Category Archives: kitchen gadgets

heston blumenthal kitchen wizz pro food processor review

heston blumenthal kitchen wizz pro

You may have noticed I rarely do full-on review posts like this. It’s just not my thing. I’d run out of things to say too quickly. But for this gadget I’m willing to make an exception.

You know how some kitchen gadgets get used once, and even if you like them you’ll shuffle them away to a back cupboard? Or give them away? That’s not the case with this one. This one has invaded my kitchen to the point where I’ve put others away in the loft. My beloved Kenwood Prospero has been boxed up and relegated. The Kitchen Wizz Pro is the new bad boy in town.

And “bad boy” is somewhat appropriate; as I unboxed it from it’s Heston-heavy packaging Mrs. Spud said: “it is a boy’s toy, isn’t it?” and she’s right. Finished in brushed aluminium and dark greys, heavy as hell and packed with mean looking accessories, this is not your Nan’s Moulinex. If you like your kitchen toys to have a feminine edge this is not for you. It does also weigh a ton which is extremely useful when in operation but you need to know it takes effort to get it out of the cupboard.

kitchen wizz pro accessoriesAs with many top-end gadgets, it’s the details that show you how well-crafted it is. It comes with a battery of chopping blades and attachments in their own neat box: grating blades, adjustable slicers, whisks, double choppers etc. plus a little spatula for scraping out and a cute brush for cleaning. One of my favourite gadgets is a chipper which turns potatoes into cute curved chips. Inside the chopping bowl itself is a smaller bowl you can use for working with smaller amounts of ingredients. The lid has a rubber seal so it really shuts fast. The hopper is huge (14cm!); you can fit a couple of potatoes widthways in it. The mixer also keeps a timer going as you use it so you can clock how long it’s been running.

I’ve road tested it on a whole bunch of different things: it’s taken on coleslaw, short pastry, whipping cream, cookies, whisking eggs, making onion and garlic puree, spice mixes… it’s made swift work of the lot. Pastry comes out the smoothest I’ve ever made it, all plasticine-soft. Biscuit crumbs for cheesecake bases come out like fine dust. And the sheer speed of it is terrifying. The weight keeps the gadget firmly on the counter, it’s not walking anywhere. It also cleans up as well as any other device of this nature; it is dishwasher-happy but I’d rather not put it in there to keep it as pristine as long as possible. That said water does get into the grip and I’ve no idea how to get it out of there, but it doesn’t seem to be a problem.

What are the downsides? I’d like to have variable speed on the mixing; it goes full whack (and scarily fast, but reasonably quietly) and comes with a pulse function, from time to time I’d prefer to use a slower speed. I can’t ignore the price: £399 RRP. It’s hardly the budget option but it really does feel like a Rolls Royce gadget and I can see it lasting for years (there is a generous 25 year warranty on the motor).

It’s fair to say I’m besotted with it and it’s one of the best kitchen gadgets I’ve ever used. Ask everyone to give you vouchers for birthday and Christmas and save up for one. It’s superb.

Thanks to Lindsey at MBA for sending me this to review. I’ve been road-testing it for about 7 weeks to give it a good going over. Read more about the Kitchen Wizz Pro at Sage Appliances. Buy online at Amazon

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heston blumenthal’s lemon tart

heston blumenthal's lemon tart

Hold on to your toques, this is a Blumenthal gadget-fest. Here’s a run-down of the Heston kitchen toys employed in this recipe:

That’s a hell of a list. The odd one out in this list is the Kitchen Wizz Pro, a beast of a food processor, but more on that in a future post. I’ve also used my trusty chef’s knife, easily the best knife I’ve ever used. Most of them are Salter’s / HoMedics to celebrate the launch of their new range of Heston gadgets. It’s fair to say they’re a mixed bag.

heston blumenthal kitchen gadgets

The initial range of Heston By Salter tools are all solid: the probe thermometer, kitchen timer, fridge thermometer, oven thermometer, measuring jug, scales; all good. Some of the newer items feel superfluous. First up the adjustable rolling pin. It comes with discs that adjust the height of the pin from the surface. Genius! I was looking forward to this. As someone who is mostly terrible at pastry the ability to roll out to a consistent thickness really appealed to me. Unfortunately the pastry stuck immediately to the pin and made a complete mess. After prodding it for a while I transferred it to the pastry dish for baking and rolled it up loosely around the pin. Again it all stuck to the pin and essentially turned my smooth-plasticine dough to a patchwork quilt. Just look at the pastry in the picture, that’s supposed to be 3mm but it’s more like a centimetre! Very disappointing.

