Sunday, 12 October 2014

Thermomix TM5 - An Overview, and Free Cookery Demonstrations in England and the UK

Have you seen this machine and its predecessor, subtly gracing the kitchens of Masterchef and Saturday Kitchen and wondered what exactly it is and what it does?

Maybe you've just started to notice it being featured in the National Press here and there, since the release of the lastest model recently, the TM5 - perhaps a review, or an article? Or maybe you've even heard of them being used in professional kitchens, in Michelin-starred restaurants?

Maybe if you're a regular visitor to my blog, you've wondered why some of my recipes say "includes Thermomix method" in the title, with some short instructions for people with these futuristic machines below the 'normal' method?


Attention: If you click on play, be prepared for quite a futuristic Star Wars kind of experience, with Very. Dramatic. Music. It might even bring a lump to your throat, or make you feel sudden and unexpected powerful emotions. I can't be held responsible for this - I'm just trying to show you what it officially looks like. It's a bit intense and there's a hint of thematic elements and mild terror...

Well, this is why I include Thermomix instructions, and this is why I have one (well, two now, as it happens!). It's my little kitchen not-so-secret secret. (If you've already got a Thermomix TM31, and you therefore already know how amazing they are and what they can do - feel free to scroll past my eulogising in the next paragraph or three to the bits about The 'New Thermomix TM5' below - you'll see the photo!). 

Read on if you'd like to see some of the ways we use it in our family day-to-day, and how to book a free cookery demonstration from me (Andrea), or the lovely Mike, my partner - depending on your location and availability; or scroll down to the next section for an overview of the functions, and a link to official videos of the Thermomix T5 in action.

Bribery and Corruption at its best
If you'd like to book a free cookery demonstration, you can invite a few friends along who are interested in cooking and make it a nice, informal social occasion, and you will be left with some lovely food to share with each other when the demonstration is finished, and there is absolutely no obligation to buy anything at all. A typical demonstration should last two hours, after which time I will leave you to enjoy what I have cooked!

If you would like to know more or book a demonstration in the UK with myself or my partner Mike, please use the CONTACT FORM which you can see just to the right of here, on the side of the page, to get in touch with me, and I will get back to you within 24 hours. Current availability for demonstrations from either of us is from the 24th October and I will mostly be demonstrating within the East Midlands, whereas Mike is able to cover a greater area of the UK.

You may notice from my blog that I cook all kinds of foods from all corners of the world, mostly with a healthy slant, as well as using all sorts of different techniques and cooking foods which are friendly to various different dietary requirements, and take into consideration all kinds of food allergies and intolerances, tagging my recipes with labels such as gluten free and dairy free where appropriate, and recommending appropriate brands and substitutions safe to use. (If you hold a demonstration at your house, you have the opportunity to choose Jo Whitton's new cookbook 'Quirky Cooking' which is a fabulous resource of allergy-friendly, wholefood recipes, as a gift if you invite three or more guests from different addresses. It is not yet available to buy in the UK, but you can have a sneaky peak of it, with a link to the index here, as well as seeing some of her recipes on her Quirky Cooking blog here).

I am very happy to discuss tailoring your free cookery demonstration to show you what a useful tool this is in the area of special dietary needs, or to discuss cooking the kinds of foods you would be interested in cooking with your own Thermomix, as well as showcasing all the different things the Thermomix can do for you. There may even be a recipe on my blog that you have seen and would like me to cook for you - or something you would like me to create you a bespoke Thermomix recipe for (especially if you have specific allergies or food intolerances), and if I can practically fit it into your demonstration then I promise you I will do - just ask! I am incredibly passionate about cooking only the most delicious food and making it healthy too (with the odd treat, of course!), and have over two decades of experience cooking foods from all around the world, as well as having written many recipes enjoyed by many people from around the world, and I love sharing my passion for food and my cooking with others!

