Refurbishing the Kitchen…

As regular readers will be aware, I have bilateral lymphoedema which is also infected, and my legs and feet feel as if they’re swathed in red-hot barbed wire.  They need swabbing yet again to find out with what, as the currently-prescribed Flucloxacillin is proving to be as effective as taking Smarties. But, then, it always does. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve told my GP this, but the scripts are still churned out with mind-numbing regularity.

Anyway, the observant will have spotted that I’m also in the middle of a crisis which, I believe, was provoked by my having the temerity to give in to my need for fresh food, and spend some time in the kitchen a couple of weeks ago. In fairness, it wasn’t that reckless, as I could have had no idea that the consequences would be so disastrous. But they are.

Clearly, then, spending so much time on my feet was seriously bad news – a wheelchair-friendly flat would be nice, fat chance, though – and as ever, it’s the prep that’s the culprit.

I can, and often do, use pre-prepped fresh veg, but this, of necessity (they can’t cater for all tastes), offers a very restricted choice which imposes a generic flavour-profile on dishes made with them.

Take alliums and carrots. I’m likely to use a combination of Echalion shallots  and strong cooking onions (both from Sainsbury’s for the best quality by some margin), as a base for soups and stews, as the combination gives excellent depth of flavour. As for carrots, when I can get them I’ll always use Sweet Spear (Sainsbury’s again), both for flavour and keeping qualities.

In my local store, at least, the latter used to be rigidly seasonal (winter), but this year they’ve been available right through, though whether fresh or stored I have no idea, but if I can store them for several months, I’m sure the producers/distributors can too.

Yes, yes, I know – get to the point – and it’s that in terms of quality you can’t beat freshly-prepped veg, and as it turns out, that keeps me on my feet long enough to plunge me into a serious crisis. Something has to give and, so far, it’s been me.

So, 10 days ago I got a cheap food processor, a Kenwood FP120. As it turned out, it’s too small and a tad underpowered so, yesterday, I took the plunge and splurged on a much more powerful model. Bigger, too. Not cheap (£251, delivered, from Nisbets ), but one of the advantages – possibly the only one – of being housebound is not being able to go out and spend money, so I thought it made sense to spend it on something that would benefit me long-term. This is what I got, the Dualit XL1500.

ScreenShot312 Click pic to view full size, Back button to return.

It’s described as “Super Sized” – it’s not. Because of the way it’s designed it takes up very little more space on the worktop than the tiny Kenwood, its three bowls (largest 2.25 litres), nesting inside each other for storage and in use (pic just shows the largest bowl). It has many more tools than the Kenwood, and these are housed, as you can see, in their own caddy which can be stashed wherever you have space – much better than having them scattered all over the kitchen, which is an all-too-common fate.

It doesn’t come with a jug blender – I already have two anyway – but it has a widget that converts the biggest bowl, giving it the same fluid dynamics as a jug  blender. Allegedly. Apparently these things can be rather variable, but this seems to be a pretty good example.

I’ve not used it yet – maybe at the weekend – but it looks and feels as if it should do exactly what I expect of it. Just one gripe – the sucker feet, intended to keep it from wandering off when in use, are far too efficient and make the thing damned near immoveable once placed on the worktop. I need to find a permanent fix for that but, for now, I’ve rubbed inside the cups with bread flour. Coarser than normal flour, it acts like tiny ball-bearings, reducing the grip considerably. Oh, and the power base is heavy – most of its 10+kg is in there – so, like my stand mixer, I’ve found it a permanent spot, and there it stays. It’s powered by an induction motor and these, apparently, are inherently heavy, so you might need to bear that in mind if you’re shopping for a processor. You do need to take this into account if, like me, you’re a weakened spoonie, especially if you can’t give it a permanent spot. This isn’t something you want to be forever moving around.

I’m also, while I have money available, thinking of getting more new kitchen equipment as, although my benefits are safe in theory, there is no guarantee they’re going to stay safe, Not until/unless that malign weasel IDS strokes out, or is hauled away in a back-to-front jacket by the men with butterfly nets, so it seems sensible to buy what I might need a little further down the line now, while I can still afford it.

I could use a toaster, the one I have has always sucked, and scouring Which? Reviews shows clearly that this is a problem that’s not solved by throwing money at it. Some of the most expensive toasters (Dualit, £100+), turn out the worst toast.

It also pays to compare Which? reviews, even their Best Buys, to Amazon’s, as the Prestige Dakota toaster, which I’d planned on buying (£28, Amazon), has mostly 5-star reviews there, but enough unfavourable ones to suggest that Prestige’s quality control needs to improve. And, of course, some online reviewers are idiots, but it’s not always possible to tell what’s customer misuse and what’s a genuinely bad product.

I’d like a mini oven too. I have one, but it’s getting on a bit, it’s been well used, and it’s hard to clean. The technology has moved on, too but, then, so have the prices. Lakeland have an electronically-controlled version at £100, but I’m not convinced that such a small, hot, environment is good for electronics. Dualit do a similar one  with clockwork controls which might be a better option, but it’s £30 more! I think I’ll go with the Lakeland oven, given their comprehensive warranty. Eventually – there’s life in the one I have for now. Ditto my toaster, as getting anything better seems to be down entirely to pot luck.

