The kitchen gadgets food pros can't do without
Blending, blitzing and the one-pot wonder are always close to hand in these kitchens
Anne Neary: “I have been using the tomato knife for years and if I had to go to a desert island it is the one kitchen gadget I’d like to bring with me.”
There was a time when preparing a meal really did involve “slaving over a hot stove”. But these days, there are so many tools and gadgets to help make chopping, slicing, dicing, mixing, and even cooking, a much simpler and far more enjoyable task.
We spoke to four people who spend a lot of time in their kitchen and asked what their favourite culinary tool is and how it makes their life easier.
Master pastry chef Shane Smith has nearly 20 years’ experience working in some of Ireland’s most celebrated pastry kitchens and across the globe. The Co Cavan native is currently head pastry chef and head of product development at Airfield Estate in Dundrum and, needless to say, his favourite gadget is firmly associated with baking.
“The KitchenAid range of mixers are a baker’s dream and my favourite kitchen item is definitely my Candy Apple – it is very expensive but for anybody who spends a lot of time baking, it is the perfect accessory.
“I grew up baking with a mixer my mum and dad received as a wedding gift over 35 years ago but about two years ago, bit by bit, it slowly started to give up and I was eventually left with just the hand mixer appliance.
“So I did some research on the KitchenAid to see what was available and then started to save. Black Friday was just a couple of months away so I eyed up two stores in Dublin that were stocking them. I held out and then pounced, it was still very expensive but I saved about €200 off the normal cost price – and it was one of the best investments I’ve made for my kitchen life.
“Between my job and my love of baking at home, I spend more time in the kitchen than in bed at the moment. But although I live in Dublin during the week, I go home to Cavan quite a lot where the kitchen is the hub of our home and if we are not eating, sitting or chatting there, I am normally experimenting with new recipes. There is a fantastic large window which allows a lot of natural light in and it is ideal for me to shoot food photography.
“I would love to expand on my range of accessories for the mixer, however, at the moment I am working on building up my collection of kitchen homewares – I am a big fan of Le Creuset and have started to collect items a piece at a time.”
Belinda Bielenberg lives with her husband and family in Munny House, Coolkenno, Co Wicklow, where she runs the Munny Trail and www.theoldforgeglamping.ie. By her own admission, she isn’t much of a gadget person but says she would be lost without her cooking pot.
“Without doubt, my favourite kitchen gadget, although I wonder if technically it is one, is my beige Earl and Wilson one-pot-wonder casserole dish. We have just converted a Georgian granite barn into a home for us and it suits barn life really well as it is a timeless piece of kitchen equipment. I can almost imagine people cooking food with a similar pot over a fire stove here in this building almost 300 years ago.
“It was given to us as a wedding present by a very special family and does everything from cook pasta, steam potatoes, poach eggs, slow-cook stews, reheat leftover food (we don’t have a microwave) and it looks great on the table as a serving dish. I absolutely hate food waste unless I can give it to the hens, so it makes me so happy to have this gorgeous pot in my life.
“It can become quite hectic living on a farm, with a toddler, twins on the way and running two businesses but I love cooking as it slows me down and makes me think more clearly. Modern working mums have quite a lot on their plate and sometimes it’s great to immerse yourself in something you enjoy for an hour or two during the day, especially if the family are going to benefit from eating it later on.
“If I had to choose one gadget, though, it would be a wine and beer bottle opener that was firmly attached to the secret glamping bar in the woods so we never run out of bottle openers – but I wonder if there even is such a thing.”
David Gillick, two-time European champion, Olympic sprinter and Celebrity Masterchef winner is in the process of setting up a home-delivery food service. The Dublin man says his favourite kitchen gadget is a Bosch hand mixer as with the arrival of his son Oscar last year, he and his wife Charlotte spend a lot of time blending food for the toddler’s delicate palate.
“It’s similar to a food processor but smaller and more practical for a home kitchen and I first picked it up over a year ago and was initially using it with the bowl attachment to make protein balls. I’d place dates, nuts and seeds in the bowl and blend together. But it really came into its own when Oscar began eating solids as with the various attachments, you can purée in a matter of seconds, which is just enough to silence a hungry baby.
“But much as I love my hand blender, my last slow cooker went on the blink, so with winter coming I really need to get my hands on a new one. I love hearty comforting stews and with both of us being working parents, it’s great to come home after a long day to a cooked meal simply waiting to be enjoyed. I’m interested in looking at the multi-cooker, which seems to be new twist on a slow cooker, with extra functions.”
Anne Neary, head tutor and owner of Ryeland House and Cookery School in Kilkenny, will be hosting cookery demonstrations at www.savourkilkenny.com from October 27th-30th. She also loves her hand blender but her favourite item in the kitchen is actually a modest tomato knife, because as well as preparing food for classes, she also cooks for her husband Pat and three children and this simple piece of equipment has many uses.
“I have two favourite kitchen gadgets: my Kenwood hand blender and a tomato knife. My knife is suitable for slicing, dicing, chopping, paring and if necessary it will bone out a chicken and slice bread. Then, on the other hand, my hand blender is suitable for chopping, blending, making breadcrumbs and chopping vegetables for slaws. And because it has two head types, I can blend large quantities of soup.
“But I have been using the tomato knife for years and if I had to go to a desert island it is the one kitchen gadget I’d like to bring with me.
“The amount of time I spend in the kitchen varies, but on average I would say about 30-40 hours a week – if I am giving classes, it would be for an eight to 10 hour day and if I am doing private catering, this can be up to 12 hours a day.
“However, much as I love my knife, I would really like a Range Master, even though I have a Stanley range which I love but if I could have a second one, a Range Master would be amazing.”