The beauty of the Thermomix is its flexibility - if you want it to cook really quick and easy, healthy meals for your family - it can do. If you want to save a considerable amount of money on buying groceries by utilising the Thermomix to make your own, meanwhile avoiding all kinds of chemical nasties and artificial ingredients (think making your own butter, yoghurt, jams, condiments, pasta sauces, spice blends, breads, pasta, smoothies, gifts, cleaning products, chemical-free beauty products, pet food... as just one little example, I save around £3.80 every couple of days when I whip up a litre of my no-fail thick and creamy yoghurt in the Thermomix, which I choose to make from the most expensive gold top milk from Jersey and Guernsey cows, instead of buying the standard popular brand Greek yoghurt! You could save even more by using ordinary full fat milk) - and you can do that too!

If you're a bit of a foodie
, and you want a tool which graces some of the best restaurant kitchens in the land (rumour has it Heston Blumenthal has nine TM31s in the kitchen at his Fat Duck Michelin-starred restaurant), as well as Masterchef and Saturday Kitchen, to experiment with and be able to make the kind of food of a quality which other kitchen appliances just can't touch - you've got it all right here. And on top of that - you can get rid of the majority of other appliances cluttering up your kitchen and reclaim the space - because you just won't need them any more - you can even sell them on to pay towards your Thermomix! No wonder it is so popular in other countries - and we're just starting to catch on in the UK!

What my Thermomix does for me
Layered cooking - salmon with
steamed green vegetables and rice in
a Japanese soy and lime dressing
If you've only just heard of Thermomix and you're wondering how exactly you would use one if you had one, or you're concerned that it will be another one of those gadgets that gets used for a week and then resigned to a cupboard gathering dust - then I can assure you, it's not! Once you've got one, you will find you use it more and more as you get used to its functions - people I know who have one can use it up to 4 or 5 times a day or even more, from breakfast to supper time! And there is a fantastic community out there sharing recipes and tips and offering support to Thermomix owners - seeing what someone else has made in theirs is hugely inspirational! (If you're in the UK and you use Facebook, there's a lovely group run by Maria of Feisty Tapas, called Thermomix Owners UK, which you can find here. I will recommend recipe resources at the end of this post). For me, cooking with a Thermomix is how I get consistent results with things where you might get not-so-consistent results if you did them them by hand - like if something just gets a few degrees too hot, and you end up with disastrous split sauces, or runny yoghurts and scrambled eggs instead of custard or hollandaise, or taking your eye off something and then finding it's welded itself to the bottom of the pan. Even my 12 year old son made a perfect hollandaise sauce first time off using the TM5 guided cooking function! (However, do make sure children are supervised if using it, of course, despite the safety features).

All-in-one cooking - harissa chicken
with steamed green beans and spicy
tomato and puy lentil stew. All at once!
It's how I can whizz up an amazingly light and fluffy sorbet in a minute or two, or turn frozen bananas into a healthy ice-cream substitute with the powerful blades, grind coffee beans and spices, mill grains into my own flour mixes, or simply sit with the family while a risotto is stirring itself, or a three layer meal (above) or all-in-one meal (left) is cooking without worrying about it. It will tell me when it's ready! (Incidentally, there are links to my recipes for all the photos here, which you can open in another page if you click on the highlighted words, and see for yourself how it cooks them and have a go yourself - the great thing is the consistency of the results means that I know if you follow the timings, temperatures and speeds, you will get exactly the same result each time you cook something.)

Light and fluffy lemon and coconut
"magic bean cake" made in the TM:
Gluten, grain, dairy and nut free.
It's also how I discovered that actually, I *can* bake cakes and make pastry - even puff pastry in minutes! I always thought I was a rubbish baker, my cakes were very hit and miss, and would generally turn out, well... lets say they were a bit on the dense side! I just assumed that despite being a good cook, I just didn't have the 'knack' for baking and as I very rarely baked cakes anyway (maybe two or three times a year?) it didn't bother me overly anyway. But now I put it down to using a rubbish electric hand mixer, as my cakes come out beautifully light and airy when I make them in the Thermomix! It's also how I discovered a fantastic community where I found
Chocolate pecan fudge and cocoa
dusted truffles - no added sugar!
people that I have learnt all kinds of new things from about healthy cooking. I can now make the most amazing cakes from tins of beans (seriously!) and deliciously moreish 'raw' chocolate pecan fudge and cocoa dusted truffles from dates and cashews blended together with cacao/cocoa powder. I even took a batch into work and everyone loved them!

