A Spoonie’s Kitchen Spaces…

My kitchen is about as wide as a king-size bed, and a tad longer. However, with all the stuff in there that I need, the floor space available for me is 2 feet wide by 5 feet long. And my actual workspace – that part of the worktop that’s usable – is smaller than a pillowcase. I have, however, been able to turn that to my advantage, in that once I’m installed, I barely have to move more than a foot or two in any direction. And that’s a good thing as a few feet, most days, is all I can manage.

Before continuing, this is my DWP snoops’ disclaimer – I cannot cook from scratch every day or, at times, even every week. Therefore, when I can cook, I batch-cook soups and stews which will either feed me for days (I have no problem eating the same food for several days in succession as long as it’s good food), or be portioned and frozen for future use.

My kitchen, entirely fortuitously, has divided itself into 2 main zones (with some inevitable overlap), preparation & coffee, and cooking, and I just have room to stand between them. To give you an idea how small it is, using a 28mm lens I had to stand in the living room to take the first photo. 

To start, then, this is my Workspace, which includes prep and coffee. I did toy with the idea of calling this Prepspace, and having a separate Coffeespace, but as everything from cake and breadmaking, boning out a leg of lamb to be diced for a casserole, to sausage and coffee-making happens in this few feet of counter that it would have been a tad absurd, not to say pretentious, so all-purpose Workspace is what it stayed:-

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Left to right the machines are a Kenwood Premier Chef, a Dualit XL1500 food processor (and between them containers of sea salt – fine and Maldon flakes – golden caster sugar, a box of ginger tea bags and a huge mug with an assortment of utensils), then there’s my Gaggia Classic espresso machine and the Ascaso coffee grinder. Just sneaking in on the edge is my Dualit deep fryer. The mixer, espresso machine and grinder all vibrate to some degree and, as you can see, they sit on anti-vibration pads, the reason for which I’ve covered several times previously.

In the pic the actual space available for me to work is where the wooden board is. That’s used purely for bread – the loaf is organic, home-made, and one-third rye – and/or non-messy cheese. For everything else it’s replaced with a bigger high-density polyethylene board which is very much easier to keep clean than wood, doesn’t absorb smells, or blood, and can be easily sterilised with Milton. All my knives are within easy reach right in front of me, and the Kindle holds all my recipes and a few cookbooks.

And this is my Cupboardspace:-

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As well as a few pots (top left), and mugs and glasses (bottom right), it holds almost all of my flavouring ingredients (my coffee lives in the fridge, in a soup freezer bag full of CO2 gas to prevent oxidation). Perishable ingredients are also kept in the fridge, and brought in several hours before I start, to come up to room temperature. There’s a lot more stuff in there than you might think, mainly herbs and spices, with some vinegar, soy sauce, plus stock cubes and powders – the shelf at bottom left is about 5 rows deep.

The trick to always having dried herbs and spices in peak condition is to not to have too much on the go at once – open no more than you can easily use in, say, 6 weeks. I’ve just heard a TV chef say that dried herbs, or spices, are good for a year. Not in my kitchen. Sealed jars keep well in the dark, so resist the temptation to decant several small jars into one larger jar – they keep better left alone. The only thing I do that with is sweet paprika. That comes in 50g plastic pouches, which I buy 3 at a time and tip into a PET jar which is exactly the right size and kept in the fridge. It’s also used quite quickly.

As long as I don’t forget anything, once I start wok I never have to move more than a few inches in any direction – the major advantage of a tiny kitchen – if you plan properly it can be Spoonie heaven.

