A pestle and mortar is an ancient cooking tool, it has been used for centuries in one form or another to grind and crush food into a fine paste or powder.
It is made up of two parts but which part is which? The mortar is a bowl that holds the ingredients and the pestle is a blunt club-shaped object. Both can be made of wood, metal, ceramic, or a hard stone like granite or marble.
Why use a pestle and mortar?
Using a pestle and mortar takes a bit of work and time, so why bother when you can use an electric alternative like a food processor? The difference is that food processors chop while pestle and mortars pound food into a paste or a powder. This pounding breaks apart the cells in the food, releasing more aroma and increasing the flavour. This means you can buy whole spices and grind them up at a moments notice if you need them.
You also have more control over the consistency when you are doing something by hand. You can decide how fine or course you want your spices to be. Have you ever tried to make guacamole in a high powered food processor only to blend too much? In a pestle and mortar, you have complete control over the consistency.
Choosing a pestle and mortar
There are a few things to look out for when you are looking to invest in a pestle and mortar.
When choosing a pestle and mortar you should first consider the shape of both parts. The mortar should have a deep curved bowl. The depth will stop your ingredients jumping out and the curved shape will contain what you are grinding better than one with a flat bottom.
The other key factor you need to consider is the shape and size of the pestle. The narrower the pestle is in relation to the mortar the harder it will be to get a good result. Look out for a design with a larger chunky pestle, it will make your life so much easier!
Most pestle and mortars are made of heavy materials, this is to ensure it doesn’t move around when you are using it. A heavy pestle works with gravity to make your life easier, it will come down heavier so you don’t have to use a lot of force.
Stone pestle and mortars are usually your best option as they are heavy, strong and usually have a rough texture that creates friction when grinding.
Different sets can vary drastically in size so it’s important to consider how much kitchen space you have and what you will be using it for. If you only need it for griding some pepper opting for a smaller size is the best choice for you. If you enjoy making large amounts of pesto go for a bigger size!
Recipe sugetion: Pesto, Guacamole, Harrisa, Hummus