Top 5 kitchen gadgets.

by Anna Buckley

IMG_6919[1]Mine is a hard working and practical kitchen.  My husband calls it my office and I don’t mind because I bloody LOVE to cook. It is a small and highly functional work space that I’m loathe to fill with ornamentation and gadgetry. I have favorite pots, pans, mixing bowls and utensils, but today I thought I’d focus on those CHOPPING and MIXING gadgets that make food preparation SO much quicker and easier.

But before we get started I thought I’d show you a picture of the student house (and kitchen) I lived in when I moved out of home at the tender age of 17…(and what a bloody contrast it is to the home I have now!).

56KingWilliam_2983It was where I met my husband and we make a pilgrimage to it every time we’re in Adelaide. Sadly on our last visit we saw the site had been sold and assume the abandoned 150 year old inner city house will be bulldozed and replaced with a slick new apartment block. We jumped the hoarding…

56KingWilliam_2991And got a few pics of that primitive little kitchen where I first learnt to cook.

56KingWilliam_3007The old oven…wood stove on the right and the much more modern gas cooker I used on the left. It was what I had in mind when describing the kitchen of the flat where Christina lived when she first moved out of home.

The entrance was right on busy Sydney Road. The small plaque set into the decorative façade said 1880. After climbing the narrow staircase I opened the door onto one large room. An ornate plaster rose decorated the ten foot ceiling. Two grand windows, facing the street, lit the room. Against the back wall was a rudimentary kitchen with an old enamel gas stove and a sink cupboard. A small bathroom was tucked into the corner, barely hidden by a rickety old screen. Despite it being filthy with nicotine stained walls and pigeon shit piled below the windows, I could see what it could become. I couldn’t wait to move in and make it mine.

But I digress…the point I’m really trying to make is that you don’t need much to get your cooking groove started! I love checking out other people’s kitchens and enjoyed taking a virtual tour of Amanda’s tiny New York kitchen featured on her gorgeous blog. We started chatting about what really mattered and agreed that the size of a kitchen doesn’t really count!

IMG_6906[1]So I’ve come a long way since that run down kitchen, we’ve moved a lot. I’ve even kept a few favorite tools I still use to this very day.

But back to the original topic…Don’t be fooled by the clean minimalist exterior of my current kitchen. I have a shit load of utensils.

IMG_6905[1]Drawers full. All of it put to good use at some stage.

IMG_6904[1]But there are SOME work horses in my kitchen that I use constantly… INDISPENSABLE, TIME SAVING, MULTI-USE, SUPER PRACTICAL and EASY to CLEAN. It wasn’t difficult to come up with the top five, I just looked at what I’d cooked during the week, what utensils I’d used most and what I couldn’t possibly live without.

IMG_6915[1] Number 1- VICTORINOX SMALL SERRATED KNIFE

This is THE most used tool in my kitchen. I have a drawer full of knives but always defer to this little gem. It never goes blunt… unlike the expensive knives I’ve been meaning to get professionally sharpened (but never gotten around to). In fact this knife is so SHARP I guarantee you will slice through your thumb nail more than once when first using it.

They are ridiculously cheap (about $7) and as a result I can afford to have 3…all members of this household have their favorite. I give them as gifts and keep one in the glove box of my car…holiday houses never have sharp knives!

If I was permitted to choose only one kitchen utensil it would be this!

IMG_6926[1]This week tomatoes were $1 per kilo and I bought lots to convert to a big batch of pasta sauce. My knife made this chore a joy!

IMG_6878[1] Number 2- BORNER MANDOLINE

There are many Mandolines out there but I’ve never found one as good as this. Even my food bible COOKS ILLUSTRATED recommends it as the best. It turns a monumental slicing and dicing chore into a quick and easy process. It washes easily, is compact and can be stored in a small cutlery draw  And like the knife, it’s ridiculously sharp and you WILL  slice the top off a finger at some stage! Was that last bit of potato worth it?? My cousin calls it the MANGLE LYN in honour of his wife and the injury she received as a result of  not using the safety guard.

It’s not the most expensive mandoline and can be picked up for around $45.

There is hardly a day when I don’t put this to good use for…

-paper thin slices of potato for a pizza.

-the finest shredded cabbage, carrot and cucumber for a Vietnamese slaw.

-a mountain of perfectly chopped vegetables for a quick soup.

-evenly sliced zucchini and eggplant for a grilled mezze platter.

IMG_6901[1]Chopping the many onions for this Lebanese potato Kibbi was so fast not a single tear was shed!

IMG_6914[1] Number 3- BRAUN STICK BLENDER.

I’m not really an appliance person… things like bread-makers, thermomixes and electric pizza makers have never really done it for me. I hate single use appliances, hate how much space they take up and am loathe to lug the heavy monsters out of the cupboards and onto valuable bench space. But I love my stick blender. It has to be this heavy duty Braun because the cheaper models, with the small engines, just don’t cut it. It has almost replaced my cumbersome food processor as I find it mixes and minces to a much finer grade. And the best thing of all…easy to wash and can be stored in a drawer.

This week I used it to make…

-the silkiest hummus ever.

-the finest chicken liver pâté.

-a smoothe apple purée for the base of a tarte aux pommes.

IMG_5224And an emulsified mint vinaigrette for a delicious green bean and radicchio salad.

IMG_6908[1] Number 4- HAND HELD ELECTRIC BEATERS.

It’ s not the brand, just the convenience of this small appliance which makes beating a less laborious chore for things like..

-marshmallow

-lemon meringue pie

-creaming butter and sugar

-fluffy egg whites for pavlovas…

IMG_1459Or a triple batch of chocolate butterfly cakes sinfully filled with chocolate ganache and whipped cream!

IMG_6910[1]Number 5- STAINLESS STEELE BOX GRATER

OK so it’s not the most glamorous utensil but this hard working little beast has been with me since I left home at 17…it’s ancient!

I must confess I really don’t like micro planes as I find them hard to use, to get purchase if you’re grating an unwieldy block of Parmesan or the rind of a large juicy orange. And quite frankly what the hell are you going to use to grate a nice bit of cheddar for the comfort foods that make those frigid winter days bearable. Nothing can replace a grater.

My humble little grater works tirelessly to…

-zest that lemon rind for a gremolata.

-shred even the most woody ginger without the need to peel it first.

-grate cucumber for Tzadziki

-produce a garlic paste without the waste and pain in the ass effort of cleaning of a press.

IMG_6352[1]And of course zest the orange rind for the stupidly popular citrus and ricotta tart…made by Karyn and me with stolen (even more delicious) figs!

So that’s my list… what would be yours if you were starting from scratch?

In book one, after her husband dies, Christina leaves behind her old life and must begin again…

Moving was simple, just me and my clothes. I loved this unfettered freedom, no large house to clean, no big garden to maintain.

The Finestras had offered to give me the basics, but I politely declined. I wanted to make this little apartment mine and quite liked the idea of starting from scratch. I’d done this once before and remembered the great pleasure I got from creating something from nothing.

So what would be your top 5 prep gadgets, the things you’d consider must haves in your kitchen, those essential items that help lessen the chore of producing your own very special bits of culinary magic? Share your kitchen secrets…

Cheers, Anna x

Anna Buckley Books

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The Lost Woman series follows the sexy adventures of Christina as she makes her way through a world of new media, design, fashion,  travel, and … men.
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