To Blitz or not to blitz
It is always good fun in a recipe to say put a bunch of ingredients in a food processor and BLITZ – whoo hoo! What thrills!
Yet, there are people who happily get by without ever blitzing their food.
But how do they manage? If we watch TV cookery programmes or competitions, it seems every chef or contestant will put part of their creations through a whizzing apparatus at some stage or other. How can we call ourselves proper cooks if we don’t also use these essential devices? Well, we can try to reconcile our non-electrically aided cooking mojo… But then later, we might find ourselves wandering through the electricals section of a department store and feel overwhelmingly deprived again. Surely, our lives would be made better with an 8 litre, 2000 watt, XL Magic MegaMix with 15 presets, easy touch-screen gizmo control, complete with multi-widget adaptor kit for making everything you dreamed you might make, if only you had one of these marvellous machines. Well, perhaps not…
However, this is not to say that electrical goods are not welcome in the kitchen. We may not have the space to justify buying the de rigueur Bake-Off KitchenAid food mixers (make mine peppermint green please…) but, if you are ever going to bake a cake, you should at least own a simple hand mixer. Do not believe those recipes that say you can mix a cake batter with a whisk. Always use a hand mixer.
Mrs WDC has made hundreds of perfectly delicious cakes – all mixed with nothing more than a bog-standard hand mixer. She also uses the same device for batters, mayonnaise and zabaglione. That is the extent of her electrical kitchen gadget dependency (not counting the electric milk frother). She did hear that it was possible to chop solid chocolate in a blender, but after trying it once, will not do it again. It does not work, mainly because the chocolate becomes charged with static electricity and will fly out of the jar and try to attach itself to anything with an opposite charge, which can include hair, face and clothes!
We should try to define some of these appliances – because not all appliances are made equal. The array of options belidering; there are processors, choppers, blenders, mixers, grinders and more – each comes in different sizes and many have attachments to combine functions. Any kitchen full of this much gear will have no room left to do any cooking. So what do they all do, and do we need them?
The food processor is perhaps the most attractive and engaging appliance, but it’s also the easiest to do without. It blends food – but so does a blender. It mixes food – but a mixer does it better. A food processor’s real raison d’être is slicing and chopping vegetables. Usually, we see this feature persuasively demonstrated by a microphoned raconteur at food fairs, who will mesmerize the audience with his processor’s ability to create huge mounds of chopped and sliced carrots, cucumbers, celery, peppers – all in the blink of an eye. I would imagine such an appliance would be useful for the proprietor of a vegetarian stir-fry restaurant, but otherwise, why use a machine when a sharp knife works just as well.
For home bakers, mixers have their uses. However, first consider the need to haul the heavy mechanical beast from a cupboard – or the garage – before setting up, then after a few minutes of use, having to clean various parts thoroughly, and then packing it up, only to stow it away again. This was the reason we eventually let go of our wonderful Kenwood mixer many years ago – we just did not have the space (or the continual need to mix). That said, I wish I had it back now so I could use the dough hook during the bread shortages of lockdown…
Blenders are a bell and whistle above your usual appliance. Ours is very handy for blending smoothies and soup, chopping breadcrumbs and Parmesan, or pureeing various sauces and mixtures. There is an inherent oddness to the ultimate purpose of a blender – and that is to turn normal food into a liquid. This seems like a cheat, or more worryingly, advancing unnecessarily the need to suck food from a straw. Still, once a gazpacho is made at home, the point of a blender becomes instantly apparent.
Closely related to the counter top blender is the stick blender – this is a very convenient tool for pureeing food whilst still hot in the pan. It is also adept at rescuing all kinds of thick solutions which have split, such as cheese and chocolate sauce, and mayonnaise. Though, it should be said with mayonnaise, that no machine will ever guarantee success.
A recent arrival in our gadget cupboard is a modest, but indispensible, mini chopper. This is very useful for making purees such as houmous, herb sauces, Romescos or blitzing things like fish or chicken for mousses, terrines, or rissoles.
The last gizmo to mention is a spice grinder. If you think you know what fresh ground cumin, coriander, or cardamom smells like, think again. Buy whole spices as fresh as possible. then put into the grinder, press the button and whizz – and you will never keep your spices past their best by date again.
How devoted we are to our gadgets, depends ultimately on the kind of cooking we do. We can all do without electrical help in the kitchen, but there are so many processes made easier with mechanical assistance. Besides, it’s fun to blitz!