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Seven ways to do dumplings

Dumplings may be bite-sized, but they pack a flavourful punch. Here are seven mouth-watering recipes, from Korean mandu to classic Chinese-style steamed dumplings.

Recipes with zucchini

Whether served raw with olive oil, grated with fresh herbs, or pan-fried in a pancake - zucchini is a must-have ingredient when it comes to spring cooking.

Best feta recipes

Feta's tang livens up all sorts of dishes, from beef shin rigatoni or blistered kale ribs to Greek-style roast lamb neck.

Pickett's Deli & Rotisserie, Melbourne

Here’s Pickett’s inside running on the menu at Melbourne's new European-style eatery and wine bar Pickett's Deli & Rotisserie.

Cornersmith Annandale opens

Marrickville favourite Cornersmith opens a combined cafe-corner store with an alfresco sensibility.

First look: Cirrus, Sydney

Ahead of opening Cirrus at Barangaroo, Brent Savage and Nick Hildebrandt talk us through their design inspirations and some of their favourite dishes.

Melbourne's best late-night bars

As the shutters come down in other Australian capitals, Melbourne's vibrant nightlife is just hitting it's stride. Michael Harden burns the midnight oil at the city's best late-night bars and diners.

Nougat, salted peanut caramel and milk chocolate tart

What's not to love about a Snickers bar? All the elements are here, but if you don't feel like making your own nougat, you could always scatter some diced nougat in the base of the tart instead. The caramel is dark, verging on bitter, while a good whack of salt cuts through some of the sweetness - extra roasted salted peanuts on top can only be a good thing.

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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