Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Steamed artichoke with chipotle, butter and lime dip


The recipe is simple but the ingredient is complicated. Artichokes, a large edible thistle, take time to eat.  You eat them with your fingers, tugging out the leaves and dipping the tip into an emulsified sauce such as mustard vinaigrette, mayonnaise or this sunset-hued sauce in my recipe below, clawing off the pale green flesh with your teeth.
They were a Tudor food, Henry VIII grew them at New Hall palace in Essex and Queen Elizabeth the I's chef cooked many artichoke dishes. I once lived as a Tudor for a few weeks at Kentwell Hall in Suffolk. You had to dress Tudor (I made my own boned bodiced dress), talk Tudor (no saying 'okay') and show deference to the upper classes (really hard all that curtseying). I worked in the dairy and in the blacksmiths. Tudor food for the poor is mostly worts: turnips and roots made into pottage. The upper classes had meat, fish, salads, often with flowers, fresh cottage cheese and marzipan.
Artichokes are one of the oldest cultivated foods, there is something pre-historic about their unapologetic inaccessibility. Italians use raw artichoke in salads, sliced thinly. But you need very fresh, young tender plants, they soon grow coarse and stringy.
We grew some artichokes in the Secret Garden this year: from four plants we got a paltry two artichokes. They take up space but have a spiky beauty.
Recipe for Steamed artichoke with chipotle, butter and lime dip
For one person to eat slowly.

1 fresh artichoke (from AndreasVeg)
Half a lemon
Salted boiling water to cover the artichoke head.

Sauce:
50g of melted butter (recently recieved Lurpak's slow churned butter which was rich and flavoursome)
1 teaspoon of chipotle sauce (or Gran Luchito sauce)
Juice of 1 lime
A large pinch of salt

Cut off the spikey tips with scissors or a sharp serrated knife. Plunge the artichoke into a deep pan of salted boiling water. Add half a lemon so it doesn't discolour. The artichoke is ready when you can easily remove one of the outer leaves. Usually this takes about 20 minutes.
Make the sauce by mixing melted butter, adding chipotle sauce, lime juice and salt.
To eat:
Dip the outer leaves into the sauce, eating the small amount of artichoke flesh at the end of each leaf. Once the leaves become small and flimsy, discard them and pull off the thistly top. Then cut up the artichoke bottom, dipping it into the sauce as you go.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

