There are two things you’ll notice immediately about the Tefal Cuisine Companion.
First, it’s a big ole space-ship of a kitchen appliance. And second, it has a hefty price tag – it’s available exclusively at John Lewis in the UK costing a shade short of £700.
When Tefal got in touch and offered to gift us with our very own Cuisine Companion, I was intrigued. Because I’m not the sort of person who typically buys big kitchen appliances, and I’m certainly not the sort of person who spends £700 on them.
So what did we make of it?
Well, it’s an expensive gadget and it does a lot of things – so we’ve allowed ourselves a good eight weeks to get used to the Cuisine Companion, and how it fits into our life (and kitchen).
Once unpacked, the Cuisine Companion actually isn’t THAT big. Inside the box you find a sturdy base, a bowl and lid. There’s also a cupboard-friendly container that holds four blades, used for mixing, blending, kneading and chopping.
Setting the device up is relatively simple – plug in, the bowl slots into the base, and the lid rotates onto the bowl and clips shut.
The controls are simple, too – there are six programme settings for things like slow cooking, dough, making soups, sauces and steaming. Choose the programme you want, then set the temperature/speed/time using the large buttons, and click start.
Here’s an unboxing video if you’d like to get a closer look…
The Cuisine Companion comes with a recipe book that gets you started on using all the basic programmes.
Don’t be misled by the “Million Menus” title though – there are a few hundred recipes, covering starters, mains and puds. Many of the recipes involve using the Cuisine Companion for prep, then moving to an oven or grill – no bad thing, but be prepared that this isn’t a complete cooking device. Recipe-wise, it’s interesting to note the Cuisine Companion is also sold in France, and there are lots of menus that are probably unfamiliar to British families, with quite a lot of veal, for example, along with rabbit and beef cheek.
Recipes are simple to follow, guiding you through choosing the right programmes in the right order. Once you’ve got to know the machine, you can use it in manual mode for more flexibility.
One of our first big successes with the Cuisine Companion was making pizza dough. We love to make pizza from scratch but the challenge is finding time to make the dough and let it rise well before we want to cook, especially during the week.
With the Cuisine Companion, you can whip up a perfectly decent pizza dough in just three minutes. Just add water and yeast into the bowl, launch the pastry programme, then add in flour, salt and a pinch of olive oil. Job done.
There’s even a warming setting so if your kitchen is on the chilly side and you don’t have an airing cupboard, like us, you can let the dough rise inside the bowl in 20 minutes, too.
The Cuisine Companion means we can make home-made pizza in the week, with very little mess and fuss. LOVE IT.
Our second big success with Cuisine Companion has been curry. I have found the curry made in the appliance tastes really rich and delicious, but is made in under 30 minutes – again, making it a perfect mid-week supper. We started out using a recipe from the supplied book, but quickly moved on to making chicken massaman curry, green and red Thai curries and veggie tikka curry.
To make a curry, we tend to start by throwing roughly chopped onion, garlic and spices into the Cuisine Companion with a small teaspoon of oil, and chopping/cooking it on a low heat for a couple of minutes. From there, we just throw in diced chicken and veggies, along with coconut milk (or tomatoes) and curry paste – cook the whole thing on the slow cooker setting for 20 minutes and hey presto – delicious, fresh curry.
We’ve used the same approach to make chicken cacciatore, which was LUSH.
The Cuisine Companion comes with a steaming bowl which you can sit inside the bowl – add some water to the bottom of the dish and you can steam foods. For me, this wasn’t an area where I felt the Cuisine Companion excelled – I steamed veggies fine, but when I cooked two small pieces of fish this way, it ended up a little rubbery, and it’s tricky to get the fish in and out of the bowl intact. For the time it takes to steam fish in a basket on the stove or in foil in the oven, I’m unlikely to change my cooking methods, if I’m honest.
Where the Cuisine Companion comes into its own is that it lets you chop THEN cook in the same bowl, reducing food prep time quite significantly. We used the Cuisine Companion to make hash browns on Sunday mornings, and they were lovely – chop onions in the Cuisine Companion, then add potatoes and water, and slow cook for 10 minutes. Add in some egg, flour and seasoning and mix. You’ll be left with a mixture that’s easy to form into cakes and fry off as hash browns. SO much simpler and much nicer tasting than those frozen alternatives.
We also had some success making taco fillings in the Cuisine Companion – adding onions, garlic and chilli, then chopping finely in the bowl. Next up, add mince (we tend to use Quorn, but if you’re using beef, just cook a little longer), tomato puree and seasoning, and slow book for 20 minutes on a low heat. Much less hassle (and washing up) than cooking on the stove.
Technically, you can’t bake in the Cuisine Companion, but you can use it to whip up batters, doughs, pastry and cake mixtures. We found that cookie mixture made in the Cuisine Companion worked really well, and we also mixed our brownie batter in there. It means we haven’t had to use other kitchen appliances since having the Cuisine Companion, so I guess potentially it would save you counter/cupboard space, since the Cuisine Companion can do most of what your blender/food processor will do.
The Tefal Cuisine Companion DOES have a slow cooker setting, but it’s not slow cooking as you know it – the longest recipe I’ve tried using the slow cooker function (boef bourguignon) only cooked for a few minutes over two hours. At first, I thought this was a downside because I’m used to prepping slow cooker meals in the morning so they’ll be ready eight hours later, but with the Cuisine Companion it’s quicker, so you don’t need to start prep until you get home from work.
Overall, we love the Tefal Cuisine Companion. While it certainly doesn’t cook EVERY meal EVERY day, we do use it a couple of times a week, and I’ve found since having this appliance, I haven’t used my blender or food processor for meals at all. The bowl size is effectively 2.5l and this works well for our small family, and I think would easily cook meals for 4 people (perhaps more if you’re counting kids’ portions).
The bowl is easy to clean, and we’ve not had any problems using the device – it’s really very simple and intuitive. The accessories are great, although the chopping blade is WICKED sharp, so I wouldn’t let little hands anywhere near it.
One thing I did find is that many of the recipe suggestions use FAR more liquid than I would suggest using. With a bit more experience, I tend to use around half the liquid suggested in the recipe. The liquid doesn’t boil away the way it might on the stove, so I only add enough liquid as I expect to serve at the end of cooking.
While the Tefal Cuisine Companion isn’t the only cooking appliance you’ll ever need, for a busy household looking to cook more meals from scratch in a limited amount of time, I think it’s a pretty attractive option. What we really enjoyed about having a Cuisine Companion is that it’s perfectly possible to get home at 5.30pm and say, “Hey, let’s make pizza” or “Does anyone fancy a Thai curry?” and have something hot, fresh and home-made on the table 30 or 45 minutes later.
What’s more, we’ve done that with minimal mess and fuss, and just one bowl to wash up at the end of the process.
It’s a solid device that’s a pleasure to use, and yes, it will mean you can reduce the number of appliances on your counter, or in your cupboard.
As to whether that’s worth £699 to your family, well, you’ll have to make that decision for yourself!
We were gifted a Tefal Cuisine Companion for the purposes of this review. All questionable cooking, opinions and so on are entirely our own. If you’d like to check out the Cuisine Companion in more detail, head over to the John Lewis website.