Written by Alice, Head of Recipe Development at Piccolo
I often get asked about what my kitchen essentials are and the tools I can’t live without, so here's a guide to some of my absolute favourite kitchen utensils that are I've accumulated over the past 12 years.
l am lucky enough to live with another compulsive collector of food preparation paraphernalia, so between us we have enough for at least 5 kitchens. But for starting out or even keen cooks, you don’t need everything, here are some appliances that I can't live without...
1. Food processor - From chopping & grating vegetables, making hummus, cakes and even making baby food pureés, my magimix has always been my right-hand in the kitchen. I saved up for it when I was 18 to prepare me for my first cooking job in France and over a decade later it still works a treat. It's definitely a bit of kit I would advise everyone to invest in.
2. Hand blender – hand blenders are a trusty piece of kit but you do not need to spend a lot of money on these (around £15 - £30 is about right). Mine was a cheapo but has lasted for years, despite being perma pink due to a run in with borsh a few years back. You can spend a bit more on ones that come with a tall thin measuring cup and lid which are great, but no matter if you don’t get those. I love this for making soups, purées and sauces.
3. Blender - These are great if you want to blend ingredients more finely than with a hand blender for making purées, smoothies, hummus, dips and soups. But they can be expensive, and it is worth spending more on ones with a decent motor. They do last a long time, so if you cook regularly, this may be worth the investment.
4. Knives – this is a very personal thing and it's worth going into a shop and having a good look at the knife and feel of the grip before you buy. You can spend a lot of money and get something fantastic, but I also have a brilliant knife I picked up in Ikea ten years ago that I still use. There is however one knife that I would like to recommend, and in fact the whole range is good, and a bit friendlier on the wallet. Victorinox has a brilliant serrated tomato knife that I always buy for people. They make slicing tomatoes a dream.
5. Spatula - Bad spatulas annoy me immensely - those really bendy ones that don't get into he corners are just as bad as the inflexible ones that have no give. I always say that once you find a spatula that works better than all the rest, just buy three and chuck out the rest - I am sure you have a couple in the drawer at the back! Once you find the holy grail of spatulas - that one which gets to hard-to-reach corners, is a dream mixer and scrapes bowls clean. This is what you want in your life. So dream big and get hunting.
6. Steamer - Steaming keeps more of the vitamins and nutrients in food than other cooking methods, so it's definitely worth having one for cooking your greens and other foods such as couscous, salmon, chicken or fruit. I have never used electric steamers, and just tend to go for a metal steamer with two basket layers that goes on the hob, or even using the baskets that fan out that you use to go straight into your own pans.
Not truly necessary but bring me great joy…
7. Gravy fat separator - I use the one from Lakeland plastics, and if you are making a lot of Sunday roasts, this little jug is a winner for getting rid of the fat from the meat pan you cooked the joint in.
8. Slow Cooker - You can pick these up pretty cheaply. I think mine was £25 from a supermarket, you don’t need fancy changes in temperature if you just want to use it for mid week stews in the winter. I do think it makes a big difference browning the meat or onions if you are doing a veggie dish, but once you have done that step it really is a case of flinging in ingredients, turning it on and getting it out at the end of the day.
9. Garlic crusher – sure, it's a bit lazy, but I use a lot of garlic and peeling and finely chopping garlic isn’t my idea of fun so this tool is used in pretty much all cooking. I got a basic one from Ikea, but the ones that get all the skin off for you in one movement such as the good grips one, is also great.