Liz and David opened the first Steamer Trading Cookshop in 1985 in a small village called Alfriston, in East Sussex. Today, there are nearly 40 shops and the family run business is run by their son, Ben. After a lifetime spent surrounded by every kind of kitchen tool and pan imaginable - what are the pieces that they rely on everyday in their kitchen?
“We retired a few years ago” they say, “we simply jumped over the counter and became enthusiastic customers. Hardly a day goes by without our visiting one or other of our shops, and we’re almost certain to be tempted by something. We admire all the Steamer Trading shops – the sheer chutzpah of the Guildford’s modern frontage in the market town’s traditional High Street, Heathfield’s Victorian railway station brought up to date as a Cookshop, and the innumerable handsome buildings in quintessential English towns that have been granted a new lease of life as Steamer Trading shops. But our favourite, we confess, will always be our very first shop – Alfriston. That’s our baby!” says Liz.
Here’s the list of kitchen items that Liz and David couldn’t be without.
The Pressure Cooker
The pressure cooker was originally devised in 1679 by Denis Papin. There’s a statue of him in Lewes’s twin town in the Loire valley, Blois. We could no more think of conjuring up stock, soups, oxtail stew or even boiling the humble beetroot without the essential time-saving Kuhn-Rikon Duromatic.
The Perfect Frying Pan
When we got married, Elizabeth David had just opened her ground-breaking shop in Pimlico. She insisted on giving us a French black-iron pan which we still religiously reserve for omelettes. But while the legendary Elizabeth felt that the preparation, seasoning and wiping of this most traditional of materials made the pan an essential wedding present, things have moved on since then. Apart from omelettes, for which we reserve this hallowed pan, we prefer to use the new Le Creuset Toughened Non-Stick frypan for our everyday fry-ups!
Apart from a good set of knives (we are very lucky to be often asked to test-drive new products before they are introduced into the shops); our favourites are the scimitar-shaped knives with their razor-sharp blades by iconic designer Robert Welch.
One tool that neither of us could live without is the Swiss U-shaped potato peeler. When we first opened the Alfriston shop, a local customer - a Swiss lady, by chance - introduced us to it. It has been one of our biggest selling items too. Thank you, Ursula!
The Magimix Food Processor was amongst the first items we stocked 25 years ago. So indestructible were they, we were always impressed that, even if you had bought the original Magimix in 1974, spares are still available. We almost feel that in order to justify buying a new model Magimix, you have to shoot your old one first.
Long gone are the days when grating cheese on jagged galvanised steel ended up with blood on the floor – and on the pasta. Somebody should erect a shrine to the inventor of the Microplane. So effective in grating anything, and an absolute dream to wash up
At the time when we started Steamer Trading, the only effective bowl spatula was the French rubber-bladed Maryse. It was supremely effective, the sleeve being adorned with the slogan C’est Maryse qui economise! Eventually, after much use, the blade perished and we had to stock spare rubber blades. Nowadays silicone has replaced the rubber to make the spatula -and many other items of the batterie de cuisine - even more effective, more long-lasting - and more colourful!