3 kitchen essentials to boost your winter cooking
Start with the right tools and your kitchen is on the way to producing waaay more miracles. It's really easy to waste money (and space) in the kitchen and too often that thing we simply MUST HAVE is soon relegated to the back of the cupboard. I'm asked all the time what my all time favourite gadgets are - hello microplane - but during Winter the list changes completely. My culinary conquests take a deep dive into slow cooking and one-pot meals. Like everyone - anyone NOT busy? - I don't have a lot of time and energy to pilfer at the stove, wondering what to cook and waiting twenty-four hours for my bone broth to finish spreading its meaty aroma around the house.
My trick? Use the right tool for the job. I keep bone broth on hand but I use my pressure cooker, which keeps the smells and gorgeous flavours in the pot and not wafting into the bedroom. I do one-pot cooking, but it's not always slow, and I love a different kind of slow food to keep me feeling well all winter (my ferments are my main source of veg through winter). So, here are my top 3 and most essential gadgets when the weather has us by the Ugg boots and all we can think of doing is curling up with a good hot bowl of something.
THE PERFECT POT
This little piggie goes to market, this little kilo of clams goes in the pot, this little ... you get it. With its rainbow of colours and essential durability, Le Creuset's enamel-coated cast iron pots (here is this one on Amazon) are one of the most covetable kitchen designs. They're a little heavy, but that's partly the point. The lid secures in place so the lovely juices don't evaporate in the oven or stove top, and so you're not diluting your cooking with extra water. What goes in stays in. I use my 28cm round pot for these miso clams, and do slow-cooked ragu or bolognese every week (or so it feels). Saute the onions, garlic, celery, whatever you're putting in, add the tomato, wine and beef, cover with a lid and let simmer from anywhere between 30 minutes and 2 hours. If you coarsely mince chuck steak the second option is amazing. This is my most used pot all winter.
THE PRESSURE COOKER
Sure, you can put the slow cooker on before you go to work. And then when you get home the meal is ready to go. But on a Wednesday night when you remember you made yourself a desk lunch this morning instead of putting dinner on, you'll realise what you really needed was a pressure cooker, so dinner can be ready stat. I use mine constantly through the year. Roast some beef bones and pot them in the pressure cooker with a few chicken wings, the leek, carrots, onion you have in the fridge, and cook for anywhere between 2 and 5 hours, and you have the most incredible bone broth you've ever tasted. I do slow-cooked lamb shoulder or pot-roast chook on a Wednesday night, cook it for 45 mins (the chicken for less) and it's all falling off the bone, ready to toss through my pappardelle (recipe coming!). I have a few of these, actually, that's how much I love them. I vouch for this one by Tefal ($90.30) and this fast-slow cooker by Breville if you want your slow cooker and your pressure cooker in one (it's electric).
THE FERMENTING CROCK OR JAR
This ferment crock is on my bench at all times. I love its clean design, though it is big. You can use a smaller one but make sure it's either glass, stone or glazed (and new, a lot of the old glazes are hazardous). I use my food processor (or chop by hand) and stuff the crock with whatever is running low in my ferment jars (usually it's an incredible recipe by Holly Davis involving red cabbage - here's her book, and the saukraut is on the cover!). You can pickle veg in a fermenting crock as well, and if you find a glut of pickling cucumbers then of course go for gold. But fermenting has a special place in my heart in winter because saukraut or fermented veg adds a fresh and almost sour element to the food, perfect pairing for all that slow-cooked (or pressure cooked) food you're making all winter. It's also packed with probiotics, enzymes, and kim chi (YUM) is brimming with vitamins A, B1, B2 and C and minerals such as iron, calcium and selenium. This is how we can stave off winter's malaise and colds and flu. It's a process, but I'm completely addicted. Contrary to getting dinner on the table fermenting is a slow process, and that's part of its charm. Let me know how you go! Rug up, and let me know how your winter cook ups go!