Energy saving scientific cooking demonstration witnessed by the public.
Posted on June 12th, 2013

Dr Hector Perera    London

About a week after the scientific energy saving cooking demonstration to ITN TV in Sri Lanka, I thought to do a similar demonstration to a crowd of people living in a high rise building of apartments. To my surprise a whole load of crowds from outside the apartment dwelling also turned up for the event.

We had to organise everything in advance by booking tables, chairs, cookers and cutlery. Then put a small notice about the work but I am not sure if many people noticed because they never had this kind of thing, “ƒ”¹…”Scientific energy saving cooking’.

I always mentioned that even a child could understand my kind of cooking and to prove that one of the teenage daughters of the chairman of the building came to help me in the demonstration. In chemistry practicals, only the children above 12 yrs old are allowed to handle fire under supervision.

I wanted to show the crowd that cooking daily normal meals is just a child’s play, not a complicated or a tedious job. I knew that I had to address a normal crowd not a bunch of scientists so I kept my explanation as simple as possible.

I was introduced to the crowd by the chairman as a chemistry teacher but not as a cook because I just apply science in the process of scientific energy saving cooking.

In the first floor of the car park, I had two gas cookers and other little things such as pots and pans only, no five star cooking facilities. I think the ordinary people also do not have much more than what I had for the demonstration. I wanted let them know these facilities are more than enough to make a family meal in a short period of time.

Just like in ITN cooking demonstration, I placed four large cups of water to boil in a stainless cooking pan then the chairman’s wife helped me by bringing three cups of washed brown rice. I must say to begin with the crowd was very helpful in my demonstration. My aim was to show how energy can be saved, not to do other simple tasks in cooking such as cutting vegetables and onions. Then I used a cup to take out some warmed water from the pan then put the rice into the cooking pot. Any rice left in the pot was washed with the water taken out and added to the pot so that no extra water was added. There was only four cups of water in the pot with three cups of brown rice. I think the water was fairly warm by the time I added the rice. This is one of the things one can do to save time that means allow the water to warm before you start to wash the rice. You can do the normal way by having rice in cold water then check the level with the middle finger. I assumed by previous experience that one cup of rice would be sufficient for three people and that pot couldn’t hold more than three cups of rice to cook. Once I added the rice, from that time, I asked the crowd to notice the first trace of steam that comes out of the lid. The daughter who came to help me also watched carefully for the first trace of steam. I told the crowd it would not take no more than five minutes for the steam to come out because the water was fairly warm by the time we added rice.

Then as it showed the first signs of steam followed by a trace of froth, I immediately reduced the flame to about 30% from the original flame. That means nearly 70% of the gas was not used for cooking. That means from the start I showed some gas can be saved. All this was done in front of the crowd and the public was watching, here the public was witnessing as it happens.

 The time is important in chemistry practicals then here as well. I asked the crowd to note the time it started to show the first signs of steam coming out. I told the crowd that from that time about 30 minutes after that the flame should shut down that is all to be done. So far did you see it as a child’s play?  From my previous work, I assumed that rice would be ready within that time. The crowd was watching when I did all these things and 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. When it started to show first signs of froth, a thin film of starch came up with the steam forming a seal around the lid. You must not increase the temperature so the molecules have a greater tendency to escape by breaking the water and starch seal. This water and starch seal helps to build a temporary high pressure condition inside the rice pot so there is an even temperature within the pot of rice that means almost even temperature gradient from the bottom to the top. I said the steam and froth trying to come out but balanced by adjusting the flame to attain my kind of thermodynamic equilibrium position. If I just said those scientific terms without any demonstration, certainly the crowd wouldn’t have understood. I explained all these in simple words with respect to actual cooking so that the crowd would understand.

How did I know that rice is cooked, that is by experience? One thing, how many times some of these Sri Lankan ladies have cooked rice, may be two times a day for a number of years but still they haven’t got the technique. Every time it froths what they do is to take the lid off because it would fall on the cooker. Sometimes these ladies let is subside or do something like stirring to make it go down. I got a long handled spoon and showed it to the crowd. I couldn’t believe the crowd was laughing when I mentioned these things because that was the thing they do. In the meantime, the pot of rice was cooking slowly, little puffs of steam jetting out from here and there under the lid, just like a little steam engine, trying to climb, “ƒ”¹…”Kadugannawa hill’.

While rice was slowly cooking, I came to the other table to prepare the curries such as chicken and vegetables. That teenage daughter was standing next to me while I was adding the ingredients. Before I added anything, I showed it clearly to the crowd and asked their opinion as well for example how much chilli powder, curry powder to be added to that much of chicken. All this was watched by the daughter because she was going to prepare another one by following my work. I told the crowd not to over do chilli powder then with little things such as cloves and nutmeg because they create a burning sensation in the stomach. I showed how the ingredients to be arranged systematically on the table so that one would not miss out any ingredients. This is one if the mistakes done by too many housewives that is they keep on adding things from time to time by opening the boiling curries. I told the crowd if anyone would like to have a shower of curry smell or chicken cologne then walk about like a mobile kitchen, then they must do that way. The crowd enjoyed my simple explanations and nobody objected. I asked the daughter to check if we missed any ingredients to chicken curry and the vegetable curry. Then she gave me a packet of maldive fish to be added to chicken. The crowd was watching but I slowly said to her only, “ƒ”¹…”not for chicken’. I was wondering if we didn’t show the children practically how to cook a simple dish such as vegetable or chicken, they think cooking is a tedious and a nasty job.

