This blog post isn’t going to light anyone’s fire in terms of excitement, but then living with the day-to-day practicalities of chronic illness is pretty dull and tedious. Because of quite profound fatigue, lack of muscle power in my hands and wrists, pain and poor proprioception (which makes using sharp knives a dangerous past-time) I make use of all sorts of kitchen gadgets to make cooking easier. And now I’ve embarked on a low histamine diet, and am cooking from scratch almost every day, I’m relying even more on the electronic wonders of the 21st century.
You need a deep pocket (my gadgets have been collected over a number of years, often as birthday or Christmas presents) and plenty of counter space (I have a fairly small cottage kitchen but manage OK), but I couldn’t cope without many of my kitchen aids. Here are some of my favourites:
- A dishwasher. I removed a single cupboard from under my sink, shoved in a slimline John Lewis (I’ve also had Bosch) dishwasher, the plumber took an hour to plumb it into the existing water and drainage supply, and (with a bit of hinge adjustment) I even managed to put the cupboard door back on so you can’t see it. I’m so shattered after I’ve cooked a meal that if I then had to stand to wash dishes they would simply have to remain dirty!
- A Super Kettle. There are times my wrist is so painful I literally can’t pick up the kettle. Enter the Super Kettle, which provides hot water 24/7 at the push of a button. You do need to keep it topped up with water, but a plastic jug of water is much lighter to carry than a kettle of water. I have a Newtonz Kettle as I didn’t want a cup tray underneath the spout (seen on some more well-known brands) which makes it easier to fill a hot water bottle, pan or teapot.
- A timer. I have the attention span of a demented gnat, and without liberal use of a timer I would probably have burned the house down by now. I have one similar to this, which has a magnetic clip on the back so I can stick it on my fridge, carry it around with me clipped to my belt, or stand it up on a surface. Brilliant.
- A food processor. I hardly ever chop vegetables by hand as it’s too painful and I have actually ended up in A&E before now needing stitches as I’d misjudged where the knife was because of my hopeless proprioception and sliced my finger in two! Instead I use my food processor for grating, cubing, julienning and slicing vegetables, as well as mixing pastry, dough or scone ingredients. I have a Kenwood F580 which is compact, middle-of-the-range budget wise and the entire jug and all its parts are dishwasher safe. It also came with a separate blender, great for making smoothies and sauces.
- A soup pan/stock pot and hand blender. I tried making soups in a large pan and discovered it’s really not do-able. Realistically you need a proper soup/stock pot, with a lid, double handles and a pouring spout. Buy stainless steel, rather than non-stick – that way you can blend your soups in the pan with a hand blender, mine’s a Braun, rather than having to go to the mess and trauma of transferring it to a blender or food processor. The hand blender can come in for all sorts of other things too, like making a quick smoothie, salsa or sauce, and the stock pot can also be used for making jam.
- A jam funnel. Which is just as it sounds, and is brilliant for pouring jam from your stock pot into pre-sterilized jars. I also use it for my tomato-free sauce, to get the sauce from the pan into the jars.
- A juicer. OK, so this is only relevant if you want to make fresh juices but I thought I’d include it anyway as I use mine almost every day. I have a Philips HR1861, which is fairly compact, takes whole fruits and vegetables without peeling or chopping, gives a good amount of juice with dry pulp, and is middle-of-the-road budget wise. Like all juicers, it’s a faff to clean but so long as you do it as soon as you’ve used it (I clean the juicer before even drinking my juice, and just leave the parts to dry on the draining board), it’s no worse than any other juicer. I also place a medium plastic food bag in the pulp waste bin, so that I can just lift it out and put it straight in the trash (or the freezer if I’m going to use the pulp for a recipe).
- This next gadget really isn’t a ‘must have’, but I still love it: an electric food/bread slicer. Store bought yeast-free, or home-made, bread doesn’t come ready sliced and if you’ve ever attempted this yourself you’ll realise where the saying “the best thing since sliced bread” came from! If I slice bread I end up with a doorstop at one end, a wafer thin slice at the other, and enough crumbs to make a 2nd loaf. I own a Kenwood food slicer which has both good, and bad, points. The good points are: it’s very easy to use; folds flat so doesn’t take up much worktop space; the blade is easily taken off to clean; and you can vary the thickness of the slices. The bad points are: it takes ages to get the hang of slicing bread, which often doesn’t fit very well into the food holder; it’s incredibly messy but I have a knack now of holding the machine on its side to shake the crumbs out, then scooping them all up in my hand and into the bin; and it’s time-consuming, but then the entire low histamine diet is time-consuming!
I hope my list of useful gadgets has given you some inspiration, or if nothing else a birthday list to give to your nearest and dearest 😉 .