Having the right utensils goes a long way towards improving the quality of your nutrition. Pamela Allardice lists the top five gadgets no cook should be without.
1 Hand-held stick blender
You can pop this straight into a saucepan or bowl to puree soups, smoothies or sauces, rather than having to spoon the mixture into a food processor. Blending produces a rich consistency, without adding fat.
Long-cooked stews and casseroles are a signature dish of many classic cuisines, including the French cassoulet and the Moroccan tagine. With a tiny bit of preparation at breakfast, dinner literally cooks itself. There are few things more comforting than being greeted after a hard day with the mouthwatering aroma of a satisfying meal. Plus, slow-cookers make the most of cheaper ingredients, like beans, vegetables, stewing beef, and chicken thighs.
This is one of the healthiest ways to prepare food, particularly vegetables, as the short cooking time and the fact that the food isn’t immersed in water means that they retain their nutrients more than with boiling, which leaches water-soluble vitamin C and folate into the cooking liquid. A versatile and energy-efficient choice of steamer is the double saucepan-style. Fish and tofu also work well in a steamer, particularly the ones which can fit over a wok containing boiling water.
4 Cast-iron saucepan
Twenty per cent of women of childbearing age are iron-deficient, says the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. They’re not officially anaemic, but the symptoms are the same – fatigue, susceptibility to infection, difficulty concentrating. Cast-iron saucepans will increase the iron content in your diet: the mineral leaches out of the pot into the food, especially in acidic foods like pasta sauce and tomato-based soups.
5 Microplane grater
This inexpensive gadget is probably the most worthwhile investment of all, as it amps up the flavour of food without adding salt, sugar or fat. Use it to zest citrus fruit, and to grate nutmeg, ginger, and hard cheeses.
P.S. What about microwave ovens? Sure, they’re quick, but the ‘ping-and-peel-off-the-plastic’ school of food preparation may not be the healthiest choice. A study in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture found that microwaving zapped up to 97 per cent of the flavonoids (antioxidant compounds that reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease) in vegetables. Steaming only caused a loss of 10 per cent.
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