20 February 2014

Pulverisation fun with Magimix's Le Blender

Olive oil added for perspective on size!
Feast your eyes on this little beauty.  Doesn't it just look business-like?  Don't you just love its satiny lines and voluptuous air of "Blend? Pah! Come on then, challenge me!".

Let me introduce you to Le Blender, by Magimix.  Don't ask me why it's called "Le Blender", I've no idea other than the fact that Magimix are French.  It's a mean beastie of a blender though.  Oh yes.  It has a power output of 1200 watts, which is strong enough to crush ice.  Impressive, eh?  It also has a 1.8 litre heat resistant jug, so soup for 3 people is a doddle with no need to blend in batches.  However, the best part of all, is that a) it has 4 variable speed functions, b) four pre-set programmes (dessert, ice, soup and smoothie) and the nattiest function where it can self-clean.  Oh and I mustn't forget - it comes with a three year guarantee!

It arrived neatly wrapped in a cardboard outer box that required two people to remove it - one to hold the outer box, one to pull the inner box.  If you haven't got a second person, I'd advise a Stanley knife might be a good idea, wielded carefully!

Box contents - complete with instruction/recipe book.
The blender does weigh a ton - which is one of its negative features.  For someone like me who has a reduced mobility and gripping function, it can be something of a challenge to hang onto whilst you pour out the contents from the removable glass jug.  However, that weight is a lot of its strength, so I really wouldn't want it to be any lighter.  I'd just rather I was a little stronger!

Having washed and assembled Le Blender, we sat back and admired it for a while.  Well, it is a thing of beauty, let's face it.  Unlike when we got the Combi Oven, we didn't need to re-arrange the entire kitchen, as it fitted onto a piece of spare worktop which was a repository for tea towels and cake plates, prior to the blender's arrival.

Not surprisingly, we immediately started planning "things we could make".  These included frozen yoghurt, soups, sauces, desserts .. we were in full on creativity mode.

However, the first thing we did was to test the ice crushing facility.  Well, it worked - a little too well - as we discovered that putting part of one ice cube tray in a room temperature jug just wasn't enough.  The blades whizz the cubes down in no time at all, but they do heat up a little and the ice had melted quite a bit by the time it was done.  What it needed was to have a little forethought, the jug chilled and quantity!  Since then, we've been collecting ice cubes in a freezer bag and will have another go when we've got enough to fill the jug.

The next thing on the list was - not altogether surprisingly, as we've taken to having them for breakfast two or three times a week - a smoothie.

This one though, was a muesli smoothie as opposed to a completely fruit version.

So take a handful of muesli, a banana, an apple (we peeled ours because it was a bit the worse for wear) and a glass of milk (in our case, we use goat's milk for its ease of digestion) and whizz.

We used the smoothie programme and within less time than you could have imagined, we were drinking a lovely nutty, smooth and silky smoothie through a straw.  That got a big thumbs up!

Next on the list was a frozen yoghurt.  Ours included frozen bananas, frozen raspberries, goat's yoghurt (very similar to Greek yoghurt) and a teaspoonful or so of icing sugar, just to take the edge off of the tartness of the raspberries.  We also took care to chill the jug right down by putting it into the freezer for a while.
Frozen jug - won't be hugging this one!

We had a bit more trouble with this, but largely through inexperience as to what to put in first, etc.  We put everything in the jug and turned it on via the "Dessert" function - and the blades went around, but the contents of the jug just sat there unmoving.  After quite a bit of strong arm tactics from hubby, using the paddle provided with the blender, he got it all moving and it blended up beautifully smoothly.

In retrospect, what we should have done was to have blended the frozen bananas first, then added the raspberries and yoghurt.  As it was, everything just kind of froze into place and stayed there!  Well, we know better for the future.

The end result of the Raspberry Frozen Yoghurt was exceptional.  So smooth, with the zippy fresh taste of raspberries and mildly acidic goat's yoghurt, all tempered by the sweet banana.  Just gorgeous!

So how good does that look?  Mmmmn.  I think so!
Chicken curry was on the list for dinner that night and for all that it doesn't require the blender, some of its ingredients did and for that I would normally use the hand blender.  Well, Le Blender was just sitting there, asking to become involved in the cooking and I just couldn't use the hand blender - Le Blender would have been mortified with shame.

Blended onion, garlic and tomato - a great start to the curry sauce.
So, like a parent succumbing to a naughty, nagging child, I blended the onion with the garlic, and then separately, the tomatoes to go into the curry sauce.  Thumbs up, everything was blended perfectly and by using the pulse function, I was able to keep the onions with some texture.  The curry had a lovely smooth, unctuous sauce that was just perfect for dipping your naan bread into.

By this time, I was feeling pretty pleased with our new kitchen helper!

Hmmn, now what's next?  Ah yes, a fruit smoothie for breakfast.

First blend ready to go.
Historically, we've always made smoothies with yoghurt or, at the very least, some milk (goat's milk for its health benefits usually).  However, I wanted to make one that was simply fruit - and I wanted it to be fairly lip puckering and zesty.  I don't know about you, but sometimes in the morning I want something that's going to make my taste buds sit up and pay attention, plus my tummy wake up from its pasta-induced slumber from the night before.

