What kitchen tools and gadgets do we really, truly, need?
My Kenwood Chef and its food processor and blender attachments justify their cupboard space. I really think a Thermapen is £50 well spent. And I suppose I’m occasionally grateful that I once spent £15 on a simple ice cream machine.
Beyond that, I’d say there’s not much you can’t do if you’ve a couple of silicon spatulas, a few wooden spoons, a rolling pin, a hand whisk, a cheap potato peeler, digital scales and two or three quality knives. Oh, and just one more thing: a Japanese mandolin.
Mandolins (the non-musical ones) are great for two reasons:
- their ability to slice things way thinner than you can; and
- their ability to slice things way thinner than you can, extremely quickly.
So long as you don’t also slice your fingers off, you basically win cooking prep: potatoes and other tubers are easily dominated for gratin; cabbage neatly and rapidly shredded for slaw; apples and pears and peaches and stuff sliced implausibly thinly for fancy dessert things.
To my mind, though, a mandolin really comes into its own when used to prepare raw vegetable salads. Thanks to this humble if mildly lethal slicer, we can transform otherwise tough root veg and fibrous bulbs into fresh, crunchy, cooling salads.
Think turnips, kohlrabi, fennel, exotic radishes, courgettes and so on – all are relatively hard, tough, unappetising and/or uncompromising when whole and raw, but turn into dainty and flavoursome ingredients when sliced to 1-3mm thick.
Think cauliflower too. Not a root or bulb, but a different beast when sliced thinly. You know when you see remarkable purple, green and golden caulis these days, then wonder what to do with them / cook them and bugger the colour? Well, here you go. Very en vogue in restaurants atm - slice ‘em up and serve just a slither or two to your friends for £7 or £8 a pop.
As is always the case with salads, this post can’t end with a recipe – just a short assembly suggestion. If you’re interested, look below the shwanky ploughman’s (ham, multi seed sourdough, miso pickled carrots, green mandolin salad).
Green (mandolin) side salad
Serves 2-4 depending what else you’re havingHalf a kohlrabi Half a fennel (and its fronds) Quarter cucumber Quarter cauliflower Pinch sea salt 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil 1 teaspoon moscatel or sherry vinegar
Slice the kohlrabi to about 2mm thick, the fennel and cucumber 1mm, the cauliflower somewhere in between. Do the kohlrabi first and sprinkle a pinch of salt over it. When everything else is ready, dress with oil and vinegar, mix, add as many fennel fronds as you can pick.