Who would have imagined that solar cooking could be addictive? This may be surprising, but is true. It’s great fun and astonishingly easy to do.
Sunny Midlands winter days are perfect for cooking with the sun, and today, I did just that. I cooked dinner for Dizzy. Rice with lentils and barley and pumpkin and broccoli. Last week I did some sweet potatoes in coconut milk, which turned out well. I often do butternut and spinach and chickpeas (they do best if brought to the boil on the stove first). I also roast olives and sundried tomatoes drenched in oil and herbs in my SunStove.
As my kettle gave up the ghost recently, I have been using the SunStove to heat up water and then just popping it on top of the stove to really boil when I need a cup of tea. Boiling water on the stove is very inefficient compared to a kettle. Anyway, I’ve got a shiny new kettle now, much to my relief! In case you are wondering, those are my solar lanterns charging beside the stove.
The SunStove is perfect for slow cooking items like samp and beans and stews but also manages a whole chicken, hard boiled eggs or even baked potatoes. Not much water needs to be added so all nutrients are retained. Cooking with a SunStove means you spend less time ‘standing over a hot stove’ as once you have put your food in the black, lidded pot and placed in the box, it looks after itself and can’t burn (a real bonus with mealie meal and rice). Prepare your food early before you go out, aim your SunStove in the direction of the midday sun and come home to a delicious, hot meal! I find I have more energy to think about cooking in the morning than the evening, so this suits me well, even though I don’t go out much. Ideally, I keep moving the SunStove so that it faces the sun, to get the most energy.
As fossil fuels are fast depleting, renewable energy is the solution for our planet’s sustainability. Harnessing the inexhaustible power of the sun seems to make good sense, especially in Sunny South Africa. A solar cooker works best in clear weather, although a few clouds will not affect the cooking. A SunStove is a lightweight, insulated box with a clear top and reflective sides which can be hung up when not in use.
Another way to use the sun is with a big ‘dish’ shaped, parabolic cooker which can boil water in just a few minutes. This stove concentrates direct solar radiation onto the black cooking pot and cooks very quickly. It does need to be redirected to face the sun every 20 minutes or so and just like an ordinary stove, it is dangerous if left unattended and certainly should not be used by children. It is terribly exciting to boil water for teatime or make a quick soup for lunch when unexpected guests arrive and you want to chat rather than cook. My friends Charlene and Laila, have been popping popcorn for the kids at school in one – much to their amazement!
You can order locally made SunStoves from firstname.lastname@example.org and they will arrive at the Post Office – that usually leads to an interesting conversation! Or pop into Midlands Solar Sales in Victoria Square to see what they have got. www.mildlandssolar.co.za