REAL SHOPPING: IS IT WORTH IT? Iber Gourmet, pounds 592 + VAT

YOU CAN achieve lump-free white sauce by just bunging all the ingredients in and hoping - if you have an Iber Gourmet, that is. This brand-new kitchen gadget takes its odd name from its Spanish motherland and is, in the opinion of its manufacturers, the kitchen "work horse dreams are made of". Otherwise known as a food processor that cooks for you, ensuring you get all the glory with none of the slog.

In practice, the Iber is indeed an appliance that takes the science out of cooking. Throw in parmesan and it'll grate it; add butter, milk and set the timer for five minutes on a medium heat and, hey presto, the result is the best cheese sauce I've ever achieved. Just to complete the fantasy, washing up couldn't be easier. Just fill it with hot water and washing- up liquid, switch it on and the Iber cleans itself, bar the odd spot you can finish off by hand.

The processor comes with a recipe book instructing you how to grind spices, steam vegetables, make pate and even produce a bolognese sauce. This machine is a case of vodka to a soupaholic, because not only will it saute onions and blend your vegetables, it's gentle enough to make a chunky soup too. In fact the more you play with the Iber the cleverer you think it is.

It looks like a chubby blender, is comfortingly heavy and has a large 2.25 litre-capacity jug. The blades are easily removed and cleaned and there is an additional whisker which fits cunningly on to the blades without taking the machine apart. It's self cooling, to prevent over-heating, and has an in-built safety device to stop the lid opening when it's on.

The accompanying spatula is designed to match the contours of the jug and even has a little hook for removing the steaming sieve without burning your fingers. Someone has obviously thought long and hard about every minute detail of this appliance.

But before you start reaching for the telephone, there's no such thing as a free gastro-lunch. The Iber Gourmet knows its worth, which happens to be pounds 592 plus VAT - enough to turn your fruit coulis sour. Enough, in fact, to buy a cooker. UK retailer Barbel (tel: 01629 815211) says it will easily pay for itself in saved money, time and effort and represents a wise investment. If you're a time-pressed wannabe cook who thinks nothing of spending pounds 50 on dinner, then perhaps it is. I reluctantly parted with mine and started the search for a sugar daddy.

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