Harking back to pre-prepped veggies, I experimented with making my own last year, but a long spell in hospital pushed them beyond their BBE date and a lot got wasted (sliced Echalion shallots mixed with olive oil to prevent freezer burn).

I’d sacrificed a rare good day to chop about 2.5kg of them, and was promptly wiped out for  weeks with inflamed joints – shoulders, neck, elbows, hands, hips, knees, feet (an amazing number of tiny joints in feet!), but it’s just occurred to me that using my new processor would make the task extremely easy and painless. Smaller quantities would be sensible too, say just a kilo each of carrots and shallots, to ensure that they get used in good time.

Finally, one of the things which has always put me off allegedly labour-saving gadgets is that the washing-up they create soaks up any time they save in use (juicers are particularly bad in this respect). Processors can be helped along by assembling  the used tools in the used bowl, along with a little warm water, not soapy, it’ll froth everywhere, and giving them a quick whizz. It’s also important to wash up immediately – few things make life in the kitchen harder than it need be than dried-on food. Doing this should eliminate the problem.

We’ll see…

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11 thoughts on “Refurbishing the Kitchen…

  1. Looking forward to the processor review with anticipation, but I do have a pre-use query – does if have a kneading/mixing function? I’m an ardent bread maker & whilst I’ve developed my own version of kneading (I have restricted hand use) it still can only happen on certain days.

    Great read this post btw xxx

    • Yep. All but the smallest/most basic food processors have a dough function – some obviously better than others (low-powered machines generally bad in this respect). The XL1500 (1.5kW motor, so no shortage of power – for comparison my Kenwood Premier Chef stand mixer is 1.2kW), gets 5 stars for its dough-making from Which? and the manual says it’ll process 1.4kg of bread dough at a time.

      Glad you liked it.

  2. Very glad that you felt physically up to writing the above… Hope the processor lives up to expectations…it’s so infuriating when appliances don’t deliver when you think of how much you’ve shelled out. I bought a Kenwood KMix about a year ago and I find it pretty useless – like you, space on the worktop is an issue and that swayed my choice – bigger would definitely have been better and reading about your Kenwood Premier Chef, I wished I had gone for that. We get a new toaster on average every 8-10 months and go for the cheapest as they all seem to be crap – however, I read a recent review by a student (consumers of massive quantities of toast) that the Dualit was his best investment ever. You’d disagree then ? The fact that your new processor is sold by Nisbet bodes well for performance as they’d expect them to be used in commercial/industrial catering settings

    • Actually, Nisbets sell quite a lot of stuff that’s intended for home use, not commercial, including this processor. I buy quite a lot of stuff from them, especially knives and an excellent diamond sharpening steel, as, even without a commercial warranty, the quality is fine. As with most places, staying away from the very cheap end pays off.

      The Dualit toasters – especially the very expensive ones, have poor toast-making ability according to Which?, and Amazon reviews suggest poor quality control as one of the reasons. If I was paying well over £100 for a toaster, I’d want world-class toast from it! I’ve got a Dualit espresso machine, though, and that’s just fine. As for the processor it only has to do one thing – spin the motor – so I’m not anticipating any problems. If I have any, back it goes.

      It might be worth asking Kenwood if the Premier Chef’s dough hook will fit the K-mix, as it’s a much better profile (a bit too expensive to buy on spec – around £25 and there’s no advantage in buying the stainless-steel version, as the dough doesn’t grip it properly). The Prospero’s dough hook is even worse – just a piece of bent wire!

      I think the K-mix was rushed out when KitchenAid imported their Artisan range but, poor though the Artisan is – also underpowered and small! – the K-mix is worse. I got an Artisan from Amazon. Alongside the Premier it’s a toy and, instead of a cut-out if it’s overloaded, it has a frangible gear which rips itself to pieces so, instead of just having to press a reset button and carry on, you have to dismantle the drive train, replace the gear after removing all the broken bits, and put it back together. Assuming that’s within your abilities, otherwise you have the added expense and delay of shipping the thing back to KitchenAid. And no, you don’t get a spare gear in the box! Mine went straight back.

      The Premier has no reset button either, but with around 4 times the power of the Artisan you’d have to do something really dumb to overload it. Certainly, I’ve never come close.

      This is the model I’ve got, though I paid over £100 less, also from Amazon – prices have gone up dramatically across the Kenwood ranges.

      http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B006WYVF98/ref=asc_df_B006WYVF9815116231?smid=A3P5ROKL5A1OLE&tag=wwwetalecouk-21&linkCode=asn&creative=22206&creativeASIN=B006WYVF98

      • Hello Ron, Read with interest about refurbishing your kitchen. Will your council /Housing Executive not give you a grant to have the kitchen made wheelie friendly???When I moved in here the first thing I bought was a dishwasher…boy am I glad that all I have to do is fill it up every night and push a button. Bank account has just haemorrhaged too, New flat roof on property £330.00,Service Charges for property £330, I have just replaced my fridge freezer,£599.99, removed a cupboard in kitchen for new FF to fit in £33 to the local Social Enterprise, and had my washer/dryer repaired again £117, bought a new laptop £377, home contents insurance £108 and the kettle and toaster replacements will just have to wait…..using a pot on the stove to boil water. Bought myself a slow cooker including two cook books and damned if I like any of the recipes in the books…..Does it ever stop???

