Friday, 24 February 2012

A Peek Inside My Kitchen & Essential Kitchen Tools (Minimalism - I don't have it)

Oh, to have a fantastic, perfect kitchen. Well, we're allowed to dream, right? But what do you actually need to run an efficient kitchen? You'd be surprised how little you need.

Leonardi Da Vinci said it best, I think, when he said "simplicity is the ultimate sophistication". I'm a maximalist by nature (as you can probably tell from my rambly, lengthy blog posts) - but not like those people on the scary TV shows. I guess that's why I've never been accused of being sophisticated. But I do still long for minimalism (sometimes). I've also heard "it's not having what you want - it's wanting what you've got". Hmmm...

Do hang in there with me til the end of the post for this week's photos of Five for Friday - delicious vegan food!
 
A terrifying peek inside my kitchen...
I'm rather hesitant to reveal these photos of my kitchen, because I look like a crazy hoarder - but I really love to cook with as much variety as possible, and we have very little cupboard space. Sometimes I kinda wish we could just start again. I didn't clean before these photos were taken - for maximum authenticity and shame ;)

Overstocked shelves. Uh huh.

If I had my way, we'd have a massive kitchen with every single appliance possible. Fat slabs of marble benchtops, clean, empty surfaces, a rack hanging from the ceiling with endless pots, pans etc hanging from it, oh gosh. It would make me so happy. I'd hit my friggin head all of the time, but who would care? I'd walk in and sigh "aaaaah", at the beauty of it all.
But.. what we actually have right now is tiny. Miniscule, and rather poorly designed. Even the cat navigates the counter-top terrain with caution, leaping and sliding like a dragon. She usually ends up deciding to watch haughtily from atop the refrigerator.
Unimpressed cat, atop the refrigerator

The benches aren't wide enough to be useful at all, so I do my cooking on a tiny square island shelf in the middle of the kitchen that fits my chopping board with maybe an inch of space to the top and right.

My little kitchen island workspace
We don't even have a dishwasher! Well, we do.. it's The Academic!

Appliances. I'm an appliance-junkie. Love 'em. Hardly ever use 'em, other than the blenders. Dislike the fact that appliances take up so much room. But - they can make cooking so much more fun, and make things so much easier/possible. I'd like one of every single appliance, please. In the end, however, we don't have many (this post makes me question this statement, however!!), and we have a few that aren't stored in the kitchen. So we have an appliance-table, with the food processor, blender, hand/stick-blender, kettle, pressure-cooker/slow cooker combination on it. It's a bit like a fun-circuit, except I never seem to be able to use every single one in one evening (and I don't think The Academic Dishwasher would appreciate it).

Our appliance table - pressure cooker, kettle, food processor, potato ricer, blender, coffee grinder, and stick/immersion blender.
I do love my pressure cooker - it cooks legumes in around 10 minutes, which is amazingly helpful for someone as disorganised as me. But...The dehydrator (unopened, hidden underneath a writing desk), the bread-maker (un-used, still in the boot of the car, shamefully!) and the ice-cream maker (unopened, hidden in the sun-room area - I can't lie) got me thinking. What do we actually *need* to cook?

My friend Jacqui of Everyday Cook recently stayed in France for a significant portion of time with very little, and loved it.  And then I got to thinking about items that made a huge difference in my kitchen - the funnel (as The Academic wrote about here, amongst other things, in his post on simple tools that make a difference), and a good quality chopping board. All simple things. But I'm not a minimalist.

The list below are the minimum items that I feel are necessary for me to function best as a cook and to manage the kitchen. So if you're just starting out, starting again, or looking into new purchases - this may be of use. I'd really be interested to hear what you guys consider essentials. I mean - a funnel! A good quality heavy chopping board! A good knife! These items transformed my cooking and made being in the kitchen so much easier.

When starting out, it's important to buy the best quality that you can afford at that time. But I go for upper-middle of the range, and I recommend choosing things that *work for you*. Even hand-me-downs are a great start. My Kitchenaid blender works pretty darn well (despite it not being a Vitamix), and I love my cheap but perfectly-shaped/textured spatulas from K-mart. But for knives, I'm with Shun all the way.

I also add, than in most cases - I believe in erring on the side of bigger and heavier - this often indicates better quality... So, with that caveat...

