You don't have to fret over cooking when your kitchen is stacked with cool essentials. Here's a list of chefs' favourites
Steel yourself. Because that designer bag you’re flaunting is going to be eclipsed. By a knife. Yes. You read that right. Suddenly, kitchen accessories are the new ‘cool’.
Of course, it’s only natural to blame Master Chef. After all, it’s the reason why ten year olds are swapping notes on sous vide techniques. Let’s face it. You can’t be upstaged by a smug nephew who’s barely bigger than a biscuit tin.
But, does diving into the world of fancy home cooking really mean spending a month’s salary on a knife? We ask the pros what they would choose as their five ‘kitchen essentials’. And, what their one ‘luxury buy’ would be.
Chef Sanjay Thumma became a YouTube sensation when he began filming his recipes and posting them online. (http://www.vahrehvah. com/) He’s in the middle of filming a video when I call, but obligingly rattles out a list nonetheless. “Good non-stick pans are a must,” he says. “Get them in a couple of sizes. I have six.” Next come knives. “About five different knifes at least. You need them for different things; chopping, mincing, paring…” Thumma’s a fan of the ‘health grill.’ “Nowadays we do a lot of cooking on it — kebabs, dosas, pancakes.” His next choice is a microwave. “I know most people don’t like them. But I’m starting work on a series of microwave recipes to show how useful they are.” Finally, there’s the OTG. “It’s an Oven Taster Griller. They’re pretty cheap. And can do pretty much everything.”
He’s a little coy when it comes to admitting his luxury buy. “A deep fat fryer! I use it when a group of people are coming for dinner. People say it consumes a lot of oil, but that’s not true. You can fry everything at the ideal temperature… Samosas, for example, need to be fried at 170 to 190 degrees Celsius. So you set the temperature and leave it — and your food will never get burnt.”
Next stop, Aditya Bal. Author of the Chak Le India Cookbook, inspired by a show of the same name, which he hosts on NDTV Good Times. He starts with knives. “I use a combination of a few different types: Indian and foreign. My most expensive is a German Henckels knife. But, remember, at the end of the day it’s about getting the job done. A serious chef can cook with any knife… he can cook with a broken handle.” The rest of his list includes, “a good peeler, a whisk, a set of mixing bowls and a set of chopping boards in wood and acrylic.” His luxury buys are pans. “I’m eyeing the Le Creuset cookware range. Some braising pans, frying pan, a couple of small ramekins. I’d like to collect them gradually — that’s the fun of it. Saving money and buying it piece by piece over the years.” Aditya adds, “Yes, cookware has become the new label to flaunt. But quality cookware does make a difference — it affects the cooking process. Because material matters. They way they hold the heat matters.”
Sandesh Reddy’s an engineer turned restaurateur, who experiments with contemporary cooking techniques. He runs Chennai’s popular Sandy’s Chocolate Lab and, like Aditya, starts with the knives. “Buy a great knife. The Japanese make the best ones, followed by the Germans.” Pans are next on the list. “Get a mix of copper and steel pans. A good cast iron pan. Also, a wok. It can be used for every type of cooking — braising, stewing, frying, steaming.” Then comes a Dutch oven (a thick-walled cooking pot with a tight-fitting lid, usually made of cast iron.) “You can do a lot with it. Roasts, stews, casseroles… the possibilities are limitless.” He adds a “great stove or oven” to the list. “Because heat distribution is everything in cooking.” And finally, “A food processor. It does the cutting, blending, making dough… This takes a lot of effort out of cooking. As for his luxury buy? Japanese knives. “I have a set of seven Kai Shun knives, which includes chefs’ knives, a bread knife and a cleaver.