There’s nothing I like more than settling down with a cup of tea and the Lakeland catalogue of an evening. It truly is a treasure trove of delights, and within a few minutes I can convince myself that I really NEED a tray specifically for the soaking of oven racks or a cake tin in the shape of the Millenium Falcon (based on what the girls are asking for for their birthday party next year, I might actually need one of those!).
Whilst I love a gadget as much as the next person, it’s not necessary to spend a fortune. There are lots of things that I don’t spend a lot of money on – my pans are pretty basic, as are my knives. My veg peeler was a wedding present 16 years ago. I don’t have a bread maker or an expensive coffee machine. There are some things I use all the time though – here are the essentials that make cooking from scratch easier.
A stick blender
I’ve got this one from Kenwood and I use it all the time. The usual attachment is great for pureeing fruit or making smoothies (as long as you’re not using frozen ingredients), and it comes with a wider blade which is perfect for blending soup in the pan as there’s less splashing. The mini chopper is great for making small amounts of breadcrumbs or whipping up something like a quick pesto or curry paste. There is also a whisk attachment and a mashing gizmo, which isn’t strictly necessary, but does make excellent mashed sweet potato. I use this practically every day, if I could only have one electrical item, it would definitely be this one!
A knife sharpener
I don’t have very expensive or flash knives, but I did invest about £12 in a knife sharpener last year and it’s been something of a revelation. Not only does it make chopping a lot quicker, it’s also safer as a sharp knife is less likely to slip.
Again, this wasn’t very expensive, but is great for things like stir fries as you can finely slice veg in moments. Always use the guard, fingers slices don’t taste so good. Unless you are Hannibal Lecter.
I wouldn’t bother with an electric steamer. I borrowed one briefly from my parents, but only used it about twice, it was too much of a faff and big to store. I recently invested in a simple stove top steamer – like a pan with two baskets that go over the top so you can steam quite a lot at once. It stacks up to store and means you can more or less cook a meal on one ring on the hob.
If you’ve got the money/space, then this is definitely a good investment. It’s really quick and easy to make things like cauliflower rice or pancake batter, and you can use the grater attachment to make short work of veg for stir fries or coleslaw. I used to have one which had a blender attachment that I used for soups and smoothies, but I did invest in a Vitamix last year, so swapped with old processor with my Dad and now just have one that does processing, but is a bit more powerful.
I have both, although I use my spiraliser more. It makes quick and easy work of courgettes and sweet potatoes, whilst the peeler is a bit more fiddly. Much cheaper and takes up less room though! I regularly substitute starchy carbs (pasta, chips) with more nutritious veg alternatives (courgette spaghetti, sweet potato curly “fries”) and the spiraliser comes in handy here.
Another small and inexpensive gadget that I use constantly. I use a lot of fresh ginger in my cooking (top tip: cut a big piece into chunks and freeze, then you’ve always got it handy and it’s easier to peel and grate when it’s hard), but it’s also great for zesting fruit, grating parmesan or using for garlic.
I have too many of these, but if you’re going to prep in advance, freeze stuff and cart things into work, then you’re going to need some! Gone are the days that I used to recycle empty tubs from the Chinese take away, I now invest a little more in good quality ones which are BPA free and have rubber seals to prevent spillage. Also be warned that without an adequate system in place, you will spend approximately 4 hours searching for a lid that fits.
This is in no way essential, but I couldn’t resist mentioning it because I LOVE it. It makes soup and smoothies really, well, smooth, deals with ice and nuts easily and can make ice cream (out of frozen bananas natch) in about 25 seconds. The girls hate the noise, but will tolerate it for the ice cream. Oh, and it practically washes itself up too. It cost a small fortune, but in a similar way to justifying the purchase of frivolous shoes (something I am well practiced at), the cost per use is minimal based on the amount of action it sees.