explores some current kitchen wizardry that is well worth a star slot on the counter
Small appliances can be dust collectors or beloved favourites in your culinary round, be it a typical family fill-up or a lush dinner party for friends. Here’s our pick of hot, truly useful choices to enhance your winter kitchen adventures.
Clinging to an analogue phone, I’m generally not roused by Bluetooth-enabled kitchen anything, Nutribullet Balance is one smart gadget that has intelligent, nutritious value. Green smoothies are a staple in this house, but I’ll admit that swiping survivors from the vegetable bin of the fridge, we are never entirely sure exactly what fibre, calories, carbs’ and vitamin content is actually in each soupy confection.
Here, Bluetooth SMART technology working with your phone (Balance app) guides you from the shopping aisles to the glass with advice on recipes that will deliver the best nutritional content for your needs. The internal scale will weigh each ingredient as you build the drink.
This kind of real-time, precise ingredient knowledge is superb for families nurturing good eating habits or anyone interested in a highly specific diet for health and fitness. The app includes wellness goals, dietary restrictions and eating styles to customise your usage. The machine is powered by a well-muscled 1200w motor and the deal includes two massive 910ml snap top cups. €179, suppliers include Harvey Norman.
For real foodies who want to try something different on these dark evenings – what about some sous vide (cooking in bags and water) adventures? Cooking in sealed bags is tricky, but you can increase your chances of success with the Anova Nano. It looks like an upright flashlight, and clips to any pot to monitor your water temperatures and times. The newly launched Bluetooth variety is a bit pricey but interfaces with the Anova Culinary app on your phone to find your cook settings. Bluetooth connectivity enables you to start, stop and monitor your cook from your mobile device. Ideal for the technophile rare steak eater at €151, Amazon.
A plugin, programmable slow cooker is the weapon of choice for legions of exhausted parents shrinking at the winter chant from wet, cold children – what’s for dinner? You can, of course, go slow at the weekends or when at home, but where these mini cookers really come into their own is when you are not there and need a safe, effective way to have something ready and steaming. We love the Russell Hobs 6lt slow cooker for a number of reasons, and we’re not the only ones – it’s a consistent review favourite with consumer magazine, and just €70-€75 from multiple suppliers. For a 3.5lt go for the new Chalkboard – €30 from Debenhams.
Six litres might seem overly generous, but it allows for planning out batch cooking to freeze and delivers three heat settings. There’s a vital programmable setting, a simple time delay that will put the meal on hours after you leave home, retaining intense flavours and good nutritional content without that mushy over-cook.
For even greater versatility over short, medium and long cooks, The Sage BPR700 Fast Slow Cooker Pro steps up to multiple duties as a pressure cooking, slow cooking, searing, sautéing, reducing and steaming. Another 6lt model you can use this for large family gatherings and simplify that dinner party. A warming €160 deal online from Argos.
Taking off even 100mm of width can mean leaving it out or wrestling a machine into a cupboard after use. Having rejected the idea of giving up a much as 420mm of counter to a bread maker, I’m tempted by a slice of compact action. Russell Hobs offer their 23620 at 34mm (w) with a 55-minute fast bake function, 12-bake functions and 1lb, 1.6lb and 2.2lb loaves at the push of a button.
There’s also a 12-hour delay, perfect for hot fresh bread on a freezing morning. It’s so polite, it will keep your loaf perfectly warm for an hour after baking is over. It’s on offer from €60 (check Argos and Littlewoods’ listings for melt-in-the-mouth deals).
For a 2lbs loaf with all the delicious detailing to the machine at a 28mm squeak of width, Morphy Richards 48281 can offer up everything from brioche to pizza base, €60, Argos. Expect to spend about 10 minutes getting any machine ready and kneading before it goes automatic.
We can loosely divide Irish coffee drinkers into beam-to-cup, pop-in-a-pod people, and the rest of us who fall somewhere between a modest coffee maker and instant crystal coffee. If you want the grind, tamp and drip to cup with no work at all, prices are still high (€900-€1200). For searing style in a space saving pod machine, Café Gusto (Krups/Nescafe) has a stunning new Lumio with a bubble like water reservoir. From €40 nationwide.
There is another way to get that perfect cup at a good price – upgrade your arsenal and separate the grinding and the milk frothing step crucial to every truly fresh americano, espresso, latte and cappuccino. Take a look at Andrew James’ Dual Milk Frother & Warmer, €42, truugo.ie, and Dualit’s Milk Frother, €57.99. Both jugs offer up light fluffy ingredients in under two minutes.
Grinding? The DeLonghi KG40 is a joy to use (I love mine) at just €35.99 and small enough for a deep drawer. Blend specific brew using the pod’s barcode? Nespresso’s economic Vertuo concentrates its efforts on getting every cup right, every time. If you just like it short and dark, don’t go any further than Smeg’s ECF01. Stunning, compact, retro, complete with a frother and big flash SMEG branding. Grounds or paper pods, €259.99, Currys.
Keep in mind that without perfectly selected, blended and roasted coffee (bean or ground) no machine, manual or electric will ever fully deliver.
Irish roasters have everything to order online from Yirgacheffe (Ethiopian) to Salado Blanco (Columbian). I’m a Badger and Dodo girl, and Irish family micro-roasteries are now top of their game, badgeranddodo.ie.