Asparagus, broccoli and dolcelatte
soup - these days there's no waste!
I can whip up a batch of soft, light and moist spelt bread rolls from raw ingredients to proved and baked in under an hour - kneaded in a couple of minutes, and then the Thermomix will give itself a quick wash (seriously!) and I can thow in some ingredients for a delicious soup to be ready to go with the warm rolls (maybe even with some home-made butter just melting over the top of a freshly torn roll). Sorry, I may be getting a little carried away now... but that's not even the tip of the iceberg - there will be things I haven't even mentioned because I take them for granted, and things it will do for you, that you will find out along your journey!

The New Thermomix TM5

If you'd like to see it actually doing things, rather than just looking sexy and menacing and the blades spinning around to atmospheric music, then Thermomix UK have compiled a little treasury of quick videos here, the majority of which are under 1 minute long - so you can cherry pick and have a nosey at the different features that capture your imagination - it's impressive stuff! In addition to all of the amazing functions which were present in the previous version (TM31) the new TM5 has a bigger bowl and larger Varoma capacity and a recipe chip, with a colour touchscreen to make selecting functions and following recipes even easier - and also highly accessible for those used to using them in today's technological world, which makes it particularly accessible for young people and children to get them interested (and indeed very enthusiastic!) about cooking.

Thermomix has been a household name in many countries for almost 50 years, evolving over time. The main functions of the TM5 (with notes to highlight changes from the TM31) are as follows (and I've included this fantastic info-graphic on the left from Helene at Super Kitchen Machine - which I would highly recommend visiting as a Thermomix user, or use-to-be as it is a great resource)
  • Weighing - like its predecessor the TM31, the TM5 has a weighing function - however, you can now weigh as you go (during cooking/mixing up to speed 4) and continue with the recipe without the Thermomix forgetting its settings. You can place bowls and containers on top of the Thermomix and tare the scales to zero, to use as you would a normal pair of scales. The TM5 weighs in 5g increments all the way up to 3KG.
  • Timer - you can set a timer with a simple turn of the dial each time you programme a function - whether chopping, kneading, cooking etc. and an alarm will sound to alert you when the timed function has finished.
  • Chopping - depending on what you wish to chop, you can chop food either by dropping through the hole in the lid onto the running blades (e.g. you can drop garlic, ginger, fresh herbs etc. onto running blades at speed 7-8, to chop up finely in seconds), or by placing the food into the bowl, then chopping at speed 4-6 for a larger/coarser result for literally a few seconds for e.g chopped onions, coleslaw, salads etc.
  • Mixing and emulsifying - ensure lump-free batters and sauces, and perfectly emulsified dressings and mayonnaise etc. by using the Thermomix to mix them for you.
  • The newly designed butterfly whisk
  • Whipping with the butterfly whisk - simply insert the newly designed butterfly whisk (a lot of research went into this!) on top of the blades, and set the speed from 2-4 to perfectly whip up egg whites, cream, sabayons etc.
  • Blending - this and the milling/grinding is where the powerful motor and German engineering really sets the Thermomix apart from other processors in the market. Using speeds 6-10 you can acheive anything from a chunky consistency for soups, or a silky smooth texture for smoothies, and sauces such as veloutés and béchamels (no need to stand and stir, just add the ingredients and cook and blend), melt-in-the mouth pâtés and parfaits etc. and on top of this, you can throw in sugar, frozen fruit and ice cubes, and an optional egg white and whip up amazing sorbets in seconds, and do the same with ice-cream mixes frozen in cubes, for instant, creamy frozen desserts!
  • Milling and grinding - one of the Thermomixes specialities, using speeds 9-10 you can quite literally pulverise grains and dried pulses (e.g. lentils, chickpeas) into fine flours in a minute or two; grind granulated sugar into caster sugar, or icing sugar; finely grind coffee beans and whole spices in seconds, and grind nuts and seeds into a finely ground state, or smooth nut butters.
  • Kneading - the Thermomix has been programmed to imitate the kneading technique of a professional baker in short, powerful bursts, meaning you can add the ingredients and knead dough to a perfect consistency in just a minute or two, depending on the type of bread you're making.
  • Heating - whilst cooking / stirring, you can easily select exactly what temperature to heat at (with the dial), starting from 37C, then increasing in 5C increments (previously it was in 10C increments in the TM31) from 40C to 95C, with a 98C setting for simming, then from 100C to 120C (again in 5C increments, useful for fudge, jam and syrups) to sautee food and/or steam food in the Varoma dish on top of the Thermomix.This enables delicate preparations such as hollandaise and custards to be cooked perfectly, and more scope for things like sous vide cooking in small quantities (cooking under vacuum at controlled temperatures).
  • Cooking and stirring - the mixing bowl acts as your saucepan, stirring your food as it heats it. You select the appropriate temperature and speed of the stirring blades (which can stir in reverse to avoid further chopping of food) depending on what you're cooking - e.g. sauteeing onions at a high temperature, emulsifying hollandaise sauce at a gentler temperature, or stirring a risotto as the rice cooks to save you the job. The TM5 mixing bowl has a capacity of 2.2litres (200ml larger than the TM31).
