Compiled by MARIE-CLAIRE DIGBY
Be prepared to be impressed
Chef and TV presenter Andrew Rudd isn’t used to losing his audience’s attention, but at a recent cookery demonstration he was giving, quite a few of us found our focus veering away from his tips on easy entertaining towards a magical machine he was using. It chopped up vegetables, sweated them, cooked them through and blended them into a super-smooth pea and mint soup.
The über-gadget was a Thermomix, a German-designed machine that weighs, chops, grates, whisks, blends, kneads, cooks and steams. Although it is intended for domestic use, professional kitchens have really taken to the machine, which is about the size of a small bread maker, as it allows chefs to make silky soups and sauces without any stirring or straining. “It’s the one piece of equipment I’d miss most; it’s in heavy use all day here,” says Mickael Viljanen, of Gregans Castle in Co Clare, who is the Restaurants Association of Ireland chef of the year 2011. “I have several German guys in the kitchen, and they say their mothers all have them. I’ll be buying one for home as well.” Almost all professional kitchens have at least one, and they are exactly the same as those sold for domestic use.
Ballymaloe-trained Ruth Wassel is one of a team of cooks who do in-store and at-home demonstrations of the Thermomix (telephone 01-4845624 for a full list). She does regular demos at Houseworks on Upper Erne Street in Dublin 2 (see houseworks.ie for dates). If you get four interested parties together, she will do the demonstration in your kitchen. “But the rule is, no wine, it’s not a dinner party. Try telling that to Irish people, in their own homes,” she says.
In the high-spec kitchen at Houseworks, Wassel uses the Thermomix to knock up pizza dough in four minutes flat, makes Hollandaise sauce in the same time, and a velvety red pepper soup, that you would swear was laced with cream but has none, in just a few minutes more. It truly is a wonder. So why don’t we all have them? At €995 it’s an expensive piece of kit, but there are staged-payment options available. See ukthermomix.com for more information.
Declan Ryan of Arbutus Bread in Corkis a member of the Bread Bakers Guild of America, and he is taking part in its open day. So, if you are in the Cork area today, you can drop into the bakery at Unit 2B Mayfield Industrial Estate, Mayfield, Cork, between 3pm and 7pm for tastings, bread-making demos, and a children’s table where junior masterchefs can whip up their own bread and pizzas to take home.
Book of the week
Small Adventures in Cooking, by James Ramsden, published by Quadrille (£14.99/€17)
The third in Quadrille’s fresh and lively New Voices in Food series – and the second to be written by a Ballymaloe Cookery School graduate (the other being Stevie Parle). A London-based Yorkshireman, Ramsden came joint-first in his class at Ballymaloe with Tiffany Goodall, another published author. As befits the co-founder of the Secret Larder Supper Club, which he runs every other Thursday with his sister Mary in their north London flat, the book has lots of advice on how to feed a crowd, flashily as well as casually, and a great chapter on things to pickle, preserve and pot for your larder. The next New Voice to get an airing will be Niamh Shields (the Irish food writer and blogger (eatlikeagirl.com) living in London, whose first book, Comfort & Spice, is due out in September.