The ingredients were mixed by spoons and not by hand to avoid any stains on the hand. Once mixed they were left for few minutes and we call it to marinade or to absorb the ingredients. Some ingredients remain on the surface while some get absorbed and in chemistry we call it chemisorption. I mentioned that no water was added to chicken because the water that is already absorbed in the chicken and the other ingredients such as vinegar and tomatoes would ooze out enough water to cook. In my method, I minimised the loss of water during cooking so once cooked the curries are not full of gravy. If the curry is too dilute or watery, the housewives add too much salt to make it tasty but it’s not healthy.

University students

When these young girls go to the Universities, they might eat takeaway food because they have no idea of simple cooking other than boiling an egg. Most University students have to live away from home and parents so they have to either cook at the University accommodation or depend on junk takeaways. Healthy minds in healthy bodies that is why these students need to understand how to make a simple meal than depending on rotten takeaway food. Have I got to explain in detail the state of takeaway food? Right from the start my intension was to teach some simple cooking to these young children. I am sure I need to widespread this idea to other school children as well.

Salt can affect the blood pressure

When it came to adding salt, I told the crowd that one has to be very careful about the salt because it can affect the blood pressure. One person asked me a few questions about salt and alternative salts. I told him the hotels and takeaway foods add monosodium glutamate or “ƒ”¹…”ajina motto’ because they are flavouring enhancers that gives more flavour. That again has lots of side effects to health.

Unlike in any other cooking demonstration seen in television programmes, I cooked after explanations, I stopped and answered the questions of the crowd, showed the daughter what has to be done, what has to be added in the right quantity. In other words the qualitative and quantitative aspect of cooking was explained in simple terms. In chemistry all chemicals react in right proportions the same principle applies in cooking.

After my instructions the daughter as well cooked some rice and prepared chicken and vegetable curries quite confidently. Her mum and dad as well as the whole crowd watched all these work quite eagerly. If I just added this and that quickly, made some jokes, set fire to vapouring ingredients that would have been more exciting. This is the way some British TV cooking programmes taking place but the public hardly learn anything. I am sure some of them have understood whatever we done. This is totally different to watching a TV programme but this was a live demonstration. Once the rice got cooked we left it for a while for the steam to settle.

Recorded for learning

We filmed this cooking demonstration as well so that at a later date some people can see and learn more work. You would see in the film that from time to time more rice was cooked by other people who came to help. This daughter’s dad who organised the event also cooked some rice then he reduced the flame at the right time then shut down the flame after the right time. That showed the crowd even the adults understood my kind of simple instructions and cooked rice on the spot as I explained. That gave the crowd additional confidence. In the meantime, I answered a number of questions from the crowd. In this cooking demonstration I was very careful about adding the right ingredients in correct proportions and explained to the crowd the reasons. The importance of time factor was also explained.

No unnecessary sauces, oils, colourings, flavour enhancers were added. This is one of the biggest mistakes make in British TV cooking programmes. They never care about the wasting gas either.

Cooking is just like chemistry practicals

The vegetable curries had only little water so the cooking had to be done carefully because it might burn. I started with about 60% flame giving time for the juices to ooze out then come to equilibrium position. Vegetables and meat are bad conductors of heat that means they absorb heat very slowly that is why I allowed only 60% heat at the start. As soon as the first trace of steam came out, flame was reduced to about 30% then shut down after about 20 minutes. During that time, it was not opened to add this and that or to check anything. This again formed a kind of water and volatile ingredient seal around the lid so any water vapour condensed back to the pot. A kind of water recycle taken place. One time there was no fitting lid then we used a plate as the lid. All this work was watched by the crowd. One must remember this as a kind of chemistry practical because these foods and ingredients are nothing but chemicals and cooking is a kind of chemical reactions.

Chicken curry takes a longer time

When we cooked the chicken, we started with about 80% flame because too much flame spread out of the base of the cooking pan. We used a cooking pan without a handle and I pointed out the handle must have burnt out due to flame spreading out of the base. In this cooking demonstration the flame was adjusted according to the size of the cooking pan so that it hits just the base only. Unlike in the vegetable curry, first trace of steam didn’t come out of chicken curry for about ten minutes then once it came to the state of dynamic equilibrium position, it remained that way for 30 minutes before it was shut down. I explained what exactly I meant by the condition I mentioned as the state of dynamic equilibrium position. The daughter as well cooked chicken, vegetable and rice in the same manner. Once she put the wrong lid on the vegetable cooking pan then changed it because without the correct type of lid, it would not create the required pressure condition.

Different kind of dansela

After cooking the whole crowd participated in tasting the cooked food. We were so glad we could organise a different kind of “ƒ”¹…”dansala’ during the Vesak season and we regarded it as a very rare opportunity. Here we showed how a simple daily meal can be easily cooked with minimum cooking facilities then showed the crowd how to save about 60% wasting gas. I regard wasting gas means wasting money or actually another way of burning the hard earned money. One must realise wasting gas means polluting the atmosphere with carbon dioxide and with other air polluting gases.

If I invited any energy saving experts or any scientists they would have understood that this kind of cooking saves lots of wasting gas and cooking a daily simple meal is not that difficult at all but so many housewives are still using rice cookers because they cannot cook rice without “ƒ”¹…”dankuda’.

I must thank the chairman Mr Bandara, his wife and the teenage daughter who participated in the event then all others who helped to make this event successful. The public who came to witness my scientific energy saving cooking were a great help, I must thank them as well.

If any energy authority or a scientist wished to see this particular DVD in order to see, does it really saved energy and how easy was to cook a daily simple meal then you may please get in touch. Let me say this way as well, me and my wife done a good deed in this “ƒ”¹…”Vesak’ season; not only we gave some people a simple meal but educated them to make meals. If anyone has any comments

email to [email protected]

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