Saturday, 4 January 2014

Under pressure - but still cooking on gas...

From Silver Linings: The magazine of the Hawkins-Universal pressure cooker users' club
Calculated to torpedo my New Year frugality vows, the Lakeland catalogue has arrived and I am trying hard to ignore the electric mini pie maker, decorating spoons and crumpet rings. I half convinced myself that buying crumpet rings would save me money by enabling me to make crumpets, but reluctantly concluded that I already have various metal cooking rings which would serve should I ever want to give it a go. Here's the deal - if I ever make crumpets with rings that aren't fit for purpose, and really want to make them again, then I might be allowed to buy crumpet rings. But I'm not allowing myself to buy them on the offchance.
The same goes for the decorating spoons. I used a couple of these in the photographer's studio when we were doing the pics for The Adventurous Vegetarian and they were great. I didn't know such things existed. I badly want to own some - but have reluctantly decided that I might be able to buy them if I get offered any food styling work and could actually use them for any purpose other than making myself chuckle. With the proviso that if I'm working at Graham's photography studio again, I can just use his. 
The electric pie maker has the strongest draw. I can just envisage myself knocking out perfect little pies at the drop of a hat. That's how it works, of course, I'm not really buying the product so much as buying the lifestyle. Naturally they would be filled with delicious food scraps and left-overs. That would save me money, wouldn't it? Please say it would. The machine is £30. 

The new Lakeland catalogue is very strong on food saving and money saving gizmos. I can well believe that the mini oven uses less electricity than my full-sized one, but maybe rather than owning two ovens, the best thing to do is to try to cook several things at once. On this principle, last night I rapidly asembled an apple and oat flapjack/dessert which went into the oven with two dishes of puff pastry topped left overs (spicy lentils and broccoli in cheese sauce, respectively) and a baked potato that I 'd pre-blitzed in the microwave. Result - lots if left over apple pudding. The trouble with cooking too much at once is that you end up eating things cold the next day, or reheating them. Either way, they're probably past their best. Meh. 
The cost of cooking things is always the missing piece of info in so-called money saving recipes, and I think it's probably because nobody on earth has a clue about how much electricity it takes to heat up a pie, much less how much that electricity costs. (As it stands, it could be costing every person on the street a different amount as we are all paying different rates for fuel.)  It's an annoyance that has been nagging away at me for years - as a student I wrote to Friends of the Earth to ask them which was best for the planet - an electric kettle, or one I could use on a gas hob. No useful reply. Poring over the bills won't help, I suspect - they're renowned for being impossible to understand, and (oddly) mine have suddenly gone down which makes me suspect that either I have been overpaying like crazy for years, or there is a mistake happening right now and sooner or later I'll be required to make up the shortfall. They keep coming at looking at the meters, and my usage must be pretty predictable, so ... ach, let's not go there.
So I don't know how much it would cost me to use an electric mini pie maker to bake a batch of six pies, or how that compares with doing them in the oven (where in theory I could probably bake about forty mini pies at once, which would be pointless as the freezer is rammed and I'd only end up cooking most of them twice...).
I'm also hopelessly confused about the Lakeland gadgets on offer. The machine to seal left overs into plastic bags isn't fooling me, even I can see that I would have to save an awful lot of left overs to justify the £160 price tag (and extra bags are £17!). To be fair, it's not just a thing for sealing bags, it's an intelligent vacuum sealer capable of creating those plastic parcels that you can then cook 'sous vide' if you also buy the sous vide machine (£250). We've all seen the harassed contestents on MasterChef Pros using the sous vide machine to do exciting things with unpromising bits of meat, but as a vegetarian I think it would be wasted on me... I may of course be making a fool of myself and missing the point.
The machines that I'm really at sea with are the pressure cookers and the slow cookers. Again, perhaps this is because the bottom line is that these are machines for rendering cheap meat into a reasonably tender state. Irrelevant to me, so maybe that's why I've not applied myself before. What do pressure cookers do? They feel like something from wartime, and I think my perception of them is coloured by apocryphal stories about them blowing up. Why would I want to cook something under pressure? It's obviously dangerous. Is it quicker? Does it take less fuel and is it therefore a cheap way to cook? Or is it all about dealing with gristle? And what is the difference between a pressure cooker and a slow cooker? I can see the obvious. But what's useful about a slow cooker? Is it a really cheap way to cook? Just a way to keep something on a low heat for a long time while you are out? Why would I want to keep something warm for hours? Is this just another gristle tenderising gizmo?
Most fascinating is the Remoska electric cooker. The write up seems to imply that I'm hopelessly out of touch if I have never heard of it. Apparently everybody has been using them for years. It bakes, roasts, defrosts and reheats... like an oven... but is 'positively miserly with electricity'. Sounds interesting, but I wish there was a way to find out more - would it really be worth investing £150-170? And what's the difference between the Czech Remoska and the North American Crockpot on the next page (£65)? And what's the difference between the Crockpot and the Lakeland Slow Cookers which are only £20 or £30? I'm hopelessly confused. Maybe I need a kitchen energy consultant to advise me. (And, should I buy a pressure cooker, to sell me some insurance.)

1 comment: