Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Tooled Up for Food

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  • Russell Brown, in reply to Nora Leggs,

    But since it has returned to service it has churned out a large number of cheesy wafers, using cheese straw recipe. Also experimented with deep dark valrohna chocolate wafers with some success.

    Awesome. It's like it was technology from the future that you acquired in the past.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22825 posts Report Reply

  • Hebe, in reply to Gareth,

    A cheap Chinese cleaver...

    Be careful: mine was a gift without irony from a previous husband. A few years later in another life, I was chopping a pumpkin when the thing flew up and smacked me in the forehead. As I saw the beast flashing toward my face, I could only think: Oh fuck I'm going to die, and it's going to be messy." I came to with a purpling lump the size of a number six egg on the "third eye". Beloved spiked the bad pumpkin on a handy manuka stake near the front door. The cleaver found another home.

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 2898 posts Report Reply

  • Hebe, in reply to B Jones,

    My favourite gadget is a Le Creuset thing called a marmitout

    A fine multi-purposeness that marmitout, and a great name.

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 2898 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth, in reply to Hebe,

    A cheap Chinese cleaver...

    ... is reserved for dismembering chickens. I have a chainsaw for the pumpkins.

    (PS: rediscovered poached chicken last week - another reason why big stockpots are kitchen essentials)

    Bucolic in the backblocks… • Since Jan 2008 • 269 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Mason,

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    This Myott porcelain serving dish, my discovery of bamboo cutting boards and a decent fucking egg beater!!! The Mighty Swift Whip. I buy them when I find them and give them to family kids as they get married.

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1590 posts Report Reply

  • merrica,

    Best thing I ever bought for the kitchen. The carbon steel chinese cleaver from Chinatown in London. Cheap but outstanding in so many ways. Cuts, bashes, useful to scoop up sliced food...probably the single most useful kitchen tool I have.

    In my more insane moments - I dream of buying myself a set of these knives
    http://www.wildfirecutlery.com/PayPal%20site/Korean%20Kitchen%20Knives.htm
    Totally and UTTERLY mad of me if I do it...but they are pieces of art, and I got all inspired watching a korean drama about a chef.

    Staying with the korean theme, I managed to buy a korean rice cooker on the cheap which is also a slow cooker and pressure cooker. Got it on the cheap ($61 compared to retail $430) because the manual is in korean. Emailed the manufacturer (to no avail) asking if they had an english manual, but ended up translating it myself using online translator sites.

    NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 17 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to merrica,

    Cheap but outstanding in so many ways. Cuts, bashes, useful to scoop up sliced food…probably the single most useful kitchen tool I have.

    Oh yes, cleavers are awesome in so many ways. One thing I especially love about being in China is how easy cleavers are to find - and knife sets with two cleavers, which I think of as "his and hers" - my wife prefers the lighter one, I go for the heavier one. And they're great for the reasons you mention and more, though I do find them useless for chopping up a pumpkin - something long and thin applied with constant pressure over a long period of time works best there, I find.

    It took me a while to adjust to rice cookers, but once you get used to them they're great for both regular rice and various East Asian styles of porridge. Fill 'em up, turn 'em on, and forget until you get hungry.

    but ended up translating it myself using online translator sites.

    Oh no, please don't, really, you didn't, did you? I don't say this out of fear of losing an income stream (though I don't do Korean-English, so no direct threat in this case), I say it out of professional pride. Yeah, sure, for something formulaic and technical like an instruction booklet Machine Translation often gives you something close enough for you to decipher, sometimes even reasonably accurate, but outside of these very strict conditions, do you have any idea how badly MT mangles language?!

    Having ranted that, I hope you got your cooker working.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 2401 posts Report Reply

  • Robyn Gallagher,

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    My grandfather was a saw doctor and knew a thing or two about a good blade. He hand made this bread knife for my parents and 40 years later it is still the business. The wooden handle especially is a pleasure to hold.

    Raglan • Since Nov 2006 • 1946 posts Report Reply

  • Carol Stewart,

    I love all the items shown here.
    A couple more that I can't quite imagine doing without are:
    a) small Victorinox knives for slicing tomatoes, paring fruit etc - cheap and brilliant;
    b) a strange device that I don't even know the name of - it's similar to a mezzaluna but has just one handle in the middle. It's really good for slicing pizza and chopping up baked slices and sundry small tasks. I will post a photo when I get back home.