The first Fried Green Tomatoes award for middle-aged rebellion plus recipes




The book and film Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café, written by Fannie Flagg and set in the southern part of the United States, was a story about the awakening of a dowdy middle-aged woman, Evelyn Couch. Years of low self-esteem and self-sacrifice had worn away at the central character, who was feeling unappreciated in a loveless marriage. Things change when Evelyn strikes up a friendship with an old lady in a nursing home who reminisces about her spunky sister-in-law who has a relationship with another woman. This couple run a local restaurant, The Whistle Stop café, whose signature recipe is fried green tomatoes, a Southern speciality. The stories boost Evelyn's morale, giving her the strength to live her life as she wants.
Last week I had my American cousin Paula to stay. I remember visiting Paula at her home in New Jersey when I was a kid and being impressed by the American suburban architecture, large houses with white picket-fences, green front lawns, kids riding around the streets on bicycles on the wide, mostly car-free streets. Everybody seemed rich, the weather was always good, my cousins were tanned and limber, and there was space and light and prosperity. (So different from England, this visit sparked my love affair with America, I even went to live there for a couple of years.) Visiting England at the age of 50, Paula can still execute a perfect cartwheel from a standing position. She trained to be part of the gymnastics team at the Olympics. Muscle memory.
An English cousin, who I hadn't seen for years, came to join us for dinner during the week. Her mum, my aunt, lost her husband at a relatively early age, becoming a widow at the age of 53. After five years of grieving and being alone, only the dreary fate of living for her grand kids and the odd visit from her children on the horizon, my aunt, met someone. Yup, met a man at the age of 58. It can happen. (This appears to contradict my sister's premise that all single men over 40 are broken biscuits, abandoned, fragmented and incomplete, in the tin).
I heard rumours about this at the time from my mum, something about my aunt had run off to join the funfair with a guy that ran the dodgems. I had a romantic image of my aunt straddling the poles, swinging from bumper car to bumper car, wearing a canvas pocketed apron to collect the fares, while her new man, in my head looking a bit like the 1970s David Essex, all blue eyes, dark curls, gypsy neckerchief and engine oil, operated the ride.
Turns out this guy, who is good looking, but rather more English Midlands than Romany, runs a Go Kart track for a living. My aunt went to live with him in a caravan and helped run the Go Karts. She lost a ton of weight too. She was going out every night and, get this, dancing on pub tables and generally refusing to age gracefully. (I lived in a trailer park for a few months five years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it). All this has met with some disappoval from her kids but for me, this heartening story means my Auntie Sandra wins my inaugural Fried Green Tomato award for middle-aged rebellion. Go girl!
You could say that we are where the prime of the year, the summer season, has fallen away into autumn, the seasonal equivalent of middle-age. This is not to denigrate autumn which is a beautiful season in it's own right: the smell of wood burning, the crackle of rustly leaves, the damp pleasure of mushroom picking, the heave of giant squashes, getting to wear thick tights again. I don't know if Fannie Flagg was describing a synonym for belated middle-age when she gave the recipe for fried green tomatoes, a youthful tomato that hasn't quite matured in time.
Summer is gone. I'm accepting that now. I've just put the heating on for the first time this year. (I'm not sure what my reluctance was, considering I was actually quite cold this past weekend, but it does sometimes feel like defeat to crank up the radiators.) I've also decided to pick my tomatoes from the garden even if they are still green. The tomatoes aren't going to ripen on the vine now, near the end of October. The chill has set in.
For the dinner with my cousins, I made a green and red tomato tart. I've also made fried green tomatoes from the book, Southern style.
Green and red tomato tart

Pastry:

200g plain flour
Pinch salt
100g cold butter
2-3 tablespoons of water

Filling:

300ml creme fraiche
2 eggs, beaten
Salt
3/4 small green tomatoes, sliced thinly
3/4 small red tomatoes, sliced thinly
Lots of white pepper

Prepare your pie dish by buttering and flouring it. Pre-heat your oven to 180ºc

Mix flour and salt together. Grate the cold butter into the flour. Rub flour and butter together with your fingertips so that it ressembles breadcrumbs. Add a little water to pull it together. Flatten into a patty, cover with clingfilm and leave to rest in the fridge for fifteen minutes.
Then roll out into a circle, approx 3mm thick, and arrange the pastry into a 9 inch pie dish. Cut off any excess and use for something else. 
Mix together the creme fraiche and the beaten eggs. Season. Pour into the prepared pie shell.
Arrange the green and red tomato slices in concentric circles on top.
Season the tomatoes with plenty of salt and white pepper.
Bake at 180cº for 25-30 minutes.

Fried Green tomatoes, Southern style

4 large green tomatoes, sliced 1 cm thick

50g cornmeal (not cornflour)
100g self-raising flour
200ml buttermilk or milk
Salt
Black Pepper
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (optional)

Peanut oil for frying (or bacon lard if you aren't vegetarian)


Slice the tomatoes. Make the batter from the cornmeal, flour, buttermilk and seasoning, mix well. It should be both thick and liquid enough to coat the tomatoes.

Dip the tomatoes in the batter, then fry in batches until golden.
Serve immediately.
If you have more batter, consider dipping in mushrooms, jalapenos, too.
Serve with biscuits (like scones) and baked beans.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Shopping in supermarkets

