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Years ago I had a food processor, but rarely used it. I didn't have room for it on my work surface, and there was no easy way of storing all the various attachments, other than to pack them away neatly in the box. Then it always seemed such a hassle to take out again. Oh, it was good for grating cheese or chopping onions, but took so much time and effort to put together (and then clean up and put away again) that I generally didn't bother.
A few months ago, I reconsidered, after watching a friend who uses her food processor almost daily. After much thought - and being in the right place at the right time - I bought a Moulinex Ovatio 3 Duo food processor (model AAT7R4) second-hand for £25.
What a wonderful buy it has turned out to be!
OVERVIEW There's a large bowl, meaning up to 1.5kg of ingredients can be processed, with a well-fitting lid with a chute for adding extra items while processing. It has the standard food processing tools: graters, slicers, a mixer and two chopping blades (metal and plastic), plus a central removable spindle which holds them. It also has citrus juicing attachments and an egg-beater. Oh, and a plastic spatula.
It comes with a small instruction booklet with detailed diagrams which - to my surprise - made sense to me as I worked out what each part would do. There is also information given in nine languages about how to use the food processor. I found the English version sufficient to get it working, although it was quite brief. There were no recipes, which was slightly disappointing, but it's easy enough to find books of food processor recipes, or relevant web-sites.
One of my favourite features is the design which allows most of the tools to fit inside the main bowl, packed neatly on a storage rack which has a handle in the middle, making it very quick to take out and put away again. A few other tools live in a drawer nearby. I keep the food processor on my work surface, and like my friend I find I do use it nearly every day.
BLENDING As a 'duo' machine, it has a liquidiser (blender) which can be slotted in above the motor. My sons use this regularly to make fruity milk shakes, and are pleased with the large capacity (a litre and a half - enough for the whole family) and the speed with which it works. They find it safer than our previous blender, since the lid locks in place when the motor is on. There's a removable centre to the lid through which other ingredients can be added while it's running, but this hole is much too small for a hand to be poked inside.
Fine breadcrumbs can be made easily in a few seconds, and if I want to make hummus I can easily liquidise cooked chick-peas. In the winter it will ensure smooth and creamy home-made soups.
So we no longer need our old liquidiser.
JUICING There's a very effective juicer function. Not a full one; it's only intended for citrus fruits. Since we grow oranges and lemons, this is extremely useful, and it's a great deal more powerful than our previous citrus juicer. There's a plastic strainer which fits neatly in the processor bowl, and a
cone-shaped juicing tool which fits on top. The fruit must be halved, then pushed gently down on the juicing tool while the food processor is switched on until the juice is all extracted.
Up to a litre can be squeezed before the bowl needs to be emptied - much better than the 250ml that other old juicer held. It does allow some of the smaller chunky bits of orange through, which is excellent for me as I love 'bitty' orange juice; it also means that the strainer part doesn't get clogged before the bowl is full. One of my sons likes juice without any bits, but he simply pours his through a fine-mesh nylon sieve to get the consistency he wants.
So we no longer need our old juicer.
GRATING There's a large grater disc and a smaller one for finer grating. These sit at the top of the bowl on top of the main spindle attachment, and anything to be grated has to be fed through the chute in the processor lid, pushed down with the pusher attachment. I suppose it would be possible to have an accident with long fingers, but the chute is quite tall so I doubt if a child would be in any danger.
I have only used the grater for cheese, so far. I do hate grating cheese with an ordinary grater, so I love this part of the food processor. Of course it's a bit of an overkill to use it for just a small piece of cheese; there's always a little ungrated chunk left at the end which whizzes around but does not go through the grating attachment. So what I do now is to grate an entire half kilogram of cheese at the same time, and keep what I don't need in the fridge, in a plastic tub with a lid. I use grated cheese perhaps two or three times per week, so this definitely saves time.
However I can't get rid of my manual grater, because I still have to use it for finely grating lemon zest.
CHOPPING We love coleslaw in our family, but what a pain it is cutting up cabbage and then grating carrot. Messy, too. So I didn't make it very often until I had my Ovatio.
Now it takes about thirty seconds. I don't use the grater attachment for the carrots, I simply throw them in the food processor with the metal chopping blade first (peeled, of course) and then when they're reasonably well-chopped I add some cabbage, roughly cut into portions that fit. Ten seconds or so of processing and I have exactly what I need. Just a tablespoon or two of salad cream or mayonnaise, and a sprinkling of sultanas or sunflower seeds on top - and a perfect coleslaw.
As for onions - well, what a difference this makes! I love onions, and use them almost every day, but chopping them by hand always gives me streaming eyes. The chopping board constantly smelt of onions, too. Again it's a bit of an overkill to use the food processor for just one onion - I don't think I'd bother, since it does lead to more washing up than a simple knife and chopping board.
Instead I now buy a kilogram of onions at a time. I top, tail and peel them all, then put them all in the food processor. Twenty seconds or so of processing with the metal blade, and I have beautifully chopped onions for at least a week. I divide them into freezer bags with about 200g in each, and then store them in a plastic box in the freezer. Of course that all takes about ten minutes in all, by the time I've washed up the food processor afterwards. But it certainly saves time in the long run, not to mention my eyes! The following day I simply remove one bag of onions from the freezer and leave it to thaw before using for the evening. If I forget, I can thaw it for a couple of minutes in the microwave first.