        • Hi Chrissie,

          The amount you spend on repairing that washer-dryer is a mystery of cosmic proportions!

          Unless you cook in bulk for the freezer, or go out to work, slow cookers are mostly pointless. I used to cook large joints in mine – takes about 8-10 hours – slice them, use the strained, thickened, stock to make gravy, then portion and freeze them. It comes into its own then, though I don’t use it at all these days.

          As for cook-books, you might recall I collect the things, but the important thing is – I don’t use them for the recipes, just for ideas. If you want recipes, there are zillions available online, free (not least on my blog!). In fact, over the past year I’ve been writing more and more foodie posts as that seems to be what people want.

          I’m in a veggie phase at the moment, making veggie ready meals for the freezer. Not entirely veggie, but I’m haemorrhaging lymphatic fluid, which is mostly protein, I need a high-protein diet to compensate, and Quorn is higher than most meat, plus there’s no waste.

          Does paying out ever stop? Well, yes. Most of what you’ve spent recently won’t recur for years, and the chances of it all recurring at the same time are remote, so you should be fine now, especially if you think very seriously about dumping that washer-dryer next time it goes bang! It’s a liability.

  3. Blimey Ron, did you pay 120 quid plus for a sharpening steel? I checked ’em out (Nisbet). I do like a sharp knife but never had the knack of using a steel, and at that price it’s a hefty way to find out I still ain’t got it! Is that what you bought? They say being in a drawer is the worst thing for blunting them but if you get a knife block, that’s yet another thing on the worktop eh? Ideal, I reckon, is one of those magnetic strips on the wall…

    By the way, your kitchen must look like Curry’s now – you got the lot! What do you do with the dud appliances ? Sell ’em ? What do I do with a second rate Kenwood ?

    Hope you been OK these past couple of days – lots of posts – positive.

    • £120 for a steel? Nope – you definitely misread that. I’m a bit of a kitchen geek, but not that much! I didn’t actually mention a price, but it was the Victorinox diamond model (£39.99). I’d bought the Vogue version about a year earlier (a tenner from Nisbets Amazon outlet), but it wore smooth after a while. Impressive when it was new, though, so I opted for something better. Using a steel isn’t hard – same technique with or without diamonds – the action is as if you’re taking a slice off the steel.

      Knife blocks are rubbish, good for taking up space, not much else and, oddly enough! I do have a magnetic knife strip – it holds a carver (kept razor-sharp for slashing my loaves), 7″ Santoku, 8″ Solingen steel chefs’ (not top of the range but very good, with a rosewood handle and my initials on the blade!), bread, and small utility knives – these are the ones in more or less daily use** – plus a few odds and sods that have no other home. Knives that get used only occasionally are stashed away.

      **If I could cook daily, DWP please note.

      Santoku knives are considered, by the Japanese, to be universal knives, and admittedly, they’re very good, and versatile, but I still think a sensibly-sized chefs’ knife is hard to beat for pretty much any kitchen task.

      The stuff I’m replacing is pretty much worn out and worth nothing (except the little processor, not sure what I’m doing with that – pity I used it, it could have gone back. The oven’s design makes it impossible to clean though, for 25 quid, it’s provided sterling service for about 5 years. Time for something better, though.

      I’ve decided I might as well get the Lakeland oven since, with their warranty – if you don’t like what you buy for any reason, or for none, you get your money back – I can’t lose.

      I’ve been reluctant to say this, as it sounds like a boastful whinge, but how much I write has no bearing on how bad I feel. I write because it’s what I do (and also as a distraction from how horrible I feel most days). It’s what I’ve always wanted to do but I have no talent for any aspect of it that makes money. When blogs came along, though, I discovered I could write up a storm and, no matter what I wrote about, people would read it. The hell with the money, I had something far better – respect as a writer (not immediately, of course, building up a readership takes time). And as you might have noticed – though I can’t say I entirely agree with the sentiments expressed I’m not about to argue – that’s spilled over into Twitter too.

      It also made me realise just how much knowledge was stuffed away in my head and serving no useful purpose, which was when I decided that knowledge has more value shared than hoarded, and set out to share it. OK, I knew it was there – as a kid I was sick more often than not, which meant I had a huge amount of time to read (I had an adult library card at 11) – but what I hadn’t realised was the depth of knowledge that existed, on such a wide range of subjects – some of which I had absolutely no memory of ever having encountered outside my own head – and that’s a seriously weird feeling.

      Like cooking. I tend to say I’m self-taught, but it’s not that simple – the knowledge has always been there, I just tapped into it from about the time I was 12 and, even now, I have no idea how that works.

      And now I must go and get a bucket – I’ve eaten a rather unpleasant meal (fried Spam and eggs, cos I wanted something quick), and I think I might be about to lose it.

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