Shopping: A man's place is in the kitchen

I Want To Own... Foodie Gadgets
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Bored of the usual round of Belgian truffles and candlelit restaurant meals? Worried that last year's gift of Agent Provocateur lingerie was considered to have been for your benefit rather than hers? Can't get a reservation and/or a baby-sitter for love nor money? If you answer in the affirmative to any or all of the above, then you may still be racking your brains as to how to apply the tender, personal touch to tomorrow's big night in.

Yes, a Valentine's Day gift constructed out of your toenail clippings would be unique - but perhaps pulling off a Jean-Pierre Marco what's-his- name White by preparing a special meal with your own gnarled hands would be worth more Fairy Liquid points in the long run. Like South Park's Chef said: "There's nothing more sexy than a man who can cook, except maybe Tia Carrere in a bikini."

If the task seems insurmountable, even in this enlightened new age, then maybe it's because you've been wrestling with the wrong tools. (People who say "you can't blame the tools" have obviously never owned a cheap, non-stick frying pan.) Whether or not a real man cooks or eats quiche is largely irrelevant, compared to his choice of utensils to chop, toast, broil and batter.

So take a look around your kitchen. If you don't have the following items, then you could always put your love to the test by suggesting the Pizza Hut Valentine's Day special.

Look sharp

Name: Global knife block and eight-piece knife set.

Price: pounds 395.

Stockist: John Lewis (0171-629 7711 for nearest store).

Description: If onions had feelings, then they'd probably forgive you for skinning them alive with one of these razor sharp implements. Designed by Komin Yamada in 1985, each knife is created from a single piece of stainless steel: a tapered, spotty handle seamlessly merging into a finely honed blade. As Crocodile Dundee famously said: "Now this is a knife." The polished steel block contains eight of them, including a flexible 15cm utility knife, a 20cm cook's knife and a 22cm bread knife.

Style: KKKKK

Anything else worth considering?

A Global ceramic knife sharpener (pounds 59) to keep the blades fresh. For something more traditional, Wusthof Trident knives combine old school blades with a black, abrasive-resistant polyamide handle (pounds 39.95 for the bread knife, from Heal's, 0171-636 1666).

Pans people

Name: Cuprinox 26cm frying pan.

Price: pounds 89.

Stockist: 01603 488 019.

Description: If Vic Reeves was to hit Bob Mortimer with this, he'd probably kill him. Chance would be a fine thing, however, since these copper-skinned, stainless steel-lined pans are so heavy you'd need to do boot-camp training just to lift them on and off the hob. These are pans for men. Each comes with a 25-year guarantee, hardly surprising given the bolts they've used to hold the handles on - I've seen hull doors on ocean-going car ferries with less substantial welding.

Style: KKK

Anything else worth considering?

Obviously, there's a whole Cuprinox range (the pounds 138, 24cm, 3-litre saute pan and lid are essential) but if you find shiny copper reminiscent of knick-knacks gathering dust in rural pubs, then you may prefer something made of pure stainless steel. Meyer's Professional range (pounds 48 for a 20cm saucepan and lid, from Heal's, 0171-636 1666) are not only stylish, but are also dishwasher safe, essential for the modern man's culinary requirements.

The dirty dozen

Name: Siemens SE 25530 Dishwasher.

Price: pounds 699.

Stockist: 01908 328 400.

Description: It may be hellish to keep clean and scratch-free, but since when have you taken such obvious domestic considerations into account before making a purchase? This 60cm-wide stainless steel beauty is conscientious (its Aquatech cleaning system actively seeks out and destroys food deposits), ecologically-considerate (it uses 14 litres of water per wash and has a quick wash programme), and user-friendly (the bottom basket includes a foldable plate rack to make space for blackened casserole dishes).

Style: KKKKK

Anything else worth considering? Smeg (01235 861 090) do a range of neatly designed dishwashers. Their stainless steel eight-programme machine, the 60cm-wide DWF1 (pounds 599) holds 12 place settings, includes Aquastop flood protection, employs an air fan condenser for drying, and has nice chunky steel knobs. It's only let down by the fact that it's a gas-guzzler, using as much as 18 litres of water per wash.

Let them eat shrimps

Name: Britannia SI-12TBF-SS Barbecue.

Price: pounds 3,000 (plus pounds 990 for a 120cm hood).

Stockist: 01253 471 111.

Description: Indoor barbie! The five gas-burner hot plate on this 120cm cooker comes with an added extra: an electric lava stone barbecue, perfect for when you've wasted an entire box of strikes trying to light your rusty one in the back garden. To the right of the main, 90cm oven, is a small 30cm second oven, which has a rotisserie for spit-roasting. Or, if you're of the veggie persuasion, you can always use it for finishing off a Victoria sponge. What do you mean, you don't know how to make cakes? Didn't you learn anything from King Alfred's incompetence?

Style: KKKK

Anything else worth considering?

Smeg's 90cm dual-fuel, single fronted A1 cooker (pounds 1,275, 01235 861 090) is a substantial machine. The hob has five gas-burners (including one for fish and an ultra-rapid one for burning stuff on), while the fan-assisted electric oven has a bottom element to make sure the food you've carbonised on top is at least defrosted in the middle. If that all sounds like too much hard work, then you can opt for a combination microwave/oven instead. AEG's 850-watt Micromat-combi 625 (pounds 495, 01635 572 700) looks good, and defrosts, microwaves and roasts.

THOSE LITTLE EXTRAS

Don't forget the morning after: the best coffee and toast come courtesy of La Pavoni's Europiccola espresso maker (pounds 360, 0171-722 7648) and Siemens Porsche-designed TT 9110 cool wall, two-slice toaster (pounds 89, 01908 328 400). It's got 900 turbo-charged watts under the bonnet, plus 11-stage browning control with LED indicators, and the capacity to hold bread up to a satisfying doorstop thickness of 34mm.

For those preferring a cup of Earl Grey to start the day, there are several good stainless steel kettles on the market. The best bargain is Breville's Classique Cordless KT1 (pounds 39.99, 0800 525 089), which holds 3.4 pints of water, has a removable filter, a concealed element and a tasteful green on-off button.

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