Kitchen Gadgets: The luxe edition

This morning, we’re welcoming Esme back, with part 2 of her must-have kitchen items round up, this time tackling the opposite end of the budget. I knew Esme had a perfect take on the subject matter when I saw her first suggestion below… ‘be still my beating heart!’ No pun intended 😉

In part 1 I introduced three non-expensive items from my kitchen. These next two are more ‘investment items’ that are, in my opinion, worth every penny.

Kichen Aid Artisan mixer. (£377-449)
I’m guessing that most people know someone who can go on and on about how much they love their stand mixer, be it a Kitchen Aid, Kenwood Chef or other. I am another one of those people. It is not a cheap piece of kit and, to be honest, it actually doesn’t do that much, but I wouldn’t give mine up for a lifetime’s supply of Ferrero Rocher. Picture this: it’s 8:30 pm and you suddenly realise that you’d promised to bring a cake into work for the charity bake sale, but Desperate Housewives is on in half an hour and you still haven’t paid the credit card bill or washed your sports bra for Zumba. Kitchen Aid to the rescue! Chuck the butter and sugar into the bowl and, whilst you find the card reader for the online banking and put your delicates in the kitchen sink to soak, it’s paler and fluffier than you would have been able to achieve after twenty arm-aching minutes. In go the eggs as you text your sister to remind her about your Dad’s birthday, flour and flavourings are added and slowly mixed in as you line the baking tray and take the ice-cream out of the freezer ready for scoffing in front of the TV. By the time the cake’s come out of the oven, the no-effort-from-you-lump-free icing will have been made and you’ve repainted your toenails.

It also makes pastry and dough without you even having to think about it – well, you have to put the ingredients in and switch it on, but that’s it. Plus, the colours it comes in are gorgeous and I promise you it will still be going strong, and be looking impressive on your counter top, in twenty years.

Le Creuset shallow casserole. (£145)
We actually have two Le Creuset casserole dishes – the absolutely frigging massive one for when we need to make soup for fifty (or bolognese for ten hungry boys) and this shallow one that I honestly use, on average, three times a week. I make everyday meals like risotto and pasta sauces in it on the hob and slightly more complex dinners such as chicken stew, using it to first brown the meat and then moving it straight into the oven. It’s more than big enough for four portions, keeps its heat really well and is nice enough to go on the table for serving. It’s my go-to pan for fry-ups and one-pot wonders, re-heating and anything that involves simmering to improve the flavour. And if I see you going near it with a metal spoon, you will not be getting seconds.

I first wanted one of these when I noticed that Nigella Lawson always seemed to be using hers in her cooking shows and now I know why. It’s only going to get better with age as it becomes more non-stick and loved and I bet I’m still using this same dish to serve up family favourites when my (not yet in existence) children come home to visit from university. Now that’s good value.

I’m looking forward to hearing about your suggestions in this category – do drop us both a comment and share your thoughts.


Kitchen Gadgets: The budget edition

Before we get started today, just another reminder for the Florence Finds Afternoon tea in London and Manchester – full details can be found here and I really need your invite requests and payments before the weekend so I can confirm numbers – there is still space so get in touch!

This morning we have a guest post from Esme (who recommended Mr Underhills House a while back) that grabbed my attention pretty quickly when I received it. My kitchen is bursting with kitchen paraphernalia, from an obscenely large collection of occasional dishes to coffee grinders and blenders. I’m always on the look out for something to make life easier but this post got me thinking, what would you recommend in your kitchen? Here are Esme’s top tips…

It’s fair to say that in my family, the kitchen is the most important room of the house. It’s where we spend most of our time, where our friends congregate, where problems are discussed and jokes shared over dinner, drinks, nibbles and tea and cake (not at the same time, you understand). It’s also where an embarrassingly large proportion of our money goes. You see, our kitchen cupboards are FULL of equipment, gadgets, serving bowls, things for measuring and stuff for cooking. When we were planning our wedding, we always knew that we would have an old-fashioned wedding list of things for our home (mainly the kitchen…) because that was what we wanted and we honestly do use it all, frequently (ok, my husband does have a drawer full of random cooking-related paraphernalia that he swears he cannot do without but I bet he has never used).

All of this, I think, makes me more than qualified to recommend just a few kitchen items that I think are incredibly useful, worth the cost and will look lovely in your kitchen.

Alessi Storage Jar (12.50)
You would think it would be easy enough to find a storage jar for coffee that will go in the fridge. Well let me tell you that it is actually not that easy, as I had been looking for one for years! It had to be big enough to store sufficient ground coffee – we buy Fair Trade beans and grind it ourselves every few weeks – have a good seal to keep it fresh, not contain any metal and look nice. The Alessi jar fulfils all of my criteria, as well as being able to go in the dishwasher, is not easily breakable as it’s acrylic rather than glass and comes in lots of different colours to match other items in your kitchen. I love it and don’t think I will ever find a better jar for the job.

Microplane Grater (£23)
When our old Ikea grater finally gave up the ghost (you know the one, with the plastic tub and the two different lids?) and wasn’t so much grating cheese as just denting it and we realised that our rusty metal stand-up grater wasn’t exactly hygienic, I finally gave in to my husband’s requests to buy a seemingly ridiculously expensive Microplane grater. ‘It will change our lives’, he declared as I baulked at the £23 price tag, in comparison to £1.50 for a replacement for our Ikea one. So whilst our new grater doesn’t pay the gas bill and hasn’t fixed the condensation problem with our bedroom window, I have to admit that it’s really, really good. It’s super sharp (and will remain so for many years) making grating cheese, zesting lemons and making chocolate sprinkles effortless. All it needs is a quick rinse after using (watch your fingers!) and it’s not at all bulky. Trust me, you won’t believe how good this is until you try it.

Microwaveable Rice Cooker (£8)
We’ve used one of these for years and won’t make rice using anything else. Why would you when it takes much less effort and time than making it in a saucepan and always gives perfect results? We are such fans of this steamer (you can also use it for vegetables and fish) that several of our friends have received them as house-warming presents. Don’t say we’re not thoughtful…

Now it’s your turn. I’m dying to hear what you can think of in your kitchen that is under £25 and you wouldn’t be without… I’m looking forward to picking up some more tips!


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