Saturday, November 04, 2006

Fuel Saving

There are many ways to cut down the fuel we use when cooking or heating foods. The less we use, the lower the fuel bills. Here are some suggestions:
Use a pressure cooker - not my favourite but it does use a lot less fuel.
Use the residual heat when a cooker is turned off*.
Pour unused boiled water from the kettle into a thermos flask to use for later drinks, cooking vegetables etc. (as done in stately homes - they also use their tea-bags twice, I know, I've been there. Playing Bridge opens most doors to me.)
Use a slow-cooker. - I really do think these are brilliant.
Use a set of 'stacking' steamers.
A microwave oven. Good for quick jacket potatoes, and a few other things.
To boil eggs: Put eggs into cold water and switch off as soon as they boil. Leave to stand five minutes and you have a soft-boiled egg. For hard-boiled, turn off heat after boiling for four minutes and leave to stand for 10 minutes.
When boiling rice and pasta, turn off heat after 2/3rds of the cooking time, cover and leave to stand for the rest of the time plus a bit longer.
Hay-box - the old method of cooking. Bring a casserole to the boil and tuck it into a box filled with packed hay. Top with more hay and put on the lid. Leave it all day and the meat will be tender by suppertime. A modern way is to line a box (an old cold box is ideal) with polystyrene, thick blankets or old woolly jumpers, and tuck your casserole in this.
Don't believe that ready-meals always take less fuel to 'cook'. Home-made can often be cooked in exactly the same time or LESS.
Although ovens should be pre-heated (it says on the pack), I often put frozen meals in the oven when it is switched on as it then begins to thaw as the oven heats up, as to my way of thinking it is not going to start 'cooking' (or re-heating properly) until thawed. I allow an extra five minutes to make sure it is heated thoroughly. This way I save the 15 minutes heating up time. Someone is bound to say I shouldn't do this, but it works for me.
When your oven has been on high, use the residual heat by drying breadcrumbs, baking oatcakes, and making meringues* once the oven has been turned off.

Meringue Crunchies
2 large egg whites
5oz (150g) caster sugar
6 oz (175g) 'crunch' -this can be a mixture of crisp cereal, broken biscuits, muesli, chocolate nibs, nuts etc.
Beat the egg whites with the sugar until really thick. Fold in the crunchy bits. Line 3 baking sheets with foil and spoon on a third of the mixture onto each. Smooth to a circle which fits the sheet then place the sheets in the oven (before you turn it out). Shut the door, turn off the heat and leave for at least 8 hours, overnight is even better. Do not open the door.
Peel off the foil and store in an airtight tin. Layer together with whipped cream or softened cream cheese and soft fruit (fresh or canned). Top with more cream and fruit. Orange wedges and Kiwi fruit are ideal for this.
Tips: To remove skin from Kiwi fruit, cut a small slice from the top and bottom and work a teaspoon in between the skin and the flesh . Hold and turn the fruit in one hand and slide the spoon round with the other until all the skin has been loosened. Then the fruit should pop out.

Keep a tin or jar to store the broken bits from the bottom of the biscuit tins. Sweet biscuits can be used in various desserts (cheesecake bases, refrigerator cake etc). To crush, put into a polybag, open end facing away from you, and roll bag with a rolling pin. Cheese biscuits can be crushed and used as a coating for fried foods instead of (or with) dried breadcrumbs.
Desserts such as fruit crumbles can be part cooked to just browning, and then left in the oven to finish after the oven has been turned off. I have an electric oven (gas hob) so cooling off times may be different with a gas oven.
Any other fuel saving suggestions would be appreciated so that I can pass them on to you.