The whisk is much better, being well-balanced, sturdy and comfortable to hold when whisking an egg custard over a bain marie. The measuring spoons are a cute gimmick, in that you slide the compartment to the right measurement (e.g. 1 teaspoon, ½ tablespoon) and then drag a little lid over the powder to level it off. But a couple of things bothered me: my fingers were a little greasy from handling butter and I just couldn’t work it without putting everything down, washing hands and re-measuring. And I can’t get past the price: £17.99 RRP for two spoons when the same thing is achieved with a £1 (or less) set of plastic measuring spoons available anywhere, with the help of any knife for levelling.

Rounding out the collection are the spatulas which are quickly becoming two of my favourite things in the kitchen: with one curved end for sculpting and smoothing, and a firmer end for flipping and scraping. I use a lot of non-stick bakeware, frying pans and saucepans so having something to poke at the edges of something to flip it over is really handy. Again though I have to wince at the price: £17.99 for two spatulas isn’t great value.

All the equipment in the range is well made and thoughtfully designed, but these items are just not as “must have” as the original kitchen gadgets. They’d make great gifts though.

I used all these tools and more in making Heston’s lemon tart. There’s an awful lot of Heston in this; he spent years at the Fat Duck perfecting the ‘wobble’ in his cakes. It comes down to temperature – a tart at 70°C is perfectly set. And of course, he’s right. It’s a brilliant dessert, and the probe thermometer is the most essential gadget of them all. Just one niggle: serving with creme fraiche is a complete waste of time. Totally gets lost against the lemon flavour – don’t bother.

Heston Blumenthal’s lemon tart (serves 10 – 12):

For the pastry:

120g icing sugar

3 large egg yolks

300g plain flour

150g unsalted butter

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla paste

Zest of ½ a lemon, grated

For the filling:

9 large eggs

1 large egg yolk

Finely grated zest and juice of 5 lemons

300g double cream

390g caster sugar

To serve:

80g caster sugar

Creme fraiche

  1. Start with the pastry: blitz the icing sugar and yolks together and set aside. In a mixer mix the flour, butter and salt until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the vanilla, lemon and yolk mixture and continue to mix until you have a smooth, soft dough. Mould into a rectangle and allow to rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180°C. After resting, roll the pastry to 3mm (ha ha) and line it in your 20cm tart tin. Prick with a fork all over and freeze for 30 minutes. Blind bake the base for 40 minutes and trim off the excess pastry. Drop the oven to 120°C.
  3. Place the eggs and egg yolks in a bain marie and whisk together until it reaches 62°C (mine took about 10 minutes). At this point strain through a sieve, remove the bubbles from the surface with a metal spoon and pour into the pastry case. Bake until the filling reaches 70°C. Allow to cool to room temperature.
  4. When ready to serve, sprinkle over the caster sugar and caramelise with a blow torch. Serve with creme fraiche if you like.

butternut squash puree

It’s that time of year when squashes are abundant. When the glory days of pumpkins on 31st October are over there’s still the butternut squashes, acorn, onion, gem, spaghetti… I’ve probably had squash three times in the past week, different every time. Whether it’s blitzed for a pasta sauce, roasted with sausages or thinly sliced and fried, I am a fan.

But I’d never made a puree. Ever popular with the Mastercheferati, I thought it was worth a go. I was very pleased with the result, a super-smooth and sweet puree that worked well with the spicy potato wedges and barbecue ribs. If only there had been more of it on the plate…

What I wasn’t so pleased about was the process. I’ve recently had some kitchen disasters, and here’s another one for the collection. I poured the freshly-cooked squash into my Kenwood Prospero blender and whizzed it up until smooth. As I tried to take the jug off the mixer the bottom fell off, pouring hot liquid squash everywhere. Over the mixer, over the counter, over my feet… a real disaster. I like my mixer very much and I get a whole lot of use out of it, but the attachments have proven less than stable over the years. I’m not convinced I’ll replace like-for-like when the time comes.

Butternut squash puree (serves 4):

½ a butternut squash, deseeded, diced and peeled

A pinch of ground cumin

50ml chicken stock

25ml double cream

  1. Add the squash to a lidded pan with a knob of butter over a medium heat. Add the cumin with salt and pepper and cook for 10 mins stirring often.
  2. Add the stock and cook for a further 10 mins. Add the cream for the last minute and pour into a blender. Whizz up to a fine puree, adding a dash of boiling water from the kettle if necessary. Check for seasoning and keep warm in the pan until needed.

competition – win a george foreman grill [closed]

This competition is now closed. Many thanks for all your entries, there were some really fantastic ideas! The winners have been notified by email.
george foreman grill giveaway competition

this image copyright GerogeForeman.co.uk

To celebrate National Get Grilling Week (yes, really) all this week I’m giving away a Geroge Foreman 2 portion grill. All you have to do to win one is leave a comment below answering the question:

What would you cook in your George Foreman grill?