  • Steaming - the Thermomix has a removable 'Varoma' dish (think large steaming basket with a 3.3 litre capacity), with a removable tray inside, so you can steam on two levels about the Thermomix bowl, as well as an internal steaming/simmering basket which sits within the bowl, above the blades. This means you can steam a variety of things on top of the bowl, with the option of steaming or cooking food within the bowl at the same time, effectively giving you three 'layers' of cooking ability simultaneously. This means you can cook a complete meal for the family all-in-one (I would say enough for up to around 6 people at one sitting, depending on appetites), or even cook two or more things at the same time (e.g. a soup in the bowl, while steaming a whole 2kg chicken and vegetables, or some set puddings or buns etc. in the Varoma). The TM5 has an extra 500ml capacity in the Varoma compared with the TM31. [Tip: both the internal basket and the Varoma can also be used as sieves / colanders, or lined with muslin cloth or similar to strain and drain, making even more space in your kitchen cupboards!]
  • Spatula - the specially designed spatula also acts as a handle to remove the internal simmering basket, as well as being designed to be used through the hole in the lid to assist with mixing and chopping at exactly the right height to avoid the blades.
  • Measuring cup - this fits in the hole on top of the lid, to close it, with a special rim on it to prevent / reduce splashing, and measures 100ml liquid. It also allows you to slowly add oil etc. for emulsifying sauces, by way of the cup / lid design.
  • Locking mechanism - as a safety feature, the Thermomix can only be started when the lid is placed correctly on the bowl, and the locking mechanism has closed around it. The new locking mechanism on the TM5 means that for those with limited / reduced strength and / or function in their hands or arms, putting on the lid of the TM5 safely can be achieved by just placing the lid in the correct position on top of the bowl, and pressing or turning the dial to commence a function. The TM5 can also be put into travel mode, safely ensuring that the bowl and lid are locked into place for transportation.
  • Cleaning - not only can the Thermomix clean itself, by way of adding hot water with a few drops of washing up liquid, and mixing on speed 5 (touching reverse a couple of times), all working parts (bar the recipe chip and the appliance base, of course) are dishwasher safe.
  • The touch screen display and dial - the new TM5 has only one dial to turn (and press), and a touch screen which is easy to navigate. Time, temperature and speed are displayed on the screen (along with a quick access bar), and controlled by the dial. Settings can be adjusted by turning the dial.
  • The recipe chip and Basic Cook Book - the TM5 comes with a 'Basic Cook Book' to refer to, and a recipe chip which contains all of the recipes in the cookbook with a 'guided cooking' function on them, plus three 'automated' recipes on it, for making yoghurt, custard and rice. The recipes from the cookbook can be viewed on the TM5 screen by selecting them from the menu. They read in the same way as in the cookbook, and you can choose to use the guided cooking function. In this the screen guides you through each step, prompting you to add the specified ingredient and weighing it for you each time (you need to make sure you tare the scales back to zero where necessary). The time and temperature are pre-set for each stage, all you need to do is follow the instructions and press next, or turn the dial to the correct speed for each stage. There are a couple of errors in the first edition of the UK Basic Cook Book which I have been told will be addressed in a re-print. I do not know of an online resource for the UK Basic Cook Book to advise of the corrections, but I will update if one becomes available - all I know so far is that in the Hollandaise sauce recipe (Page 250) stage 3 of the Preparation says to mix on 72C, which should be 70C (this won't make a difference using guided cooking), and that the Focaccia with onions recipe (page 222) calls for "400 onions, cut into halves", which I suspect might just be a typo... as yet myself and my family have only had the opportunity to try a very small selection of the recipes in the UK Basic Cook Book. I would say from what I have tried and read so far, that this book contains many useful tips on how to use a Thermomix, and would be a good springboard to help you gain confidence in using the Thermomix manually, by trying out cooking different kinds of foods and moving on to converting your own recipes in the Thermomix. Whether you like the recipes or not, will depend on what kinds of foods you like cooking and eating - they do seem to be mostly geared towards quite a plain, old-fashioned kind of 'English' cooking in the savoury department (or perhaps what Vorwerk imagines that might be?). And the crème caramels really didn't work for us, they turned out very over-cooked amongst other things, so I can't recommend trying those. However, there are recipes in there which we haven't tried, that I hope become trusted favourites, more recipe books will be put onto recipe chips as time goes on, and in 2015 they are launching the recipe platform, which will be another resource to add to your recipe chip collection. And of course, there are other cookbooks to purchase for the Thermomix, depending on your tastes, and all TM31 recipes are suitable for cooking in the TM5, according to Vorwerk, but not vice versa - however, when cooking a TM31 recipe in the TM5, you do need to add an extra 200ml liquid if cooking rice or similar in the simmering basket, according to their website.

