Hungry? Thirsty? Looking for mushrooms? There’s an app for all of that. Actually, there’s quite a few. With every celebrity chef and their ravenous auntie bringing them out, we thought it was about time we sieved through the selection to remove any recipes for disaster and find those which put the app into appetising. Here’s our menu of the Top 10 most useful, tasty and just plain cool apps from the world of eating & drinking. With a few more foodie puns thrown in for good measure, obviously.
1. How to Cook Everything – App updated 31st January, 2011, Price £2.99, Developed by Culinate, Inc.
The name of this first app makes a bold statement, and of course couldn’t feasibly live up to it. Still, How to Cook Everything makes a good attempt. The vast recipe database is searchable by ingredients, cooking techniques, flavour and tags such as ‘fast’, ‘vegetarian’ or ‘make ahead’ – either singularly or in combination with each other, and works very well. It’s the extras such as additional twists to personalise a recipe, and the inclusion of appropriate related content detailing the likes of ‘how to use a Chef’s knife’ that sets this app apart from the plethora of others doing a similar thing, and how it can justify the £2.99 charge in face of free competition. The fact that it’s fronted up by a New York Times columnist is less significant this side of the Atlantic.
It’s no surprise that the ubiquitous Mr. Oliver has made an appearance somewhere in this list. Despite your views on the Essex boy done good, you have to hand it to him (or rather the guys at Zolmo) as this is a very nice app indeed. Sixty easy to follow twenty minute recipes are backed up by twenty-one exclusive video clips of Jamie divulging his top tips and techniques, a section on ‘kitchen essentials’, and the ability to turn a recipe into a shopping list. The search functionality also works well, and once installed no internet connection is required. The only real criticism to be heard of this app is that few of the twenty minute recipes can realistically be done in twenty minutes. Perhaps you need the magic of TV and “here’s one I made earlier” for that?
3. Kitchen Calculator PRO – App updated 1st March, 2010, Price £2.39, Developed by Forward Leap, LLC
If you’ve ever been in a pub and wondered, “Just how many tablespoons make up a pint?” then you probably got thrown out for making a mess. With Kitchen Calculator PRO there’s no need to do the same thing when cooking. If your recipe blends metric and imperial, or if some pesky American thought it fit to measure flour in a cup, or you don’t have any scales and need to measure everything in spoons then this app will let you do just that by converting between any recipe measurements. It’ll also let you scale up or down the quantities in a recipe, should you wish to cook a hotpot for four for two, or a four serving pie for seven. Easy.
For anyone flummoxed by wine and food pairing, yet determined to pretend they know what they’re doing, this app is an essential piece of inventory. That would make it essential for just about everyone, then. The simple concept allows you to browse by either wine or food and be shown a selection of suitable matches. Handy when presented with a restaurant wine list or when perusing the supermarket drinks aisles, the potential of this app goes well beyond having a well paired plate of food and glass of wine. It can make you look clever. There’s even a section of general wine matching hints and tips that you could work into a I’m-much-better-than-you conversation battle. The app is £2.99, but the feeling of superiority and inflated ego come free.
If you’ve ever been on a countryside jaunt and fancied a bit of light foraging only aren’t so keen on the death that may follow if you make a bad decision, then this app is for you. It lists hundreds of mushroom types, featuring a clear photo of each alongside seasonality, likely spots to find it, a comprehensive description and all the classification details you could ever desire. It even links each one to its relevant Wikipedia page, though we’re not sure we’d like to put our lives in the hands of user generated content. Those mushrooms that have the potential to look like others which are poisonous are clearly labelled, so there is an emphasis on safety, but the info page’s inevitable warning that, “the developers are not responsible for any sickness or problem due to the consumption of any mushroom” is still a little off-putting. Especially when the ‘problem’ being referred to is generally instant suffocation and seizure.
6. Landshare by River Cottage – App updated 30th August, 2010, Price Free, Developed by KEO Films.com Limited
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is a man who surely knows a thing or two about mushrooms, yet his app focuses not on foraging, but on growing your own – and more specifically finding a place to do it. The ambitious Gumtree-esque concept aims to unite those with land to spare with those who want to use it, as well as creating social groups and asking people to upload geo-tagged photos of derelict sites which would make good allotment space, with the target of putting pressure on councils to facilitate this. The app also provides a useful forum for people to pose such foodies-of-the-earth questions as “when to prune apple trees” or “how to smoke your own bacon”. At the moment there aren’t enough users to have the app reach its full potential (there are only seven reviews on iTunes), but given it’s free, it’s certainly worth a download if you’re into getting a bit muddy for your dinner.
If you like your eggs boiled not poached, your martinis shaken not stirred and your apps like something out of Q’s lab, then this is definitely one for you. The perfect Egg timer (capitalisation of “egg” all their own) takes perfectionism to new heights by concluding that one could not correctly cook an egg as desired without first finding out its diameter, temperature and (of course) the altitude at which you’ll be cooking it. Simply place your egg on your iPhone and the built-in calculator will measure it, whilst GPS will work out your altitude. Choose whether you want your egg liquid, soft, hard or somewhere in between using the sliding scale and then follow the instructions, press start and boil that egg until the alarm sounds. There’s even an “egg spy” which shows you how the egg yolk is looking in “real-time”. Perhaps not a process for every breakfast, but it provides good fun and, more importantly, good eggs.
8. Drink & Cocktail Pro – App updated 07th January 2011, Price £0.59, Developed by Helmes Innovations, LLC.
Built with wannabe Tom Cruise’s in mind, Drink & Cocktail Pro is your on-hand guide to cocktail making and girl getting. Well, definitely the former. Browse the extensive drinks library for cocktail recipes (there’s over 20,000), or search by ingredient to whip something up with the bottles you have lying around. There’s also info on glass types, garnishes and bartending equipment to help bring out the professional in you. There’s also a handy built in unit converter to help with measures, particularly useful given the app is American minded. The bar locater tab has the potential to be useful, but isn’t yet well enough stocked (10 bars listed for London), and doesn’t give any information on the drinks selections.
9. Leiths Cookery Quiz – App updated 24th November 2010, Price Free, Developed by Release Consulting Ltd.
“Do you know your Brussels Sprouts from your Brassicas?” reads the description of this app, created by the renowned West London cookery school. The randomised 10 question quiz may embarrass you if the answer to the aforementioned question is “who are the Brassicas?”, but it will also help you learn the answers. The app is fairly basic, but great fun and worryingly addictive. The makers have created a good balance of questions that are genuinely perplexing and those which are somewhat simpler, meaning (hopefully) no one’s left feeling fed up or foolish but everyone’s going to get a moment of enlightenment. You want to know the best bit? It’s free.
As with viewers of the TV show, app downloaders will no doubt be divided on their views of John and Gregg’s cheesy introduction, but no one could argue with the sheer amount of content on here. Just imagine how much trifle Gregg would manage to fit on a mouth-bound spoon having not eaten for several hours. Then add a bit more. That’s how much content there is. The “academy” consists of 9 courses, ranging from basic skills to meat, seafood, vegetables and stocks & sauces. Each includes detailed notes backed up by demonstration videos presented by previous MasterChef contestants and winners. There’s a whole host of recipes for each section too, and when you’re ready you can take the “pressure tests” in a bid to gain a badge for each course. Though not a substitute for real cookery classes, if you’re only just getting to grips with the kitchen, this would be a genuinely useful educational tool. And besides, few cookery schools offer much for £2.99.