I tend to get fun, kitchen, gadgety things for birthdays and Christmasses, mainly because I ask for them. Over the years, we have all accumulated things that sounded great at the time, but ended up gathering dust in the utility room because they were just too darn hard to wash, or didn't actually save us that much time or effort in the end.
I'll never forget that juicer. It took hours to take apart and clean, and even so there was still old fruit pulp hiding in the crevices ... eugh ....
The following five items are things that I actually use regularly, because they really do help more than they hinder. I have chosen them based on the following criteria:
1. They make life easier.
2. They don't cost a fortune to use.
3. They aren't impossible to wash up.
1. Garlic Zoom
I don't know what I ever did before the Garlic Zoom. Think Matchbox diecast toy car meets Nighmare on Elm Street. Put a whole (peeled) clove of garlic in, zoom zoom vroom across the worktop like a toy car, and tip out finely chopped garlic. Your hands won't smell. A few bits will get stuck on the blade or in crevices, but a quick swish in warm soapy water is enough to get it clean again. About £10 online. Chef'n is a good (the original?) brand. You'll still want to keep your garlic press for more pulverized garlic. Otherwise, the job takes seconds, washing takes seconds. Thanks to our friend and all-round kitchen queen Clare Higgins for introducing us to the Zoom.
I was dubious about this one, but it has convinced me. Much smaller than a food processor, I wondered how well this little guy could do the job. But he does, to perfection, every time. Lemon zest, chilli, herbs, breadcrumbs, dressings, ... no trouble. Cost us about £10 in a half-price Kenwood sale. Much quicker to set up than the big food processor, this works in seconds and is washed in seconds. Slightly too easy to break - ours is missing a few bits of plastic lock, but it still works fine.
OK, so I wanted this at first because it looks cool. But I have learned that it is useful too. It came with its own wooden board, into which it slots for easy storage. Excellent for herbs, and sun-dried tomatoes. With some ingredients, especially if using them in more than small amounts, a mezzaluna is just easier than a knife.
4. Hand grater
I have always hated standard graters, because the stuff gets stuck inside, and they are a nightmare to wash. I can never get my hand inside properly. No such middle-class problem with a flat hand-grater. Excellent for nutmeg, parmesan, garlic, ginger. So simple - who knew?! The big grater is still needed for carrots, cheddar, etc.
OK so this one was a wedding present from my sister and brother-in-law, and I know it costs more than numbers 1-4 combined. But it features here because it makes it so incredibly easy to make delicious fresh bread with no chemical preservatives. (You can use it to make jams and chutneys, various enriched doughs and stuff, but I haven't tried those.) Recipes are easy - so long as you measure accurately, you are basically guaranteed a perfect loaf every time. There are gluten-free settings. You can programme the machine to have the loaf ready in the morning and wake up to the smell of fresh bread. You can experiment and add seeds, herbs, cheese, garlic, tomatoes, olives ... The making of the loaf takes approximately 3 minutes, and then the machine does the rest. Washing = a quick wipe of the pan with kitchen paper.