  • Competition closes 10pm 27th May. Comments posted after then won’t be counted.
  • I’ll pick the winners at random using some fancy random number generator.
  • Entrants must be 18 years or older.
  • If the winner hasn’t replied within two weeks, someone else will get it.
  • Only people from the UK please. Additionally, I’ll only post to a UK address.

Don’t want to chance it? Head over to GeorgeForeman.co.uk where they’ve got a sale on. Not only that, use the code GFSAVE10 and you can bag yourself 10% off until 31st May 2012.

With thanks to Sophie for the grill to give away.

heston blumenthal santoku kitchen knife

heston blumenthal santoku 18cm kitchen knife

When people find out you write about food in a blog like this, after some initial shuffling embarrassment the questions start: why do you do it? What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?

Slightly easier to answer is: got any tips in the kitchen?

Because the best answer I can give is to get yourself one or two really good knives. Bin the ones you picked up in Matalan; save up a bit and buy a good brand (and a sharpening steel!). I probably only use a small knife for fine cutting, a large one for general work like dicing vegetables, and a bread knife. What’s the best brand? Like many of these things it’s personal preference; I really like Henckels, lots like Global, others swear by Sabatier. But what do the chefs use?

For as long as I can remember Heston has been a fan of Tojiro knives. He even asked for a set of them as his luxury item on Desert Island Discs in 2006. I’d love to own one but they’re priced a little out of my range. Thankfully Grunwerg have released the Heston Blumenthal Kitchen Knives range, styled on the Tojiro knife, which is far more affordable.

heston blumenthal santoku kitchen knifeI was sent one of these Santoku knives, and they are absolutely beautiful. A lovely weighting, not too heavy but well-balanced. When I slid it out of the box after a quick sharpening I pounced on an onion, slicing, dicing and chopping. It cut through with no effort at all. If I had one criticism it is one common to many of this kind of knife, and that’s the steep angle of the blade encourages moist food to stick to it. As you slice through a cucumber for example the slices will stick to the knife and sometimes they roll off all over the place. What’s difficult to get across is just how much easier a decent knife makes things: you can cut quicker, cleaner and finer. You will genuinely save yourself time in the kitchen with a decent knife, and this blade is an excellent choice.

With thanks to Hannah for the knife and Helen for tipping her off!

competition – win a heston blumenthal measuring jug [closed]

This competition is now closed. Many thanks for all your entries, there were some really fantastic ideas! The winners have been notified by email.
heston blumenthal digital measuring jug

Image copyright HestonBySalter.com

Like most people who love being in the kitchen, I enjoy a good gadget. But better than that is a good gadget you use more than once. There’s the key. And this digital measuring jug by those clever folks at Salter is the business. Heston’s seal of approval has made this a very canny device. Yes, yes, it’s a measuring jug, but it’s more than that. It’s a measuring jug that can gauge liquids of different types (milk, oil, etc.), but it can manage weight too. And in a bunch of different units. One after the other. Let me explain.

heston blumenthal digital measuring jugI’ve made a bunch of things with it recently, such as white chocolate and blueberry muffins. The cool part is making it all in the one jug. Add your flour, zero it. Then add your sugar, zero it, change to liquids and off you go adding milk, zero, etc. etc. Similarly chocolate and rosemary ice cream was made by measuring stuff as I went along, adding and pouring out, then zeroing and adding something else to the jug. Less washing up and the mixture’s all there in one pot ready to go. Put simply – it’s a measuring jug and add-and-weigh digital scale in one gadget. Genius.

The good folks over at Salter have kindly passed on some of these measuring jugs for me to give away. Want one? Enter below.

In addition to the current range, there’s a brand new selection of Heston Precision products coming very soon. I had a chat with Caroline from Salter who gave me an idea of what it’s like working with Heston Blumenthal and what new products we can expect to see:

How did Salter get involved with Heston Blumenthal?

When we first started thinking about working with Heston and his team, we felt that it was important to understand the brand values for both Salter and Heston to ensure that the partnership had integrity behind it. While Salter has been around for over 250 years, and Heston is very much a forward thinking modern chef, the good news was that our values of Precision, Trust, Excellence, Innovation and “Britishness” bought the two brands together and ensured that our collaboration would make sense to our combined audience.

We approached him with a proposal, and he was very agreeable to collaborating from the start as he knew the Salter brand and was comfortable with our values and ethics. It took a while to decide the range, as we wanted to make sure that it most definitely wasn’t just a celebrity endorsement, rather that it was a range that reflected the methods and tools that Heston would use in his own kitchen.

Heston and Caroline

Heston and Caroline

To what extent has Heston and his team been involved with development?

From day one we have had access to Heston and his amazing team at the Fat Duck. The whole process has been remarkably easy as they are a truly passionate bunch, and Heston is a genuinely nice chap. He is both interesting and interested – he makes time for us, and I always look forward to our development meetings as we are always looking ahead to see what other products we could develop that would help people cook like Heston, at home.

