Ingredients and Gadgets – The Floor is Yours
For nearly three years now we've been running the Chef Watch feature. Perhaps it needs a little freshening up - especially now that a certain lady in The Scotsman has not only adopted it, but also copied most of the questions.
There is a certain sameness (if that's a word) about the background of most of them. That's hardly surprising. Were I to do a Lawyer Watch (yawn, yawn) I'm sure we would find similar strands running through those too. But where we find wide divergences are in the responses to my queries about favourite kitchen implement and favourite ingredient. As the year comes to a close I'm going to invite some audience participation by asking you the same questions.
First, however, a little analysis of the story so far. Since every chef whom I've ever seen being interviewed hails the glory of sharp knives, I banned this as their choice of favourite item. Stephen Harris almost broke the prohibition when he chose ceramic knives. Utterly astonishing, but then again he is entirely self taught - and his restaurant has been voted best in Britain - so what do I know?
By a country mile, the Thermomix (pictured above) was the winner in the equipment stakes. Nisbets will flog you one for a mere £2663.98 (such a snappy figure, don't you think?). I found a website which offers you a free consultation with a Thermomix consultant. In fairness, I also saw one advertised on Amazon for £56.83. What does it do? It would take too long to tell you but find a review here. No, I don't have one and have never used one, despite Craig Wood's
The same Mr Wood extolled the virtues of his fish slice, or his dogleg as he dubbed it. Must introduce him to last month's candidate Georgios Alexiou, who threatens to quit his kitchen if he doesn't have his wee palette knife. In second place, in case you were wondering, was the Konro BBQ/Grill. Chefs young and not so young love them. Yes, Messrs Cheevers and Askew, I do mean you.
Ingredients? Salt narrowly edged the gold medal slot, closely followed by seafood in its various glories, scallops probably being the most vaunted. I do hate to go with the flow, but I think that, if asked, I'd be alongside the gold medal gang. The more esoteric choices included rose harissa (Stuart Muir), gochujang (Dean Banks) and koji (Phil White).
My choices? Well, if I'm not allowed salt, I think I'm going to go for lemons, for their sheer versatility plus their ingenuity as the finest invisible ingredient known to a chef. And my gadget? This.
No idea how it came into my kitchen - I certainly didn't buy it. From Lakeland, I think. The longer end, which has serrated teeth, is the most brilliant way imaginable of removing seeds and membrane from a chilli. Now that we once again can get strawberries with proper hulls, the round bit is a genius invention for helping you remove them.
OK. Over to you now. Favourite piece of equipment: favourite ingredient. The best answer - either via the blog or, if you're too shy, via email - email@example.com - wins the usual prize. Yes, a year's free subscription to Tom's Food!
My Bamix stick blender and blade grinder
Ingredient has to be fresh free range eggs. Tom, you know why! So many uses in cooking and baking, a quick and nutritious meal.
Come and visit in the New Year, and I’ll teach you how to make an omelette correctly!
Eggscuse me! I think it is the other way around. I will happily visit you but I will be doing the teaching.
Pah! One of your peelly wally colourless egg things. My mother would have flung you out of her kitchen. You will never make a French man.
Thank you to Aileen Stirrat for gifting the chilli, strawberry thingy
Implement – Zulay Danish Dough Whisk Large Hand Mixer. Ingredient – sourdough starter
Gadget: Table scraper. Not really a gadget, but it carries food from board to pot and gathers up flour from rolling pastry. Once you have one, prep is faster and cleaner.
Ingredient: Ginger garlic paste. At the core of every curry.
Interesting. For a paste for my curry I’ll have onion and chilli as well as ginger and garlic.
Right – food I think is chicken stock which I make often. Transforms risottos, stews, soups etc.
Equipment- I love a decent spatula. By decent I mean fairly flexible.
From Wendy Barrie
I’m going for cream. Where would my meringues be? My cream soups? My sauces & quiches? It’s an ingredient I’m never without. Not to mention in coffee to start the day.
Equipment? Balloon whisk. Versatile, low tech with many uses.
Thanks for that, Wendy. Lesley, the current Mrs Johnston, has a cream intolerance. Not dairy, just cream. Feed her a spoonful and projectile vomiting will follow very soon. As a result I don’t use the stuff. When I gave it up, I felt my cooking improved. These days I tend to find it too rich when I eat it. But every now and then I do miss the luxury of a nicely made creamy sauce.
Only a cook but if I can’t pick my beautiful, hand forged knife, I’ll go with my St. Peter’s fish press and favourite ingredient to match would be wild, line caught barramundi.
What do you mean, ONLY a cook? Tell us more about a St Peter’s fish press if you would? And on the basis that you’re choosing barramundi, where are you based?
Ingredients – Best blackcurrant jam, cinnamon, creamy Jersey milk on morning porridge (in season now).
Implement – A fish slice still in use round at Mum’s with my initials on, that I know was made 55 years ago next year.
Favourite gadget right now is the newly acquired Airfryer. So much quicker than conventional oven and preheat is 3 minutes rather than 10 and is great for one or two portions. Sausages are a particular triumph! Favourite ingredient is Calabrian chilli paste…..great for instant heat.
(Tom…as James Martin says “if you’re taking the seeds out of a chilli; why on earth are you using chillies in the first place?”😂)
From Pat M
Ingredient – Odysea Cretan Olive Oil
Implement -Think the pasta pan wins. This is light stainless steel and came free years ago with a case of Italian wine. The lid turns round to lock for straining. Good for bed, not just pasta.
(Editor’s Note – Pat sent me a photo of this. It has perforations in the lid and looks very elegant, like the lady herself. I’d never heard of such a thing. A simple but ingenious idea. Anyone else got one?)
From Slowfood at Cleikum Eating Club via Twitter
Implement – potato ricer
Ingredient – potatoes
It occurred to me to ask why a potato ricer is so called. SCEC tells me it’s because the holes are similar in size to grains of rice. Live and learn.
From Helena J, Liverpool
Implement – my dishwasher
Ingredient – butter. I don’t use a lot of it, but it’s always delicious when I do.