how to setup a minimalist kitchen part 2 – the essentials & the nice-to-haves

lamb w crushed chickpeas-2

If you missed it, last week in part 1, I aired my minimalist kitchen dirty laundry and came clean about the lack of minimalism in some areas of my cooking equipment. This week I thought I’d go through the minimalist kitchen essentials – what I’d invest in if I was kitting out a kitchen from scratch.

This is just my personal list – based on the types of things I like to cook. Of course your essentials will be different depending on your cooking preferences and style.

If you’re happy with your own kitchen setup – you might like to skip down to the recipe below which includes crushed chickpeas – a fresh alternative to hummus for the minimalists out there living a food processor-free life. Or for when you find yourself in someone else’s kitchen and are temporarily without access to a food processor.

the minimalist kitchen essentials


1. knives
A good quality cooks knife and a bread knife if you are a fan of slice-your-own. Forget those knife block sets.

2. chopping board
One large wooden board for all purpose chopping and a plastic one that can go in the dishwasher for raw meat, poultry etc. If you’re vego you could stick to just one board.

3. big appliances
A dishwasher (unless you are some zen master dishwashing fan), an oven (preferably electric fan-forced), a stove top (preferably conduction or gas) and fridge with a freezer.

4. frying pans (skillets)
If you live by yourself – 1 smallish skillet will be fine but if you ever cook for a few people, a larger frying pan will come in handy. Best to get ones with ovenproof handles so you can start cooking on the stove top and then finish them off in the oven.

5. pots
If I was being super minimalist I could limit my pots to just one – my 26cm cherry red enamel coated cast iron le creuset. It’s perfect for everything from boiling pasta to slow cooking a batch of lamb shanks. I can’t tell you how much I love it. But only having one saucepan can be very limiting if you want to boil some spuds for mash to go with your lamb shanks so I think it’s reasonable to have another pot. I have a mini stock pot that it about the same size as the le creuset that is fine for pretty much anything.

6. roasting pan
I have at least 3 old metal roasting tins that I need to ditch now I’m the proud owner of a cast iron le creuset roasting dish. You can also use your roasting pan to bake scones or cookies – saving you buying a separate cookie sheet. It can also be used for dishes like lasagne or moussaka saving the need to invest in a separate dish.

7. crockery
I have a set of ‘blates’ (pictured above) which are lovely, shallow pasta bowls that my favourite Italian restaurant used. I am so obsessed with them that I stalked until I found a place that sold them retail [the chef’s warehouse in surry hills]. They are the ultimate minimalist crockery because you can pretty much serve anything on them from a steak to pasta. You could also use them for soup or cereal if needed, although I do prefer a deep soup bowl for both of those. My minimalist kitchen would have one ‘blate’ for everyone in the house and a deep bowl each as well. I’d also include one mug or teacup per person which can double up as an alternative to little ramekins or serving cups for desserts.

8. cutlery
Forget the free set of steak knives you really just need one fork, spoon and knife per person. Or for fans of Asian food – just a set of chopsticks and a spoon.

9. glasses
A hardcore minimalist would be able to use their mug for everything from water to wine but I think it makes things taste funny. For me a wineglass and a tumbler per person is the minimum because I like to have both water and wine with my meals. A Champagne flute per person is also critical for me – I love my sparkling and it isn’t the same in a normal glass.

10. salad / mixing bowl
I have a set of three Pyrex mixing bowls that I love but I could just keep the largest one to use for mixing things and also for serving salads. Or I could limit it to my one big white salad bowl. Either way – one large bowl that doubles as both is all you really need. I use my deep soup bowls for mixing smaller things.

11. utensils
A whisk for egg whites or whipping cream, a can opener, a bottle opener (although non-drinkers would be able to get away without one), a spatula for getting food out of the frying pan (more versatile than tongs I find), a microplane grater for anything from chocolate to cheese. A large strainer for draining pasta that can also be used for sieving flour or removing lumps from sauces or custard.

12. loaf pan
A loaf pan is the bare minimum I could get by with. It can be used for loaves of bread, any type of cake or even making terrines. I did toy with including a tart tin but you could just make a rustic crostata without one.

the minimalist kitchen nice-to-haves

1. knife sharpener
While you could outsource your knife sharpening, I highly recommend investing in a set of Furi sharpening fingers – the easiest and most effective sharpening system I’ve ever used.

2. an electric kettle
I was tempted to put this in the essentials but you can always boil water in a saucepan so I resisted. Brilliant for cups of tea and boiling water for pasta etc when you’re in a hurry. For non-tea drinkers with lots of time to spare it’s not worth it.

