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Food-truck tribulations
29.03.2017

Chicken or pork? Kelly Eng takes on a food-truck challenge but fails to cement her millennial credentials.

Take me to the river
29.03.2017

For serial cruisers who have done the Danube and knocked off the Nile, less familiar waterways beckon.

Gourmet Institute is back for 2017
29.03.2017

Fire-up the stove, tie on your favourite apron and let’s get cooking, food fans. This year’s line-up is brimming with talent.

The Royal Mail Hotel is changing
28.03.2017

Executive chef Robin Wickens has a stronger influence at the Royal Mail Hotel's upcoming restaurant, slated to open later this year.

Adventuring along America's north-west rivers
28.03.2017

The rivers of America's north-west running through Washington state and Oregon form the arteries of epic landscapes and bold discovery routes. Emma Sloley follows in the wake of Lewis and Clark.

The World's Best sommeliers are coming to Australia
28.03.2017

For the first time, the world's top international sommeliers will take part in the World's 50 Best Awards too.

Seven Italian dishes that shaped fine dining in the 2000s
28.03.2017

Italian food in the restaurants of Australia blossomed into maturity in the new millennium, as the work of these trailblazers shows – dazzling and diverse, a successful balance between adaptation and tradition.

Steam ovens: a guide
27.03.2017

Billed as the faster, cleaner way to cook, are these on-trend ovens all they’re cracked up to be? We take a close look at their rising popularity, USP versus the traditional convection cooker and how each type rates in terms of form, function, and above all, flavour in this buyer’s guide.

Fast autumn dinners

Autumn weather signals the arrival of soups, broths, roasts and more hearty meals.

Flour and Stone Recipes

Baker extraordinaire Nadine Ingram of Sydney's Flour and Stone cooks up a sweet storm for Easter, including the much loved bakery's greatest hit.

Roasted cauliflower salad with yoghurt dressing and almonds

The cauliflower is roasted until it starts to caramelise, which adds extra depth of flavour to this winning salad. Serve it warm or at room temperature.

All Star Yum Cha

What happens the morning after the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards? We treat the chefs to a world-beating yum cha session, as Dani Valent discovers.

Lemon tart

It's really important to seal the pastry well to prevent any seepage during cooking, and to trim the pastry soon after cooking. Let the tart cool in the tin before removing it, or it will crack.

Melbournes finest meet Worlds Best

Leading chefs descend on Melbourne in April for The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. We asked local hospitality folk who they’d abduct for the day and where they’d take them to show off their city. There may be coffee, there may be culture, but in the end it’s cocktails.

Savoury tarts

Will your next baking project be a flaky puff pastry with pumpkin, goat's curd and thyme, or a classic bacon and Stilton tart? As autumn settles in, we're ticking these off one by one.

Spelt cashew and broccoli bowl with yoghurt dressing

This nicely textured salad transports well, making it ideal for picnics or to take to barbecues. The broccoli can be kept raw and shaved on a mandolin, too.

Thermomix cooking

I was a pots and pans cook. I took my Le Creuset to holiday houses. I lovingly paged through Stephanie Alexander then grabbed a favourite knife and wooden spoon. I read my David Thompson while fondling a mortar and pestle. I didn’t like the idea of plugging something in to get food on the table. My tax returns were more accessible than my food processor. But four years ago I was researching a story about chefs and the gadgets on their wish lists. “Thermomix,” they kept saying. “Thermowhat?” said I.

“It does what?” Chops, stirs and grinds, apparently. So, a food processor? “No, it cooks too, and at controlled temperatures,” said those 60/60-egg-loving professionals (that’s an egg cooked at 60 degrees for 60 minutes, kitchen Luddites). Mystified, I checked out the Thermomix website and emerged slightly wiser. So, it steams, whips, beats and – shut up! – cleans itself too. And it was $1939. Where’s the free set of steak knives, I muttered, sceptical but intrigued enough to host a demonstration. Demonstrations are the only way to see a Thermomix in action; they’re not sold in shops, which only adds to the cultish vibe that pushed my resistance buttons even harder.

Then a nice lady came to my house and cooked eight dishes in two hours, fed six of us, left us agog.

I loved the way it ground parmesan in a trice, kneaded bread dough, mulched ice to make lemon sorbet and – the killer blow – made risotto blindfolded. Risotto! In the kitchen-garden Slow-Food risotto of my parenting fantasy, the kids gathered herbs while I chopped onions, then we took turns stirring the pot, bonding in a steamy and aromatic fug as the rice and stock did their magic meld. In reality, the children preferred bickering to cooking and our risotto would turn to glug while I disentangled arms and legs from a snarling knot of hungry young life. Then I would plonk my precious pretties in front of the TV, weep onion/anguish tears into the sludgy pot and slug the verjuice by accident.

After three months of contemplating that $1939 and killing a few more risotti, I yelled at myself to stop my dithering and buy my Thermomix. So I did. Ah. Fun. The Thermomix’s special little beeps and rumbles burned into my brain as I whipped through the basics: peanut butter, béchamel, steamed fish, Bolognese, crème anglaise, all foolproof. I made five-second salads, marinades, championship mayonnaise, fluffy bread rolls. But the victory moment was when I played snakes and ladders while the risotto cooked itself.

Recently, I’ve been writing a book of Thermomix recipes, featuring dishes from chefs and bloggers around the world. I’ve nailed recipes I previously would never have attempted: a multi-part chocolate crumble tart from Benoit Blin, pastry chef for Raymond Blanc; Brent Savage’s poached salt cod with smoked potato mousse; Pierre Roelofs’s thrilling cucumber sorbet made with dry ice; a ridiculously rich and amazing parmesan royale from Hibiscus chef Claude Bosi. It’s also given me the courage to offer to cater for a friend’s 40th. Canapés for 50? Love to. I’ve done everything but give my Thermomix a nickname; the Italians call it Bimby, lots of people call it Thermi, I’ve heard of a Boris, but I just call it Great.

Concerned foodies still tell me it’s not “real cooking” and that they love to feel the food, to get involved. Don’t worry – buying a Thermomix doesn’t involve signing away your right to dice a carrot or lovingly knead pastry as sweat beads on your brow or take an Elizabeth David book to bed. I still have my pots and pans and wooden spoon and mortar and pestle. I use them too, just not as much: it’s the Thermomix that comes to holiday houses now. But it hasn’t made me a kitchen robot or cut me off from cooking: it’s made tricky cooking easier, easy cooking a cinch. And it’s done wonders for my snakes and ladders game.

Dani Valent’s Thermomix cookbook, In the Mix ($60, hbk), is available from Thermomix. 1800 004 838.

ILLUSTRATION ANTONIA PESENTI

This article is from the November 2011 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller.

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