how to setup a minimalist kitchen part 1 – things to avoid

honey semifreddo-4

I’ve been meaning to write a post about setting up a minimalist kitchen for a while now – actually since I stayed in my fabulous little one bedder in Barcelona last December. But something has been holding me back. The other day I realised what it was. You see, I need to come clean – while I fully embrace the principles of minimalism and have challenged myself to not buy any new stuff for the whole year of 2010, I haven’t been able to actually get rid of all the non-essentials in my kitchen (or my shoe collection for that mattter).

I have had a few clean outs and even sold a few things on ebay but there are still plenty of items I haven’t used in the last month that I have no intention of parting with – yet.

So as the first step in my guide to setting up a minimalist kitchen I thought I’d share the things I have in my kitchen that aren’t minimalist and a list of things to avoid. Next week we’ll get into what I would include in a true minimalist kitchen setup if I was kitting out a kitchen from scratch.

Before I get into list mode, remember that I know that kitchen equipment is a very personal thing. This is just my guideline and its based on the things that I like to cook. So please take this as a starting point and adjust to suit your own preferences.

things to avoid in a minimalist kitchen

1. icecream machine
It’s no secret that I LOVE my icecream machine. But since it’s on its last legs and it’s pretty un-minimalist to own one, I’ve been looking around for good frozen desserts that deliver on the heavenly creamy texture of icecream but don’t need special equipment. Still not ready to part ways but one step closer with my machine-free honey ice cream recipe below.

2. microwave oven
I’ve gone with and without a microwave over the years and I’ve decided that while it can be helpful for defrosting things at the last moment and possibly melting chocolate, that’s not enough to justify all the space they take up. I haven’t had a microwave since November ’08 and haven’t missed it one bit. But if you’re using yours every day by all means give it pride of place.

3. stand mixer
A shiny, red kitchen aid mixer used to be high on my kitchen wish-list. Then I inherited my grandmothers gorgeous, retro sunbeam mix master which only runs at one speed – full blast. I haven’t been able to part with it for sentimental reasons but I am finding myself using it less and less. If I want to whisk egg whites or whip some cream these days I use a simple old whisk and think of it as a chance to give the old arm muscles a work out. For creaming butter and sugar I use the food processor which seems to work fine but probably does lack a little in aeration. If you’re a die hard baker or pavlova maker a stand mixer might be worth the cost and the space but for the rest of us mortals it’s not.

4. knife sets
While they can look totally styling, and it can be handy to have a couple of good knives in the house if there’s more than one of you cooking at a time – there aren’t many people that actually need 7 knives of varying sizes. Save your money and invest in one excellent sharp cooks knife for each cook in the house and spend the rest on a good sharpening system – like the furi fingers. If you’re a fan of rustic sourdough loaves like me, a bread knife is the only other one you’ll need.
This is one area where I’ve always been a minimalist.

5. bread machine
This trend should be well and truly past but I can’t imagine there are many people out there who actually get much use out of their bread machine. If you have an oven and a pair of strong arms to knead you have everything you need to make excellent bread – and it won’t be in a weird square tall loaf shape.

6. rice cooker
OK OK. If you’re cooking rice once a week or more – skip this point. But for the rest of us what’s wrong with a good saucepan with a lid.

7. pasta maker
I am guilty here. I go through phases making pasta but it’s never more than once every few months. If I had my time again I’d be struggling to justify my shiny, Italian designed pasta machine. Fresh pasta is pretty readily available to buy now and it’s not that expensive. If I feel like making ravioli I could always use chinese wanton wrappers or cut down some fresh store bought lasagne sheets to size. And I I really wanted to channel my inner Italian nonna – I could always use a rolling pin or make something designed to be formed by hand like these cute orrechette

8. toasted sandwich press
When I was in college I had a little breville toasted sandwich maker in my room and pretty much used it every day. I found that there was usually something in the uni dining room that could be half edible if put between a couple of slices of bread and given a whirl in the ‘jaffel’ maker. Roasted vegetables were a big favourite. I’d also use it to ‘fry’ an egg on the odd occasion. Since then I’ve hardly used one. If I want to make a toasted sandwich I employ my trusty frying pan and cook one side at a time, squashing down as I go. I find that toasted sandwiches may take a little longer this way but are just as delicious – even a little crispier because the steam is escaping as you cook – not being trapped.

