I’m back in the kitchen and I’m not happy…
12th October, 2013
Cooks of the world, go to your kitchens right now!
Are you there? Right, now give your blenders/mixers/food processors – whatever whizzy devices you have – a loving little kiss. Go on. Do it. (Avoiding the sharp bits).
There. Finally the appreciation they deserve.
Like so many things in life – Sellotape…sports bras, to name but two from my own recent experience – it’s not until you try to function without these glorious kitchen labour-saving devices that you really appreciate them.
Within the span of the last century, they vastly changed the way we cook. And as modern times mean changes in what we cook (as well as how we cook it), their usefulness continues to diversify and increase. My dream kitchen could easily accommodate three kinds: stick blender, Magimix-type food processor and old-school Kenwood-type mixer. I bet I’d use them all. Regularly.
To explain these musings: I have recently got back into cooking after probably the longest cooking-free stint of my adult life.
Living in Taiwan I barely cooked anything more complicated than instant noodles for five months. Why would I?
Restaurants littered the streets around our home selling cheap, delicious meals and snacks.
Food in supermarkets was more expensive than eating out and besides, our kitchen facilities consisted of two gas hob rings, with settings ranging from ‘furnace’ to ‘oil rig gas flare’.
You could take your eyebrows off boiling an egg. Ever wondered why Ken Hom’s bald? There you are.
So here in New Zealand, I was itching to get back into the kitchen. Just roasting a chicken or baking biscuits was immensely satisfying.
But, in our rented house, we have fairly basic kit. And not just by my mandoline-wielding, pasta-rolling, pizza stone-baking, cooking-enthusiast standards. You know you’re struggling when you watch food programmes and drool more over the equipment than the food.
We don’t even have one of those lemon juicing thingies – hardly a modern, fangled piece of kit. I’m pretty sure my great-great grandma would’ve had one.
But the absent food processor is the one I keep dwelling on, wistfully. Coleslaw takes ten minutes when a machine does all your chopping. Not here.
Here, in my food processor free world, the basic act of baking a cake becomes a bicep-straining effort, which leaves me more out of puff than going for a jog.
But cooking curry took it to a whole new level.
“They wouldn’t have had blenders in traditional Indian kitchens,” says my wise husband. “They’d have bashed stuff into a paste using a pestle and mortar.“
We don’t have a pestle and mortar.
So to illustrate why I love my food processor (and why you should too), here is my recipe for a simple vegetarian curry, which I knocked up the other night from my vague memory of a delicious Madhur Jaffrey recipe.
I say “simple” because most of the ingredients would normally be shoved in a blender at the start to make a handy paste.
I also say “vegetarian” – this is of course minus the pieces of my knuckles that went in as I grated onion and ginger. And while we’re on the subject of grating: remember that old kitchen tip about not using blunt knives to slice onions, as it makes you cry more? Well, just try using a blunt grater. ‘Nuf said.
But on with the recipe, which truly belongs on the food blog from hell:
My recipe for PAIN (aka cauliflower curry with tomato and green chilli):
1) Grate a medium sized onion. Weep profusely.
2) Grate a 2 inch knob of ginger. Lose chunks of skin and flesh from knuckle area and fingertips.
3) Crush garlic
4) Add water to garlic, ginger and onion to make a paste and fry off in oil.
5) Finely chop a fresh green chilli – by hand. Remind self repeatedly not to lick fingers for rest of day.
6) Peel, de-seed and chop a tomato. Lick tomato juice from fingers. Green chilli pain.
7) Add spices (cumin, garam masala, turmeric, salt) to pan followed by chilli and tomato.
8) Add florets of cauliflower and a few tbsps of water. Cover.
9) Squeeze a lemon with bare hands. Experience excruciating pain as lemon juice runs across grated knuckles.
10) Continue to manually squeeze lemon juice. Squirt lemon into eye. More pain.
11) Rub eye…with green-chilli-infused fingers. Words are no longer enough.
12) Add lemon juice to cauliflower brew.
13) Allow to simmer, covered on low heat while you nurse your injuries and put rice on to cook.
14) Give thanks for labour-saving devices to a deity of your choice (optional) and eat.