Food Friday: Summer grilling with the Tefal Optigrill

Posted by Lipglossiping On May - 2 - 2014

After spotting the Actifry cauliflower “rice” recipe that I blogged about a few weeks ago, Tefal got in touch to ask if I’d be interesting in trying their latest kitchen innovation, the Tefal Optigrill.  I’m sure you’ve seen the TV ads for the grilling machine recently, it’s somewhat similar in appearance to the iconic George Foreman-style grills in as much as it allows you to move the grill out of the oven and onto your kitchen counter.

The major differences are found in the machine’s objectives.  While the George Foreman has traditionally focused on being a “health” machine, the Tefal Optigrill concentrates its motives on “perfecting” the art of home-grilling with clever technology that allows the user to customise their grilling preferences and make light work of family cooking.

At home, I do try to grill a lot of food… it’s healthier and less messy than frying but there’s definitely an art-form to the technique and one that I don’t always get right.  I’m forever setting the smoke alarm off, not necessarily because I’ve burnt the food but because excess fat spits onto the heating elements!  And then there’s the skills needed to grill food well.  I don’t mind admitting that pork often emerges from my grill a little dry and I don’t even bother attempting some fussier foods such as chicken and fish, I just use the oven instead.

I suppose what I’m saying is that I find working with a conventional grill a bit hit-and-miss.  When you get it right, the results are amazing… belly pork crisped to perfection under a hot grill cannot be beaten.  But when I get it wrong, I’m either left with a kitchen full of smoke or a disappointingly uneven result.  Because of this, I only ever fry steak.  If I’m going to spend £8 or £9 on a couple of pieces of high-quality meat, I’m loathe to roll the dice on my cooking abilities to get it right.

And this is where the Tefal Optigrill promises to excel.  Great results, first time… all of the time.

But does it?  Let me throw some photos of recent meals into the mix and let you be the judge!

IMG_5192

garlic & herb stuffed boneless chicken thighs (still juicy!)

IMG_5283

lamb & mint quarter pounders cooked from frozen

IMG_5080

lamb leg steaks, tender and not overcooked

Over the past few weeks, I’ve tried many different things with my new countertop grilling machine.  From lamb to pork, steak to chicken and even a bit of cheese.  The results have been mostly brilliant.  My only disappointment has arisen when cooking something that requires the technique to really crisp the fat.  In this case, the Optigrill produced a massively underwhelming and somewhat flacid pork belly.  I was gutted!  I guess belly pork really does need the kind of heat that requires me to flap a tea-towel around infront of the smoke alarm as the fat spits and crackles under a conventional grill.

Everything else that I’ve thrown at the machine has been cooked marvellously.  And not only that but with minimum fuss, mess, and indeed thought because the clever device will actually tell you – through a series of flashing lights and beeps – when your food is ready.  Not only when it is cooked, but also at what stage of “readiness” it currently sits at.

If you like your lamb a little pink… turn off the Optigrill and remove your meat at the “orange for medium” stage.  If you like your steak to be well-cooked, you’d want to remove your food from the grill when greeted with the “red for well-done” light.  There’s definitely a learning curve to the machine, especially if you’re simultaneously preparing a timing-is-critical side-dish and you’re not quite sure how long the Optigrill will actually take to cook your food!  But this is something that is easily surmountable with a little practice, once you’ve cooked a favourite dish… you’ll know for next time.

Unlike the George Foreman’s seemingly default setting of “squeeze all fat out of food until it no longer has any taste or texture”, the Tefal Optigrill does a great job of getting super-hot in the pre-heating stage, allowing the machine to effectively seal in a lot of the flavour before it actually starts cooking your meal.  You will still see excess fat and/or water drip into the tray underneath but it certainly doesn’t make a habit of drying out your food.

IMG_5336

halloumi slices on a beef tomato and pesto open sandwich

I’ve stopped using any oil at all on the plates prior to cooking, I seem to get an equally good result whether I use oil or not… so why add the extra calories?  I was also pleased to discover that both the upper and lower grill plates can be removed completely for easy cleaning and I recommend giving them a quick wipe with a piece of kitchen towel prior to washing up/putting in the dishwasher.