My Essential Minimalist Kitchen Tools List!
  • A couple of heavy saucepans/pots (big AND small)
  • Depending on your needs - a big wok, and/or a big frypan
  • Blender
  • A shiny, shiny light silver muffin/cupcake pan (darker pans seem to result in chewier baked goods)
  • A big, solid knife that fits in your hand well
  • A solid, heavy, wooden chopping board
  • A couple of spatulas (one for savoury dishes, one for sweet)
  • A couple of wooden spoons (as above)
  • Pyrex microwave-safe measuring jugs for mixing/heating chocolate/blending/storing (I use all three sizes very often)
  • Measuring cups and spoons (essential for top-quality baking)
  • A really big cookie sheet (I cook pretty much everything I can on this)
  • One big casserole dish
  • Mixing bowl with a rubber bottom (this rubber bottom prevents slipping, which makes life easier)
  • A *really* good oven mitt (burning oneself will ruin anyone's good mood)
  • A funnel (makes pouring things and storing things so so so so so much easier).
  • A fine-mesh strainer - for sifting, draining and rinsing.
  • A whisk! 
I could really, probably very easily live with just these items.

So... tell me - have I left anything out? Are there any other things that should be considered a kitchen essential? 

Five for Friday - Delicious Vegan Eats:

From The Academic: My Valentines Day Truffles from Sjaak's Organic Chocolates
Hungarian-style "Tocsni" (potato pancake), from the West End Markets
Clockwise from front - "Ten Wonders" (a variation based on the traditional Korean Bibimbap), Summer Rolls (vietnamese rice paper rolls), Garlic Butter Cutlet and Cream Cheese Wontons from Loving Hut, Mt Gravatt)
BBQ Combination Platter from "Su Life", Mt Gravatt (my post on this great restaurant here). Clockwise from front left - spring rolls, gluten cutlets, deep fried-purple sweet potato and chewy lemongrass skewers
One of my favourite comfort foods - Cheesy Mac from Vegan Diner by Julie Hasson, with some added hotdogs (do not judge me) and some added guilt-spinach.

 Take care, and have a great weekend, all!

6 comments:

  1. Kudos for not cleaning before taking that photo! Sometime I'll send you a pic of our condiment corner... we once had a house guest ask, "Oh, have you been cleaning out your kitchen today?" Nope, that's where they live. Ain't no room in the pantry for those bottles.

    Love the kitty pic too. :-)

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    1. Oh lord, and I forgot to mention the APPLIANCE BOXES. Michael has lined (perhaps several dozen of) them up all along the top of our kitchen cupboards (very high ceiling, rather tall Michael). Many guests have been baffled by those.

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  2. I don't have a funnel, and I have, and use, many more baking dishes, but your list seems pretty good to me. The funny thing about small appliances is that there are some, like a waffle iron, that I'd use maybe once a year, but sometimes I really miss my old one. I suppose when I get a craving for waffles I could just go to a restaurant, so maybe I don't need the waffle iron. But what about the mandoline and the spiralizer? I really need those. Funny thing that I was taking photos of my kitchen today, unsorted and unordered, with the idea of maybe publishing them. Maybe I will.

    Your food pictures are making me want to go out to eat.

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  3. Love seeing into your kitchen - when we got our cat zinc I was concerned because I hate the idea of a cat on the benches but I think our benches are always so cluttered that she has trouble finding room to walk there - one adventage of cluttered benches! Zinc would love the top of the fridge like Sylvia but even that is too busy.

    I think your list looks pretty sound. One thing I would do differently is that I use my microwave a lot and find that a good pyrex mixing bowl is my favourite because you can melt butter or chocolate in one of those bowls easily but the rubber bottom ones aren't so good in the microwave. I also love having a really good big chef's knife and a little serrated vegetable knife.

    And now I want mac and cheese with hotdogs - looks great comfort food

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  4. I used to make fun of my mother for having heaps of kitchen gadgets but now I AM HER! Garlic crusher, ginger grater, mini frypan, ceramic pie pan, pasta maker, espresso machine, dumpling press, soon-to-be-acquired waffle iron, etc., etc., etc....it's getting a bit out of hand. Lucky for us, we have a stupid amount of cupboard space, so everything stays pretty well under control.

    When I was a minimalist, aside from the basics, I found a hand mixer to be sufficient enough for blending, and a lot cheaper to buy!

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  5. Minimalism is so overrated. ;) Reminds me a whole lot of my own over-stuffed kitchen! It's just too easy to get sucked into wanting the latest and greatest new kitchen gadgets, each promising better this and easier that.

    I think I have the same pressure cooker as you, too!

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