9. any other ‘single purpose’ small appliances
Juicers, deep fryers, hot dog warmers, popcorn makers, milkshake machines, chocolate ‘fountains’. No explanation needed really.

10. wok
I have a lovely heavy cast iron wok that my mum gave me years and years ago that I hardly use but keep it for sentimental reasons. I tend to do my stir frying in my large frying pan because I find the heat transfer better than the wok – I don’t have one of those flashy gas wok burner thingies. Of course if you are cooking lots of Asian food a wok might be a better option than a frying pan.

11. griddle pan
Before I had a BBQ I got myself one of those cool cast iron pans with the ridges in the middle. I know some people swear by them but I always found myself with a kitchen full of smoke waving a tea towel in front of the the fire detector. I’m pretty sure I didn’t use the griddle pan ever again once I had the BBQ option. Sold the poor thing on ebay last year. Great decision.

12. saucepan sets
I have a 3 saucepan set with a matching pasta cooker sized pot and a larger stockpot. Now, I like to make stock and often cook for a huge crowd so can justify the stock pot. I love my pasta pot and it is easily the most used saucepan in the kitchen. But the 3 saucepan set – I only really need one of them – probably the middle child – but it feels weird to be splitting up a family like that. Save yourself the guilt and buy your pots individually.

13. cake tins and tart shells in every shape and size
Along with little ramekin-like pots, and white plates and wine glasses this is probably my weakest link in the minimalist kitchen. I’ll come back to you next week with my thoughts on what a minimalist baker would need but for now I’ll share what I have – this could take a while – 1 large metal muffin tray, 1 large silicon muffin tray (hardly used), 1 cupcake tray (was my Mums), 1 large rectangular tart tin with removable base, 1 26cm round tart tin with removable base, 1 20cm deep tart tin with removable base, 1 round cake cooler, 1 rectangular cake cooler, 8 individual pie tins, 8 medium individual tart tins with removable bases, 16 small individual tart tins with removable bases, 1 20cm springfrom cake tin, 1 x 24cm springform cake tin, a pair of sponge tins, a set of square cake tins in small, medium and large, 1 long skinny loaf tin, 1 fat (actually it’s more big boned) loaf tin, I also have 3 flat baking trays, 2 round ‘piza’ trays and 2 metal high sided roasting trays along with a cast iron enamel le creuset roasting tray that is my latest love.

14. anything that is only to be used on ‘special’ occasions
I grew up with multiple dinner sets and crystal glasses that were only used on a handful of occasions. Life is too short people if it’s good enough for Christmas day it should be good enough for a random rainy Tuesday.

15. mortar & pestle
Call me a mad scientist but I love owning a mortar & pestle as much as I love saying ‘mortar’ and ‘pestle’. The truth is that it mostly holds the matches and doesn’t get used often – it probably averages out to once every two months or so. I might keep it while I ditch my spice grinder (see 17.) when you feel like a home made curry from scratch – there’s nothing as good as a hand bashed curry paste.

16. anything purely ornamental
Useful kitchen equimpent can be beautiful and decorative in its own right – I love my jar of stainless steel utensils sitting on the windowsill. But it’s a working display.

17. a coffee grinder for grinding spices
I know I have raved about the beauty of freshly roasted and ground spices and it’s true – they are more fragrant and flavoursome. But I can’ t remember the last time I roasted and ground my spices. Unless you’re a hardcore curry head I think it’s better to just buy quality preground spices in small amounts so that you’re buying fresh. A big fan of herbies.com.au.

18. toaster
Potentially controversial but I much prefer to toast my bread under the grill so I can toast one side for the warm toasty flavours and leave the other nice and soft. If you’re using your toaster everyday of course it deserves place in your kitchen.

