There are times when cooking, that with a little forethought and planning it is possible to save cooking time and also some money. I am not talking just about making sure that the oven is full when you are cooking or that one dish comes out and another goes straight in. That is a given in my book. even though I find it difficult to achieve at times, especially when where bread or rolls are concerned.
No, what I am talking about are the little shortcuts that I have come to use over the years, and what I thought everyone knew about. I recall many years ago when I was a boy scout that one of the cooking tips was, at breakfast time, to put potatoes in a vacuum flask, filled with boiling water, and come dinner time they would be cooked. To the best of my knowledge and memory no one did it. What follows is a logical extension of that and will probably horrify the purists and food fascists, but who pays my, and your, energy bills anyway? So here goes.
Rice is added to boiling water and brought back up to the boil, a lid put on and the heat turned off . Then I set the timer for not quite double the cooking time. For 12 minute rice I would ‘slow’ cook it for 20 minutes, then put the heat on again and bring it back up to the boil, drain and serve. For wholemeal or brown rice which has a much longer cooking time it would be to a similar formula. You would have to experiment with your favourite brand of rice to establish the ideal time, but that would be no big deal.
Pasta can be ‘slow’cooked the same as with rice.
Potatoes as I alluded to above can be put into a vacuum flask, however my 1/2 litre/16 fl oz vacuum flask only has an opening of 3 cm/ 1 1/2 inches, but I cut a potato to roughly 3 cm/ 1 1/2 inch chunks, put them in the flask, half filling it. I then filled it with freshly boiled water and set a timer. After 6 hours they were firm but edible. Another hour and they were perfect. So 7 hours and done, but I would struggle to put a meal on the table with the contents of a small vacuum flask. You would need to experiment because different flasks have different rates of heat loss etc and different potatoes would cook faster or slower, but you probably get the idea.
Red Lentils take about 15 minutes to cook, but this can be reduced to 5 minutes by covering with cold water an hour and a half before hand, bring up to the boil and simmer to complete. Care needs to be taken as some recipes specify an exact quantity of water that will be totally absorbed during the cooking cycle, in which case add the specified amount of water.
Green or Brown lentils take about 35 to 40 minutes to cook and soften, but by covering with cold water the night before they will absorb water and soften. At 12 hours they will have swollen and absorbed a lot of water, and they will be soft enough to eat, requiring only sufficient energy to heat them up.
Dried Beans can be soaked in plenty of cold water for 24 hours at least before cooking and reduce the cooking time. Their volume will increase by about 3 times so make sure there is plenty of water. Drain and refill with fresh water for cooking. It is well to note here that the older the beans, the longer they take to cook, so eat your old stock on a regular basis to save cooking time. Also remember that only add salt once the beans have softened to the required degree. If you add salt before they have softened they will never soften by boiling.
Advantages to cooking this way. What this has meant for me is that in some instances I have had to adjust some of my cooking procedures to take into account the lengthened cooking times. So that sometimes I now start with rice instead of the accompanying vegetables, but this is an adjustment that takes very little getting used to. But my actual use of energy has gone down, and I quite like that.
As Kryten, the mechanoid, (see here for explanation of Kryten) in Red Dwarf occasionally said – smug mode!