Thermomix, the gadget I can no longer do without. Photo: Gary LaPersonne
If there's one thing I know from years of family life - besides obviously that you don't ever, under any circumstances, answer the question ''does this look OK?'' (to which there is no correct answer, best to back away quietly, like you've seen a python) - is that if you want something good for father's day, you need to get in early and go hard at it. Otherwise, it's likely to be a Michael Bolton CD, fiery hilltops, horses and denim.
So that's why I'm leaving loads of hints relating to stuff I'm keen on. I'm saying things to no one in particular like, ''Just found out there's only two seats left at the DRC La Tache vertical in Melbourne. Gee that would be neat. It's only three grand a plate with dinner and 10 wines. Hello, anyone listening?'' And after going hard at the training bike, I'm relating my efforts in detail in the hope that I might get a replica maillot jaune.
The family plays it cool, like they aren't listening. I'm sure that's why they don't blink an eye or seem remotely interested when they come home on a Friday night and find me having an in-home demonstration of a Thermomix.
A Thermomix is basically a high-speed blender that has an induction element underneath, so at its most basic level, you can cook, say, a soup at the same time as you blend it - which means one pot rather than as many as four. A cautionary word, though. They cost $2000, so that's a lot of washing up you need to save.
It took me a while to get the nerve to organise this, but my reluctance wasn't about the price. It's about the way you buy them. You can't just rock up to a shop and ask for one. You've got to arrange this in-home demonstration and bring along some friends. One of the first book series I got into was The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever - the tale of an embittered man with leprosy estranged from society and his family who ultimately becomes the saviour of a fantasy land ruled by the evil Lord Foul, the despiser - really, if you call your kid this, you'd expect him to turn to the dark arts. The first two trilogies were a teenage fixation for me, and one passage has had a profound effect on me. Covenant wakes in a mortal danger and says one name - ''Nom''. This is a bad decision, since by calling the name of Nom, the Sandgorgon, he has called up a relentless force that is out to get him and will never stop once its name has been called.
So basically the worry I had about a Thermomix is that if you call the sales people into your home, you might not get away from them, ever, until you buy the machine.
But when the Thermomix people turn up, well, they're not Sandgorgons, to my relief. They come with heaps of food and the blender and pretty quickly are up and running on a pretty intense demonstration: making bread from grain - yes, a Thermomix can grind flour; chopping up a decent raw vegetable salad; making a risotto without the usual extra pot and the stirring.
There are at least 20 kitchen jobs you can do with this machine, from obvious things like making baby food, to making sorbets by grinding ice super fine in no time at all.
It's beautifully designed and powerful and I guess if you have two grand lying around that there are many, many things you can do with it.
To tell you the truth, my main reason for wanting a Thermomix is for sauces. If you are up to date with cookbooks, you'll find them used quite a bit in commercial kitchens. The Thermomix people tell me that Tetsuya, for instance, has a bank of about a dozen so he can whip up emulsions individually. The ability to cook at an accurate temperature and blend at speeds from approaching supersonic to a very gentle agitation gives you so many options.
I have something pre-prepared - a fluid gel that needs to be blended as it is heated to 90C, thus setting the gum and making a sauce with that flowing metal look. I've tried it before with a hand blender and pot of water, which took ages and didn't work so well. When I see this machine do it in a few minutes I guess I make up my mind that, yes, I do need one, and I am a little disappointed that there's no hard sell. We just talk about it over a glass of wine and they pack up and leave, just leaving a card.
So I've made heaps of copies of the business card and left them lying around everywhere with books from Marque, Fat Duck and Noma open to pages where you need a Thermomix and I'm hoping the family's lack of interest is more to do with keeping me guessing. I'm pretty confident on this one.
To contact Thermomix, simply go to the website thermomix.com.au and say ''Nom''. No, you just hit the button and wait for them to contact you.
Here's a nice red salad like the one whizzed up in the blender - you just need to have a steady hand and sharp knife or a mandolin to slice it all very finely, a bit like a slaw, and it's a great accompaniment to grilled meats and seafood, plus supremely healthy.
RAW RED SALAD WITH GOAT'S CHEESE AND CAPERS
4 medium beetroots
1 medium red onion
¼ small head of red cabbage
2 stalks rhubarb
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp strawberry vinegar or red wine
2 tbsp tiny capers, rinsed well
50g hard goat's cheese, crumbled
Grate or slice all the vegetables as fine as you can, mix thoroughly and dress with vinaigrette, garnish with capers, cheese and chervil.
Bryan Martin is a winemaker at Ravensworth and Clonakilla, www.bryanmartin.com.au