I am not a cook. Sure, I can move chicken and vegetables around in a pan, but with the apron on, don’t expect flashy techniques, melt-in-the-mouth textures – or spices. But one last weekend I got more adept thanks to a chic-looking black box in the kitchen. The Kakugama is a new saucepan made from carbon graphite, a material with excellent thermal conductivity and the ability to radiate infrared energy, typically used to make brakes for Formula 1 cars, among other things for less sexy industrial purposes. Anaori, a Japanese carbon-graphite specialist, has brought the material into the kitchen, where its qualities can be easily transferred for poaching, grilling, simmering and baking from rice to bread.
Developed with the celebrated Japanese chef Hirohisa Koyama, the Kakugama is also reminiscent of a traditional Japanese Hagama Rice cooker and something beamed in from space. Anaori took a shovel out of a solid coal cube so that the cooking surface of the pot is rounded. It has an inner lid made of Hinoki wood and an outer carbon lid that doubles as a grill pan.
Tipping the scales to 6kg for a smaller model and 8kg for a larger option, whipping across the tabletop isn’t the easiest thing to do. But its force is forgiven when you consider what the coal can do with the ingredients. It maintains a constant temperature over a long period of time, so the food is cooked evenly, the textures are tender and the risk of burns is low, says Rafael Cagali, head chef at two Michelin-starred Da Terra in London. (I borrowed Cagali’s personal kakugama and I’m calling him for tips.) Like other chefs, he’s excited about its potential and recommends it for slow-cooked dishes like stews and ragus, and for cooking rice and whole vegetables.
It is an extremely polite cook companion: it spits or hisses neither steam nor smoke, and the Hinoki lid fills the food and the entire kitchen with a wonderful smell that is reminiscent of a sauna. The kakugama is also suitable for straightforward, healthy cooking: I put a whole butternut squash and a sweet potato in it, without any oil or anything else, and they are cooked through to perfection. This boulder offers tempting opportunities.
Anaori Kakugama, starting at Â£ 1,990 anaori.com
Wake up and hear the coffee
It was only a matter of time before Alexa started playing barista. The Lavazza Voicy is the first espresso machine with integrated Amazon Alexa technology. Although you have to manually place a cup under the sink and pop in pods, you can tell this sleek device to make you coffee while you read the news, or tell it to order pods when supplies are low. And by syncing with an app, you can personalize your order – a handy touch that lets you specify how long and how hot you want the shot to be. (“Alexa, please make me a Jamie” is my new favorite morning chorus. A little wrong, but …)
The espresso making process is more of a low hum than the noise I’ve heard from other machines – and it produces quality coffee. Plus, the speakers are decent – and like a regular Alexa, it can play bangs on command if you’ve got all your hands washing up. Ideally, all of the work could be done by Alexa without manual steps (that will sure come at some point in the near future), but it’s still a nice way to bring a smart speaker into your kitchen while also having a delicious infusion in the process .
Lavazza A Modo Mio Voicy, Â£ 249, lavazza.de
The best kind of invisible charge
This nifty technological wizardry from New York’s Humanscale is basically an invisible charger. It allows you to juice your phone (or most AirPods) by simply placing it on a table, which eliminates the hassle of plugging in a charger or pesky cords. Crucially, unlike other disc-shaped chargers that tend to have clunky charging pads, this device doesn’t leave any marks – at least on the surface. The wireless charger is painlessly attached to the underside of your table or desk with screws or double-sided adhesive (a sticker marks the appropriate location on the top, if necessary). The only fine print is that the table needs to be relatively thin – a maximum of 3.4 cm (2.9 cm for an iPhone 12) – for the charger to work.
Humanscale NeatCharge, Â£ 110, humanscale.com
The ultimate kitchen garden
If Apple dares to venture into veggie patches, the result could look something like this. With a minimalist white metal frame, subtle branding and the cool glow of LED lights, this smart garden offers a more clinically chic than wildly rustic vision of living green. It’s designed to make killing plants impossible, so it’s hugely attractive to those who don’t want to spend their weekends basing on the whims of diva-like fiddle-leaf figs.
You monitor the nursery – the residents of which can be herbs, vegetables and flowers – via a smartphone app with which you can switch on the light and operate the water pump remotely. Not only do the LEDs create a surprisingly calming presence, but they also ensure that you can keep the garden in a place with limited sunlight. Tracking the rapid growth of the rocket in the app is addicting (a tamagotchi for horticulture?). Aside from having to manually add nutrients on occasion, you can be green thumb with just the swipe of a finger. It is available in three family sizes (single, double or triple shelving) and there is a smaller personal version with a tabletop (currently only available in the USA).
From $ 279 risegardens.com