Scientific energy saving cooking demonstration in ITN television in Sri Lanka, to educate the people to save about 60% wasting gas. Please watch out for date of broadcasting.
Posted on June 6th, 2013

Dr Hector Perera     London

 I practice what I preach; it’s not limited to words only but applied practically as well. If I just talked using some scientific terms, it would be some kind of double Dutch to ordinary people, a boring session. When I met a top official in ITN TV station, I told him politely that if I had an interview as a chat show, the ordinary people would not understand me at all. That was very near a long Vesak holiday period so it was difficult to get enough personal to get a recording of the scientific energy saving cooking demonstration. Then I mentioned that I have very limited cooking facilities just like to majority of people so I wanted to do a demonstration at the place where I stayed.

I knew in advance that my demonstration should help the general public to save wasting gas and energy. Energy prices have gone up and up not only in Sri Lanka but in England as well. The reason I choose gas because one could visually see any increase or decrease of the flame but in an electric cooker this is not quite easily visible. In most other cooking programmes, the cooks just add this and that quickly so the general public do not get a clear idea what was going on. I think the chefs are not scientifically educating the general public because they themselves are unaware of application of science to cooking and energy saving but they just add this and that without due care for wasting gas.

 In that case our servants in the past are no better than some of these TV chefs. Recently I saw a cooking programme while I was in Sri Lanka, where the interviewing young lady was talking near the chef who cooked something in an open pan which was fuming and bubbling furiously at that moment. Occasionally it caught fire on the volatile chemicals and interviewing young lady considered it very exciting. I think he was unaware that those chemicals were supposed to be in the cooking pan for whatever it cooked so it gives the flavour, instead those chemicals got burnt or just wasted.

I really wanted to make it different to any other cooking demonstration. I am sure it has fulfilled, you may witness it once you see the actual cooking demonstration in ITN. I am not sure when it would be broadcasting, hopefully soon.

In the ITN cooking demonstration, I washed three cups of rice and before that I placed four cups of water to boil in a stainless steel cooking pan. I could have put the rice and water together and cooked rice but when I got the water boiled or warmed while I got the rice ready that really saved me a few minutes. Once I put the rice into the pan, I knew it would take less than five minutes to boil because the water was already fairly warmed. Then as it showed the first signs of froth coming, I immediately reduced the flame to about 30% from the original flame. That means nearly 70% of the gas was not used for cooking. From the start I showed some gas can be saved.  The time is important in chemistry practicals then here as well, I noted the time it started to show the first signs of steam coming out. From that time after a given time, I just switched off the gas when I assumed that rice was cooked. I didn’t open the rice pot to check whether it was cooked or any water left at the bottom. You would notice no over flowing when it started to froth. How did I know that rice is cooked, by experience? Please tell me how many times some of these Sri Lankan ladies cooked rice, may be two times a day for a number of years. Every time it froths what they do is to take the lid off and let is subside or do something like stirring to make it go down. That type of cooking is quite normal to many house wives. I am certain they do not think of the time, they just check the water in the rice pot by using a long handled spoon. They check if rice is cooked, if not add some cold water. Then after a few minutes they again open the rice pot and repeat the process. I am sure they do not realise that the process looses some heat then there is a drop in temperature gradient inside the pot. Sometimes they stir it so that rice gets mixed then by doing that so much heat is lost to the surrounding. Which lady with nice face make ups would like to open the steaming pot of rice? If they do that certainly some make up would dribble down, that is what I think. Is that why they use rice cookers? Present day most Sri Lankan ladies use rice cookers because they do not know the art of cooking rice in the normal way, what a shame? Once you see my method, you would understand that even a child can cook rice or anything. How did I cook, just simply applying some science?

We also had servants in the past, they cooked on firewood stoves but they got the technique right to get cooked rice. How did they cook perfectly in clay pots on firewood stoves? Those days, I was not observing the techniques to cook rice just see something in passing by that is all. The moment I had to cook, sleep and study in a single room in England that really worried me. I had to device something so that my clothes do not smell curry smell. This is where my energy saving scientific cooking idea initiated. Where did Isaac Newton’s gravitational force theory initiated, yes by sitting under an apple tree.

During the Vesak season, in the cooking demonstration to the ITN, there I showed how I cooked two other curries, one was a vegetable curry then the other was a chicken curry. I wanted to show what an average family would prepare for a normal daily meal, rice, vegetable curry then a fish or chicken curry. According to my ideas, it doesn’t take that long to prepare a family meal, could be done under 45 minutes.

