Most of us have bought kitchen gadgets or tools that we thought were must-haves, only to find that they’re rubbish taking up valuable counter or drawer space. Well-known chefs and cooks make the same mistake. Here, they tell all...
This queen of Cape Malay cooking is a traditionalist at heart and is quite comfortable with doing things the old-fashioned way instead going all hi-tech.
A consultant chef working with a spice company to develop new recipes, she also has a lifetime achiever’s award from the Chefs Association of SA despite never having had formal chef training.
“My favourite gadget is my blender. I bought it many years ago in Denmark and I still use it all the time,” she says.
The blender is perfect to puree garlic into the fine consistency essential for many of her curry dishes.
And we’re not talking three or four cloves here. Cass does up to a kilo at a time. She bottles it for later use. It keeps for weeks in the fridge and can even be frozen, she says.
“I also love my mortar and pestle – it reminds me of how my mother used to cook and how people have ground up spices and grains through the ages.”
The one thing Cass could happily ban from her kitchen is an electric can opener that has fallen short of her expectations.
“It never worked properly from day one and I couldn’t return the stupid thing because I never kept the cash slip,” she says.
The SA Masterchef judge and Tsogo Sun chef favours his knife. “You know when you’re using your own knife and when you’re holding someone else’s. You know the weight and the feel of it,” he says.
To kitchen survivors like Benny, the chef’s knife is as versatile as a Swiss Army knife. “You can chop, dice, slice, debone, and do whatever with that knife. I particularly like it for smashing garlic cloves.”
Benny’s had his chef’s knife since his days as a trainee. A knife can last for years if you take care of it, he says. He sharpens his blades himself with a sharpening stone.
As for dodgy gadgets, for Benny it’s the R200 plastic blenders that get the chop from him.
He says when it comes to blenders you get what you pay for and it’s better to invest in something that will become a kitchen staple, rather than the appliance from hell. He’s had a few blenders as gifts and they have failed him miserably.
“You can use these blenders three or four times effectively, and then the blades get smooth and blunt. You also can’t buy replacement blades, so you have to buy a whole new blender. I have already ended throwing out two such blenders that I got as gifts,” admits Benny.
You may imagine that Justin’s favourite kitchen tool is the beer he has in his hand as he tames flame and smoke to perfectly cook a piece of boerie. But the guy behind The Ultimate Braai Master and Cooked in Africa TV series likes to keep things simple because he says cooking’s become too fussy, precious even.
His favourite kitchen gadget is one he inherited. “It’s an aluminium, hand-operated lemon and orange juicer that was my granny’s.
“I think we’ve got caught up in this idea that gadgets are going to make our lives and our cooking easier, but we’ve forgotten a lot of the practical, uncomplicated ways,” he says.
Justin is not hi-tech for hi-tech’s sake, which means he has few regret purchases. “I’m quite good about not buying things that I don’t use and that launguish at the back of the cupboard. We all already have so much. And while we have a lot of things like old cast-iron pots – I use those.”
That said, Justin’s other fave gadget is a modern juicer that helps him get his five-a-day.
“I like to do a mix of apple, celery, parsley, ginger and kale. Sometimes I mix in mangoes. These juices go all syrupy and are perfect to freeze as ice lollies.”
The food editor of The Star, who is known as Angela Day, swears by her tri-blade blender. “This is a one-up on the good old stick blender and it’s marvellous; I use it for just about everything,” she says.
Her tri-blade blender is the reason she now can put mashed potatoes on her menu. “I can’t stand lumpy mash so I never used to bother to make it, but with this blender my mash is perfect.”
The blender delivers the perfect high-speed whirl to amalgamate her curry pastes and the liquidise function makes her soups supersmooth.
As for the things she’d rather send to the rubbish heap, Jenny puts at the top of her list all kitchen gadgets made of silicone.
“Give me the old-fashioned muffin tins any day! The silicone stuff gets grubby and tacky over time and they’re revolting,” she says.
Jenny has persevered with the silicone goods in The Star’s cookery school but has banned them from her own kitchen. “There’s a silicone cake tray that’s so wobbly you can’t work with it properly. You have to put it on a baking sheet before you put it into the oven because it’s impossible to move.”
This food and travel blogger says: “My favourite piece of kitchen equipment is a humble pair of chopsticks. Recently, I travelled through the Far East and learnt that chopsticks are used not just for eating with but can be used for mixing, stirring and tossing ingredients in a pan or bowl.”
Ishay says she’d hate to call anything useless in her kitchen. But as her least enjoyable bit of cooking is the peeling and cutting and dicing that comes with prep work, it makes sense that her top kitchen gadget tip is about getting the right tools for the right job.
She says: “I would suggest not spending money on 100 chopping and peeling tools. Rather invest in good quality knives that you must have sharpened regularly.”
* Ishay’s blog, foodandthefabulous.com, won her best wine and food blog award in the SA blog awards in 2011.