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.
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.