Finding out how to substitute ingredients in recipes is certainly an important part of becoming an “alternative chef”. But there are a couple of other things that are important too, like knowing which techniques to use, how to avoid nutritional pitfalls of restricted diets and what tools you really need in your kitchen.
Without a doubt, with so many fancy and flashy options nowadays, it’s easy to understand why people are overwhelmed by their choices. I find that when it comes to what equipment to stock your kitchen with there are a couple of questions people tend to get caught up with like:
- Which brand should I buy?
- How much does it cost?
I often have people asking me “Should I buy a (single serve blender) or a juicer?” “Which blender should I get?” “Which juicer should I get?” etc. These questions usually arise because juicing and making smoothies are so popular right now but I also get asked about other tools too like dehydrators, yoghurt makers, ice cream makers, etc.
Personally, I think these are the wrong pieces of equipment to be focusing on when first stocking your alternative kitchen.
Using the juices and smoothies as an example, when you’re looking at the meals you make over the whole week, month and year, juices and smoothies would account for at the most 7/21 meals a week, or 28/ 84 meals a month, or 365/ 1095 meals a year. Even if you were to do your own juice cleanse once a month that is still only an extra 36 – 108 meals / year. There are another ~1000 meals you’re potentially leaving yourself unequipped to prepare for if you’re blowing your entire budget on one of these tools. So, for the same reason it’s worth asking just how often you’re going to use a dehydrator, yoghurt maker, ice cream machine, etc.
These items generally only fulfill one purpose in your kitchen – the small blenders make a 1 serve smoothie and most juices only make juice (there are some juicers and one-serve blenders which can make nut butters so I’m not talking about these here). But, if your budget or space is tight and you’re cooking for more than one, you might be better off spending your money on equipment which will help you with more than one recipe or technique and will process a bigger volume at one time.
So the questions I think you should be asking yourself before you go to the shops are:
- What is my budget?
- What tools do I already have? Do I really need to buy something new or do I have a tool at home which will do what I need well enough for my purposes?
- How much space do I have in my kitchen?
- How many people am I going to be cooking for?
You’ll also need to know the answer to these questions:
- What techniques do I need to use? (which includes what tools do I need to do this technique)
- How often will I be doing this technique?
- How many different techniques will this tool help me with?
NB: this is going to depend on which foods are on your can eat list and the kinds of alternatives you’re planning on making. For example, if you’re avoiding dairy, you’d want to start looking at food processors or high powered blenders so that you can do that high level pureeing.
If you’re unsure what techniques you need to use in your kitchen, or you’re still trying to figure out how to turn the list of foods you can eat into actual meals, then check out our Episodes and Books for some tips.