As you may have seen on Masterchef and Iron Chef Australia lately, the Thermomix is invaluable for cutting down time of food preparation. It’s like having an extra pair of hands in the kitchen. But some people worry that using a Thermomix takes away from traditional ways of cooking, and they’d rather do everything by hand. Well, as a busy mum, I don’t have time to make everything from scratch, the old fashioned way – although I do enjoy it! There’s nothing quite so satisfying as knowing you did it all yourself, the way it’s been done for hundreds of years. But let’s be honest – if you had to do everything by hand (no Thermomix, or mix-master, or blender, or food processor, or grain grinder…) how much ‘fun’ cooking would you do? And how much time would you have for anything else???
I really love my Thermomix, because it makes cooking for my family so much easier and less time-consuming than it used to be – I don’t have to be in the kitchen all day for us to eat well! Sometimes I’ll do parts of a dish by hand, but I usually use the Thermomix for at least part of the preparation, if not the whole meal. Even if you’re a traditional type, there’s got to be times when you need to hurry, or you want to do things that are a bit fancy – this is when the Thermomix really shines! It’s not just a machine for chefs – every day people like me are using it all over the world, and loving it!
Once you buy a Thermomix, the first step is to get used to using it by cooking recipes from the cookbooks over and over until using the Thermomix becomes second nature to you. Some good ones to start with are the vegetable stock concentrate, custard, sorbet, bread, mashed potato, fried rice, risotto, stir fry veges, chicken & cashews with rice (or my revamped version with cashew satay sauce & coconut rice), pumpkin soup – just everyday recipes that are easy and quick. Then you might get a bit more adventurous with recipes from the Indian cookbook, the Varoma cookbook, the Thermomix Recipe Community and the Thermomix Forum. Having a Varoma demonstration will help a lot, and the more demos and cooking classes you go to, the more inspired you’ll be.
The next step is to start converting some of your family’s favourite recipes to the Thermomix. Have a think about what recipes you like to make for your family… then look up similar recipes in the Thermomix cookbooks and on the forum, and check how it’s done with a Thermomix. Change the ingredients/seasonings/etc to suit your family’s tastes, using the same kind of method, and ‘voila’ – you’ll have a quicker, easier version of your old favourite! It really won’t take long to get the hang of converting recipes – just don’t be scared to experiment.
Here’s a few basic rules to remember when converting recipes for the Thermomix:
* Use your quick reference card (also on pages 7-8 of Everyday cookbook) to figure out chopping/grating times and speeds, how long to saute onions and garlic, how to melt chocolate, etc. Don’t forget to stick to the suggested ‘maximum quantities for processing’ on page 3, so you don’t overload your blades.
* Use your guide to steaming times (pages 5-6 of Everyday cookbook) to figure out how long to steam different things. Remember, the longer it needs to steam, the more water you’ll need in the bowl – white rice takes 17-20 mins (depending how soft you like it) with 1000g of water, but brown rice needs 35 mins with 1200g water.
* Probably the easiest recipes to begin with are soups (see page 69 of the Everyday cookbook for how to convert soups) and cake batters. For most of my cake batters, I just throw all the ingredients in and mix it up on speed 5-6 until well mixed. (I like cutting out steps of recipes!) Or you can combine the wet ingredients on speed 6 until creamy (eggs, milk, oil/butter, vanilla, sweeteners), then add the dry ingredients, folding them in on reverse speed 3 until combined. Add any nuts/choc chips/sultanas at the end with the dry ingredients. If you’re adding nuts that need chopping (eg. walnuts in a carrot cake), throw them in whole with the dry ingredients & mix on speed 5 for a few seconds, without using reverse. Be careful not to mix too long though if you want them chunky!
* The first time you convert a recipe for the Thermomix, set the scales before measuring each ingredient in, and write down the weight, so next time you make it you won’t have to use cups, you can just weigh everything straight into the machine. (I keep a recipe notebook in the kitchen to write down my conversions and ‘experiments’ – or you can just make notes in the recipe book itself.) Or here’s Helene’s method for remembering tweaked and converted recipes – lol!!
* Remember to check amounts: the Thermomix jug holds up to 2 litres – don’t overfill it! Add up the grams/litres of ingredients in the recipe, and adjust if necessary.
* Sometimes you may need to work backwards, so read the whole recipe through before beginning. Eg: if a recipe says to add lemon zest or grated parmesan or chopped nuts at the end, grate or chop that first while the bowl is clean, set it aside, then begin cooking. If a thickener is needed for soups or custards (like rice flour), grind that first and set aside. If you need to fold egg whites in at some point, whip them up first and set aside. (It’s easy to forget to do this, so this is where a second bowl comes in VERY handy, so if you see a special deal on buying a second Thermomix bowl, snap it up!!)
* If you need to steam something in the Varoma, think about whether something else can be done in the bowl at the same time. Just remember that you must use the Varoma temperature to steam, and whatever’s in the bowl needs to be wet enough to make steam. Eg: a tomato sauce cooking in the bowl with fish and veges steaming on top; or a coconut milk sauce and rice cooking in the bowl with chicken and veges on top; or even soup on the bottom, with bread rolls or sweet puddings on top. (The steam doesn’t carry flavour, so it’s okay to have soup cooking in the bowl with sweets on top.)
* If you’re whipping with the butterfly, remember not to go over speed 4, or you’ll be sooorrrry! (Those blades are very tough, and the butterfly won’t stand a chance if it tangles with them!)
* When you’re chopping onions or other vegetables, don’t go above speed 5 for 3 seconds or you’ll have mush! This is especially important with salads – to be on the safe side, you can chop on speed 4, keeping on eye on it through the hole in the lid, and helping it along with the spatula if needed. I always make coleslaw on speed 4. Especially since my first coleslaw ended up as cabbage soup.
P.S. Here’s a great post at Super Kitchen Machine about what to do when you get a new Thermomix – tips & tricks, first recipes to try, etc: New to Thermomix? (Help for Bimby Beginners) And I recently found this helpful thread on the Thermomix forum: Tips for Converting Recipes – there’s some ideas there I haven’t mentioned, so have a look!