A taste of Italy...
10th April 2021
In August last year I got an email from Hannah Hawkins who works for an outfit I’d not come across before, called RKW (which apparently stands for Retail Knows Why)….hmmm! Well not to be put off by this rather odd name, and to show you how open minded I am, I continued reading and discovered that RKW were the sole importer of Smeg small appliances. Now, I live a rather sheltered life and was only very dimly aware of their existence, in fact I think it’s true to say that until that point, I’d always thought of Smeg as an American Fridge manufacturer. As you may already be aware, they are neither American nor do they just produce fridges. They were founded in 1948 in Northern Italy by an Italian named Vittorio Bertazzoni, and to finish my education, and possibly yours, Smeg stands for Smalterie Metallurgiche Emiliane Guastalla. Indisputably unpronounceable and very Italian, (though my learned wife now tells me that it makes sense to her. The first two words mean Metal Foundry, and then Emiliana stands for “from the Emilia province” and Guastalla is the name of the town!). Funnily enough I had to do a quite bit of searching on their website to find their iconic “American” fridges!
Anyway, it’s not Smeg fridges I’ve come to talk to you about, but their Small Appliances, because they do an array of mouth-wateringly colourful electrical machines of one kind or another, which like any child in a toy shop, I just couldn’t resist. But before I get carried away, not all is rosy in the garden because, like Kitchenaid, Smeg currently have a number of supply problems, Covid induced, which you can see on our website Out of Stock situation. So, this morning I’ll just start with the products that we actually have in stock now. Namely the 2 slice toaster, the Blender, the Espresso Machine, and the Standard Kettle. And in fact I’m not going to say a lot more than this because, although Hannah managed to get us some loan machines to try out, they haven’t yet arrived. So, somewhat uncharacteristically for me, I’m asking you to take my word for the fact that they not only look beguiling (which they do, to my taste…takes me back to my comments a few weeks ago about taste and Le Creuset’s awful water bottles that we’ve sold in droves) but that they also work well. Which, for the next few days until I get my hands on them, I’m just trusting they do!
Having said that, I watched their toaster video recently and couldn’t let this one pass me by. So here we have a lovely looking toaster with a stainless body sprayed one of six different colours. It can toast bread or Bagels, defrost bread or bagels (why do we have to call rolls, bagels these days…!), or just warm, all the while looking lovely (my taste), looking neat, no coils of cable all over the place, courtesy of the cable tidy, crumbs neatly disposed of. It also has a longer than average guarantee, and if you have a hangover you don’t even have to turn on the lights to use it, my sort of product! All for £139, although as we are price matching, it may be less when you read this!
Smeg 2 Slice Toaster Pastel Blue
Our Price £128.50
Although I suspect that the real reason for buying one of these will be for it's looks and colour, here is the exhaustive list of the features you get with this toaster. It goes without saying that there’s a matching coloured kettle that comes either with or without temperature control, although I think the temperature control ones are the most expensive kettles we’ve ever sold at £169! (and currently not in stock!)
1. Toasting function…6 different settings
2. Defrost function, allows frozen bread to be toasted as well as allowing extra time on any of the standard settings. Good for proper home-made bread which has substance
3.Reheat function allows you to reheat an already toasted slice
4. Wide slots which allow you to do filled sandwiches
5. Slots are self-centring for thinner slices
6. Bagel function operates one side only (for Bagels, Baguette and Ciabatta,…)
7. Automatically pops up when finished
8. Cable Tidy built into the bottom/ underside.
9. Removable crumb tray
10. Illuminated controls, so you can toast in the dark…
11. 2 year Warranty
Browse All Smeg Kettles
Browse All Smeg Espresso Machines
Browse All Smeg Blenders
Browse All Smeg Toasters
Reigate and Cobham Reopen Mon – Sat 10am – 4.00pm
I shall report back more on the rest of the range as we try them out in the next few weeks. In the meanwhile, we will be re-opening the doors of Reigate and Cobham this Monday (12th April) hooray and so you will be able to see these lovely machines first-hand if you’re a local. Plus, the Espresso Machine will also be on demo, so you’re very welcome to come in and try one out, either yourself or we’ll do it for you. Caveat, we’ve not yet had training on these, so it may be the blind leading the blind.
May I apologise to you if you are a Banstead customer. We don’t have enough people to open this shop as well, although our aim shortly is to at least open on Saturdays. I’ll keep you posted.
In the meantime, I want to come back to Magimix and their food processors. Magimix and Art of Living go back a long, long way, Magimix to 1962 and Art of living to 1972, and pretty well right from the start we’ve had stock of these amazing food processors. In the 70’s Magimix was distributed by a company called ICTC, sadly no longer in business, with whom we had a long and happy relationship. They were then based in Isleworth (if memory serves) and they imported mid to high end cookware, amongst which was the Magimix brand and we’ve been stocking them ever since. You might wonder why. Well, a number of reasons. Firstly, we were already a customer of ICTC so that made it easier to order. And in 1972 there wasn’t really the same choice of food processors that we have now. But Magimix, even then, were considered the Rolls Royce of the food processing world. I suspect one of the reasons is that they adopted a process of continuous improvement early on, regularly changing the designs, not for the sake of it, not for fashion, but always to give some improvement to the way it worked, sometimes quite small, incremental improvements, but improvements they always were. I believe it’s this approach, that has kept them ahead of the competition. And you know, another reason for their longevity is that in this process they never forgot the older models, so you can still buy spares for machines that are no longer in production, which is really unusual but shows a real appreciation of the customers who invested in their machines throughout the years. Good business practice and attitude!
Today they are still considered the market leader, and the reason for mentioning them now, is that they have a rather good offer on. When buying either the 4200XL or the 5200XL Food processor, you can claim a free Emile Henry Bread cloche which retails of £125. Or if you are after a Blender, then the Magimix ‘Le Blender’ (another very good, if rather understated product) comes with (by redemption) a free Mill attachment retailing at £45. Incidentally, I mentioned earlier, when talking about the Smeg blender that it had a longer than usual guarantee, namely 2 years instead of the more usual 1 year for electricals. Well, dear old Magimix really put their money where their mouth is … they, not long ago, extended their motor guarantee from twenty years to thirty years. To be clear, that applies to the motor only and it’s three years for everything else, but that is a pretty incredible belief in their engineering quality! The bowls incidentally, which are the part that you will find is most likely to get damaged, are made of Triton, a plastic so strong that you may stand on one and it won’t break.
So, in summary, Magimix are a company who are in there for the long haul. Their food processors are the result of decades of continuous improvement and as a result are of the very highest quality and refinement in operation.
I’m going to hand over to Babette now to give you her take on the bread cloche…
“Bread making is developing fast, and when cooking some dough which has been slowly maturing, it may develop a hard skin which may stop the bread to rise in the oven. This is why we slash the dough just before putting it in the oven. But what really helps the whole rising process is to bake the dough in an enclosed contraption, in order to keep the moisture in for longer, whether sourdoughs or yeasted doughs, one will still benefit from it, it will help the bread rise more.
I usually use my trusted Le Creuset casserole to do this, but a Le Creuset casserole is expensive. So, if you do not have one, then this Bread Cloche is the next best thing. Made of Earthenware, like a pizza stone, it will store heat very well, and keep the dough enclosed. The easiest way to use it is cold but for best results pre-heat the bread cloche and base beforehand.
If using cold, sprinkle some flour on the base and place your dough on it. Slash your dough, put the dome on, and put the whole thing in a preheated oven, I would normally do 240c for the 1st 30 minutes, then reduce the heat to 220, and bake another 10 to 30 minutes according to how large the loaf is, and how dark I want the crust. This is NOT a bread making recipe guys, I am assuming that you already know how to bake, or that you have a recipe to follow. You can email me separately if you need general baking advice.
If using hot. Have some good oven gloves. Preheat the bread cloche for half an hour. The advantage of the cloche over a LC casserole is that the base is flat, so it is easier to handle the dough. Sprinkle flour on the base, but what is usually difficult is how to place the dough on it as you can’t touch the base because it is so hot. I have found a tip which works every time for me. I cut a piece of parchment paper which is a round shape but with ears (see photo) so I then can take my time to carefully tip my dough on it, and then I can lift it all by using the ears, and place it on the hot base, then slash, then cover it all (the paper does go in) with the dome, then in the oven. The baking time is reduced but the pre-heat really gives a lot more oven spring.Happy bread making”
I hope you have a good and peaceful weekend.