Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Me and my sun oven

The worst thing about working in the cafe kitchen is the heat. With one oven on all day and sometimes two or three stove top elements and a couple of toasters as well, the place heats up fast. In the heat of the summer the kitchen becomes very uncomfortable to work in.

At home I have a way to harness the heat of the sun for cooking without heating up our kitchen. Here I am gettting ready to serve up a yummy homegrown vege meal cooked entirely by passive solar power.

My sun oven was manufactured in South Africa but they are (apparently) pretty easy to make from a cardboard box, some aluminium foil, glass or perspex and black paint. The sun's rays are concentrated by a cunning combination of angles, reflection and absorbtion to enable most kinds of food to be coooked. It is a relatively slow, moist heat and according to the instructions it is impossible to burn food in a sun oven. In my experience, however, it is possible to overcook it to a colourless, tasteless mush! I have read about people baking bread in them but they tend to be writing from Africa or Arizona or other places where the sun's rays blast hard almost all the time. Even with the hole in the ozone, and global warming, so far my NZ environments have proved too cloudy too often to rely on a baking heat hot heat .

That could change, however. Yesterday, before I left for work, I positioned the sun oven for maximum rays and left a feijoa crumble in it. By the time I got home (after a swim in the sea to cool off after a day in the cafe kitchen) the feijoa had boiled over and made a sticky mess on the floor of the sun oven. (Worst of all, removing the sticky mess took up quite a bit of the black paint which is essential for holding heat, but I can easily repaint it.) Fortunately the crumble itself was deliciously caramelised. Anyway, it seems possible that Te Horo's dry hot summer may enable me to expand my sun oven repetoire...

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