Last weekend, all across the country, selected Come Round party hosts were putting up big posters of Jamie Oliver, getting their aprons on and showing off the new Philips Jamie Oliver Home Cooker. Well, as I'm telling you about it, I'm sure you've guessed that The Madhouse was a party zone too ! A couple of days before the party, we received a brilliant party pack containing everything we needed to Jamie-fy our house - a big poster, balloons, the background music, notepads and aprons for the guests and even a shopping voucher to buy the ingredients that we'd need to feed our guests.
Oh, but I'm forgetting the main thing. The rather fabulous Home Cooker, the latest kitchen appliance to be added to the Philips range and developed in conjunction with Jamie Oliver. Drools - sorry, er, I meant Jools .... er, she must be very proud of her hubby ! It's a brilliantly thought-out piece of kit that is perfect for busy mums because it cooks for you - yes really ! It reminds me a bit of a cross between a slow cooker and an Actifry because it stirs your dinner for you so you don't need to stand in front of the cooker while your kids are running riot in the front room or shouting "Mum, can you help me with my homework?" !
We also received another handy piece of kit to use in conjunction with the Home Cooker - a Cutting Tower that slices up your vegetables and throws them straight into the pot for you. Again, I love the concept - but I need a bit more practice with this one because I couldn't manage to get all my veggies chopped properly.
Here are the first guests looking at the Home Cooker before I started using it - look at the lovely innocent-looking fruit bowl in the foreground.
Now look at what one of the cheeky blighters did with my apples and bananas ! Well, they did call this a "Fresh" Cooks party so getting fresh was par for the course I suppose. Or maybe they misread the word "Cooks" on the poster !
Yes, she really has dressed the dog up in an apron and is showing it the Home Cooker !
Look what happens when you walk out of the room for a few minutes to grab some nibbles !
I'd had a look through the Jamie Oliver recipe book and decided to try out the Hungarian Beef Goulash, padding it out with extra root vegetables (parsnips and carrots) so that I could try out the Cutting Tower. Apart from adding these extra ingredients, I followed the recipe to the letter (for once !) and was mortified to see that it started burning. The problem with the Home Cooker doing everything for you and freeing you from the kitchen is that you're not there to rectify the situation when things start going wrong !
After a few minutes of mad panicking, I managed to salvage most of the meal though and everyone said it tasted lovely - which I have to agree it did, but it would have been burnt to a crisp if I hadn't headed into the kitchen to top up the drinks just at the right moment ! I felt a bit silly actually but having looked around at other people's feedback, lots of people have said the same thing. The Home Cooker looks to be a brilliant piece of kit but the recipe book needs a bit of a rehaul - the temperatures are too high and the cooking times too long. I would have preferred to have received the party pack a week or two in advance actually to try out a few of the recipes and get a feel for the equipment before hosting a dinner party !
Since then, I've made a risotto and again had to adjust the cooking time and temperature. I'd be interested to hear if you hosted a party or have bought a Home Cooker and have had the same problem. Any advice ? And have any of you tried out the Classic Pan Cooked Breakfast yet ? It sounds delicious !
Using the Home Cooker reminds me of when I first started using a Slow Cooker. The first few times, there's a lot of trial and error and it's all a bit hit and miss as you adjust your tried and tested recipes to suit the new appliance but in the end, it all becomes second nature. I think the Home Cooker is a really versatile piece of equipment - as well as cooking up one pot meals, you can use it to steam fish, sautee meat, make soup or cook rice, and I'm sure I'll find more uses for it over time. It's not cheap, costing about £250, but it does act as an all-in-one kitchen appliance, successfully replacing a slow cooker, Actifry (not for chips but for the other things I use the Actifry for), soup maker, steamer and various pots and pans. I have to admit, I didn't think the Cutting Tower seemed so well made - it seemed less sturdy, was rather juddery when in use and didn't manage to chop up all of the ingredients (it does carrots and parsnips really well but seems to have more of a job with squishier things like onions and celery). I also think the hassle washing up the tower after use means that you don't really save time anyway, compared to chopping by hand.
I'll be experimenting more over the coming weeks though, so let me know if you've had a go and have any suggestions or recipe ideas ! :)
star rating : 4.5/5 for the Home Cooker, 3/5 for the Cutting Tower
RRP : £250 for the Home Cooker, £100 for the Cutting Tower
for more information : http://www.philips.co.uk/e/homecooker/home.html
Disclosure : I received a Come Round party pack including a Home Cooker, Cutting Tower and lots of other bits and bobs for getting the party started !
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