People want to eat well, and learning to cook is a factor. But shopping well is equally important.
Ideally we would all like to shop like the French, strolling, complete with picturesque wicker basket, along the local high street, buying bread from excellent bakeries, discussing freshness with the fishmonger, choosing cuts from the butcher. When I lived in Paris, I shopped virtually every day. But in the UK, parking restrictions, the lack of good local shops, a dearth of artisanal bakeries, make this fantasy of continental shopping unlikely.
Food shopping is increasingly done online, even students such as my daughter get their shopping delivered to campus. The British shop online more than any other country in the developed world.
Shopping online only works for products you already know. Who gets inspired for a seasonal dinner when shopping online?
I enjoy food shopping, I'll admit that I even enjoy going to supermarkets. The first thing I do when going abroad is check out the street market, tick, but also the supermarket. You find out more about a culture from supermarket shelves than from guidebooks; what products are most popular, what is deemed highly necessary. The entire aisles of pasta, vistas of varieties of tinned tomatoes, the green and gold bottles and tins in the olive oil section, lined up like the finest wines with prices to match, tell you about Italy. A Mexican supermarket will have stacks of ready fried tortillas and dozens of salsas. Most supermarkets also sell gadgets. In Italy it's vital to have a tomato grinder and espresso pot, while in Mexico possessing a tortilla press is bog-standard, and in the UK, a kitchen isn't complete without an electric kettle and toaster.
France, along with the fantastic small shops, traiteurs, bakeries and markets, also has more hypermarkets than any other country, so artisanal food businesses don't necessarily mean no big business. But I have remarked that French supermarkets stock local products and specialities from their region. Even their petrol station shops along the autoroutes carry local foods from the area.
Going to a supermarket in this country is a dispiriting business. While we all enjoy going to outdoor food markets when the weather is good, supermarkets on the other hand are soulless and joyless. There is greenish strip-lighting, ugly plastic/metal shelving and displays, unmotivated staff who know little about food and the same old brands hogging the space. Rarely are local food, local producers and suppliers celebrated. The cookbooks are by telly chefs, the in-house coffee shop, if it exists, are now chains.
How much time does the average family food shop take? At least a couple of hours a week. Why can't this be a pleasurable experience? The neglect of our high streets is part of the landscape now, people like to drive to one place to get their shopping. Since the first supermarket (which opened in Streatham in 1951), the big four supermarkets, Tesco, Sainsburys, Asda and Morrisons, have benefited hugely so do they not owe us something? Time to give back to the community? How about they spend some of their massive profits on improving the food shopping experience? Some trickle down?
I have a dream, an idea of a shopping revolution that would mirror what happened to book shops in the 1990s. Supermarkets would become fun places, more like Wholefoods, but cheaper. Here are a few ideas:
  • Local food: local suppliers and producers being given shelf space. To have shelf space at the end of a supermarket aisle costs £5k. Make sure that some of the shelf space is affordable for small producers. 
  • Aesthetics: nicer lighting. I loathe fluorescent strip lighting. Shelving and shop fittings in attractive colours and natural materials.
  • Supermarkets have all kinds of tricks to make their food look 'alive': smells piped in, fresh produce near the entrance. Can't we make the food more enticing without such fakery?
  • Live music: support local artists and musicians. Friday night gigs. 
  • Sofas, nice seating areas: have an area. Make a supermarket more like a cool cafe where you want to hang out there.
  • Demonstration kitchens: local chefs could advertise their restaurants and educate people on how to cook
  • Talks about food: debates and panels, question and answer sessions.
  • Stock more interesting cookbooks not just telly chefs. 
  • Train the staff. The amount of times I've asked for a food product and the staff don't know/care anything about food or cooking. We want curious food fascinated staff. My local Tesco has staff mainly originating from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh. So, for example, when I ask for vegetarian haggis or Greek vine leaves, they immediately reply 'no we don't have it'. Two minutes later I find it on the shelves. Two comments about this: staff should be given the opportunity to taste new products that come into the supermarket. They should be educated about food. Secondly,  the specific knowledge of staff's origins and home cuisine should be reflected. All staff should have name badges detailing what they like to cook and their area of speciality knowledge. Staff should be given cooking lessons. Working in a supermarket should be a cool job. 
  • Tastings for customers. Not some crappy mass produced product who have the money to spend on aisle space but good food, new food. Educate. 
  • Information for customers: on seasonality, what to eat this month. Not talking down to them, not frightening them with food scares. Inform them about other kinds of diets: vegetarianism for instance. Actively discourage them from buying cheap meat. Show them how to manage their food budget.

There has been much talk about the food revolution in the UK. Everyone is instagramming their dinner,  going to/hosting supper clubs, attending street food markets, eating trendy fast food, eating out more often, watching aspirational food TV. But this is primarily young urban trendies with income to spare. How about really making a food revolution? The supermarkets are in the best position, in terms of money and retail space, to make this happen. They have a social responsibility to enable this.
In fact I challenge the big four: give me a supermarket and let me play with it.
What would you like to see in supermarkets? What ideas do you have to improve the experience? 