Hubby was going to the supermarket on some technical computer-orientated errand, so I asked him to pick up some random fruit suitable for a smoothie.  Thus, we wound up with a punnet of blueberries and a punnet of strawberries from the reduced section.  To these, I added three ripe peaches (I'd been sent some fantastic South African peaches and plums that were going ripe faster than we could eat them) and a couple of bananas.
All blending beautifully.

Now, what happens when you peel and cut a banana and a peach?  Correctimundo - they start to oxidise and go a funny colour.  What stops that?  Lemon juice.  Well, I did say that I wanted this smoothie to be zesty!  Why was the oxidisation an issue?  Well, I wanted to make a fruit smoothie the night before so that come the morning, all we had to do was pour it into a glass, add a straw and get woken up.

With the experience from the Iced Raspberry Yoghurt in mind, I decided not to throw the entire ingredients list into the blender all at once.  Thus, I started with the banana pieces, half a lemon in juice (oxidisation in mind, you see!) and the blueberries.  Gave them a quick pulse to get them mushy - which happened in the blink of an eye, so powerful is the motor - and then added the strawberries and skinned peach pieces.

I turned the blender on to its "Smoothie" setting and off it went.  There's something extraordinarily satisfying about watching pieces of fruit get utterly pulverised and the colour of the ensuing mixture change as various pieces come into contact with the blades.  (Hmmn, sounds a tiny bit "Silence of the Lambs", that!).  It really is that easy.  Peel, chop, blend, done.

Wakey wakey, Jenny!
The resultant smoothie was just that - completely smooth and silky, however what surprised me was the degree of bubbles involved.  It was less a smoothie and more a frothy!  Now that was an unexpected bonus.  The texture was quite thick - but it would be easy to let it down slightly by adding a glug or two of apple juice.  I really liked the frothy texture, it was totally different to the dairy smoothies and rather fun.

Well that was breakfast sorted very satisfactorily.  Now let's fast forward to lunch.

Just look at that - smooth as silk and a beautiful colour.
For me, I felt that blending a hot soup would be a really good test of the blender's capabilities.  In the past, I've used various types of blender with various forms of success but nothing ever rendered soup down to that velvety smooth gorgeousness that you see in recipe books and on t.v. cooking shows.  So soup was on the menu for lunchtime - and a soup which I had singularly failed with previously, watercress.

Sweating off the watercress, leek & potato in goat's butter.
I borrowed Saint Delia's recipe for watercress and leek soup, as I figured that if I got the recipe right, then the blending would be a true test - and Saint Delia's recipes are so easy to make.  You can find the recipe by Googling "Delia Watercress soup" if you want to give it a try - and I heartily recommend it.  I did deviate from the recipe slightly, in that I only included two thirds of the watercress to the saucepan.  The remainder went into the blender raw, to encourage the vibrant green of the colour and to brighten the flavours.  It worked, too.

Ready to blend - don't forget the lid!
The soup was sufficient for 3 people for a lunch, or 4 people for a starter - and it all fitted into the 1.8 litre jug.  The jug's lid has a natty little cap that can be removed when you're blending hot and steamy liquids, which helps to prevent the lid from being forced off by a build up of steam.  (Although with the sealing system that the lid has, it'd take a fair old pressure to move it - I can only just get it moving!).  I just held the cap over the hole for the 2-3 seconds it took for the level to settle while being blended, then removed it entirely.  I used the "Soup" setting - and it was perfect.

Blend, blend, my green loveliness!
For once, I had my silky smooth, unctuous, velvety soup with no random pieces of potato that had been left behind, no forgotten leaves of watercress surfacing slowly like tiny pieces of flotsam - just perfectly smooth, blended soup.  To say I was chuffed to bits with it, is putting it mildly.

As I have mentioned, the jug is heavy.  Fill it full of soup and it's flipping heavy.  I had to get hubby to pour the soup from the jug back into the saucepan - but as I say, I have really poor gripping ability with my left hand particularly and it was definitely a two handed job for me.  Yes, the lid is firmly seated when it's on properly, but I can move it - I just have to hug the jug when I'm doing it, for fear that the whole lot will get propelled across the worktop.  Still, I might set up a "hug a jug" day, who knows?

One aspect of the blender would be a real problem, if it wasn't for its absolutely genius self cleaning programme.  I just cannot separate the bottom section (which houses the blades) from the jug, no matter how hard I twist, or how many tea towels and rubber gloves I press gang into helping out.  However, aha!  In the event of hubby not being there to separate the two (simple twisting action - not difficult, just beyond my hands), I can easily set it to self clean instead!  Add a litre of warm water with a few drops of washing up liquid and pulse a couple of times.  Pour out the yukky water, give it a rinse and hey presto - clean.  As I say, genius.

Le Blender certainly isn't one of the cheapest blenders on the market at around £179 from Argos.  However, is it the best?  Well, it's the best I've ever had the pleasure of using - and I've used a few!

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This post has been produced in association with Argos, where you too can find a Le Blender and have the kind of whizzed up fun that we're having!

Recipes for each dish are available, simply ask and I shall supply.

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