Pizza scissors, banana holders, battery operated pasta forks (no wrist action needed) mushroom slicers and strawberry stem removers are all available and are all designed to deplete your wallet and clutter your kitchen.
The number of kitchen gadgets is staggering and basically if you can think it, you can buy it. The problem is, of course, that most of this non-essential junk ends up where all useless items go – in the back of a drawer or in the deepest, darkest reaches of a seldom opened cupboard.
If truth be told you need very little in the way of equipment in order to turn out gastronomic delights and those who choose to spend their money wisely on the best-quality basics they can afford won’t only save a fortune in the long run, but their kitchens won’t look like something out of a science fiction or horror movie.
Life in the kitchen has never been easier, thanks in part to the ever increasing number of celebrity chefs who willingly share their culinary secrets. These chefs whip up dishes effortlessly and no, it’s not because they’ve invested in a marinating meat tenderiser appliance, it’s because they know what’s really needed to make fantastic food.
The likes of Gordon Ramsay, Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson and Rick Stein all seem to stick to similar basics: they use good quality saucepans (including a heavy-based frying pan), and have invested in a seriously good set of knives and a high-quality cast iron casserole dish. Other items on their list of must-haves seem to include a wooden chopping board, a top-class blender and a mortar and pestle.
Kitchen shops are all the rage and the prices of cooking essentials range from a few hundred rands to several thousands. The question is, is it always necessary to take out a second bond in order to finance your kitchen equipment? The other question that needs to be asked is, are you paying a premium because of the ‘name’ and/or has that particular item been imported? There are sometimes cheaper, locally manufactured products that will do the job just as well as their French cousins, if you are prepared to put in the legwork and shop around carefully.
Let’s take the humble potjie pot for example. It’s made of cast iron, cooks beautifully and will last a lifetime if it’s cared for correctly. The same goes for most cast iron cookware.
Top tip: be warned, that the wooden handles on cheaper options often don’t last well and it’s therefore advisable to opt for those with cast iron handles.
If you’re not keen on taking the cast iron route, look at high quality, heavy-based stainless steel or copper options. Again, you don’t have to buy expensive, branded products (you know, the ones that cost as much as a small home in France) and according to Gordon Ramsay, you only need to own two – one large, and one medium. A heavy-bottomed frying pan is also essential and those who are avid amateur chefs should consider one with a metal handle that can be safely transferred from the stovetop to the oven if necessary.
Knives are a different animal altogether and it’s highly recommended that serious home chefs invest good money in at least three: a heavy duty chopping knife, a paring knife and one with a serrated edge. The handle of the knife is every bit as important as the blade, and you need to make sure it fits your hand comfortably before you buy.
To recap, these are the basic essentials for your kitchen.
- Two high quality saucepans
- A heavy based frying pan
- Three knives
- A heavy duty wooden chopping board
- A mortar and pestle
- A cast iron casserole dish
- Incidentals such as a grater, a veggie peeler, a spatula, a whisk and an egg lifter.