favourite things

Raymond Blanc couldn't bear to be without his sushi knife, or Alastair Little his pizza shovel. Eight top cooks talk to John Hind about the tools of their trade. Photographs by Rob White
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The Independent Culture
Simon Hopkinson The Independent's cookery writer, and chef

"The greatest pleasure ever is when it's getting a bit firm and I go for a while in the clockwise direction with my dear Mouli-Legumes and up comes the puree. It's the most satisfying culinary motion I know. I often say to people, `God, have you ever gone backwards in a Mouli?' I think it's something everyone should experience."

Jennifer Paterson food writer "My dear mandolin - don't ask me why they call it that - slices cucumbers and carrots terribly thinly. Not only is it practical but I like the look of it - the steel butterfly screws and wood. Doubtless, the bloody nannies nowadays, who are against wood, would consider it full of germs, but I've had one forever. For shaving Parmesan it's a treat, for dauphinoise potatoes it's a dream."

Keith Floyd TV cook "I cannot live without my Magimix 2000. It's indispensable for pureeing, chopping, pasting and all. I can put both the egg yolks and whites in the bottom, pour in clarified butter and it makes hollandaise sauce in 35 seconds flat. Rather than slowly pestle my cod and drizzle in olive oil for a brandade, it can all be done in a flash. I've pounded my Magi to death for 10 years and it's never let me down."

Annie Bell The Independent's food writer

"In Morocco, I was fascinated by these very crude weekly village markets where there'd be a line of amazingly fragrant tagines bubbling away all morning. The tagine and burner I brought home from Marrakech stands on my terrace slowly releasing the smell of cinnamon, ginger, saffron. Its slow, sedate, unfrenetic cooking is very appealing to me."

Alastair Little chef "Hanging down the side of the fridge is my pizza shovel (pallet), my latest gadget, which I love. It's very neat and very practical - stainless steel at the end of a broom handle - and I'm going berserk about it. After struggling with thin pallet knives for years, I've found the proper device for doing the job. I came in doing cartwheels about it."

Claudia Roden cookery writer "I have a special place in my heart for my Turkish courgette corer. You can't buy one in Britain - it simply doesn't exist here. It's so much better than an apple corer for hollowing; it really digs in and captures. It evokes so much to me. In my childhood in Cairo, we had to spend hours and hours hollowing and stuffing, so it's truly an object of desire."

Arabella Boxer cookery writer "I use a lot of ginger but I don't like chopping and squeezing it, so I'm very fond of my little Japanese ginger grater. I love Japanese aesthetics. It's shaped like an upside-down spade on a pack of playing cards. Rubbing a fresh piece of root up and down on the jagged points makes a very juicy pulp like nothing else can to pop on my cold noodles. Mmm."

Raymond Blanc chef "My delicate, hand-crafted sushi knife is so so so beautiful. It was made by the same firm that made Samurai swords. Haaa! Unlike a European knife, it doesn't work with the wrist, it works with the whole arm. Totally lethal. Stunning."

Readers mentioning this offer get a 15% discount at M Blanc's cookery school during March and April (01844 278881). There are eight places available on each week-long course.

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