David and Samantha Cameron"s 25k kitchen has the wrong gadgets

David and Samantha Cameron"s 25k kitchen has the wrong gadgets

Nice toaster Sam but chuck out the salad spinner… It’s no good having a 25,000 kitchen if you’ve got the wrong gadgets

7:31 AM on 30th May 2011

When Samantha Cameron and Michelle Obama were photographed last week in Sam’s new, walnut-floored 25,000 designer kitchen, all eyes were not on the two First Ladies but on those floating shelves groaning with chic glassware, the sleek Britannia cooker, Fifties-style Dualit toaster and 500 Rancilo coffee machine.

Kitchens are, of course, the latest frontier in middle-class one-upmanship and – despite writing about food and the home for a living – I must confess I’m far from immune from it myself.

In fact, the latest designer accessory I’ve bought is not a handbag or a pair of shoes – although it is French and cost 200. My new pride and joy is a stainless steel, professional mandolin, a slicing instrument. The fact I’ll probably only use it twice a year is irrelevant: this latest addition to my kitchen makes me feel very, very good.

First Wives club: Michelle Obama and Samantha Cameron in No 11

First Wives club: Michelle Obama and Samantha Cameron in No 11

I am not alone in my excitement. According to Yat Wong-Jones, buyer for John Lewis, kitchen gadgets have never been more popular. Sales of food processors, mixers, blenders and so on have increased by a staggering 233 per cent in recent months. ‘Premium appliances such as Magimix food processors and KitchenAid stand mixers and blenders are leading the way,’ she says.

From ice cream makers (oh the guilt! I have one worth 400 in my cupboard and I have used it once) to pasta makers (never used), we are filling those glossy, handleless cupboards and slate worktops with hunks of metal.

Yet, as I well know, most of them are unused – new research claims British kitchens have 2.6 billion-worth of unused kitchen gadgets, with more than 250,000 households having more than 500 worth of gizmos stored away.

So, what’s really worth investing in and what will simply end up gathering dust in your cupboards Here are my five best and five most useless bits of kitchen kit…

Popcorn maker: Prima PDP100 Duck Popper Popcorn Maker, 160, amazon.co.uk

Popcorn is having a rebirth as a healthy, low-fat snack, so there are loads of popcorn makers on the market. But is your kitchen really big enough for one of these Particularly a plastic one shaped like a duck, that spits the popcorn into a bowl Get out a saucepan, add a splash of oil and some corn kernels then heat. Job done.

Time to go: Ann says that both her Jamie Oliver Pasta Machines have ended up in her local charity shop as she never had time to use them

Time to go: Ann says that both her Jamie Oliver Pasta Machines have ended up in her local charity shop as she never had time to use them

Rice cooker: Breville rice cooker, 32.99, argos.co.uk

I was bought one of these as a present, but my experience wasn’t good. It spat liquid over my work surface and over the lid when I used it — plus it was really bulky to store. It looked messy after first use and I couldn’t get it clean again, and the rice was mushy. Bring on Uncle Ben’s pre-cooked rice sachets!
Salad spinner: Oxo Good Grips, 23.75. For stockists, call 01282 613 644
However many times I’ve used mine – while trying to hold it still, so it didn’t dance around the work surface as I pumped the central button — it seemed to leave the leaves no drier than a good shake in a colander. Time for another trip to the charity shop . . .

Fondue set: Le Creuset Gourmand Fondue Set, 99, amazon.co.uk

These went out of fashion a long time ago and whoever let them back in has a lot of explaining to do. Meat fried in oil, bread dipped in melted cheese or fruit dipped in chocolate is not a dinner party, it’s a step on the pathway to heart surgery. Buy one (along with a pack of heartburn-busting Zantac) and use it at your peril. This is one of those gadgets you are guaranteed to use once a year, if that.

Pasta maker: Jamie Oliver Pasta Machine, 34, debenhams.com

I’m ashamed to say I have actually owned two of these, each time vowing I was going to make my own fresh ravioli and tagliatelle. Both ended up in my local charity shop. It might look quick and easy when Jamie Oliver does it, but in reality, what mum has the time to do it, rather than pop to M&S

Stick blender: Stick blender, 12, John Lewis

You can get fancy versions of these, but I have had my very basic stick blender for ten years now. It has pureed my babies’ first carrots, whizzed up soups for dinner parties, made smoothies, salad dressings and cocktails. Here’s to another ten years.

Dualit toaster: Four-slice Dualit toaster, 199.99, House of Fraser

Trusty: Ann has had her Dualit toaster for 12 years and she says that it still looks as good as new

Trusty: Ann has had her Dualit toaster for 12 years and she says that it still looks as good as new

If it’s good enough for Sam Cam, it’s good enough for me. Yes, 200 is a lot of money for a toaster. But what a toaster! I’ve had mine for 12 years and it is still as good as new, looks fabulously Fifties diner, and is easy to clean, with a slide-out crumb tray.

You can use it for crumpets, bagels and huge slices of homemade bread, and it toasts them all perfectly. Plus the parts are all replaceable, so if it breaks you can get it fixed. Money you will not regret spending.

Vegetable peeler OXO Good Grips Y Peeler, 4.99, lakeland.co.uk

This seems to be able to peel any vegetable, of any shape, without ever going blunt or missing bits. And the ribbed, rubberised handle has such a good grip. When I think of my poor mother, peeling potatoes with a knife!

Free-standing mixer: KitchenAid Artisan Stand Mixer, 419, John Lewis

This is a recent addition to my kitchen since my newfound passion for baking made it a worthwhile expenditure. Now, I wonder how I coped without it. I use it for making cakes, bread, pizza dough and cookies. And wow, doesn’t it look great

Coffee machine Magimix nespresso Citiz, 199, nespresso.com/uk

The fact that you can have proper, decent coffee at home, rather than giving your money to one of those evil companies taking over the British High Street, is a wonderful thing.

For lack of mess and convenience, I am a Nespresso fan — the machine uses little capsules that you buy rather than beans, the coffee takes literally seconds to make and it’s delicious.