    And even better than that, there are some fantastic online resources, where you can find recipes for free!

    You can find some fantastic Thermomix recipes from established bloggers from around the world (including me and my favourites!), which have been uniquely categorised and labelled with dietary information here on Facebook. Have a look on the longer description on the 'about' page for the contributing bloggers, including some of my favourite blogs. This was founded by myself and a group of mainly UK bloggers to provide a user-friendly database of quality recipes for Thermomix users, and more bloggers and their recipes are being added as you read this!

    A very popular blog amongst the Thermomix community is Jo Whitton's 'Quirky Cooking', as mentioned above, with lots of imaginative allergy-friendly, wholefood recipes, which you can find here.

    There are many high quality, inspiring recipes found on 'The British Larder', and the Thermomix recipes can be found here.

    Thermomix is very popular in Australia, and there is a large database of Thermomix recipes from the official Australian recipe community and forum here. Many of them are added by everyday Thermomix users, as well as some from bloggers, and there is a 'rating' system and comments below recipes which is useful when selecting recipes you might like to cook.

    A collection of recipes from contributors around the UK and Ireland (including some high-level professional chefs) can be found here, which if they don't include the author's name in the title, are from Janie Turner, who has written four Thermomix recipe books, and is one of the UK directors of Thermomix.

    I hope that you have found this overview useful. 
    I love my Thermomixes and feel that they could play an incredibly useful part of most people's lives, and greatly improve the food that you and your family eat - both from a health and a quality perspective, as well as having many other uses. If there are any further questions you would like to ask that I might be able to answer, please comment below, or if you are interested in a free cookery demonstration please contact me using the contact form on the right (you will need to scroll back up again to see it), and I will do my best to answer them. Otherwise, contact the Head Office of the country you live in. Contact details for Thermomix UK can be found here.

    The views and opinions expressed in this are all my own, based on my own experiences, and the information regarding the functions of the Thermomix TM5 are based on the information provided by Vorwerk. (c) Andrea Lee 2014.

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