Unlike those days, now everything is made so easy. Fires for cooking by gas, not firewood, all ingredients are easily found in supermarkets in nice packets or in bottles. Those days one needs to grind them on chilli grinding stones or on “ƒ”¹…”Miris gala’ or pound in traditional “ƒ”¹…”Wangediya’, that time has long gone. Now a days cooking is so easy, just think in the right direction, save gas and apply some science then job done. Here the qualitative and quantitative matters that means what is put into it and how much to be added. I told that a certain amount of curry powder, chilli powder and all other ingredients were added to each curry but not to exceed certain ingredients such as chilli powder and also salt.  Believe me too much salt is bad for health. Sometimes certain ingredients were the same to both vegetable and chicken curry but the quantity was different and some ingredients were not added to chicken such as maldive fish. Certainly less chilli powder was added to vegetable curry than to the chicken curry.  When the ingredients were added and mixed to chicken curry, I left it for few minutes so that the ingredients gradually get absorbed into the chicken, same was done to the vegetables. Some ingredients remained on the top and some inside the cut pieces of the vegetables and meat pieces. In Chemistry we call this chemisorption. Some people call it, marinade or time to get some absorbed. I told the reason why vegetable and chicken were cut into smaller pieces because that increases the area so that there would be better contact with the ingredients and reaction would be better. In any occasion, I didn’t touch the curry powder or ground chilli by hand because that could stain the skin on the palm. Try not to touch turmeric with bare hands because it would badly stain. If you really wanted to mix by hand try and put the hand in a polythene bag then mix the ingredients by hand. I have seen how our servants mixed them by hand. You need to keep all the ingredients in an orderly manner on a table or on plates so that you want miss any of them; otherwise you tempt to open the boiling chicken curry to add them from time to time. This is how you get showered with chicken cologne. Try and add all the ingredients at the right proportion, in right quantity then you would get a tasty dish. How would you know that, of course by experience? One come to know how much of each to be added by past experience. May be one need a little practice before get the confidence? A simple ingredient called cloves give a special taste to chicken curry but if one added more than three pieces then by eating the resulting curry, one has to experience a burning sensation from mouth to the other end, so please do not add too much of cloves and nutmeg. These two spices give a special taste to chicken curry but too much is absolutely spoil the taste. If you keep on opening the boiling curries from time to time, so ingredient smells escape that means these volatile chemicals tempt to deposit on any cold surfaces such as on your face, hair, hand and on any exposed part of the upper chest. I regard these curries as chemicals and cooking or heating is somewhat like chemical reactions. In chemistry we need to heat certain chemicals for a certain time to complete the reaction for example in refluxing. Certain reactions need to be done for long time sometimes over an hour or more but some just heating would complete the reaction. When there are so many ingredients in a boiling curry, these ingredients react, interact with each other. That means there are intermolecular and intramolecular reactions taking place. I explained these terms with respect to actual cooking then the viewers certainly would understand but if I just mentioned in words only but no demonstrations then the viewers would find very difficult to keep their eyes open, make them very sleepy, may be a good sleep dose. That is I why requested an actual cooking demonstration than a chat show.

