My obsession with kitchen gadgets can be summed up with the gesture of a friend on my 1st trip to Provence. She bought me a postcard from a little card shop in Avignon that pictured all kinds of kitchen gadgets because it reminded her of my Paris kitchen.
Some of my very favourite kitchen gadgets and the places I bought them are:
The fine wood rasp I purchased from Lee Valley Tools in Ottawa, Canada more than 10 years ago.
Lee Valley is candy land for woodworkers and gardeners but this small woodworking tool had caught the attention of chefs. Lee Valley carries more kitchen equipment these days - not too surprising as women have been raiding the workshop for years and converting tools to kitchen uses. The micro rasp is pure tool – stainless steel with tiny sharp blades and no handle. It is perfect for zesting citrus fruit while leaving the white pith behind. It makes short work of grating ginger, garlic, parmesan cheese and chocolate. More expensive kitchen store versions of these started to appear a few years ago with practical shapes and handles but I have stayed with the original.
Another favourite, the Taylor Instant read thermometer to check the temperature of cooked meats also came from Lee Valley Tools.
My “chalumeau” or small kitchen blow torch to caramelize brown sugar toppings for Crème caramel was purchased from Mora in the Les Halles area of Paris.
Mora is a store for professional chefs and carries just about everything a cook could want. Other useful gadgets that I have purchased from this store include a palate knife and off-set palate knife, putty knife (large wide spatula), and large tweezers for removing fish bones.
On my wanderings around the Saar region of Germany, I happened upon the Silit warehouse store in Mettlach. This is the place for beautifully styled and useful gadgets in addition to carrying a large selection of pots and pans. Silicone pot holders, tomato peeler, pastry brush, pasta tester, pasta measure, and tea infuser are just a few of the new gadgets that I have purchased lately.
This week’s recipe is the perfect dish for winter – hearty but full of Mediterranean flavours that will let you escape to sunny Greece.
1 large eggplant, thinly sliced
Coarse cooking salt
Olive oil, for brushing over vegetables
2 medium potatoes, thinly sliced
45 mL (3 Tbsp) grated Parmesan cheese
15 mL (1 Tbsp) olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 kg (2 lbs) minced lamb
60 mL (1/4 cup) fresh parsley, chopped
425 g (13 oz) can crushed tomatoes
30 mL (2 Tbsp) tomato paste
125 mL (1/2 cup) red wine
2.5 mL (1/2 tsp) dried oregano leaves
1 mL (1/4 tsp) ground cinnamon
30g (2 Tbsp) butter
80 mL (1/3 cup) all-purpose flour
500mL (2 cups) milk
125 mL (1/2 cup) cream
1 mL (1/4 tsp) freshly ground nutmeg
125 mL (1/2 cup) grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg, lightly beaten
Sprinkle eggplant with salt, let stand for 30 minutes, rinse under cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Grill eggplant and potato slices (or heat oil in a large frying pan, cook potatoes and eggplant in batches until tender. Drain on paper towels.)
Prepare the meat sauce: Heat oil in large frying pan; add onion and garlic, cook, stirring, until onion is soft. Add minced lamb; cook stirring, until well browned. Stir in parsley, undrained crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, wine, oregano and cinnamon; bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 20 minutes or until liquid has evaporated.
Lightly grease 2 L (8 cup) ovenproof dish. Layer half the eggplant in dish, sprinkle with 1/3 of Parmesan cheese and spoon over ½ the meat sauce. Add potatoes in a layer; sprinkle with another 1/3 of Parmesan cheese, then spoon over remaining meat sauce, finish with a layer of eggplant.
Prepare the cheese sauce: Melt butter in saucepan, stir in flour; cook, stirring, for 1 min. Gradually stir in milk, cream and nutmeg; stir constantly over heat until mixture boils and thickens. Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes; stir in Parmesan cheese and egg.
Pour sauce over eggplant; sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese. Bake in a 180°C (350°F) oven for 1 hour.