    Wellington • Since Jul 2008 • 825 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart,

    We had to get rid of all our kitchen stuff when we moved to the US, unless it met the criteria of "I will be overjoyed to get this back in five years". As we were just coming out of uni, there wasn't a lot of stuff that qualified - except the gorgeous set of ceramic mixing bowls we were given as a wedding present, and our one really good kitchen knife (something like $70 on clearanced sale and I don't regret it one little bit.) Occasionally I still dream about getting those back.

    Being somewhere for 5 years is a bitch cookware-wise, though, because it's long enough that you'd like some nice stuff to work with, but short enough (and far away enough from home) that I don't want to pick up too many things I can't bear to part with. We have mostly compromised on "nice enough to last five years", but the cast-iron frying pan has seasoned up so nicely I might just have to take it with us. And the digital meat thermometer with the three-foot cord. And the Pyrex mixing bowls. And....oops.

    “Don’t buy a stockpot,” said Fiona as I went out the door. “We don’t have anywhere to put it.”

    “But it would be great for, um, parties,” I insisted.

    ”Please don’t buy a stockpot,” she repeated as I went out the door.

    “[Mumble],” I called back, cheerily.

    I have had that conversation - on Fiona's side - and its results are haunting our coat cupboard.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2105 posts Report Reply

  • AdamPope,

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    This post and comments are cookin' hot. I can get a handle on a new-fangled electrical gizmo when necessary, but I try to use traditional methods where possible.

    I picked up the mincer in a French village street market for €2; with a bunch of smoked paprika and green peppercorns you've got amazing bean-burgers.

    The pasta machine is an Italian Imperia and, combined with a breadmaker for kneading the dough, makes incredibly textured pasta as quickly as you can boil it dried.

    The Spong & Co No.2 coffee grinder is a cheap-o antique from eBay. They must have known how important a good grind was back in the forties.

    London • Since Jul 2013 • 7 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to AdamPope,

    The Spong & Co No.2 coffee grinder is a cheap-o antique from eBay. They must have known how important a good grind was back in the forties.

    My parents have a wall-mounted ceramic coffee grinder which my sister and I have already had a low-grade dispute over the future ownership of, despite the fact that a) this is unlikely to be a question for decades to come, and b) I don't even really drink coffee. It's just that cool. There's a little glass container that catches the grounds and everything.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2105 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Chris Waugh,

    It took me a while to adjust to rice cookers, but once you get used to them they’re great for both regular rice and various East Asian styles of porridge. Fill ’em up, turn ’em on, and forget until you get hungry.

    I can't believe it took me as long as it did to discover the virtues of a rice-cooker. Life is just better with one.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22825 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew Stevenson, in reply to Carol Stewart,

    a strange device that I don't even know the name of - it's similar to a mezzaluna but has just one handle in the middle. It's really good for slicing pizza and chopping up baked slices and sundry small tasks.

    Sounds like an ulu, an Inuit utility knife - see here

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 206 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    While I do appreciate the lovely old kitchen tools I also love gadgets. We have a gunmetal grey kitchenaid mixer that is both a joy to use and a joy to look at. It just exudes a sense of engineering and strength of any really good power tool.

    For my 50th we went to Melbourne for lots of eating out with four of my very best friends and while browsing through a kitchen shop I decided to buy the pasta making attachment. Now I really do appreciate the skill displayed by an expert with a manual pasta machine and even more so the skill of those who make pasta with a rolling pin (nonna length or otherwise) – but man the ease with which we can now make pasta. Yes it was expensive and heavy but it’s been a revelation for us to quickly and easily make homemade pasta without requiring any real talent.

    So snicker all you like I love that gadget!

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4458 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    We had to get rid of all our kitchen stuff when we moved to the US, unless it met the criteria of “I will be overjoyed to get this back in five years”.

    We had the same problem. We stored some things but when we got to the US we had to set up a new kitchen. It was shocking to discover how cheap small appliances were - $10 toaster? And then we discovered that outside every city in the US is an outlet mall. It might actually just be one outlet mall that moves from city to city as you move. There seems to be only one set of shops, but the kitchen shop is great.