While I was getting the vegetable curry and the chicken curry ready to cook, rice was gradually boiling and getting ready to finish. You would witness in the programme that the rice pot didn’t over flow with froth and I didn’t open it all to check any water. As soon as the rice was finished, I placed both curries on the fires but I made sure no flame went out of the base. Any flame out of the base just radiates and is wastage of gas. Again I left the rice pot on the same spot because there is some more absorbed heat on the gas rings that helps to cook even without flame, it’s thermal capacity. I wanted to get the flame hit the base only not spreading out of the base. Any wind from the fan or the air conditioner or a wind from the window was avoided. That means I kept the windows open to get fresh air but not too wide to disturb the flame. I started with about 60% flame because 100% flame could spread out of the base of the cooking pan. Then within a matter of few minutes, fumes came out of the vegetable curry because there was no water or only very little water was added to the vegetable curry then immediately cut the flame to about 30% to avoid any burning. The chicken curry also had little liquid other than some from vinegar and any juice oozed out of the cooking chicken and some tomatoes. When the first trace of steam came out of the lid, I knew it started to boil then I cut down some heat, then watched out for more steam to come. I reduced the flame to about 30% so that there was not enough fire for vapours to gush out of the cooking pan. The kinetic energy of the molecules was limited by reducing the flame. Some escaped water vapour get condensed under the lid then dribbled down to the brim of the lid then condensed as water, there by making a water seal all round the lid. If there was not enough heat, the vapours would not escape from the lid; most of it get condensed under the lid and fall back into the cooking pan. Then the process repeats somewhat like water recycle process. I explained all these with respect to actual cooking than just by words only. When the lid was in closed position, the curries or rice had uniform temperature throughout. The steam pressure cooked all the rice and curries. The cooking demonstration together with some scientific words made the viewers aware of these scientific terms. I allowed this recycling to take place for about 20 minutes for the vegetable curry and about 30 minutes to the chicken curry. Unlike meat, vegetables get cooked faster; there are fewer tissues unlike in meat. Both vegetables and meat are bad conductors of heat so you need to heat them slowly otherwise water escapes quickly as water vapour then temperature rises, eventually burn the whole thing. Since the lid remains in closed position, the temperature inside the pans remains almost even but if the lid was opened, some of the ingredient vapours escape with volatile chemicals then only these ladies gets a cooking aroma on their face, hair and on cloths. Those chemicals came from ingredients added to flavour the dishes but now you have allowed some of them to escape so how would you regard the curries be tastier? Ladies, try and get the ingredients all at the beginning, otherwise you would be walking with curry smell, a mobile kitchen. Let me ask a question, who would like to be a mobile kitchen, certainly none of you. In my demonstration, I clearly showed by action that I didn’t open the cooking curries to add something or to taste something, so why some others do?

As I mentioned time is important that means after 20 minutes after it attained the state of dynamic equilibrium, heat for the vegetable curry must shut down. Then 30 or 35 minutes after the state of dynamic equilibrium, heat for the chicken curry must shut down but that does not means you are allowed to open the lid. I showed by practice when they attain that state of dynamic equilibrium. At this stage, I call the molecules are very aggressive and unsettled that means it has high entropy. If I mentioned this single word in an interview, certainly the listeners would go to sleep or make them sleepy because they do not understand but when I explained with respect to a cooking demonstration then they certainly understand. That is why I mentioned to begin with that I wanted a demonstration than a chat interview.

Once the cooking was finished, I allowed about ten minutes cooling down that means the entropy to settle down. I opened the pot of rice and served into a dish until the pot was more than half empty so that the camera gets a good view of the bottom of the pot. Once you see the ITN demonstration, you would believe me there was not a single grain of rice got burnt? There was over no flowing or frothing like in most cases. The curries didn’t give out any appreciable vapours to settle on me while cooking. I was standing quite close to cooking pans while cooking but I didn’t get a shower of the curry smell. I cooked chicken so I didn’t get chicken cologne on me. There was only a trace of vapour came out while cooking and that had less kinetic energy and the molecular speed was not enough to settle on other places. They were opened again after a few minutes.

The best thing to check was to taste the food that I cooked. Some people tried them out and the people admitted it cooked well, taste better because the ingredient vapours didn’t escape since I didn’t open them while cooking.

My question is why couldn’t the viewers as well cook in that manner? I hope some energy saving experts also would witness my work to see if the technique really saved, gas, time and the curry smell. Just imagine if millions of people could follow my simple scientific energy saving cooking, how much wasting gas can be saved just on one day then for a week then for an year, how much money burnt on wasting gas could be saved? I have a feeling about 60% or more gas can be saved, the best thing is for the viewers to judge. Would you think I was foolish enough put Rs Two millions as a challenge? Now I would like to increase it to Rs six million from Rs two millions. That means if any energy saving expert or a scientist came forward and said my scientific energy saving cooking do not save gas, do not save time waiting in the kitchen do not cut down curry smell then I would have happily handed over that increased challenged money. What would I get for teaching the whole nation how to save about 60% wasting gas? Millions of people certainly save some money that would have burnt on gas, cut down some air pollution as well. What do I get in return by teaching the public how to cook scientifically saving gas? Would I get any reward, an official recognition? I just have to wait and see. All this time the general public have been burning truck loads of money unnecessarily on gas, am I correct? I am sure apart from energy saving authorities; millions of people would witness my kind of scientific energy saving scientific cooking demonstration, I am sure here after, cooking would never be the same again. In Vesak season people give “ƒ”¹…”dansal’ can I regard this as a kind of such a meritorious deed, a rare opportunity to serve the whole nation? Once you see the ITN cooking programme please let me know if you got any comments to p[email protected]

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