To cook a three course meal for four work colleagues using the latest kitchen tech. Two have to be meat, two vegetarian. All have to be edible.
When it comes to cooking, Paul Dimery's favourite words are “Just add water”. Anything more ambitious than that, and he cries into his Pot Noodle.
Magimix Le Blender
Whether you want to make smoothies, sauces, baby food or cocktails, Magimix's retro-styled blender has you covered. It's powerful at 1,200 watts, yet quiet as a library – and its four presets make using it a piece of cake (or should that be a curried courgette soup?).
Tefal Cuisine Companion
With automated settings for Sauce, Soup, Slow Cook, Steam, Pastry and Dessert, and five attachments for managing different tasks, Tefal's space age gadget is the sous chef you've always wanted. An included cookbook makes it easy to pick your dinner menu.
Simple but effective, this sous-vide system uses a pipe to regulate the temperature of your water, which is fed back to the stylish interface for easy monitoring. Meat, fish, eggs or delicious desserts – this thing could revolutionise how you cook your food.
Say goodbye to spitting fat and burnt meat – the Optigrill is a clean, healthy and accurate way of cooking food. Simply place steak, chicken, etc, on the griddle and wait for the light to change colour – yellow for rare, orange for medium, red for well done…
Fancy a drop of wine but don't want the whole bottle? This clever gadget features a needle that punctures the cork with the stealth of a ninja. Once you've finished pouring, the cork reforms an airtight seal, meaning you can save the rest of the bottle for another day.
Sage by Heston Blumenthal The Barista Express
With its gleaming stainless-steel contours, Heston Blumenthal's bean-tocup coffee machine is a cool customer. And it's as nifty as it is natty, going from bean to espresso in under a minute. The ideal gadget for serving up perfect after-dinner coffee.
How we got on
“You want me to do what?” I spluttered, almost choking on my lunch. Oh, I'd heard them alright; it's just that the thought of cooking dinner for four of my colleagues, using the latest kitchen tech, made me feel sick to my stomach (or maybe it was just the filling in the steak bake I ate).
How could I possibly pull off such a feat? My 'speciality' was a Batchelors Cup A Soup. And who is this Sue Veed person that everyone keeps talking about?
Tech on the menu
Assistant editor and cooking crackerjack Claire assured me that the tech I'd be using was state of the art. Well, it would need to be if it was going to help me cross the culinary Rubicon and prevent this threecourse meal from becoming cordon bleurgh.
My ﬁrst job was to choose a menu, and this is where I hit my ﬁrst stumbling block – not one of these gadgets makes Findus Crispy Pancakes. Pah. So, turning to the internet, I hunted for a starter. Skimming past such obscenities as foam of veal (wretch!) and parsnip coulis (yak!), I eventually settled on a simple curried courgette soup. As everyone knows, curry powder disguises
food that doesn't taste very nice. The plan was coming together nicely. Picking a main course was easy. Among the gadgets at my disposal was Tefal's new Optigrill, which, allegedly, is capable of cooking the perfect steak with virtually no human input. I couldn't wait to test this theory. There would also have to be vegetarian dishes for two of my guests, so I opted for salmon. I had a little device called the Codlo that would be perfect for this role – more on that later.
Finally, I would sweeten up their tastebuds with frozen raspberry yoghurt. There was a recipe for this in the Tefal Cuisine Companion's 1 Million Menus cookbook, and it looked easy – even to a club-footed simpleton like me. Mind you, why I couldn't just shove a couple of pots of Ski in the freezer, I don't know.
The big day came and, on a bright, sunny morning in a kitchen the size of Terminal 5 (let's be clear, it wasn't mine), I prepped the starter using the Magimix Le Blender – no prizes for guessing what that means in English. Now, I've always been a bit of a blenderphobe, for the simple reason that I can't be arsed to wash them out afterwards. But the style and simplicity of this big red machine quickly won me over. All I had to do was bung in some cooked courgette, celery and potato, pour in a load
of single cream, add a pinch(ish) of curry powder and push the button. In the blink of an eye, all hell broke loose inside that large glass cylinder – I'm talking vegetable Armageddon here – and within about 20 seconds I had my delicious soup.
All I'd need to do now was heat it up a bit in a pan. At the same time as doing this (get me with the multi-tasking – eat your heart out, Ainsley!), I rustled up the frozen raspberry yoghurt in the Cuisine Companion. No, I hadn't forgotten about the main course – prepping courses out of sync is what all the top restaurants do. Honest – I saw it on Hell's Kitchen!
After ﬁddling with the gadget's lid for what seemed like an eternity, I added the berries and the Greek yoghurt, closed the lid again and hit Dessert – one of the machine's six automated settings. Nothing happened. Or at least that's what I thought. This thing is QUIET – like a mouse that's lost its voice – and before I could say, “What time does McDonald's open?”, I had my fruity ﬂurry. Into the fridge it went.
The steaks are high
Around about now, my guests arrived, and Luke (art editor), still mourning the passing of his idol David Bowie, looked like he needed a glass of wine. Being 10am, I was loath to open the whole bottle, so I reached for the Coravin 1000. This clever handheld gadget features a tiny needle that punctures the cork, meaning you're not committed to drinking the whole 75-mill in one go (mind you, Luke probably would've). While they settled down to 'enjoy' their starter (it may have been my imagination but I'm sure I heard the words “tour de force”), I began cooking the main course.
After bagging up my salmon ﬁllets, I dunked them in a slow cooker full of water and introduced the Codlo – one of those much-touted sous-vide machines. It entails dipping a pipe into the water, which feeds the temperature back to a unit plugged into the wall – the idea being that you'll know exactly when the ﬁsh is done. This is a godsend because, as far as I can tell, salmon always seems to be pink in the middle. Now for the bit I'd been looking forward to the most – the steaks. Dare I say it, the Tefal Optigrill closely resembles the George Foreman Grill, but this intelligent gadget delivers a knockout blow to the former heavyweight boxer's kitchen stalwart.
This thing really is foolproof. Once you've placed your food (meat, ﬁ sh, chicken, chops, and so on) on the griddle pan, a sensor measures the weight. Then all you have to do is close the lid and wait for the light to change colour. Yellow means your meat's been cooked rare, orange is medium and red is well done, and an audible beep lets you know when each milestone is reached.
My carnivorous guests had requested that their steaks be cooked medium rare, so I waited until the light was somewhere between yellow and orange, then opened the lid. Sure enough, when I sliced through the ﬂesh, I was greeted with the familiar pinky-brown colour. They looked, well, good enough to eat! So that's what my guests did. Flanked by vegetables steamed in the Cuisine Companion, the steak and salmon were served up, and those four faces morphed from terriﬁed to apprehensive to “Hey, maybe I won't get the squits after all” in minutes.
I doubt I'll ever get a Michelin star (I've already got a spare tyre, thanks), and I'm not sure Egon Ronay will be coming out of retirement to give me a pat on the back any time soon [er, he's dead – Ed]. But you know what? With these gadgets in my arsenal, I might ﬁnally be ready to hang up my Alphabetti Spaghetti fork for good.
Liked this? Why not check out Man vs Tech: can we really brew our own beer?