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There is a certain art that goes into preparing food and like any other art form, a good set of tools goes on a long way into creating a memorable masterpiece. It could be a wonderful mixer that gives the perfect consistency to masala paste, or an heirloom chatti that adds something irreplaceable to your cooking. We spoke to connoisseurs of food, from chefs and bloggers to YouTubers and food experts, to share the tools in their arsenal that they hold particularly close. Here’s what the inventory looks like:
Electric hand blender: It’s one tool I use every single day. It’s light, handy and works really well. At the price level it’s at—about INR2,500—it’s quite a blessing. I use it to make quick pastry dough, chop nuts, salsas, fruit coulis, fruit purees, chutneys, and nut meals.
Brand: Morphy Richards
Manual chopper: It is a quick nut chopper, fabulous herbs and garlic chopper, quick fruit coulis, salsas is pure joy in this little gadget. It’s really handy for small quantities too, easy to use, a quick wash and takes up hardly any storage space.
Zester: A handy kitchen tool. A quick zesting of lime or orange adds great flavour to my bakes or salad dressings. It also doubles up as a nutmeg grater in a hurry.
Knives: I love chopping and my favourites are the Victorinox set I bought from Switzerland, Ergo Chef knives, Japanese santoku knives, and the local knives I bought from Old Delhi. I
have a favourite knife for different things.
Brands: Victorinox, Ergo Chef
Garlic press: Best thing ever! I have one I got from Moscow in the 1990s and I use it every day.
Whisks: I have these in graded sizes from a very small one to whisk hot chocolate to larger ones to whisk a smooth pastry cream, shrikhand or cake batter, and everything in-between.
Spatulas: The more the merrier. In graded sizes, these are magical to clean bowls, stir non- stick pans etc. I have separate sets for sweet and savoury food.
Tips: To browse and buy (think spatulas, whisks and so many other things), Rajpal says, “It’s always Amazon I turn to.”
A santoku knife, Japanese for three uses, is usually 13 to 20 cm long and is meant for mincing, dicing and slicing.
For some of the inputs, there are some favourite products that don’t have specific brands. But the people I spoke to mentioned where they got stuff from. Like the Spatulas and whisks here were from Amazon… in such cases, just added the bit about Tips.
Roshni Bajaj Sanghvi
Independent food and travel writer
Whetstone: To me, a sharpening stone is as vital as a great knife. I rarely need to buy new knives, and I don't like to, because once a knife ‘feels right’ in my palm, I want to keep it for as long as it holds together and does the job. The only way to keep knives for years is by sharpening them well. My big old 12-inch chef’s knife, and my handy, versatile paring knife have seen many turns on my whetstone. Sharp knives make quicker, more accurate work, and this is true—flesh cut from a blunt knife hurts worse. There is something about working on a whetstone, and then slicing satisfyingly through a sheet of paper with a very, very sharp knife before julienning veggies for a salad.
Brand: Ivaan Fervent Silicon Carbide Combination Stone
Citrus reamer: “We’re a limbu-loving family. The thing is that Indian limbus change size and skin thickness through the year, so the citrus squeezer or press rarely gets every last bit of juice out of the fruit. I love this bright little yellow reamer, it’s fun and beautiful, and it’s incredibly easy to use. It works to juice one limbu or many, and catches bits of seed and pith while all the juice through. It’s also a pleasure to clean, just separate the two parts, rinse, shake dry, and set it back in the cupboard.
Mandoline slicer: I love to make salads and vegetable dishes, and this slicer gives me a beautifully uniform cut whether it is shredding cabbages or thin slices of bell peppers, onions, carrots, radish. The cutting happens with the slightest of touches, no pressure needed. The blades are also very sharp so it needs utmost caution while using.
Brand: OXO Good Grips
Milk frother: This is another tiny piece of equipment I use every day. I keep two of these in my kitchen at all times, one for frothing up milk for coffee and cocoa, and another for whisking creamy salad dressings. I have tried many brands but none of them work as good as the simple and inexpensive one from IKEA.
Chef, Food blogger, author
Founder of food blog masterchefmom, author of My Genius Lunchbox
Electric rice cooker: This is extremely essential for my day to day cooking, which comprises freshly cooked rice, plain dal (mostly arhar), sambar or rasam, and a subzi to go along. I keep rice for boiling along with a bowl of dal in the rice cooker; it takes just takes few minutes to start after which the cooking happens in auto mode. Once cooked, the cooker automatically switches to ‘keep warm’ till we’re ready to eat.
Vegetable peeler and knife: While the cooker is doing its work, this peeler does quick work when it comes to the vegetables I want to use for the sambar or rasam and subzi, followed by chopping and shaping them with the knife.
Medium-sized stainless steel pan and kadai: Particularly useful and necessary to sauté, roast, fry or boil the ingredients and make the dish of your choice in quick time.
Brand: Vinod Steel
Mixer grinder: My absolute favourite gadget in the kitchen is my Hamilton Beach mixer-grinder. It’s super-powerful and comes with a set of three jars. What I love the most about it is the stainless steel body that makes it healthier and definitely sturdier.
Brand: Hamilton Beach
Silicon baking mats: I love alternate-baking—and most of these recipes are very tricky to work with and can easily stick to baking trays. My silicon mats from Amazon Basics are super-handy and make my work a breeze. Given that they’re reused over and over, they are environment-friendly too!
Cast-iron appam chatti: This chatti (traditional appam pan) is an heirloom piece, passed on from my grandmother to my mother to me. It is extremely seasoned; when I make appams on it, they turn out so beautiful—the fermentation is more visible. You can see the effect of the tool on the appam. I have many cast-iron chattis but the heirloom one is the one I swear by.
Brass uruli: I have various urulis (traditional round vessel) passed down the generations. But there is a recent one I picked up from Kerela from Green Heirloom.
Brand: Green Heirloom
Knife: I’ve always used a Wüsthof, and I really like it because it just cuts the vegetables perfectly. I carry it with me wherever I travel because I don’t know where I will have to cook, so I always have my knife kit and the Wüsthof is there in it.
Cast-iron dosa pan: The one that I use, even though very old, is of great quality.
Clay pot: The kind of cuisine that I prepare, the traditional Ootupura meals, means I use a lot of the traditional clay pots typically used for such food.
● While Balakrishnan’s tools and utensils have predominantly been in her family for generations, she recommends Green Heirloom, Zishta.com,
Kitsch.in and Amazon.in for similar products. “There is now a lot of demand for clay pots and cast-iron utensils, urulis, etc because of the
health-oriented element. The benefits are so many.”
● When buying such items, Balakrishnan says, be sure that it is seasoned and even if it is, it is important to know how to season it and then use
● I thought this would be useful particularly for her because she relies on traditional utensils for her cooking….
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