Rustic Inspiration & Summertime Gadgets
By Linda Parker
One of the most interesting and appealing episodes of MasterChef was episode 22 of Series 11, which featured two restaurants, with one featuring open flame Swedish cookery. It was filmed at the Ekstedt restaurant, which uses no gas or electricity… everything is cooked over birch wood flames.
My first reaction was that the chefs have to have nerves of steel and hands of asbestos, which proved pretty much to be the case. The dishes looked and sounded wondrous, I can only imagine the aromas and taste, as it would be pretty near-impossible to reproduce without a Swedish wood-fired stove, burning at up to 700 deg. Combinations included smoked cod over juniper, scallops with dehydrated bacon and smoked roe caviar, smoked lobster tails served with strings of baby tomatoes strung over the smoke and hay-baked char (an Icelandic freshwater fish) wrapped with cauliflower.
Visit the website here www.ekstedt.nu/english/menu, it’s now been added to my wish-list of restaurants to visit.
To carry on in the vein of sky-high cooking standards, anyone keen on trying interesting dishes, skillfully prepared, but a little nearer home could visit the Tante Marie Culinary Academy. Students learn their skills in the teaching and theatre kitchens, and cook for the on-site brasserie/restaurant, serving lunch and dinner seven days a week. All the kitchen cabinetry and equipment has been supplied by Poggenpohl, so if you’re also interested in high-performance, beautifully designed kitchens, a sneaky peek could be worthwhile.
As I’m still in full-on designing-my-kitchen mode, I’ve been walking around with my eyes firmly fixed on worktop joints, plinth heights, the proportion of kitchen islands, and whether stone tiles should be laid diagonally or squared-up. I’m unashamedly peering into friends and neighbours cupboards, counting their shelves and grilling them on whether their range cooker was a good choice or not. However many features I and my colleagues write about kitchens, and however many kitchen showrooms I visit, when it comes to actually designing and ordering your own, we all turn into giddy girls (or boys) who can’t decide between granite or hardwood for the work surfaces. Let along what colour tiles will match them.
So, in the interests of research, my current decisions are… A freestanding kitchen (because each cabinet comes complete with granite tops, so that’s one less decision and no need for shimmying around with templates and temporary tops); a dual fuel range cooker which must have a big fan oven, a separate grill and a tall static oven that has at least four or five shelves; and a freestanding American-style double door fridge-freezer (which will go at the end of the row so when/if it needs to be replaced I won’t need to worry about finding something exactly the same width to replace it).
We love hearing about the home lives of some of the kitchen designers we work with, and one blog site that has caught my eye is My Own Private Idaho, written by DeVol kitchens owner Paul O’Leary. Well worth a read and it has almost inspired me to start thinking about some projects that I can plan once the house/kitchen/bedrooms/bathrooms are all ticked off the list. Which is likely to be some time off yet ….
As usual, the kitchen has been working overtime whilst we’ve been trying out one or two new gadgets which are perfect for summer. My littlest niece loved the Ice Cream Sandwich maker from Cuisipro.
Quite frankly, it’s impossible to go wrong with ice cream for dessert in the summer, whether it’s for a kids party or a grown up dinner. Just choose posh ice cream where necessary (or make your own, which is so easy and always sounds impressive) or stick to plain vanilla and decorate with fresh fruit or fruit purees. Bulk buy seasonal fruit, prepare and freeze so you’ve got plenty to hand for impromptu barbecues that need a nice cool desert. £11.99 for a pack of three from www.phakitchenessentials.co.uk
My other recommendations this month are a couple of new products from Kuhn Rikon (who never fail to delight me, as nearly everything comes in a rainbow of colours). I’m slightly obsessive about the razor-sharp Colori+ paring knives – I’ve used the straight bladed one for a while now, but have been using the new serrated version, which is a joy.
I will hand one over to my brother though, as Simba the daft chocolate Labrador decimated the handle of theirs. So yes, these knives are ultra-sharp, are supplied with safety sheaths and are perfect for everyday tasks. But don’t leave them within reach of a one-year old chocolate lab. The other item well worth a mention is the three-in-one tong set. A spatula and fork can be used separately as individual items or slotted together to use as tongs. Simple and a million percent practical. Visit the website here… www.kuhnrikon.co.uk
As we’ve recently been making peanut butter cookies to the extent that actually, if I ever see another on in my life it will be too soon, I’m delighted to have received the Dexam set of Classic British Biscuit Cutters. Which means we can now turn out Custard Creams, Bourbons, Jammie Hearts and Iced Rings with panache. A set is £10.99, visit www.emporiumcookshop.co.uk
And finally… one of the nicest on-trend colour combinations around at the moment is grey and lemon. This is the Serenity collections from Barker & Barker, see the collection here www.barkerandbarker.co.uk Prices are from £39 per m, wallpaper is from £75 per roll.
Next time… even more kitchen planning, plus barbecue ideas