To some of us a wooden butter shaper (pounds 24.25) or a cactus-shaped juicer (pounds 36.50) is a thing to die for
Next time friends invite you round to eat, you may find grilled fresh fish and mashed potato, or salad dressed in "home-made" olive oil flavoured with herbs. Such a meal would reflect why these days keen cooks want fish scalers, cast- iron griddles, bottle drippers and wooden salad bowls in their kitchens. The rise and rise of the potato ricer says it all: simple mashed potato is fashionable, potato ricers do the job more efficiently than a traditional masher, and the end result is prettier and healthier, using less milk and butter.

To some of us a wooden butter shaper (pounds 24.25) or a cactus-shaped juicer (pounds 36.50) is a thing to die for; and most of us can't keep our hands off little gadgets to prepare fresh, simple food at home - if we've still got time after watching all those scrummy food programmes, that is. This passion for home cooking explains why a gleaming clutch of stainless steel utensils graces the cover of the new Marks & Spencer Homeware catalogue. According to Carol Richardson, head of Homeware, customers want items that are "useful, workmanlike and beautiful". That the retailing giant sees fit to put a potato masher on the cover reflects what Ms Richardson describes as a "resurgence in the kitchen". We are spending less time and money going out, and more at home, and the heart of the home is, of course, the kitchen. Here we create not the show-off dinner parties of the Eighties, but simple suppers for half-a- dozen friends round the kitchen table.

At Divertimenti, queen of kitchen shops in the Fulham Road, west London, the bestseller is a cone-shaped, stainless steel olive oil pourer with a long, elegant spout (pounds 27.95). Down the road at the Conran Shop, cast- iron griddles (fast) are in, and steamers (slow) are out.

Then there is the D factor. She of the Winter Collection can shift a pastry lattice cutter quicker than you can say cranberry. It's hard cheese for the cook shop that hasn't got plenty of whatever helpful little thingumabob she mentioned on last night's programme.

But how vital are the contents of these culinary Aladdin's caves? Annie Bell, food writer for this magazine, wouldn't be without her hand-held whisk, zester, tongs, olive pitter and oyster opener. But she could live without her strawberry huller. "You slot it over your middle finger and it has a little pair of tongs attached. Ridiculous." Then there was the egg squarer for making slices of hard-boiled egg nice and square...

Don't expect to find too many gadgets and gizmos on Simon Hopkinson's shelves. Is a conical steel olive oil can not a thing of beauty in his eyes? "Yes, but so are the labels on olive oil bottles," he says, "and you don't have to keep refilling them or cleaning out the pourer." His top three utensils, more likely to come from the local ironmonger than a specialist shop, are a good metal sieve, a mouli-legumes and a decent knife. "What else do you need to make a good soup? Oh yes, a friendly potato peeler. Then you can make a really good potato soup." Hilly Janes

1 Fruit press, pounds 13.59, David Mellor. 2 Potato masher, pounds 5.75, Habitat. 3 Pentole 12cm saucepan (lid only shown), pounds 52, Divertimenti. 4 Potato ricer, pounds 10.95; 5 Cafetiere tea maker (lid only shown), pounds 11.50; both the Conran Shop; 6 Star cutter, 45p, Divertimenti. 7 Traditional whisk, pounds 7.50, the Conran Shop. 8 Espresso maker, pounds 10.95, Divertimenti. 9 Rosle potato peeler, pounds 13.95, Harrods. 10 Global tomato knife, pounds 25.49, David Mellor. 11 Fresh Hands odour eater, pounds 7.85, Divertimenti. 12 Bottle pourer, pounds 2.50; 13 Potato masher, pounds 7.95; both the Conran Shop. 14 Egg slicer, pounds 10.38, David Mellor. 15 & 26 Salt pot, pounds 7.50, Habitat. 16 Ezi tongs, pounds 1.55; 17 Salad servers, pounds 6.95; all the Conran Shop.18 Rosle cheese knife, pounds 22.95, Harrods. 19 Fish scaler, pounds 2.95, Divertimenti. 20 Spaghetti tongs, pounds 9.95, the Conran Shop. 21 Global carving fork, pounds 31.06; 22 Sabatier knife, pounds 25.87; 23 Measuring spoon, pounds 9.77; all David Mellor. 24 Lazy Fish corkscrew, pounds 16.95, Heal's. 25 Oil pourer, pounds 2.35, Divertimenti

Cutting edge

Seven chefs, and the five utensils they wouldn't be without at home

Brian Turner Proprietor of Turner's and Chairman of the Academie de Culinaire

Hand-held blender

KitchenAid mixer

Pasta machine

V-shaped opener with chunky rubber handle, for jars and bottles

Wide, square-ended, metal spatula

Sally Clarke Chef and proprietor of Clarke's

Mushroom brush, with brush for cleaning and knife for slicing

Salad spinner

Tweezers for removing small bones from fish

Rubber gloves, for cooking spinach

Thick, wide, wood chopping board

Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray Chefs/proprietors, The River Cafe

Pestle and mortar


Truffle slicer


Wood-fired oven

Caroline Waldegrave Owner and principal of Leith's School of Food and Wine

Small, spiral sauce whisk

Copper pans

Cast-iron griddle pan

Ice-cream maker

Sofa - so friends can sit down and talk to me while I cook

Michel Roux Jnr Head chef of Le Gavroche

Corkscrew/bottle opener

Moltini Stove: a large, professional oven, with hotplates above

Vacuum-packing machine

Ice-cream maker

Thermomix - blender/mixer with heating element for making sauces

Jenna Tinson (age 13) Winner of Junior Masterchef 1995

Blowtorch for caramelising sugar

Small, stainless-steel pan for melting butter

Large balloon whisk

8-inch Sabatier vegetable knife

Swivel vegetable peeler

Wooden utensils

Clockwise from top left: wooden whisk, pounds 11, Habitat. Butter shaper (top), pounds 21.30; butter shaper, pounds 24.25; both Divertimenti. One of set of four cheese knives, pounds 7.95, John Lewis. Mezzaluna, pounds 31.95; salt mill, pounds 19.95; pepper mill, pounds 19.95; all the Conran Shop. Milton Brook pestle & mortar, pounds 10.05, Divertimenti. Birch whisks, pounds 3.03 each; nutmeg grater, pounds 19.87; wooden bowl, pounds 9.94 and chopper, pounds 9.29; all David Mellor. Cheese knives (from set of four), pounds 7.95, John Lewis

Plastic utensils

Clockwise from left: pepper mill, pounds 6.95, John Lewis. Egg cups, 95p each; colanders, pounds 5.95 each; bottle openers, pounds 10.95 each; cactus juicer, pounds 36.50; all Heal's. Jar opener, pounds 6.55, Divertimenti. Cavlo bottle tops, pounds 7.25 a pair; chopping board, pounds 28.95; both Heals. Corkscrew, pounds 32.95; gas lighter, pounds 37.95; both Alessi, Harrods. Christy sugar bowl, pounds 11.95, Heal's


The Conran Shop, 81 Fulham Road, SW3 6RD (0171-589 7401); David Mellor, 4 Sloane Square, SW1W 8EE (0171-730 4259, and mail order); Divertimenti, 139 Fulham Road, SW3 6SD (0171-581 8065; mail order 0171-386 9911); Habitat, 196 Tottenham Court Road, W1P 9LD (0171-255 2545); Harrods, Knightsbridge, SW1X 7XL (0171-730 1234); Heal's, 196 Tottenham Court Road, W1P 9LD (0171- 636 1666); John Lewis, 278-306 Oxford Street, W1A 1EX (0171-629 7711) (Pictures Omitted )