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Updated schedule: Supper Club Masterclass for The Guardian

ONLY TEN TICKETS LEFT!
For those who are interested in starting a food business such as a supper club, pop up or simply want to feel more confident about entertaining and hosting dinner parties, book this one day intensive course that I am hosting in conjunction with Guardian Masterclasses. Book here.
Price:  £129 (standard)
Date: 20th October 2013
Where: Guardian building, near Kings Cross.
Time: 10 till 5pm.
Lunch, coffee and tea is included.

It's an all-day fast-paced 'conference' with 12 different speakers plus myself. The idea is to inspire and empower people who attend, to give them the confidence to start something. Or, if they are already running a supper club, to give them more detailed information to improve and expand their operation.
I've picked the below speakers as they are all experts in their fields. It's a nitty gritty primer, what you need to be legal, to look good, to be successful. Get here on time, get a good night's sleep the night before, it's gonna be intense!


1.  MsMarmitelover presents

How I started, what I learnt, what to do, what not to do if you can help it. MsMarmitelover will also explain the importance of clingfilm to your pop up career.


2. Food hygiene and Licensing primer: tips to pass a council inspection: Sylvia Anderson

Sylvia runs the award winning company Anderson Food Hygiene Ltd, which has given food hygiene advice to Channel 4, ITV, the Wolseley, Caprice holdings and others. Sylvia trained as a chef so she knows the business from both ends.
3. The Legal lowdown: Nicky Richmond

Nicky is managing partner at a firm of lawyers, Brechers, who specialise in all things property. She has over 25 years experience in dealing with all types of property transactions, acting for both buyers, sellers, landlords, tenants and the people who fund them.
When not chained her desk dealing with deadlines, she can be found eating her way round London and has devised a cunning plan to combine her passion, food, with her vocation, the law. Nicky writes a fortnightly restaurant column for The Lawyer Magazine, and has her own food blog, The Food Judge.

4. Dealing with the taxman: Linda Williams

Linda is a chartered accountant and MBA. Her MA thesis explored how social media is changing the landscape of food. After 20 years working in finance and senior management she set up Bright Blue Skies in 2008 to work with small businesses to demystify and simplify management. From business plans, web projects and the nuances of VAT to systems set up she’s worked with a whole range of food businesses: artisan producers, farmers markets, writers, pop ups. Her clients include Tim Hayward, Peter’s Yard, Fitzbillies and Bray’s Cottage. Her aim is to make their business life simpler. She loves cooking and sporadically blogs about it. She even manages to make tax sound interesting.


4. Suppliers - how to talk their language: Andreas Veg

How to develop relationships with suppliers, and how to speak the arcane language of New Covent Garden. Know the difference between 40s/50s/60s/80s count sizings, the standard sizes for herbs, fruits and vegetables. Our speaker Andreas runs a successful and top quality grocer in Chelsea, in 2014 he 
will celebrate 20 years in the grocery business.
Originally based in Chiswick, Andreas supplied many iconic restaurants including The River Café, Havelock Tavern, Soho House, Hedone and many other household names.
Now Andreas runs his business from his beautiful shop on Chelsea Green and although he no longer supplies restaurants he supplies famous faces such as Nigella Lawson and supper club luminaries such as James Ramsden, Signe Johansen and masterchef winners Pro and Amateur.
Andreas also helped set up The People's Supermarket and works with charities such as The Food Chain.

6. Making your food look good: plating like a professional: Luke Robinson

Luke Robinson trained as a chef at Jamie Oliver's 15, he is now head chef at the restaurant of former pop up hostess Bonnie Wong Bonnie Gull Seafood Shack, in Hackney. He's going to teach you the tricks of the trade and show you how to make your food look great on the plate. You may be a great cook but skilled presentation lifts your food from being good to sublime. He can also talk you through cooking for large numbers of people.