    We needed new pots anyway and the multi layered 18/10 stainless steel set was soooo reasonably priced ... and yes they even gave us a free set of steak knives. We carried that set through the US as we moved and brought it back to NZ with us. It now occupies two drawers in our new kitchen and I fully expect to be using it for decades to come.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4458 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    That photo of the pasta machine reminded me that when a former flatmate (later husband) moved into our flat in 1981 he brought his pasta machine, parmesan cheese grater (cylindrical with a handle at the top), one-person expresso coffee pot, wok steamer, rice cooker, mongolian hotpot thing and a whole lot of other cooking equipment we had not seen before. And used them all expertly. Originally from Dunedin, he had been an AFS scholar in Italy in the 70s and and then spent two years on a tertiary student exchange in China. He took the pasta machine on holidays and dangled fresh pasta from tree branches to the amusement of many. On occasional overseas trips (his work involved a bit of travelling) he brought back Le Creuset pieces from France.

    He subscribed to Cuisine from the first issue and was the first person I knew to partner green peppercorns with strawberries. When our baby was born near midnight he was sent home, but came back a few hours later with little tarts of strawberry and creme patisserie which he had created - the most perfect food for the occasion. I think he was in an innovative rush as he died in 1989. I still have the Le Creuset.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3214 posts Report Reply

  • Luke Williamson,

    We have a Circulon set of pots from same era as your pan Russell and they are still going strong, although, I'm sure I see bits of the lining in my roux when I do it. And, by another coincedence, we also have exactly the same small cast iron pan in which we also toast pinenuts and fry single eggs. No photo sorry, but my boiled egg slicer is another thing I just love in my kitchen. It gives me pleasure every time I neatly slice those eggs.

    Warkworth • Since Oct 2007 • 297 posts Report Reply

  • Amy Gale, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    Being somewhere for 5 years is a bitch cookware-wise, though, because it’s long enough that you’d like some nice stuff to work with, but short enough (and far away enough from home) that I don’t want to pick up too many things I can’t bear to part with.

    I packed up a fair proportion of my (nonelectric) cookware and took it with me, reasoning that I was not going to be in any sort of position to replace it on a graduate stipend. I’ve never regretted it. I haven’t regretted anything I packed up and took with me, actually. Wrangling multiple monitor boxes (excellent volume for linear dimension!) through the necessary succession of airports is no fun for anyone, but that just makes it more likely that you’ll cry and then they’ll feel bad for you and waive the excess baggage fees.

    tha Ith • Since May 2007 • 471 posts Report Reply

  • TracyMac,

    I stole my mother's Mighty Swift Whip about 20 years ago, without a blink of guilt. Never thought to check op-shops.

    Mum's is still going strong, despite a wobbly handle, and blows away any modern device. I don't know why the modern ones are so much less efficient...

    Canberra, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 701 posts Report Reply

  • Carol Stewart, in reply to Andrew Stevenson,

    An ulu! Thanks Andrew. I love that article. Mine did come from Alaska and it does look most like the Alaskan version shown.
    What a tool! Its applications include

    skinning and cleaning animals, cutting a child’s hair, cutting food and, if necessary, trimming blocks of snow and ice used to build an igloo.

    .. although preferably not in that order ;-)

    Wellington • Since Jul 2008 • 825 posts Report Reply

  • JacksonP, in reply to AdamPope,

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    Snap on the Spong. As may have been apparent for some of you, I have a thing for coffee machines. The Presso the most manual in my collection actually works pretty well, and often comes with us on holidays

    And was pleasantly surprised to find the little oven dish, perfect for solo apple crumble, is a Le Creuset you're all talking about. Belonged to M's grandmother, who brought it back from France.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2011 • 2450 posts Report Reply

  • Ross McA.,

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    This is my most excellent Paua mincer, like new when I acquired it from a garage sale many moons ago.

    Since Mar 2010 • 51 posts Report Reply

  • Ross McA.,

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    And my indispensable Peter Lorimer knife, which seems to be getting sharper with age and no help from me.

    Since Mar 2010 • 51 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to Amy Gale,

    Wrangling multiple monitor boxes (excellent volume for linear dimension!) through the necessary succession of airports is no fun for anyone, but that just makes it more likely that you’ll cry and then they’ll feel bad for you and waive the excess baggage fees.

    Oh, we're going to be shipping stuff home, it's a certainty. It's less the cookware and more the games and books (oh, the cheap, cheap books) and my fabric stash and...well, I draw the line at furniture. Fortunately, I may be on a student stipend, but I had the good sense to marry someone who has moved on to a Real Job.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2105 posts Report Reply

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