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.