Island Cooking: Kitchen Gadgets | Island Free Press

Photo by Lynne Foster

Many years ago when I first moved to London I was working at Divertimenti, a brand new specialty tableware store on Brompton Road (unique before they became popular). The owners / buyers all carefully curated individual property. Each piece was useful, good looking, well made, and many were new to the market and extremely unique.

We have taken care of cooks and the burgeoning movement of home cooks like no one else. That was a big plus for me. Not only have I lumped someone together, I’ve had the time to examine specific needs and the reasons for them. Customers enjoyed discussing cooking and equipment, and I learned more than I could ever have imagined – more than they’d learned from me!

I quickly got excited about cookware and appliances and got some amazing tips from owners and customers. It was my favorite job and I had some pretty great jobs!

If, like me, you are tired of being in the kitchen so often, it may be time to buy a new appliance! I never need an excuse so I have some very cool things that I enjoy working with.

Allow me to show you some.

There are some recipes, especially baked goods, that require accurate measurements, which is usually not “my thing”. I’m more of a snoop and taste cook. But that’s why my baking is often not good. So bring good measuring tools with you.

Photo by Lynne Foster

In addition to the usual cups and spoons, I often use kitchen scales. A bonus is that it measures in grams or ounces. Just put a bowl on top, turn on the scale, and tell it what measurement you want.

I also like the mini measuring cup that averages up to four tablespoons and two ounces. It’s easier than soaking the regular tablespoon in the aroma four times and it eliminates any liquid spillage.

When cooking some foods, especially meat, the temperature is the best indicator of the correct degree of cooking. For beginners who are new to experience and have an intuitive feel for when to properly cook food, thermometers are essential.

I use two types, a digital thermometer that reads from -58F to 572F or -50C to 300C. It is very helpful when I prepare something from a European cookbook.

Since moving back to the US, I’ve got used to American calculations again, and that requires translation. And for me, the conversions require a calculator! To go from Celsius to Fahrenheit, double the C number and add 30. It’s not accurate, but close enough. Don’t even think about converting the other way!

Photo by Lynne Foster

The thermal probe is ideal for larger pieces in the oven. You insert the probe into the meat and leave the reader connected to it on the counter with a sufficiently long wire. You don’t have to open the oven to check the temperature to keep the heat stable. There is also the option to set the cooking time and you can again select a temperature unit in Fahrenheit or Celsius.

There is a flame tamper (heat diffuser) on the stove, which distributes the heat from the burner evenly to the bottom of the cooking vessel, thus preventing hot spots and uneven cooking. It is especially useful, even necessary, with clay pots.

I used to have a bulky block of wood to hold my knives until I discovered the lighter and much smaller round soft-touch holder that keeps the blades separate and sharp. The Sim Prium offers space for many knives of all sizes and takes up very little space on the worktop. There is also a Chantry knife sharpener nearby.

I have a very cool Skeppshult handmade pepper / spice mill from Sweden. It is made of cast iron and its lid is made of Swedish walnut wood. It’s a beautiful example of scan design, and I love using it. I tend to grind my own spices so if you use it, this gets a great deal. I also use it for Balinese peppers that don’t quite fit in my standard pepper mill. Just put all of the grooved bottom spices in the larger bowl, insert the small one with the flat side down, and twist and grind it.

Photo by Lynne Foster

Salt also has a special place in the kitchen. Kosher salt that I use in cooking lives next to the stove in a beautiful ceramic container from North Carolina. The beautiful finishing salt from Hatteras Saltworks is also located nearby in a double wooden box with a rotating lid. Both are convenient and ready to use.

Beeswax wraps are a saver and a sustainable way to preserve food, especially leftover food. They come in many designs and sizes and you can feel like you are wrapping your food in art. Art in the kitchen is always a good thing!

Ever forgot to get butter out of the fridge and ready to make a sandwich, or the toast just popped up? There is a tool for that too! Run it over the hard butter to get usable pieces of butter or curls of butter to serve with your homemade buns. One side of the blade is serrated to make it easier for you to cut slices or pats.

I use a lot of citrus peels too, and this little parer makes the finest slices that are wonderful for garnishing, or thicker slices for more flavor. It’s also a little faster than using a paring knife.

Photo by Lynne Foster

Let’s not forget the wine! One tool that Divertimenti introduced to the world outside of his native France is one that I still cannot do without and that I have often shared with others. The wonderful Le Creuset corkscrew is very easy and the foil cutter makes it even easier to use. Turning the screw in one direction is a unique quality. Insert the tip into the cork and twist to the right (clockwise) until the cork is pulled out of the bottle. Et voila!

I have a baking station on top of an antique cabinet that is the right height for rolling dough and lower than a standard counter. A marble slab permanently sits on top of it to keep the dough cool while you work it, and I work it with the nicest, most balanced rolling pin ever made for me by my Hatteras friend Kal Gancsos.

Oh, the simple things that I enjoy in the kitchen! These include some stylish cleaning products that you suspect where – Swedish tea towels make washing dishes or cleaning the counters somehow glamorous and environmentally friendly.

The little washer, also Swedish, doesn’t scratch, but removes sticky objects, and the washcloth replaces hundreds of paper towels. Both are washable (but not for the dryer) and can be reused over and over again. Besides, they’re pretty! You are sitting here on a very useful plastic-coated frame located above the sink. It is ideal for drying, rinsing products and also for thawing. I have two, one for each sink, and they get used to one thing or another every day.

Photo by Lynne Foster

And finally, my favorite kitchen hand soap is from Method. It’s designed to remove odors from garlic and onion handling (staples in much of my kitchen), and it really does a good job. It has a clean, light scent (I use lemongrass) and a very well calculated rate of release that is just about enough.

A cheaper alternative is to rub your hands over a stainless steel object (a large serving spoon is ideal) while running cold water from the tap over your hands. It removes the odors but is not intended to clean your hands.

I guess there are excellent cooks everywhere with a small stove, a knife or two, two or three pots and a pan and they make fabulous meals, but I’m not one of them. I depend on my tools and equipment and I really enjoy using them!

Another time we’ll look at my collection of clay pot cookware and why I love them. Here’s a hint: a popular, revered cookbook author believes that clay pot cooking is from the earth, comforting and imparting the flavors of the earth. In contrast, metal cookware is made of fire and is hard. I’m not sure, but it’s worth thinking about and I know my tone makes me feel good. There are definitely some health and taste benefits.

Photo by Lynne Foster

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