Ian Pengelley, Executive Chef at Gilgamesh in Camden, London, gives us the lowdown on his epic search for kitchen equipment
Ian Pengelley was not exactly the envy of chefs everywhere when he took on the kitchen at Camden's mighty 365-capacity Gilgamesh last year. But he soon got a handle on the volume and is already involved in plans for another whopping restaurant next door as well as his own pan-Asian project in central London.
"I'm redesigning the kitchen this year. There's total gridlock at the passe when we have 500 in. We need three passes, for dim sum, tempura and woks," he explains. "This place is such a beast, you need the right stuff."
DIM SUM STEAMER I had this dim sum boiler handmade for me by a Chinese man. It is the Porsche of dim sum steamers. You can steam any size of container on it, from small baskets to big kettles.
They're what I used when I was working in Hong Kong but you can't get them over here so it's a real luxury for me. Jason, our Dim Sum Chef, keeps them stacked five or six high, all cooking at different rates. We customise tongs to give them a claw-like grab for handling the baskets because of the heat.
JAPANESE VEGETABLE CUTTER From the moment I first saw one of these in Hong Kong about seven years ago, I knew I had to have one. I call them Japanese vegetable cutters, but they probably have some fancy name. The Daikon Katsuramuki Peeler is an awesome bit of kit.
This one cost me about £350 a few years ago, but they're cheaper now.
It looks a little like a pasta machine; you just skewer through the middle of any vegetable, such as potatoes, turnips, carrots or daikon, then turn the handle to give you fine sheets or nets of vegetables.
You can then use the sheets to make parcels, either serving them raw or steaming them. Or you can wrap lamb in thin slices of potato before cooking. I use it for Daikon 'Salad with Ginger Dressing. It leaves a central cylinder you can use in soups or grate for garnish.
I always put someone in charge of my cutter, ever since an old chef broke mine. He knew I'd lose my rag so he replaced the broken rod with an umbrella handle. It was ages before I noticed.
Daikon Katsuramuki Peeler, Harro Food, £67 ex-VAT, 020 8543 3343 harro.co.uk PESTLE AND MORTAR I really believe that not just every professional kitchen but every household in the country would benefit from a good pestle and mortar. Ours are the real deal from Thai shops; taller and perfect for bashing papaya for som tam and stopping the juice spilling. Many people use blenders instead but it's better to use a pestle. It takes longer but it's worth it as you can see what you're doing and get the flavour as you go. You have less control with a blender.
We use them every day for making salad dressings, pulverising a base paste of coriander root, white pepper, ginger and garlic. Even in European cooking, they're invaluable for bashing rosemary and thyme with sea salt to bring out the flavours.
DUALIT COFFEE GRINDER In terms of day-to-day usage, Ian Pengelley was not exactly the envy of chefs this is one of the most important things in the Gilgamesh kitchen.
We grind all our spice mixes – red curry, massaman, chilli salts, for example – from whole.
They need to handle heavy-duty use. I soak the spices for about 10 minutes beforehand so you can roast them longer without them burning. This one is good because you can adjust the speed and the size of the ground. We go through about 10 or 15 a year!
Coffee Grinder, Dualit, £59.95, 01293 652500 dualit.com JAPANESE KNIVES I've been using knives from the Mac handmade series [not available in the UK] for about three years. I use them for everything apart from peeling.
I started using them when I saw Jay Patel from the Japanese Knife Company doing a demo.
He's spent time at the place where they make them and knows how much care is taken making the blade. The Japanese really take time over blades – just like in Kill Bill. They stay sharper longer and are very strong, thin and flexible.
Handmade knives from £90 (not inc tax and VAT), available to order from The Japanese Knife Company, 0870 240 2248 japaneseknifecompany.com