Ask Peter: Cooking in small kitchens
I am a 20-something foodie who loves nothing better than to cook and bake at home. However, like many young people in the main centres, I live in a rental apartment without the luxury of a large kitchen, which limits the cooking equipment I am able to buy and store. I also have limited pantry and fridge/freezer space. What would be your advice to those cooking in small kitchens? Do you have any essential utensils, equipment and appliances you would recommend buying? Any tricks for making the most of a small fridge/freezer? Thanks, Georgi
Your question is asked often and I always picture a boat’s galley when I think about an answer. Space is generally short on boats, for obvious reasons, and many apartment building developers seem to treat their buildings the same, assuming the tenants just want microwave meals rather than actually cooking a meal from scratch.
For years I’d wanted to create a "student kitset kitchen" for those heading out into the flatting world for the first time — the sort of gift doting parents could buy, hoping their child might take up some cooking rather than just reheating a tin of baked beans. It would include various tools and equipment recommendations, could be used in conjunction with other students who’d have different parts of the kit, and could be added to, rather like a set of Smurf collector cards (how old am I?).
It sounds like you probably have the tools but lack the equipment. If I had limited storage space for equipment, and limited shelf space — and assuming your hobs are fine — then I’d buy a non-stick electric frying pan, a slow cooker, a saucepan large enough for cooking pasta and green veges, and a small one (that might space-savingly stack in it) for reheating a portion of soup, or hot milk for a latte. I assume you have an oven, so I’d get a roasting dish (sides around the 6-8cm mark, and possibly one with a lid), and hopefully it already has a baking tray. If it doesn’t, you can bake your biscuits in the roasting dish as well as roast a chunk of salmon sitting on sliced kumara and fresh herbs. At home in London, I keep many of my baking dishes in the oven when it’s switched off, saving space. With the electric frying pan you can make risottos and soups, fry fish and bacon and sort-of-grill lamb cutlets and beef steaks, cook pancakes and make a good old fry-up. In the slow cooker you can make various meat and vegetable stews, as well as soups if you have time, and slowly cook secondary cuts of meat to melting tenderness, as well as stew fruit such as pears and quince.
I am a huge fan of the food processor and bar-blender but if space is really tight, invest in a high quality stick blender. You can make mayonnaise, pesto, sauces and puree soups with one and they’re relatively small. As you love to bake, a hand-held beater will suit you better than a bench mixer for whipping up a batch of meringues or sponge cake.
Bowls that stack will also save space and one good solid wooden chopping board that won’t warp, along with a few high quality knives (1 small, 1 larger, 1 serrated) should also be bought.
Good luck with your kitchen and I look forward to seeing some of your creations!
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