As a child, my favorite book was the Innovations catalog. It was stuffed with gadgets promising to transform domestic tasks. My mum and I bought loads from the kitchen section: one-twist pineapple borers, corn de-kernels, self-heating butter knives; each an evolutionary step on the road to robot butlers and jet packs. They stayed with me, those ingenious toys. Not literally – we threw them out at some point because they were cheap cack, and the catalog folded in 2003.
But nowadays, we’re all gadget freaks. Has kitchenware kept pace? To kick off a new column, I’m attempting to create a three-course meal using today’s crop of kitchen aids. Eight diners are on their way to my house – bizarrely, all women, drawn by my easy looks and charm, or maybe the invite I sent with the words “chocolate fountain” in the heading. We don’t have to pin it down.
Starter: sushi rolls Rhik Samadder makes sushi with the Sushezi
The Sushezi (£19.99, Firebox.com) is a tubular barrel with a plunger known as the Sushi Bazooka. It promises perfectly formed maki rolls every time (“the bazooka doesn’t actually fire sushis,” the blurb cautions). It is straightforward to use. I cook and vinegar some sushi rice and pack the sticky grains into the open tube with sliced red pepper, avocado, and smoked salmon. Closing the tube compresses the mixture. Uncapping the bazooka, I point it at a sheet of nori seaweed and push on the plunging rod. Who doesn’t want food that has seen the business end of a plunging rod? Quite possibly my visitors, arrive in time to see a sticky, floppy log being smoothly ejected onto the nori, which I roll up and slice into rounds.
Any queasiness quickly passes – the maki rolls are delicious and undeniably classy served with pickled ginger, wasabi, and soy. I can’t help feeling something has been lost, however. Though tricky to master, a bamboo rolling mat carries the essence of sushi – clean, elegant. The Sushezi is vaguely veterinary in appearance, reminiscent of apparatus used to extract bull semen. Still, I would buy a Sushezi. It works brilliantly like a trusty sex toy, but you wouldn’t want guests seeing you use it.
Main course: courgette spaghetti
I’m looking at the kitchen gadget de nos jours, the spiraliser. Spiralisers create fruit spirals and vegetable ribbons and sound like a weapon from Minority Report. I’m using the Spirali from Lurch (about £25, Amazon). It is cream and lime plastic and resembles a children’s toy designed by Franz Kafka – a Fisher-Price guillotine. “Tonight’s main will be a healthy courgette spaghetti – courgetti, if you will,” I announce, quite pleased with myself. It doesn’t go down as well as I hoped. “Gwyneth Paltrow would love this,” says Ellie. “But she also thinks you should steam your vagina, and I’m not doing that.”
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Read more, I pin a courgette to the Spirali’s spiked disc, using a hand crank to rotate and drive it through a shaped blade. Ribbons of green-edged flesh spool from the blade-like time-lapse footage of hair growing. It is extremely satisfying. I am impressed by how spaghetti-like and firm the result is, though there is waste – each courgette leaves a large, bolt-shaped stump behind.
I toss batches of courgetti into a hot, lightly oiled pan and knock up a simple tomato sauce with onion and garlic. I use the Garlic Peeler from Koopeh Designs (£1.99), a hollow silicone bulb meant to shuck off garlic skin in a few rubs. It looks like a jellyfish but proves less useful. After two bumpy minutes of rolling, my clove is rumpled but fully dressed. I peel it with my fingers, which takes eight seconds; I could get that down if I were really trying.
Rhik chops an onion with the Alligator Onion Cutter and John Lewis Onion Goggles.
More successful, though no less ugly, is the Alligator Onion Cutter (£20.99, lazyboneuk.com). A hinged jaw pushes onion segments through a razor-sharp grid as it closes, retaining the diced flesh in a detachable container above. It looks like a game of vegetable-based Boggle and occasionally requires ungainly, violent action: my guests look over as I slam my bodyweight onto it a few times, but it works. Best of all, it makes the £23 John Lewis onion goggles I’m wearing utterly redundant, as well as stupid-looking. The hungry crowd has started heckling – who heckles at a dinner party? – so I finish the sauce and stir it through.
Handling the courgetti is trickier. Each vegetable has produced one long, unbroken strand. “It’s like eating a wig,” complains Danica, spooning loops of it into her mouth and discovering it has no end. I try some. It is tasty and healthy, and I’ve done very well indeed. It’s not easy to feed a room on four courgettes; I’m not Jesus. At £25, this is an acceptable payout for the foodie kudos it lends me.