3. a food processor
You can live without one but they can make life a lot easier – and make purees possible. Also excellent for slicing or grating large amounts of vegetables.

4. a stock pot
I love homemade stock and really enjoy having a big pot on the simmer while I do other things on a lazy Sunday afternoon. It also comes in handy when cooking for a crowd. If you’re not a stock maker, you can easily live with a normal large saucepan.

5. measuring cups and spoons and kitchen scales
I originally had the kitchen scales in the essentials but I’ve cooked in many kitchens without them and it’s been fine. If you’re not into following recipes then you probably won’t need these but they make life easier especially for the bakers amongst us.

6. utensils
If I don’t have tongs I use a normal fork or a spatula (egg flip) to turn things but tongs can be useful especially for the BBQ when you don’t want to puncture your meat. A vegetable peeler can make things a heap quicker but I tend to leave the skins on which is why I’ve left it in the nice-to-have sections. A good veg peeler can also take the place of a mandoline for cutting fine ribbons for vegetables. I’m a big fan of lemon zest. While you can use a microplane to do the job, I prefer the clean little strips you get from a lemon zester. Serving spoons are a more civilized option for when you have guests, although not critical as you could always get people to use their own cutlery or even better their fingers.

7. serving platters
I’m a fan of serving things in the middle of the table so everyone can help themselves but this isn’t essential as you could always serve straight from the frying pan or pot.

8. water filter
Unless you are lucky enough to have your own rain water tank, a water filter is an economical and environmentally friendly alternative to buying bottled water. I actually went out and got myself a filter when I was staying in Barcelona – it payed for itself within a week.

9. salad spinner
Years ago I would have included a salad spinner in the essentials, but these days there are so many prewashed leaves available you could easily get by without one. This does limit the types of leaves you can use so for anyone who is serious about their salad, I’d recommend investing in a spinner.

10. storage canisters
For years I just stored everything in its original packaging with a rubber band or a peg to seal but there was always the odd moth infestation that kinda grossed me out so I invested in glass canisters. Not only do they make my pantry look more stylish, they keep ingredients fresher and protect from pesky moths.

11. containers for leftovers
You could pop foil over your plate or leave leftovers in the saucepan but this could be a pain when you want to cook something the next day. I have a few Pyrex dishes with plastic lids which I love for many reasons. They look good, they seal properly so you can be sure your lunch will make it to work, they are glass so you don’t have to worry about plastic leeching into your food AND they are oven proof so you can pop them straight into the oven to reheat things. Brilliant.

12. cake tins etc
I included the loaf pan in the critical list, but when it comes to nice-to-haves, I could cull my tin collection down to a 24cm (9in) round cake tin with a removable base and a 28cm (11in) tart tin with removable base.

13. a BBQ
As a Australian, I’m really tempted to include a barbie in the essentials but I have managed to live without one from time to time.

lamb w crushed chickpeas-3

[5 ingredients | 10 minutes]
lamb cutlets with crushed chickpeas and sugar snap peas

serves 2

Lamb cutlets are wonderful because they cook so quickly. My (almost) niece Lily-belle is also a big fan and calls them ‘lollypop chops’ because they have a built in ‘stick’. Too cute.

Lamb fillets or other types of chops would also work – although you’ll probably need to adjust the cooking time. I’ve even given it a go with just the crushed chickpeas and the sugar snap peas and loved it. Would work well with a simple piece of pan fried salmon or white fish as well. For vegetarians I’d replace the lamb with a couple of generous handfuls of toasted cashews or almonds or better yet, some felaffels.

The crushed chickpeas are a more minimalist take on hummus – something I invented when I had run out of tahini. If you have tahini in the house, you could always add in a tablespoon or two for a more nutty flavour. The other option it to just use store bought hummus – but I haven’t found one I like as much as home made.

If you are in possession of a food processor – by all means put it to good use crushing the chickpeas – you can make them as chunky or as smooth as you’d like.

1 x 400g (14oz) can chickpeas, drained
1 clove garlic, superfinely chopped
2-3T lemon juice
4-6 lamb cutlets
2 handfuls sugar snap peas or snow peas (mange tout), topped

Put a small saucepan of salted water on to boil.

Crush chickpeas, garlic and lemon juice together in a bowl with a fork or your hands until you have a chunky mash. Stir through a couple of tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. Taste and season.

Place a frying pan over a medium high heat. When the pan is hot and the water is boiling, pop the peas in the water.

Add a few tablespoons oil to the frying pan, season lamb and cook for about 2 minutes each side or until browned on the outside but still pink in the middle.

When the lamb is done, the peas should also be ready. Drain peas.

Divide crushed chickpeas between 2 plates. Top with lamb and peas.

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