Saturday, April 16, 2011

Kitchen Gadgets

You would think I have everything my little heart desires in the way of kitchen paraphernalia but I have found room for 2 new acquisitions that I have sort of been wanting—a mandolin and a small slow cooker.

I think the mandolin is my favourite of the two. Instead of being a full-fledged job with multiple blades and a box, and something to protect your fingers, and that costs almost a hundred euros (like the OXO deluxe mandolin), and which claims more space that I don't have in a kitchen cupboard, this is a simple hand-held plastic number with a ceramic blade that cost under 10 euros. And it just hangs on a rack when not in use. Since its acquisition I have been making thinly shaved salads almost everyday. My favourite is a fennel-cucumber salad.

As for the slow cooker, I have been sort of wanting one because they are great for cooking beans and stews unattended overnight or during the day while I am at work. The disadvantage seems to be that most of them are enormous. So when I recently saw a small one, I snapped it up. It was quite inexpensive, probably because it is missing the more sophisticated controls that you let set how many hours it should go for before going into keep-warm mode. Of course I only realized this when I got home. Nevertheless, I am finding it useful. In the photo, it has just finished cooking chickpeas (without soaking), which is pretty well my favourite legume.

Back to the fennel-cucumber salad, it's my own invention, inspired by Japanese sunomono salad. It is light and fresh, sweet and sour, and I eat for lunch several days a week. Anyone coming to dinner in the next couple of months is likely to be eating it. It may even win over people who don't like fennel!

Fennel-Cucumber Salad

  • 1 small fennel
  • 1/2 English (seedless) cucumber
  • 2 teaspoons fresh dill, finely chopped
  • 1-2 tablespoons fresh coriander, chopped
  • 1-2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup apple vinegar

Thinly slice the fennel and cucumber. (I think having the vegetables thinly shaved, which is easiest to do with a mandolin, is really important in this salad.)
Toss together, add the herbs, sugar, and apple vinegar. (I am using a light apple vinegar, but apple cider vinegar or rice wine vinegar would also be suitable)


  1. Re mandoline: Never ever ever ever use the it without using the safety whatever that comes with it. Oh, you think, just one or two passes to get the veg settled, then I'll use the protective thing. No, no, no! You'll get a nasty slice off your finger faster than you know. And it puts a big kink in the rest of the dinner. -- Voice of experience here.
    (I love my mandoline btw! A cheapie plastic one.)

    Re slow cooker: Does your instruction manual have info on the temps for the different settings? As part of the food safety hysteria, the US ones have gotten hotter in the last years, which means they cook much differently. I've still got my old 110V one without a removable crock and might replace it if I could find a new one with similar temps. Very good for beans, I must say. Also for the pulled chicken that I made this week.

  2. Hi Kaye, this thing doesn't have a safety thing. I am just very careful. I've been using it almost daily since I got it, and touch wood, no cuts yet.

    I can't find anything about specific temperatures for the slow cooker. It does say you need to boil beans for 10 minutes before putting it in the pot and not to use the warm setting for cooking. It took 6 hours on high to cook unsoaked chick peas (which I didn't boil before hand, I confess), so I think it probably works at lower temps than the american models.

  3. The High temp on my old slow cooker is 200F, as I remember, anyhow it's just below boiling and perfect for beans. But I have never pre-boiled them, I just plonk them in. They cook all day. Although, if you're around the house, it's really not all that hard to simmer them on the stove.
    The Low temp is 160-180F (I don't remember exactly) and beans don't get done.
    Hmmm, don't know Russell Hobsb. But I'm thinking I saw something with this name at the grocery store on last visit.