My old blender is not only ancient and decrepit but also bottom of the range, with a wobbly base and a plastic jug. We’ve had it more years than I can remember. It may even have been “inherited” (read “liberated”) from my parents before we got married, now I think of it… and that was over 15 years ago!

When you switch it on the blades kick in at full speed, throwing half the ingredients up the sides of the jug and onto the underside of the lid where they stick, impudent and unrepentant, until I pause, lift the lid, and force them back down towards the blades with a spatula, before blitzing again. This cycle is repeated, with increasing frustration and increasingly obscene swearing until Pete takes over, with a sigh and banishes me from the kitchen.

The old thing struggles with anything but the softest of ingredients and certainly doesn’t cope well with chunks of solid fruit let alone ice-cubes. Which is a shame, as I rather like blending ice-cubes into a smoothie or lassi on a hot summer day, something I have stopped doing for fear of the motor exploding. So terrifying is the idea of throwing solid chunks of green apple into it’s maw that I’ve switched to using the Magimix to make Indian green chutney, something one would usually do in a blender.


Still, it does cope with smoothies, as long as I stick to really soft fruit – no ice and no frozen fruit.

So, you can probably imagine my utter delight, ecstasy, elation, euphoria, exhilaration, glee, hysteria, joyousness, jubilation… when I was sent this extremely sexy Philips Robust blender.

I wasn’t asked to post about it on my blog, but simply to try it out and let them know what I think. But actually, having now used it a few times, I’m so excited about it, I have to share!

Robust Robbie

I’d actually read about this particular model (HR2181) online some months previously, so I already knew all about the dual-blade system (two stainless-steel serrated blades), the auto-accelerate function, the five different speed settings and the pulse option. And the 2-litre scratch-proof glass jar.

The auto-accelerate function is particularly cunning, especially in combination with the two blades which rotate in opposite directions and at different speeds. Instead of throwing the contents of the jug up the sides, the blades start rotating slowly, so they are able to bite into the ingredients, and the speed is gradually increased in a roaring crescendo of power!

(And no, I didn’t just lift that paragraph from some marketing blurb, I wrote it myself).

“Robust Robbie”, as I’ve named him, arrived the day before we left for a week’s holiday in the Lake District and, persuaded against taking him with us, I was impatient to put Robbie through his paces when we got home.

I decided to make his very first test fairly straightforward – a fruit smoothie. Of course, I had to give him a bit of a challenge so I included some large, rock-solid frozen strawberries, straight out of the freezer and given absolutely no time to defrost.

Test 1 – Fresh and Frozen Fruit Smoothie

I love smoothies, preferably thick’n’gloopy and preferably home-made. I nearly always use banana as the base and add whatever other fruit I fancy and have available.

smoothie ingredients: fresh banana, fresh pear and some previously frozen fresh whole strawberries

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probably no need to hold the lid down but old habits die hard

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and in a few quick moments, it’s done


Test 2 – Chocolate Bar Milkshake

Chatting to my a friend at work, I swooned a little about my new amour, Robbie and she immediately suggested a chocolate bar milkshake.

Her idea reminded me instantly of my second visit to Market Kitchen during which King Adz blitzed some Dime bars to make a quick and easy milkshake.

A quick scout around the house revealed an elderly mars bar and a battered kit kat. Into the jug they went with a pint of milk.

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blink and they’re gone

I turned Robbie on for just a few short seconds and my milkshake was ready.

In retrospect, biscuity bars like kit kat have no place in a milkshake – the biscuit texture remains even when blended to smithereens.

Next time I’ll try a Snicker bar or some plain chocolate or some chocolate covered Turkish delight.

What do you suggest?

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Test 3 – Chicken Liver Paté

For Robbie’s third test, I made vast amounts of my chicken liver and port paté – the jug was almost full of cooked chicken livers and onions and artery-hardening amounts of butter. As expected, I was left with a smooth, pourable liquid in no time. Success!

I’ve become very attached to Robbie in the short time he’s been with us. I stroke his elegant silver body on passing and admire his sleek glass jug on the draining board.

I’m looking for more challenges for him, perhaps mum’s green mango and coriander chutney – my old blender simply can’t manage solid chunks of the sharp, hard green apples I use in place of raw mangoes.

I want to try some thick sauce and dips too as I hear from other testers that Robbie may meet his match with such sticky, viscous challenges.

If you have any ideas on recipes to Challenge Robbie, please let me know!


Unusually for someone who didn’t grow up eating them (so I’m told) I love the big black tapioca pearls often served at the bottom of ice cold drinks in Chinese cafes. (Yes, I like grass jelly too!)

In China Town for dim sum last week, but arriving earlier than my friend, I stopped for a refreshing drink in Jen Cafe. I usually choose a pearl iced coffee or a fruit juice, such as Watermelon, over pearls. But this time I chose a pearl peanut drink. It tasted like a milkshake made with peanut butter. I loved it!

I still had some time to kill after slurping up the last of the silky, chewy spheres so I popped into to a few of the Chinese supermarkets to see what interesting ingredients I could find. As you can guess, I went for a packet of black tapioca pearls. I could also have chosen a packet of mixed pastel colours. For those of you familiar with the tapioca pearls used in tapioca pudding, these are much, much larger – nearer to a centimetre in diameter rather than 2-3 mm.

We spent the weekend at a friend’s house, attending a BBQ party for his birthday. It seemed to be as good a time as any to experiment with my pearls!

Following the instructions on the packet, I put them into boiling water until they were soft, shiny and squishy.

After draining them I dropped them briefly into iced water to cool them down.

I divided them between a few glasses.

Whilst they were boiling I’d thrown a tin of coconut milk, half a small jar of peanut butter, some brown sugar and a little regular milk (to thin it down) into a processor and whizzed it together. I poured that over the tapioca pearls. As I’d not thought to buy any of the extra-wide straws usually served with pearl drinks I served mine with regular straws plus teaspoons.

The reaction to the “giant frogspawn” was amusing, though most of the assembled party did, somewhat gamely, try them. They didn’t go down too well! The peanut coconut drink had a more mixed reaction with two of the drinkers finding it very strange but surprisingly moreish!

I wasn’t too surprised at the reaction, since I’ve been told that pearl drinks aren’t generally enjoyed by Western palates but I had a lot of fun and will definitely make some more pearl drinks with the rest of my packet.

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