19. expensive coffee machines
They always seem like a good idea at the time but most people I know go through their home barista phase and then realise that part of the joy of coffee is the ritual of going out and getting it made by a professional and their expensive machine sits gathering dust. Although if one lived in the country it would make sense. Which reminds me when I shared a house with an ex-barista in the Barossa years ago. He had the real deal machine and grinder that took up a heap of space but I did get quite addicted to my morning latte and didn’t mind it hogging my bench space at all.

20. oven mitts
Oven mitts are for sissys – use a tea towel.

21. single use utensils
Apple corer, egg frying rings, lemon juicer, nut cracker, strawberry dehuller (no- I didn’t fall for that one) there are thousand upon thousands of little kitchen gadgets that may make life a little easier every now and then but in the scheme of things aren’t worth the clutter.

22. electric carving knife
OK so It has come in handy, but since I’ve been keeping my cooks knife sharp, I’ve found that I usually couldn’t be bothered digging through the drawer to find the blades and the base and put it all together and just use the cooks knife to carve.

23. mandoline
OK I’m not about to throw out my v-slicer because I do use it frequently. But is it essential? definitely not – a sharp knife and a bit of patience will usually do just as good a job.

24. kitchen blowtorch
I LOVE that I have the ability to make a real creme brulee but to be honest I wish it had more power. If I could I’d swap it for a real blokey, full-strength blow torch that I could then use to brown meat and all sorts of things.

25. bamboo steamers
They were cheap. I’ve used them exactly twice since I picked them up in a pork bun steaming frenzy in 2003. I know, it’s time for them to go.

26. multiple sizes of wine glasses
Sure, it can be nicer to drink white wine from a smaller glass, or even go crazy with different shapes for different grape varieties – fun for a restaurant but not essential at home. I’m on the path to having a set of champagne flutes (just because I’m a big sparkling fan and drinking it out of normal wine glasses just isn’t the same) and a set of wine glasses that are on the bigger red wine side but I still have some stray white glasses but their days are numbered. I’m looking at a dozen of each because I sometimes have that many guests but you could just have enough for each wine drinking member of the household.

27. paella pans
They look so cute, but seriously, unless you are Spanish or desperately trying to become so, a large frying pan will do the trick.

28. tajine dishes
I do have a set of three terracotta tajines from Morocco. I did use them until the lid broke of the biggest one. Then I realised that the whole steam-swirling-in-the-conical-lid-and-condensing was a subtle difference I’m not sure I could detect. I now make my tajines in my Le Creuset dish and am happy to keep my tajines in the lounge room as a decoration.

honey semifreddo-2

[5 ingredients]
machine-free honey icecream

serves 6

If you’ve always been a bit disappointed by icy semifreddo and other machine-free frozen desserts I feel your pain. But trust me – even after sitting in the freezer for 24hours this baby is creamy, smooth, soft and seriously good – not an icicle in sight.

Delicious as a desert on it’s own, it would also be brilliant in all those places that icecream works so well – with hot chocolate pudding, apple crumble, bread and butter pudding. Yum. The only thing is that it is quite strongly honey flavoured which is great in most cases but could be a little overpowering as an accompaniment to something like a passionfruit souffle.

When I find a vanilla machine-free icecream that lives up to real icecream texture, i’ll ditch the machine. Until then – enjoy this little treat.

1/2C (180g or 6oz ) honey
300mL (1 1/4C) double (heavy) cream
300mL (1 1/4C) pouring (single) cream

Place honey in a small saucepan and warm over a medium heat until really runny. Remove from the heat. Stir though double cream until smooth.

Whisk cream until it starts to thicken and form soft peaks. Fold whipped cream through the honey mixture and place in a freezer proof container. Freeze until you’re ready to eat – give it at least 4 hours.

For individual portions line 1/2C capacity little glasses, ramekins, or cups with cling wrap and divide mixture between. Freeze for at least 3 hours.

chocolate mousse-2

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Still going well with my reading goal for the year. Have updates my Now Reading list – would love to hear any recommendations you have for both food and other books.

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