Earlier this week I had the opportunity to attend a cooking demonstration by Jill Cooney, Senior Home Economist with Sunbeam. Sunbeam is an Australian company that started in 1880 when two enterprising young men began making equipment to shear sheep. In order to maintain revenue during the off-season they developed and marketed small electrical appliances. The electrical appliances were so popular they soon overtook the sheep shearing side of the business and in 1946 the company became a small electrical appliance company.
When I was asked to attend the demonstration I immediately made myself available because all my life I have had Sunbeam appliances in my home. I think everyone from my generation would remember the fabulous kitchen mix-master. Almost every bride was given one as a wedding gift and these machines were so well made they often out-lasted the marriages. My friend’s mother had a light pink one and it had pride of place on the kitchen bench and saw plenty of action. When I first saw it, it would have been around 20 years old and still going strong. Sunbeam is still making these mix-masters today although of course, they have been modernised.
There was just me at the demonstration and I sat down and began to take out my notebook and pen when Jill advised it was a hands-on demonstration and I was given an apron and told to step into the action.
The first appliance I used was the food processor. Many of you would be aware that my old food processor (it wasn’t a Sunbeam) blew up last year in spectacular fashion. And ever since I have been crushing biscuits in a plastic bag with a rolling pin like my mother used to in the 1970’s and making things like pesto with a stick blender.
Enough with the sad stories! This Sunbeam Cafe Series Food Processor is extremely slick and stylish and one step down from a commercial processor giving you plenty of power without the hefty price tag. There’s a drawer for all the blades giving every accessory its own place and avoids the common and recurring incident of sticking your hand in a cupboard only to have it sliced on a blade.
There are two bowl sizes, large and small and also two openings in the lid to pop your food into. The larger opening is the biggest I have seen on a food processor, large enough to fit a massive potato without having to chop it first. The blade is adjustable so if you were making something like a potato gratin, you could select the thickness of the slices in the same way you can using a mandolin.
First I made a fennel salad and I adjusted the blade to a suitable thickness then added the fennel through the larger opening. I used the smaller opening to feed through a zucchini. Then while the sliced fennel and zucchini were still in the larger bowl I whizzed the salad dressing in the smaller bowl then plated the salad.
Next it was over to the Sunbeam Sous Vide (pronounced sue-veed). Now, I have not had any experience with this kind of cooking before and thought the method was limited to commercial kitchens only. The first time I heard of it was around 15 years ago and Carl and I were photographing a wedding in the country town of Coonabarabran. While we were photographing the happy couple in the old shearing sheds the bride mentioned the main course was steak cooked in a water bath. I was intrigued. I’d never heard of beef being cooked in water before and thought the steaks were actually thrown into a pot of simmering water and that didn’t sound in the least bit appetising.
But it’s not cooked like that at all. The meat (or fish or vegetables etc) is placed in a bag then the air is vacuumed out of it in the Food Saver before being sealed and then it’s placed in the Sous Vide. I put steak, salmon and chicken into individual bags and added some herbs and seasonings. The bags were then vacuum packed in the Food Saver before going into the Sous Vide that can hold up to 14 steaks at a time. The temperature on the Sous Vide was set at 56C (133F) and for a medium rare steak you set the timer on 60 minutes.
When the meat comes out of the Sous Vide nothing more needs to happen however, sometimes it’s nice to have some caramelisation so I browned off the meat and fish in the Sunbeam Classic Banquet Frypan for about a minute on each side before plating it with my salad and sitting down for lunch. Eye fillet is a very tender cut however this method of cooking will tenderise meat from any part of the animal. Slicing through the steak was like slicing through butter and given the flavours are sealed in with the meat and can’t escape results in very flavoursome cooking.
It’s a very healthy, simple and highly effective method of cooking that produces evenly cooked, tender and succulent meals.
I was thinking this would be an extremely convenient appliance for me to have in my home because that Archie is on a diet (yes, I know, I’ve mentioned it before). Every morning before leaving for uni he gets out my frypan and while I’m trying to empty the dishwasher and make Alfie’s breakfast and fill his lunch box and swallow my vitamins, Archie is at the stove cooking chicken breasts for his lunch. He adds too much oil and has the heat up too high so it’s splattering all over the bench and the walls and the floors and then he throws in some garlic and lemon juice and seasoning and the smell and the mess and the commotion so early in the day is overwhelming. If I had a sous vide, every Sunday night Archie could cook 14 chicken breasts with no mess and no splattering and no smell and have all his lunch prepared for the week instead of me trying to survive the current morning horror show.
Then Jill gave me a demonstration of the Electronic Pressure Cooker that is also a slow cooker and a rice cooker and it browns meat as well. I have never owned a pressure cooker and it seems to be an appliance that skipped a generation and is now making a comeback in a hugely improved format. Cooking under pressure greatly reduces cooking times and so lamb shanks that would normally take three hours can be ready in 40 minutes. Sue made limoncello cheesecakes in glass jars covered in foil, then cooked in the pressure cooker. The base of the cheesecake had been whizzed in the small bowl of the food processor while the filling was mixed in the larger bowl. The texture of the cheesecake was like velvet.
And so I had a wonderful day being able to play with a food processor I’ve had my eye on for quite some time as well as being introduced to an intriguing and exciting new method of cooking that is gaining in popularity and transitioning from restaurant kitchens to a home cook’s kitchen bench. I can’t wait for Archie to become an expert in this method of cooking.
For more information about Sunbeam appliances and their extensive range, check out their website here.