Creating culinary delights is one of the joys of being a home chef. Spending time in your kitchen is akin to relaxing in a deep bubble bath with a glass of wine, and you enjoy browsing the shelves of shopping centres in Cape Town to find the perfect kitchen gadgets. However, for those home chefs who are just starting out and want to build their arsenal of tools, read on for a list of kitchen essentials for the home chef.
Good pots and pans
The very first items you should pick up for your kitchen is a good set of pots and pans. If you are a serious chef, you will know that copper or cast-iron pots and pans are the best options for creating mouthwatering masterpieces.
However, these can be expensive, so opt for stainless steel or non-stick options if you have a lower budget. A good piece of cookware should conduct and distribute heat evenly, allowing the food to cook evenly and avoiding any ‘hot spots’ which could cause burns or warping of the cookware. Good pots should last five to ten years, but if they are cared for properly then they should last a lifetime.
Shopping for kitchen knives is not as simple as one might think. You will need to look for sharp knives, as many kitchen injuries are caused by using dull knives to chop food. Sharp knives should slice through meat like butter and make chopping vegetables a breeze.
You will need to look for chef’s knives for general chopping, slicing and cutting, to more specialist knives such as paring, fillet and boning knives if you are serious about cooking. You should go to a homeware store and test out the heft of the knives they have on offer, especially if you are planning on purchasing a chef’s knife. You will need to become accustomed to the weight before you begin using it.
A selection of wooden spoons
Wooden spoons may seem like a tool that only your grandmother would use, after all, there is silicone cookware available after all, right? However, a wooden spoon is something that even famous chefs swear by, and having a selection in your kitchen will come in handy.
Wooden spoons are perfect for use on non-stick cookware as they will not scratch the surface and are ideal for deglazing a pan and scraping up the extra bits of flavour. You should buy more than one, so you do not use your cooking wooden spoon for baking. Wood can absorb flavour, and if you use the wooden spoon you used for making pasta sauce yesterday for making a vanilla sponge today, you may end up with a garlicky dessert.
Fresh herbs and dried spices
Fresh herbs are not just important for making your kitchen look pretty. They can transform a dish into something truly spectacular. You can find fresh herbs such as basil, oregano, thyme, sage and rosemary in pots at most nurseries and even in some grocery stores in the Canal Walk shopping centre.
Dried spices are essential if you enjoy playing with flavour. Dried and ground chillies are perfect for spicing up a curry and cardamom pods add a fantastic unique element to creamy desserts. Be sure to store your dried spices in airtight containers, away from all moisture to avoid mould. You will be amazed at the different some fresh herbs and exciting spices can make to a simple dish.
A good pair of tongs
Tongs are useful in more places than just a braai, and many professional chefs believe they would be lost without their tongs. You will have better control of what you are cooking, whether it be flipping meat, draining spaghetti or tossing salads.
Invest in a stainless steel or metal pair, rather than a cheap plastic one as you will want them to last for longer than one year. Tongs are often overlooked but they are immensely useful when it comes to cooking, and having more than one pair is never a bad thing. Be sure to clean them thoroughly after each use, especially if using to pick up vegetables after cooking meat.
Mixing bowls, measuring cups and measuring spoons
Whether you are going to be baking or not, having mixing bowls, measuring cups and measuring spoons comes in handy. These are the tools that will ensure perfectly moist brownies and delicately browned biscuits.
You do not only have to use them for baking, as measuring cups and spoons come in handy for roast dinners and soups and stews. Having the perfect amount of spice can make or break a dish and if you are unsure of how much, exactly, a teaspoon is then having measuring equipment can be a lifesaver. Look for different options in the homeware stores at Canal Walk Shopping Centre in Cape Town.
A creative mind
One of the most important tools of any home chef is a creative and open mind. Once you have stocked up on tongs, knives, pots, pans, and fresh herbs and spices, you are well on your way towards becoming the next Nigella. Having a creative mind will help you to whip up delicious morsels for friends and family member to enjoy.