I’ve found that I’ve been able to work the Optigrill quickly into my routine, which is always the key as to whether or not it will end up stuffed in the back of my cupboard once the novelty has worn off.  Ultimately, a kitchen “gadget” has to be usable in multiple and varied situations… it needs to be versatile.  Whether I’m cooking lamb leg steaks to go with a full roast dinner (sticking the roasties and yorkshire puds in the Actifry means that I don’t even have to turn my oven on!), grilling halloumi to go with a posh Summer salad, or chucking frozen burgers onto the machine for a quick weekday evening meal, the machine hasn’t left me disappointed.

So far, the Tefal Optigrill has more than earned its keep on my kitchen counter.

The Tefal Optigrill is available to buy online from lakeland.co.uk, johnlewis.com, and debenhams.com (where it is currently 10% off) priced from £135.00

* press sample

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Cauliflower “Rice” in the Tefal Actifry

Posted by Lipglossiping On April - 8 - 2014

In a horrible twist of fate, I ending up buying my much-longed-for Tefal Actifry approximately one week before the price on Amazon finally dropped back down to its current reasonable level.  I’d been waiting since the start of January for the prices to return to some semblance of reality and three months later, they were still higher than they had been since last August.  Considering I’d spent just £90 on the damn thing when I’d bought one for my Mum and Dad pre-Christmas, I just couldn’t bring myself to spend over £130 on the exact same machine just a couple of months later.

And so, fate transpired that I ended up buying a second-hand model from Gumtree, £70.  It wasn’t the 1.2kg model that I’d been hankering after but the smaller 1kg.  I now hate my unfortunate timing and throw the damn thing dirty looks whenever I pass by the kitchen.  Having said that, I made some delicious cauliflower “rice” in it last weekend, a very useful low-carb alternative to the real thing!

Cauliflower Rice in the Tefal Actifry

Why the low-carb alternative?

Well, I’ve only got 4-weeks of pregnancy left and this time around, it’s been trying at times.  The initial sickness was something I’d managed to escape when I was carrying Leila but this time, it hit me like a ton of bricks.  Throw in another run-in with the dreaded PCOS-induced gestational diabetes and I can’t say that I’ve enjoyed this pregnancy as much as my first.

Having said that, nothing will replace the feeling of those little bumps and knocks from the inside out… and enjoying the knowledge that there’s no bond in the world quite like that between an unborn baby and its Mum.  I will dearly miss that intimacy (my baby, all mine!) when he’s out.

So, back to the low carb thing…

As pregnancy progresses, the effects of borderline gestational diabetes tend to become more severe.  Back when I was 22-weeks my insulin deposits could easily cope with a handful of chips and a couple of spoonfuls of rice but now, as I enter my 35th week, I’m not so lucky.  Even the most unrefined of carbs can cause my blood sugars to spike to unhealthy levels.  Time to call on the cauliflower!

Cauliflower Rice in the Tefal Actifry (2)

The first thing you need to do is grate your cauliflower to produce a grain-like texture or alternatively blitz the florets (a handful at a time) in a food processor.

Once the cauliflower has been blitzed, dump it in the bowl of the Tefal Actifry and add a generous tablespoonful of oil.  If you want to add some extra flavour, feel free to experiment with a little spice.  For my Bratwurst & Cauliflower Rice mash-up, I concocted a moroccan-inspired combination that comprised:

1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp ground cloves

Turn on the Tefal Actifry and set the timer for around 25-minutes.  Do keep an eye on it though as you’ll need to re-incorporate any “rice” grains that rise up the side of the bowl as it cooks.  I just use a silicone spatula to push them back down.

Cauliflower Rice in the Tefal Actifry (3)

After 25-minutes, feel free to add some extras.  I threw in a handful of frozen peas, some pre-cooked Bratwurst, and a broken-up plain omelette that I’d cooked on the hob after frying the Bratwurst.  The last 10-minutes in the Actifry ensured that the flavours combined beautifully as the paddle turned and incorporated the spices and oils.

Cauliflower Rice in the Tefal Actifry (4)

Using the Tefal Actifry meant that the cauliflower took on a fried-rice texture and the spices delivered some real flavour to an otherwise bland, low-carb alternative.

The Tefal Actifry (1.2kg model) is currently available on Amazon.co.uk for £109.99 which is the lowest it’s been since early December.  It’s even cheaper than the smaller 1kg model!  If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know I’ve been on Actifry “price-watch” all year.  I’m fuming!

Do you own a Tefal Actifry?  What’s your favourite thing to cook in it?

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