7. PR for beginners: how to market your part-time restaurant: Dominique Fraser

Dominique won Junior Master Chef in 1999 and since her teens, helped her mother run a family restaurant 'The Wife of Bath', in Wye, where she learnt to do everything, front of house, pot wash, and commis chef. This helped Dominique understand the role of marketing for restaurants from a grass roots perspective. Formerly at Gerber Public Relations, one of the leading restaurant PRs in London, recent campaigns have included Polpo, Bubbledogs, Angela Hartnett, Skye Gyngell, Caravan, Pitt Cue Co., Florence Knight, Wright Brothers, and Ceviche, Dominique has now started her own PR agency, Fraser Communications. 
8. Front of house: José of Moo Grill

A supper club or home restaurant may not be a Michelin-starred restaurant, but a few tips from an expert will make it all go more smoothly. Good service can turn it around if the kitchen has made a mistake. Having worked in the restaurant industry since 2004, Jose Luis de Alza's real passion is for Front of House where his infectious enthusiasm and energy keeps customers returning time after time. This gained recognition in 2009 when his management of Santa Maria del Sur finished 3rd place for best local restaurant in the UK on Gordon Ramsay's Channel 4 programme, The F word.

Those interactions and friendships made Jose want to bring the taste of his home city in Argentina, Cordoba, to the people of London, hence Moo was born. Both critically acclaimed and popular with customers, Moo Grill opened in 2010 and was included in Metro newspaper's Top Ten International Eateries. Three years later Moo now has two venues; two more will open before the end of the year.

9. Going pop up: putting on a large event: Tobias Slater

Tobias Slater is the co-founder of White Mischief, the alternative nightlife curators who have hosted cabaret supperclubs; a 100-person interactive dining experience called A Moveable Feast, and country house party The Summer House Weekend, which features feast dinners, breakfasts and snacks from streetfood chefs. Alongside recounting some of his experiences combining big parties with pop-up dining, Tobias will be sharing his advice on producing large-capacity events everywhere from Georgian mansions to 1,000 capacity clubs to festivals like Bestival.
Tobias runs massive parties with performance, lightning, sound, the full works. Once your supper club is successful, you may want to, or be asked to, expand into bigger events... weddings, festivals even. Tobias will tell you about renting an outside location, and the questions you need to ask...

10. Panel: Stories from pop up and supper club hosts: Suz Mountford of Gingerline, James Ramsden, Uyen Luu and MsMarmitelover

Susannah Mountfort (Suz) is the founder and co-director of Gingerline, a nomadic and immersive dining experience, which began in August 2010 with a humble dinner for 25 in a disused building and has gone on to feed over 15,000 diners in 8 different hidden locations throughout East London. In addition to developing new Gingerline 'happenings', Suz also consults on private food projects and designs creative dining experiences for private and corporate clients.
Suz has always been a keen food enthusiast whose menus come from impressive experimentation rather than education. From a long maternal line of talented home cooks, she has no formal background in food, art, theatre or design for that matter, just a ceaseless passion and a natural knack for thinking up new and exciting ways for people to be inspired and have fun.
11. Bookstall: cookbooks by supper club and pop up hosts: Uyen Luu and James Ramsden

We will have a book table with cookbooks penned by supper club authors such as Uyen Luu, James Ramsden and myself. You will have a chance to meet the authors and buy a signed copy.

Uyen Luu is a writer, cook, photographer, food and prop stylist. She trained in fine art film and video at Central St Martins. She runs supper clubs and the UK’s only dedicated Vietnamese cooking classes in her Hackney home, and writes and blogs about food, recipes and travel. She writes for Time Out and her recipes have appeared in the Evening Standard. Uyen's first cookbook 'My Vietnamese Kitchen' (Ryland, Peters & Small), published on the 10th October, will be available to buy. 
James Ramsden is a cook, writer and blogger. He runs The Secret Larder supper club at a coffee bar in Islington. Signed copies of his most recent book Do Ahead Dinners (Pavilion Books) will be available to buy at the Masterclass. He will be joining a panel with Suz, Uyen and myself discussing our supper club 'journey'. 
12. Simply Business supper club insurance: Jasper Martens and Deborah Reid
Deborah Reid, commercial director at Simply Business, has created an insurance package specifically for supper clubs and pop ups and their particular needs. This was an important step for the supper club movement, the last thing you want is to be sued for spilling hot soup over a customer.
Jasper Martens is the head of Marketing and communications for Simply Business. One of his integrated campaigns won him the ‘Best marketing campaign’ at the UK Broker Awards 2013 so he knows his shit.
They will be set up at this conference so that if you have any questions or enquiries about insurance costs for your pop up business, they are on hand to answer them. It's also a great opportunity for Jasper and Deborah to learn about what we do. 


