Who better than celebrated food writer and avid cook Diana Henry to advise on the perfect kitchen?
A hard-working kitchen needs plenty of work surface space, especially if you entertain a lot. And enough storage room, otherwise you are down on your hands and knees trying to find a particular size of tart tin.
Everything needs a place and has to be accessible. Drawers instead of shelves are great as you can pull them out and look for stuff rather than losing everything at the back of your cupboards.
When designing an open-plan kitchen/ living room, it’s wise to get an architect to give you advice on proportions. I think mine got it just right – there’s a living area with modular seating, a wood burner, a big table with bookshelves behind it and then the kitchen area. They all come together. Our whole family life is in this space. It is my world.
FORM AND FUNCTION
A good cook space isn’t always an Instagram-worthy one. Bulthaup advised me on what I should have and it was not the soft, warm one I had envisaged. Without my stuff in it my kitchen looks cold and very functional but it works. A cool, uncluttered kitchen is a good shell for someone who cooks a lot – it then becomes yours as you fill it and as the years go by.
For surfaces, stainless steel and stone-effect are ideal (real stone stains, especially with oil). Both can take heat and a lot of bashing. You want your kitchen to be a workhorse. I was advised not to go for painted cupboards as they get too scuffed. Dirt gets stuck around tiles, too. And wooden surfaces that need constant oiling are a nightmare for someone who cooks a lot.
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Gadgets can take up a lot of space, but I wouldn’t be without a boiling water tap – it saves such a lot of time, or a food processor (I make pastry and everything in it) and my Gaggia ice cream machine. True, it is not an essential but it has proved its worth over the last 25 years. Avoid anything that has a single purpose (such as a special avocado slicer), as you can never find them when you need them.
The kind of cooking I do most is the ‘bung it in the oven in one dish’ so I have loads of roasting tins and three 30cm shallow cast-iron casseroles. One-pot dishes are often casseroles that require browning, but the one-dish meals I do are all cooked in the oven and end up with a burnished surface on top and a moist layer of vegetables below.
You get browned meat without having to go through the effort it normally takes. I also just like what roasting does to ingredients–chicken skin becomes golden, tomatoes get scorched (which tastes great) and even apricots that normally lack flavour are transformed, becoming sweet and honeyed.
A CUT ABOVE
Proper knives are essential. I used to think people made a fuss about them, but that’s because the ones I had weren’t that good. I invested in a mixture of Opinel knives , Sabatier and Henkel. Once I started using these it just made cooking a lot easier. You will use them for a lifetime.