Thinking green, by Caitlin

Thoughts and ideas on environmental topics from Caitlin Howlett, editor of Green Lifestyle.

Trialling the Thermomix

thermie-story

The first meal we cooked in the Thermomix, with the help of the local consultant of course. The personal service is second to none, and it'd want to be for the price tag.

Thermomix-story

The Thermomix in full action, with the steamer in place.

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My friends and I can be food nerds. The other day, we were just talking about how we haven't yet found a way to add 'the zest of a lemon' without wasting half of it. Too often, the yellowy goodness is left on the grater, and no matter how finely I chop it, it's just not the same. We've tried special lemon zesting planes and other peelers, but perhaps not the right ones as it's still not quite right.

Recently, I was lucky enough to test out the Thermomix appliance - which chops and cooks in the same bowl – for three weeks. I'll admit I was sceptical that I'd like it from the start: and not least for the nearly $2,000 price tag, but mainly because it didn't really look like 'cooking'. It probably took me a week or so to get used to it, but one of the main breakthroughs for me was the small act of chopping lemon zest without any waste. I was able to peel off exactly as much of the rind as I wanted, throw it into the Thermomix bowl, and within four seconds I had a perfect layer of citrusy-goodness lining the bowl which I was about to cook in!

And, I learnt, the Thermomix is a pro at avoiding waste in the kitchen, which is one of my worst kitchen nightmares. One way it avoids wastage is the 'cooking in the mixing/chopping bowl' mentioned above. But there is a problem. Some food does get stuck around the blades, and it can be hard to get it all out. Some people unscrew the blades to get all the mixture out. However, because I want to use the machine again, I would rather just rinse it out, which means a bit of wastage, and more than I'd have in a bowl, but probably only marginally more wastage than when using my food processor.

There were also other savings: I saved time, space in the kitchen, money and, in most recipes, I didn't need to peel my vegies, meaning I didn't waste vitamins or create methane in landfill (although I have a worm farm, so they weren't too happy about getting less food!). One gorgeous recipe was beetroot choc brownies and I didn't even have to peel the beetroot. It was so delicious it didn't even last long enough for a photo! But I think the money saving is negated by how expensive the machine is. It's a trade-off with how much you like making your own food from scratch, which is, in my view, priceless really.

How the Thermomix works baffles many people until they've actually tried it. It's basically a high quality blender that heats and cooks, but it's also more than that. It weighs quantities, and can even be calibrated back to zero at the addition of each ingredient. The 'blender' is so good that you can even mill your own flour, as I did here to make a vegie lasagna from scratch. It has a flexible timer and when it cooks your food, it can be temperature-controlled, meaning if you follow the instructions it's just about impossible to burn anything, and it's also safer than cooking on the stovetop. I can definitely see the appeal for new mothers, as it not only makes a temperature-controlled, smooth puree, it also stops heating once the time is up – although be prepared for the annoying beep when it's finished, which can only be switched off by hand.

Despite all it's fancy cooking, it doesn't really feel like you're cooking. I'll admit that I tried making things that I'd never normally attempt – from hollandaise sauce to pasta from scratch – but there's something about my gas stovetop that I love too.

If we're looking at its 'eco-efficiency' then there's the issue of power. It can be run in caravans, so it doesn't have a high enough voltage to interfere negatively with solar energy systems. But let's face it, most of us are on grid electricity, and even though I pay for Green Power, I'm still using coal-fired power from the power station, and just investing in renewables. I'm not actually using less energy, and if I was cooking on my gas stovetop it would be even better from an environmental perspective.

I also have to admit that as much as I loved using the Thermomix, I was surprised that there is only a two-year warranty. For that price, I'd expect it to be, say, seven years. But it is superior quality and highly durable, so I wouldn't expect it to break, and I'm sure that the Thermomix factory would be able to help you replace parts (for a price, no doubt) after the warranty runs out. I'd say most problems would occur from people not using the Themomix correctly, and I think within two years you would have already worked out how to do that.

It's not available on the shelf, and while I'm not a fan of pyramid schemes, I think this is actually because people need the personal support to use the Thermomix properly. You need an incentive to get cooking in it at first too – otherwise I expect you'd leave it sitting on the bench without getting the full potential out of it. But once you realise how great it is, you'll rarely go back! I only had it for three weeks, and challenged myself to use it at least once a day in that time. I'm sure if I had the machine for longer I would have become so accustomed to using it that I would have rarely used the stovetop.

Overall, I would recommend the Thermomix to restaurants, cafes, new mums and families who love to cook their own lovely, homemade food. After all, if you're going to spend that much on it, you want to make sure you're getting your money's worth!

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Caitlin is not a Thermomix consultant, nor is this a sponsored post in any way, but she was simply loaned a Thermomix for a three week trial.