13. Booze with Winetrust100
Most supper clubs and home restaurants won't have a premises license. Selling drink is the most risky thing you can do. Winetrust100, a new organisation that has an Master of Wine select the best 100 wines, with a huge range of price and type, are hooking up with supper clubs to arrange selection and direct delivery to your pop up restaurant on behalf of your guests. There will be a reward in kind for the host. They'll be here to offer a sample of their wares and talk about their scheme. 

Goodie bag including chefs favourites ingredients, Isle of Wight tomatoes and Maldon salt. (PRs if you would like to contribute to a goodie bag, please get in touch)


Other events: 


November 5th: Come to a Guy Fawkes fondue night at MsMarmitelover's supper club The Underground Restaurant Tickets £35 Kids welcome, bring your own fireworks. http://www.wegottickets.com/event/239774 

October 27th: MsMarmitelover's Secret Garden club, a monthly workshop/supper club. This time we will be teaching Preserving, salting, smoking, drying. Meal included. Tickets £40
Book here: http://www.wegottickets.com/event/197298 
November 24th: Secret Garden Club: kitchen table hydroponics 
An exciting and highly sustainable way to grow vegetables, salads and herbs, both indoors and out ... with no soil required. Find out how easy it is to start your own hydroponicum.  Meal included. Tickets £30
http://www.wegottickets.com/event/197299

Thursday, 3 October 2013

18 stylish and useful items for the kitchen

After David Cameron's bread maker confession, I was reminded of a rumour about Ed Miliband. He is reputed to have thrown away the Aga that came with his house because it wasn't ecological. I could never vote Tory but a man who chucks away an Aga is not my kind of politician. So I thought I'd ask him. But he never replied.
Can you judge a person by their kitchen? By their kitchen gadgets? Is it ok, in fact, to 'sweat the small stuff'? 
Regular readers of this blog will have noticed that my own particular paraphilia is kitchenware. I can spend hours in cookware shops, hardware shops and peering in the 'everything for a pound' random box under the table at car boot sales, searching out a new kitchen gadget. I've bought lobster crackers although I don't eat lobster and wooden butter curls but I never curl my butter. I want to buy wooden butter pats which is ridiculous as I know I'll never use them. So you see, it is a real addiction.

Earlier this year I was sent an intriguing book 'Essential equipment for the kitchen' by Charlotte and Peter Fiell. Declaring itself "a sourcebook of the world's best designs", I took pleasure in ticking off all the items I already possessed. 
For you can spend a lifetime searching for the perfect peeler or grater or nutcracker. How many times have we bought a cheapo gadget and it didn't work or fell apart on its first use? Sometimes it's worth buying a brand: well designed, sturdy, classically attractive. 
The following list is in no particular order, most are small items that are not necessarily the cheapest but are built to last. These will make life in the kitchen easier. Regard this also as an early Christmas present list for cooks.

1. Microplane grater (£18.99)
Buy two, a fine one and a coarse one. 
I couldn't believe it when I met a chef last summer who didn't know what they were. These are pricey when compared to cheaper graters, but won't graze your knuckles. And let's face it, as comedian James Acaster notes, most of us only ever use one side of our cheese graters. If you want it to last, buy the slightly more expensive, professional microplane with a metal handle. I broke my plastic handled one after only a year. 
2. Silpat (£19.99)
This non-stick baking mat prevents anything from sticking to your baking tray and reduces washing up. Any silicon baking mat is good but Silpat is particularly heavy duty. 

3. Digital scales (£9.99)
Any serious cook will already have these. If you haven't yet, you need to. They aren't expensive and will make you 'gram perfect'. Salter do a good brand. 



