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February 8, 2013

Andrew Kojima Reveals his (Not So) Secret Weapon: a Thermomix

By Spear's

It helped him on MasterChef, and chefs have named their Thermomix as their most prized kitchen tool probably because it costs little more than a week of chef’s wages and is a lot more reliable!

‘What is that?’ clients ask, when I arrive at their house to cook. Friends notice it on my worktop. I’ve spotted it on more and more cooking programmes. ‘It is a Thermomix,’ I beam proudly, twitching to show it off.

You won’t find it in the shops and it is not advertised. It is discreetly branded but distinctive in appearance (see below left). Sturdy in construction with a wide base and a durable stainless steel jug, it looks like a gadget for the professional. It is designed, engineered and manufactured by Vorwerk, who also make vacuum machines.

Listen out for it on Saturday Kitchen. When James Martin put it on top speed to liquify a lobster shell into bisque, he had to shout over the noise. The sound men will have rued their Friday night beers.

Love Productions, the company behind The Great British Bake Off, was in trouble recently for breaking BBC guidelines on their use of Smeg fridges. If you look carefully on MasterChef, you’ll notice that the brands on packaged ingredients are carefully covered with insulating tape (a very tedious job for the runners and junior home economists).

Branded equipment apparently escapes scrutiny. The first thing I noticed when I arrived at the MasterChef studios in Wandsworth were portacabins filled with KitchenAids, Magimixes and Wusthoff knives. I was a kid in a candy shop.

I had never heard of Thermomix until I was shown how to use it to make salsa verde in the tiny kitchen at Salt Yard, during episode 7 of MasterChef. I realised its potential as an ally in a cooking competition and arranged a demonstration at home.

A French lady called Annita turned up and made lemonade, red pepper and tomato soup, poppy seed rolls, bechamel sauce, cauliflower cheese and strawberry sorbet. We didn’t touch a pan for two hours and I didn’t even need a grater for the cheese. She turned a cup of caster sugar into icing sugar in less than ten seconds and showed me how to use the same technique to make rice flour for thickening sauces.

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I was prevented by contract from disclosing that I planned to use it as an extra pair of hands in a televised cookery competition. In episode 10, I had to cook three courses for Jay Rayner, Charles Campion and Tracey Mcleod.

By the time I served the starter after an hour and a quarter, I had kneaded pasta dough, steamed samphire, made a scallop mousseline, blitzed a herb crust for rack of lamb, blind baked sweet pastry, tempered and churned icecream. It was no wonder that I forgot the celeriac to go with the lamb but in the the ten minutes between starter and main course, I made a silky smooth puree.

Below: Chef Alan Murchison demonstrates how to make a cinnamon apple soufflé with a Thermomix

There was some talk of banning it, on account of its noise, but that’s not the reason. After all, the studios are in the middle of a one way system, under the Heathrow flight path near Battersea Helicopter pad. The reason, presumably, is that cooking isn’t as tough with a Thermomix. It got me out of a scrape and many chefs have named it in interviews as their most prized kitchen tool – probably because it costs little more than a week of chef’s wages and is a lot more reliable!

In the interests of disclosure, I should point out that the distributors have kindly loaned me one for the year. If I want to buy one, it will cost £885. It sounds like a lot of money, so I am going to write a series of blogs to see if I can justify the outlay.

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