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Monday, 19 March 2012

Interlude number one, the wish list

Hello readers. I’m not doing a recipe this time, I wanted to take a little break and go through my kitchen wish list with you. Somewhat in the style of the ‘any cook who wants to be taken seriously’ section in Kitchen Confidential – although I won’t be mentioning any squeezy bottles or mise-en-place organisers, that’s just a given.  If you haven’t read Kitchen Confidential yet, go read it. Anthony Bourdain is such a brilliant, anarchic writer, and once you get through all the sex and drugs, there is a bit of stuff about food too.

I started cultivating my kitchen wish-list when I realised that my kitchen-based fantasies were less about what/who I was doing (ahem), but rather what the appliances in the background were like – was there a retro red kitchen aid like in The Fabulous Baker Brothers? Or one of those American style humongous fridges with an ice-maker in the door? Oh you know that there was (wink wink).

So here is the list, and thanks to all my delicious facebook friends for adding their suggestions. Of course some of these things aren’t that difficult to get hold of, or that expensive, I just haven’t gotten around to it yet.

Another microplane – microplanes are fantastic little things, like uber-graters. I already have one, with very small teeth that is perfect for zesting things, but I need one with slightly larger teeth that can be used for grating ginger and garlic, and chocolate. Ginger especially is such a pain in the arse to grate, and these things seem to work the best. They are very sharp, so be careful – I once grated my fingertip off with one, and couldn’t handle lemons or chillies for a week.

Rubbery spatula  -these are just the best things in the world for scraping cake batter or melted chocolate out of bowls – and quite fun to hit people with too.

Global knives – as many of you know I have a bit of an obsession with these, and they were first introduced to me by the wonderful Suzy. Of course as you know a really decent knife is probably the most fundamental thing you should have in your kitchen, and these are my favourite. Sleek Japanese steel, perfectly weighted and a little bit badass – they show that you are serious too. I don’t have any (yet) but I have used them before and they really really are that good.

Springy palette knives – for spreading buttercream on cakes in a swishy, effortless sort of way, and for lovingly spreading melted chocolate onto large marble slabs…which brings me on to…

Giant marble slab. Just the thing for chocolate work, or pastry where you need it to stay really cold. And also just looks so beautiful.

Cast- iron griddle pan – this is actually the next thing I will be buying for myself. I want a big one, preferably that will go over two burners on the hob. Just the thing for cooking steaks, lamb chops or fresh tuna – with perfectly charred and caramelised lines. I also love griddled vegetables – aubergine and courgettes especially – coat them lightly in olive oil and scorch on both sides, sprinkle with salt and serve at room temperature, maybe with more olive oil, toasted pine nuts and crumbled goats cheese. What I also love about these griddle pans, is that they are reassuringly heavy, if you have ever used one, you will know what I mean.

Pressure cooker – pressure cookers are magical. And people are afraid of them, which I don’t understand. I think that possibly back in the day they were all explodey or something. But the fact that it can cook food super fast is a very good thing for 2 reasons. 1) there just isn’t enough time in the day sometimes. 2) it can save the planet! Oh yes. I recently read an article about Wonderbags, which are like super-insulated beanbags which are changing the lives of people in the third world by drastically reducing the amount of fuel needed to cook something. With the wonderbag, food is heated up in a pot for 5-10 minutes, and then the whole pot is snuggled inside the wonderbag for a few hours, cooking in its residual heat. Pretty special, and a thoroughly good idea. But get this – using a pressure cooker, it would just be cooked in the 5 or 10 minutes. Simples. And you can get some pretty awesome retro-spacey ones at the moment that look like something out of The Jetsons. On the subject of saving the planet by the way, I have decided that Masterchef’s beloved blast chillers are of the devil. And on the subject of saving time/ money/ sanity, instead of a sous-vide, just use a ziplock bag in a slow-cooker, yeah.

Wood-burning pizza oven. Obviously, probably more for the back garden then the kitchen though. And lucky me someone has just offered to build me one. Now I just need to learn how to make pizza dough…

Small oven suitable frying pans. The kind that are all metal, and you have to wrap a dry tea-towel around the handle to get them out of the oven. For making tarte-tatins, and fritattas, and shakshouka, properly.  Shakshouka especially, so that the tomato sauce can cook slowly on the hob, and the eggs can set just right in the oven – and then be served just like that, on a heat-proof mat, with crusty bread. I have not met anyone who doesn’t like shakshuka, and there are some great recipes in Ottolenghi’s books and the new Hugh F-W vegetarian book (review coming soon). My recipe is here.

Large stainless steel bowl – for beating egg whites, nothing is better.

Silicone paper – for lining baking trays. As I have said here, and here and here, there really is nothing better for when making delicate little baked things.

Egg coddlers – another one of my favourite books, The Vintage Tea Party Book by Angel Adoree has a whole area of its breakfast section dedicated to coddled eggs. It’s a delicious looking poached egg delight, that just has to be made in a retro, patterned china little dish, preferably with little flowers painted up the sides, and a gold rim.

Tagine – this of course also comes with me wanting an oven with the capacity to cook this properly, like an aga, or my shiny new wood-burning oven in the garden (one can hope).  And it has to be a beautiful, painted all brightly coloured, warm and evocative of the delicious food-goodness on the inside (this means by the way that i will have to have two, as the painted ones are just for serving). Before I went to Morocco I just didn’t get tagines, they were just oddly shaped dishes right? But then when I was there I knew – the heavy ceramic and that iconic shape keeps them incredibly hot, and the stew gets heady and thick and perfect, and it just cant be recreated properly in a normal saucepan - although this one comes close.

So there it is, my kitchen fantasy wish list. I hope you enjoyed it.  Please let me know what essential things you would add to your fantasy kitchen. And don’t worry I will be back to recipes again very soon. I just found a great looking one for a giant couscous salad with parsley, fennel and walnuts, or  I might have another attempt at my chilli-polenta crusted potatoes. 

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