4. Digital thermometer (£36.00)
Want to check if your meat or fish is properly cooked inside? Don't cut it open, check with a digital thermometer. Want to work with sugar, not sure of the difference between hard crack and soft crack? Buy a digital thermeter. Thermapen is a colourful, accurate, well designed brand. 

5. Rubber spatula ($19.99)
I've got a few of these but I can always do with more. It's not just for doling out cake mix, it's for stirring, scraping down the sides. They are heat proof. I agree with the book, Good Grips Spatulas (2007 design) are an attractive example of the genre.


6. Pyrex measuring jugs
Get a half litre (£2.65) and a litre (£3.30). I probably use one of these for every recipe I make. Good for rough measurements of liquid. Zero the jug on a digital scale to accurately weigh liquid. I've even eaten dinner in mine to save on washing up. Heat proof.


7. Funnel
You need one of these. To fill bottles, to drain off stock into a jar. For stuff. I've got a couple of retro enamel ones. I'm always on the lookout for one. Try not to buy a plastic one, get stainless steel like this Lakeland one (£9.86 + £3.99 delivery) instead. 
8. Jam pot funnel (£3.50)
Sooo glad I bought one finally. Endlessly useful whether you make jam or not. Want to fill a jam jar full of beans without having them roll all over the floor? Use a jam pot funnel.
 9. Rex model peeler
A good peeler shortens the job and saves fingers and knuckles. They have good ones at the Japan Centre. But the classic 1960s design Rex from Switzerland (£2.99) is a kitchen standby. 
10. Nutcracker
I've been through so many nutcrackers and possessed so many that weren't up to the job. This type, pictured, works well and hasn't broken. I got mine in France and I can't find any online like it, but this Kitchen Craft one (£9.84) would do the job.
11. Cheese slicer
The Dutch and the Scandinavians love a cheese slicer. So do I. Great for thinly sliced cheese in sandwiches. Or shaving off slices of parmesan for a rocket salad or to top a pizza. Naturally a Norwegian invented the first in 1925.  The delivery on this Boska slicer is quite steep, actually more expensive than the item itself (£9.95 + £12.95), but the short one (£9.50) seems to have no delivery cost for Prime members.
12. La Cafetiere
This is not a gadget really. But the simplicity of this design works for me. I'm not a coffee geek but the 'french press' produces good enough coffee.  I have this one (£39.95), as pictured, but the retro one (£17.28) also by La Cafetiere is very attractive.
13. Zigzag corkscrew
Love these. Again, simple and classic, the ZigZag corkscrew works really well. You can get antique ones at French flea markets for around 35 euros if you are lucky. Here's a new one (£41.50).



14. Mandolin
You need thin slices? Some chefs recommend the Benriner mandolin (£16.32). I don't have one of these yet, I have an old fashioned antique wooden one, the Swiss Waefa slicer (£45), which is still being made.
15. KitchenAid mixer
Most bakers prefer Kenwood and certainly I grew up on a Kenwood mixer. But I love the retro look of the KitchenAid (1937), the curves, the enamel, the colours, the sturdy Americana of it. There is the classic white (£301.06), which is cheaper but perhaps not as pretty as the Artisan range with a variety of colours (£369 - £449.95). In terms of functioning, I find the fact that the speed is on the left and the lifting up mechanism is on the right side rather counter-intuitive. Does anyone else?


16. Vitamix
I have used a Vitamix for years. It's dependable and my latest one, the cream-coloured Professional G-Series (£499), pictured above, is pretty and also comes in red and black. It grinds things so finely, you can even make your own icing sugar and rice flour. I made gooseberry curd in it, which took 5 minutes rather than half an hour.


17. A Dutch oven
This is a cast iron, sturdy lidded saucepan. The nearest equivalent for a domestic kitchen rather than on a dusty cowboy trail is Le Creuset casseroles (£128) which are beautiful, made of cast iron and enamel, and a favourite of Elizabeth David. I only have small one which I found in a bin in the street. Maybe one day I'll get some more.

18. Aga
This is deffo not a gadget. In fact if you possess one, you don't need many gadgets at all. You don't need an electric kettle, a toaster, a sandwich toaster or an iron. I have a classic 3 oven Aga in cream. Worth the investment, I've never regretted it.

What are your favourite kitchen items?