KNEADING I love baking, but I don't like messy parts such as rubbing fat into flour for pastry or some cakes. I also find that the whole creaming-mixing-folding of most cakes is a bit long-winded and quite tiring, particularly in the summer. A food processor takes all the hard work out of this. Now I just throw the ingredients in my Ovatio Duo, process with the plastic blade for about thirty seconds, and then use as necessary. There's so much less mess, and overall I find it leads to less washing up, not more.
My biggest surprise was finding that I could use this to make bread. I don't think you can beat the smell of fresh bread, but I find ten minutes of hand-kneading such hard work. So before I had my Ovatio, I simply didn't bake bread very often. Oh, I tried an electric breadmaker. Again it was second-hand, and we did have some quite good results from it. But other times it produced half-risen heavy bread, and once or twice it gave us bricks that weren't edible at all. There are limited possible shapes of loaf with a breadmaker, and the wretched paddles always seem to end up in the bottom of the bread.
Worst of all, you're not in control. Bread is flexible; it can work at many temperatures, and all sorts of ingredients can be added to increase protein or vitamin content. But with a breadmaker, the programmes are pre-set and the times are fixed. I found that if I followed a recipe exactly, on a day when the ambient temperature was about 20C, then I got good bread. But if it was too hot or too cold, or if I tried experimenting with extra seeds or nuts, or different types of flour, then it was a disaster. American kitchens (where breadmakers first became popular) are fairly even, temperature-wise. Air conditioning in the summer and heating in the winter ensure ideal conditions for breadmaking. My American friends, too, were used to following directions of 'mixes' exactly, and hadn't realised that baking is a creative activity.
But my kitchen is chilly in the winter, and extremely hot in the summer. And I like to vary my bread, depending on how I feel. Now at last with my Ovatio, I can have perfect bread every day without any hassle. I stick the dry ingredients (including yeast) in the food processor, heat the liquid ingredients in the microwave to hand-hot and then pour them in the top while processing with the plastic blade. After about thirty seconds, I have a lovely ball of dough. I can add in whatever extra ingredients take my fancy, and if it seems too sticky I can put in a bit of extra flour until it feels squidgy but not wet. Then I remove the spindle and blade (experience has taught me that
Pictures of Moulinex AAT7R4 Ovatio 3 DUO
Showing the attachments packed away (and yes, I know the kitchen tiles are horrible!)
much), return the lid, and leave it to rise.Rising time depends on the temperature - in winter it can be left by a heater for rising in an hour, but bread will even rise in the fridge if left long enough. So the main thing is to have a look at it every half hour or so, until the mixture has doubled in size, or a bit more. Then all that's left is to punch it down to remove the air (this can be done in the food processor, but I find it difficult to get the dough off the blades at that stage) and shape it for a tin or tray. Then it's left to rise again for around half an hour - or longer if it's cold - and eventually put in a cold oven, set to around 180C, and baked until ready.
So far I haven't had any disasters. Why? Because I'm in control. If it rises fast, I cook it more quickly. If it rises slowly, I leave it for longer. Perhaps modern breadmakers are now equipped with sensors that can tell these things, but I haven't seen any. Anyway, I prefer being able to make plaits, or rolls, or using my loaf tins.
So I can even get rid of the ancient breadmaker (which I actually hadn't used for about two years anyway).
WHIPPING There's a beater-type attachment that will whip cream or evaporated milk, or egg whites. However I'm not getting rid of my little hand-mixer (also a Moulinex) because I prefer the control that a hand-mixer gives me. The Ovatio beater doesn't quite reach to the bottom of the bowl, nor the edge, so it leaves little bits not quite beaten.
WASHING-UP A lot of people complain that the worst problem with a food processor is all the washing up. I haven't found this to be a problem at all. We don't have a dishwasher (most of the parts are dishwasher-safe) but I find that if I fill the bowl with water immediately after use, and then put any attachments inside it, it's quick and easy to wash up whenever is convenient. Even bread or cake dough haven't caused problems. It certainly doesn't make more washing up than using spoons and ordinary bowls, and when I make bread there's far less mess on the work surface since I don't have to do any sticky kneading.
COST To my amazement, this wonderful machine is only £69.99 from Argos. Or £58.97 from Amazon.co.uk (with some second-hand ones available at less still). If I had known how wonderful it was, I would have bought one years ago.
CONCLUSIONS ~~ Having the Ovatio Duo has saved space. I've been able to get rid of three other appliances so there's plenty of room to have it on my counter-top.
~~ Having the Ovatio Duo has saved time and frustration with grating cheese and chopping onions, and given us far more coleslaw and other chopped raw vegetables than ever before.
~~ Having the Ovatio Duo has given us fresh-baked bread every day, with ingredients of my choosing - no preservatives or other artificial additives, and no sugar (I use honey instead). Over a year this is a considerable saving in money, too.
~~ I don't know how long it will last - it was in remarkably good condition for a second-hand appliance, but these things don't survive forever. However just a few months' use has convinced me that if at any point this one breaks and cannot be repaired, I shall almost certainly buy the same model new as replacement.