Mincers, crushers and squeezers
The cast-iron kind, with a clamp base, is not really an expensive piece of equipment and is virtually indestructible. Mincers come with three different blades for different grades of coarseness and are invaluable for dealing with leftover meat, making hamburgers and a dozen other recipes, including chutneys. I emphasise the clamp base because suction bases never seem strong enough – but make sure you have a suitable table edge to clamp it to.
This is another way to crush garlic, in addition to using the blade of a knife or a pestle and mortar. You simply place the peeled clove(s) of garlic inside and squeeze the handles together hard, so the garlic is crushed and forced through the holes. My favourite is one that swings back round to push through any bits of garlic left inside, so they can be easily scraped off. Try to buy one that is dishwasher proof.
Pestle and mortars
A mortar is a heavy porcelain bowl and a pestle is a rounded porcelain tool that crushes or pounds the substances in the bowl – use it for crushing whole spices or for pounding garlic to a cream with sea salt to make a vinaigrette dressing. It's a time-honoured item that will serve you for a lifetime. I would not be without mine, and suggest the larger and sturdier kind you can buy, the better. I also use it to crush the ingredients needed for making most salad dressings.
There are plenty of pepper mills around that don't work too well, so it is worth investing in a good wooden one. The taller it is, the less often you will have to refill it with peppercorns. I have frequently enlarged on the virtues of freshly ground pepper, so let me only say here that it has 100 per cent more fragrance and flavour than the ready-ground stuff.
In this case, the simpler the design the better. A strong plastic or a tough glass squeezer will do well. Some of the plastic ones have a screw-on cup underneath to catch the juice and separate off the pips – which makes the process easier. I also think a wooden lemon squeezer, inserted into a half lemon and twisted, is a wonderfully easy way to extract the juice.
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