What’s involved in developing one of these products and to what extent does Heston have sign-off?

Product development is a fascinating process as it involves a lot more thought and time than perhaps many people realise. If we know that we have a new category to think about, we will look at it from both consumer and catering viewpoints. We will get together to brainstorm new ideas and talk each one through – taking into account the brand values, and especially how true the product is to Heston’s processes. Once we have a firm idea of a product that we would like to bring into the range, I work with our in-house design team to come up with concepts, showing how the product could look and function. These are then taken to Heston and the team for reviewing and refining. Once we are all happy with the product concept we can get going on the manufacturing process. With any product that Heston is putting his name to, it is important that us that he is delighted with the product and that he has full sign off. Whilst people usually ask for his signature as an autograph, I ask for his signature in order to bring another great product to market!

There’s a new range coming in 2012, what can we expect to see in the future?

All I can say at the moment is watch this space… we are working on a 3 year product plan which will result in many more truly exciting products that will help people achieve great results in the kitchen.

Keep an eye on the HestonBySalter website for more info. Until then though, it’s competition time!

How to enter

There’s five ways to enter, and you can do all of them if you like:

  1. Leave a comment below answering the question what unusual ice cream flavour would you like to make?
  2. Follow me on Twitter, and leave a comment below to let me know.
  3. Link to this competition on Twitter using the Tweet button at the bottom, and leave a comment below to let me know.
  4. Like my Facebook page, and leave a comment below to let me know.
  5. +1 this post using the button below, and leave a comment below to let me know.

After the closing date, I’ll use a random number generator to pluck out the lucky winners. So more entries means more chances to win.

Rules

  • Competition closes 10pm 25th July. Comments posted after then won’t be counted.
  • I’ll pick the winners at random using some fancy random number generator.
  • Entrants must be 18 years or older.
  • If the winner hasn’t replied within two weeks, someone else will get it.
  • Only people from the UK please. Additionally, I’ll only post to a UK address.

Good luck!

jamie oliver kitchen kit

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Sometimes I really can’t believe what writing about last night’s tea does for you. Imagine my delight at receiving a clutch of Jamie Oliver’s new Kitchen Kit. It’s a stunning set of utensils developed by DKB Household. It’s no slap-a-name-on-it-and-collect-the-royalty-cheque, there’s real craft in them.

First up is the 3-in-1 Peeler. I’ve used a vertical swivel peeler for years, and never used a Y-shaped one. But I found it much faster using this gadget. It also comes with a pair of julienne blades, for peeling things into a fine and wiggly mess. Great fun but not something I’ll use a great deal. For peeling though, it does just the job.

Next is the Garlic Press-come-Slicer. This was a twist of fate. I’d disregarded garlic presses years back, seeing loads of waste and poking at the teeth afterwards. Yet seeing Jamie use this same model on 30 Minute Meals had convinced me to try it again. This model has a real weight to it, and the brushed steel looks lovely. And what a joy it is to use one again. No peeling, and practically all the useful stuff passes through the mesh. It also doubles as a slicer, although I found this to have mixed results, so it’ll be staying as a press for me. No more stinky garlic fingers for me.

The Apple Corer is a neat gadget. I’ve never owned one but this one has neat gimmick: after coring you twist the handle and it pops the core out. Cool. I’m also thinking about using it for Michelin-esque potato fondant thingies. Not something I’ll use every day but good fun.

There’s also a set of hanging utensils – on the surface there’s not a lot to say but it has some twists. There’s a curve in the handle which makes a lot of sense to dangle it out of a pot, and the brushed steel finish is really functional.

Ah yes, the coarse grater. Not impressed with this at all. The angle doesn’t feel right – I can’t hold it in a place that is comfortable for both hands. The handle is curved away from the grater, so it’s a bit clumsy. Also both Mrs. RP and I have cut ourselves quite nastily on this, and I can’t recall ever drawing blood whilst grating before. On the positive side, it does produce the prettiest curls, perfect Fibonacci rolls.

Top of the heap is the knife set. These five knives are Japanese MoV steel with lovely weighting and superb balance. They come wicked sharp and make light work of all chopping jobs – I’m ashamed to say I haven’t used my Henckels since I started using these.

With many of these things, it’s not their function that strikes you, nor their form (which is all brushed steel and elegant lines). It’s the small details that elevate them above Matalan’s “2 for £3” range. Take the knives – each is emblazoned with it’s purpose on the hilt. Or the peeler – it snaps together with it’s spare heads to make a convenient stand. Or the hanging tools – bent in just the right place with a rubber end to stop them slipping into your casserole. It’s these little sparks of genius that show they’re designed by people who really care about the end result, and that’s what I like about them.

All in all a great set, and a wonderful Christmas gift for the Jamie fan in your life.

Thanks to Aaron Huckett of Publicasity.