Saturday, April 18, 2009

Reflection on a kitchen far, far away

The kitchen I refer to is my own.

It is not a dream kitchen but miles better than it used to be. The recent trip to my homeland provoked a mental list of all the things I am grateful for, in my not-perfect Melbourne kitchen.

In the few days I have been back I have felt oddly time shifted, not helped by looming deadlines (do I really want to write an unpaid article of 2,500-5,000 words for my professional journal following on from a recent talk I gave?), GST to be calculated and work, of course. Eating has been simple. Another round of my current obsession harisa with vegetables and fish, morphed to a second meal when the leftovers were augmented with some canned beans and a tub of roasted, pureed tomatoes from the freezer. Round two, as a thick soup with a little less bite from the increasingly fiery chillies we are growing, was a perfect Friday night dinner with slabs of Noisette’s wonderful shallot bread. A post-Easter gift of Adora chocolates (atheist can eat chocolate any day of the year), a hot bath and a sneaky viewing of the latest Dr Who sealed the deal to make it the perfect night in, to end the week I have had.

What has this got to do with my dream kitchen? A well stocked freezer and pantry, fresh spices, a good knife and my favourite pot!

Here’s my wish list of simple kitchen pleasures, what’s yours?

A decent sharp knife: It’s so easy to sharpen your own. A block or steel, the right angle, a little perseverance. A knife of the right heft and size for the job with a honed blade transforms a chore into a joy.

A little elbowroom: My space is tiny but there is room either side of the stove so pots can be stirred without banging your elbow on abutting walls. Worst design feature ever in my parents 80’s kitchen makeover - building in a wall oven a few centimetres away from the stovetop.

A good pot: Did I mention there is Alzheimer’s in my family? My parents still have a big aluminium pot that they cook with on a weekly basis that they refuse to replace. I love my cast iron wonder pot, it cooks slowly and evenly and is easy to clean without soap.

Gas cook top: A responsive element that quickly heats and cools. I’ve lost the knack of cooking with electricity, it takes forever to heat and then when the pot finally comes to the boil it bubbles its head off for ages before dropping to a simmer. A gas wok burner and a quieter one, to place a heat diffuser mat atop to cook porridge or a pilaf. Perfect.

A well stocked pantry, fridge, freezer and spice drawer: Since my father took over the reigns in the kitchen the supplies have become minimalist. I acutely missed fresh stock in the freezer and my lovely Marigold bouillon powder as a chemical-free flavour booster, a vibrant array of herbs and spices (on hand was a generic curry powder, very old cinnamon and some fresh curly parsley) and the wonderful organic fruit ‘n veg I love so much. Plus the little gems in the freezer from this year’s harvest.

What I had no need for was gadgets and appliances (though the Teflon toasted sandwich maker provided quick lunches for my cheese loving parents and the previously mentioned egg experiment). You don’t need a microwave. I reheated left over kedgeree simply by placing the dish in the top of a steamer and stirred the contents once or twice. Ten minutes is all it takes.

Unlike The Oz today in their food and wine glossy supplement, I don’t consider an avocado slicer or a $100 kettle a “Kitchen Fundamental”. Just give me a good pot, a wooden spoon, a sharp knife and fresh, simple produce, throw in a responsive stove and I am a happy cook.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

A perfect summary of the perfect kitchen. I agree with everything.

3:29 pm  
Blogger Mary said...

Absolutely - you're spot on. Especially re the gas stove & electric oven... I have recently moved into a new house with this magic combination, and it makes such a HUGE difference.

4:42 pm  
Anonymous Em said...

I really do love my microplane, food processor and Wizz stick, oh and my Kenwood Chef. I know you can do things without them, but man, life is so much easier with them. At the moment I especially like to grate garlic with the microplane - such a great texture and nothing gets left behind!

9:57 pm  
Anonymous Lucy said...

Of course, that long-coveted dishwasher of yours is a kitchen essential now too, surely...

Completely agree. Avocado slicer?

Is it really that hard to slice one?

I'm reading a great book called Kitchen Unplugged, advocating exactly this sort of approach. Less is More most definitely!

8:42 am  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

Em - I love my little blendery thing too, especially the stick and attachments. Though I like my microplane I can live without it.

Lucy - well of course there is a little poetic license going on here (like blogger stories of phones and toilets :) I'd find it challenging to have ONLY those few things in my kitchen - and you are right, I love, love, love the when they make one that puts the dishes away afterwards I'll be really happy :)

2:17 pm  
Blogger jamesbluntknife said...

i vaguely remember anthony bourdain making similar comments in one of his books about what you actually need in a kitchen.

i agree completely about the gas versus electric for the stove though - i hate the fact that you just can't regulate the heat well enough on electric!

has anyone tried an electric oven though? i've heard that they are more preferable to gas.

8:44 am  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

James if you trawl through some back posts you will see me singing the praises of an electric oven. The heat is not so damp and while I had a gas oven for 10 years I really missed drying strawberries, tomatoes etc in the oven to preserve in times of glut.

8:52 am  
Blogger Wendy said...

I'd like two dishwashers. I'd never have to put dishes away - just take the clean ones out of one use them and put them into the other one until it's full then start again. Hooray!

6:58 pm  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

Wendy - Actually NZ appliance company Fisher & Paykel have a dishdrawer system that niftily does the job!

7:26 pm  
Blogger Christina said...

It's all about the cast iron pot.

I'm in complete concordance with the rest of your list too.

1:54 pm  

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