The days are getting shorter and the nights cooler — autumn is officially here. And, just as it’s the right time time to be thinking about updating your wardrobes and living spaces, the change of season is also a great time to sort out your kitchen.
If you’re short on space, it could be worth packing away items, such as ice block moulds, salad bowls, barbecue tools and so on, that were on high rotation over the warmer months, or even just move them into the less accessible parts of drawers and cupboards, to allow room for pieces that you’ll use more in cooler weather. And if you’re in the market for some new kitchen tools, the below items are things that will really transform your kitchen and cooking this season.
Silky smooth spuds
One of the best things about colder evenings is feeling entitled to eat mashed potato on a regular basis. While there’s nothing wrong with using a bit of elbow grease and an old-school masher (along with generous quantities of butter and milk) to beat your spuds into submission, if you want to create silky smooth potato puree worthy of a fine-dining restaurant, we suggest you invest in a potato ricer. Resembling an oversized garlic press, a potato ricer works by using one handle to press the cooked potato through tiny holes in the inner basket. Whereas the vigour of mashing activates the starch in potatoes, the smooth action of a potato ricer doesn’t cause as much starch to be released, meaning your potatoes will be lighter and fluffier, as well as super smooth. And of course you can also use it for pureeing other cooked vegetables — kumara, parsnip and even cauliflower work well. The Capital Kitchen potato ricer is just $39.99; a bargain for a lifetime of perfect mash.
While you’re getting into pressing things, you might also want to invest in a mouli, or food mill. Larger than a potato ricer, a food mill has a handle that you turn to press food through a grater-like disc. It’s a great investment if you want to make sauces and pastes from autumn’s best fruit and vegetables,. Quinces are just coming into season, and homemade quince paste makes a lovely gift for friends, while the last of the summer’s tomatoes are also around right now; make batches of smooth tomato passata ready to use in pasta dishes, pizza and casseroles this winter with the Capital Kitchen food mill, $39.99
Want to up the ante in your autumn cooking? Just add smoke. All kinds of ingredients benefit from being infused with smoke, from dairy products (think smoked yoghurt, ricotta or cheddar) to vegetables, meat and sauces. The Davis & Waddell infusion smoker, $59.99, makes it simple to add an extra level of smoky complexity to pretty much anything you’ve prepared — you simply add wood chips (available from hardware stores) to the box, then insert the nozzle into a dish with your food and cover it. Light the smoker and let the smoke infuse your food for a few minutes. Then remove it and hey presto, you’ve created a next-level dish without needing to cook outdoors over your barbeque.
Zest is best
We’re entering citrus fruit season, which is excellent news if you’ve been balking at buying imported limes at $2 a piece (we certainly have!). Lemons, limes and oranges add fresh, zingy flavour to both sweet and savoury dishes. Citrus juice is often added at the end of cooking, to bring a final hint of acidity to a dish, but adding zest during the cooking process will also add a more complex citrus flavour to whatever you’re making. Invest in a Microplane zester grater, $59.99, and you’ll soon be adding zest to everything. And, if you’ve ever skinned your knuckles trying to zest with a box grater, the Microplane will change your life — and mean many less plasters and mishaps.
Spring cleaning gets all the glory, but doing an autumn clean (“fall freshen-up”, maybe?) is an excellent idea. Make your home feel cosier and ready for the colder months by adding splashes of brighter colour and warmer textiles to living spaces. Candles also help to create ambience and we love the warm scent of the Max Benjamin Coffee & Cardamom candle, $39.99.
Giving your pantry a clean is also good preparation for spending more time in the kitchen over winter. Start by removing everything from the shelves, then clean all surfaces. Murchison Hume Counter Intelligence spray cleaner, $16.99, has a lovely grapefruit scent and is free from nasty chemicals.Throw out products past their best-before dates as you clean, and try to create order by transferring drygoods to canisters and jars. Agee jars, from $4.99, come in a range of sizes, making them perfect for storing everything from spices to pasta.
This is of course the time of year when our thoughts also turn to Sunday roasts (or any night, really). If you’ve always been a bit nervous about cooking large pieces of meat, worrying that you’ll under- or over-cook them, make this the year to invest in a meat thermometer. The Oxo Good Grips digital thermometer, $39.99, is battery-operated and will give you an instant temperature read when you insert it into cooked meat.