ton. Not to mention the various trusty toasted sandwich makers that sealed the edges of the baked-bean sanger in a most excellently crispy way. But there was also the appliance cemetery, if I recall correctly, where all the useless Mother’s Day gifts were swiftly interred, such as the electric knife sharpener – and that most irrelevant of gadgets, the electric can opener, to name a couple.

Was it just my dad, or were all fathers obsessed with electrical kitchen gifts for their beloved wives in the 70s? What was the most useless gadget your mother ever had? And which ones do you still yearn for, even now?