I am putting together my wedding-gift list and would like to include some kitchen utensils. There is so much choice and many new twists on traditional tools that I’m a bit bewildered. Which do you think are genuinely useful, and which are just gimmicks?
Here are my favourite “non-traditional” kitchen tools: Silicone is really big at the moment, and with good reason. Silicone utensils are heat resistant, kind to cookware, comfortable, easy to clean and virtually indestructible. Some of my “must-haves” are: silicone spoons and spatulas (slotted and regular), measuring spoons, a silicone-tipped whisk, spatter shield and colander (the collapsible ones are terrific if storage space is limited). Silicone pastry brushes are useful even if you do not bake — great for basting, brushing on marinades or smearing a pan with oil, and they’re much easier to care for than a bristle brush.
Utensils with “comfort grip” handles (silicone or otherwise) are more comfortable to use and less likely to slip out of your hand — so put a can opener, kitchen shears, measuring jugs (large and small), an apple corer and a potato peeler (all with a non-slip handles) high on your list. Other useful “modern” gadgets: A salad spinner, a strong, dishwasher-proof garlic press (metal not plastic), microplane graters (coarse, medium and fine) and an instant-read thermometer (invaluable for avoiding undercooked chicken and overcooked steak). In the “gimmick” category, I would put plastic vegetable choppers, garlic “peelers” (a good thwack with the side of chef’s knife does the job just as well), and garlic/onion odour-removing stones and bars. Lastly, avoid highly specialised single-purpose tools like mushroom brushes and avocado slicers.
My niece cannot eat dairy products and will be visiting us over Shavuot. Is there a way to make a non-dairy cheesecake?
es! The trick is to make a traditional East European-style cheesecake (which does not contain soured cream) using non-dairy soy “cream cheese”. Enhance the filling with ground almonds and flavour-boosters — sultanas, fresh lemon juice and zest, and good-quality vanilla extract — to add the texture and tang that “real” cream cheese would have. You can also swirl in lemon curd to the mixture before baking for added “oomph”. For a superb traditional cheesecake recipe, see Evelyn Rose’s New Complete International Jewish Cookbook. Replace the cream cheese with an equal quantity of non-dairy soy cream cheese.
I have had a non-stick stir-fry pan for some time, but the coating has started to peel off. I would like to replace it, as I enjoy stir-frying. What do you recommend?
Authentic stir-frying, as practised in Chinese cuisine, means cooking in an extremely hot pan for a very short time. To achieve this, the empty pan has to be preheated until wisps of smoke rise from it. This can’t be done with a non-stick pan since very high temperatures cause the coating to break down (and in some cases release potentially harmful fumes.) The best pan for a Western kitchen is a flat-bottomed wok made of carbon steel with a wooden handle. However, since many people in the West do not “stir-fry” in a very hot pan, they are actually sautéeing or braising the food (fine, but it will not taste authentically Chinese). For this purpose, a stainless-steel, anodised aluminium, cast-iron or toughened non-stick stir-fry pan is acceptable. That said, I adore my well-seasoned carbon-steel wok (which cost me a fiver from a Chinese supermarket).