Then, moving beyond the prep phase, I simply have to turn around and there’s my Cookspace:-

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I very rarely use my cooker now, except the oven for bread and cake. Reheating pies, quiches, and the like is done in the mini oven, just peeking in at top left (and, as you can see, needing the oil treatment). There are just two machines, the induction hob on the left, and the boiling water dispenser on the right. This is it in use yesterday:-

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That’s my 4.5litre pot which contains 4 litres of soup – Judion de la Granja beans, and hake, in a tomato sauce with carrots, shallots, celeriac, oregano, celery salt, and spiced with sweet paprika and ground coriander. I prefer the stubby-handled pots to normal pans as, in a confined space, there are no long handles to snag the inattentive Spoonie, and they’re easier to move when full. This pot is particularly heavy, but the other two, at 3 and 2 litres respectively, while superficially similar, are much lighter, and not just because they’re smaller

The induction hob has really come into its own of late. It simmers at quite a low temperature, so the risk of the contents sticking and burning are slim, which means it needs very little input from me. It’s rated at a maximum of 1.8kW but it uses only enough power to maintain it at whatever temperature you set it at, so is economical in use. Unlike a gas or electric cooker, it doesn’t churn out more heat than is actually needed, so it has very little effect on the kitchen temperature, also good for Spoonies as slaving over a hot stove is a thing of the past. And, no, guys, these things do not fry your nuts or do any of the other things they are accused of. You even have to try pretty hard to burn yourself. They do get hot, so don’t believe claims that they don’t, but as they work by heating the metal of the pot or pan, the only part of it that gets hot, in consequence, is directly under the pot – the rest stays cool. If you remove the pot, and turn off the hob, the spot where the pot’s been will burn you if you put your hand on it so, hey, don’t! Other than that, much safer than a stove. And cheaper to run.

Oh, and an unexpected bonus – it’ll defrost and reheat a block of stew or soup from the freezer pretty quickly and without drama – invaluable for me, and my habit of forgetting to take food out of the freezer earlier in the day.

Along with the hob, the hot water dispenser is arguably the best gadget I’ve bought. Firstly, it heats only the amount of water you need and, secondly, no heavy and/or hot kettle to move around. It dispenses a maximum of 350ml at a time, into the jug, which is then tipped into the pot on the hob. Repeat as needed, top up, using the same jug, as you go. Simple.

The water tank contains a Brita Maxtra filter, so food and drink made with the water tastes better, and the water is the perfect temperature for mixing instant sauces, or Smash. Or tea and instant coffee.

I found it irritating at first, I’ll be honest. Now, though, I wouldn’t be without it, it just makes the kitchen so much more user-friendly.

And finally, tucked in the corner of the Workspace, are my coffee machines:-

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By the way, if you have stainless steel appliances like the Classic, the best way to stop them showing every single finger mark (and distracting reflections in photos), is to wipe them over lightly with olive oil, then buff it up. Repeat as needed. Other oils might do – olive oil is what I had handy.

Although the water tank is smoked, thanks to the camera’s flash you can see the water pickup and return hoses in the tank. The vertical pipe outside the tank on the left depressurises the group as you shut off the machine, dumping a shot of hot water and grounds into the drip tray. Once you’ve got the grind and tamp right, the Classic will deliver excellent coffee. My preference is for a caffè latte – as long and black as an Americano but entirely espresso, no hot water dilution. I fill the machine using the Brita filter jug that I usually keep full of water in the fridge, which will keep limescale at bay.

The tamper in the bean hopper speeds up grinding as it stops beans ricocheting around the hopper – I grind beans one 16g portion at a time, as needed. Never keep beans in the hopper at home. It might look cool in the coffee shop, but they get through several hoppers a day, while yours might sit in there for weeks (the hopper you can see holds 600g of beans – when beans average £20 a kilo, for my Old Brown Java, that’s a lot to go stale).

Grinding also heats the beans, to their detriment, so keep them in the fridge and only grind what you need for immediate use. That way the fridge chill will counteract the heating of the grinder,** and no volatile flavour elements will be lost. You can just see, clinging to the right-hand edge of the picture, a cluster of small brushes. One is for cleaning the group head or the Classic, the others used for clearing retained grounds from the dispense spout, to be used immediately rather than left to go stale, which they will do very quickly.

**No matter what’s claimed for your grinder, they all heat the grounds to some degree, just by the friction of the grinding process.

And that’s it – a kitchen this Spoonie can use without succumbing to exhaustion. To be honest, it pretty much happened by fortuitous accident but, hey, the important thing is that it did happen, not how.

I’d still like a kitchen – hell, a flat – that I can run from my powerchair, but for now this has solved one problem, at least – maximum results for minimum exertion.

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