Some British TV chefs are jugglers and jokers, I wonder do they know scientific energy saving cooking?
Posted on April 8th, 2015

Dr Hector Perera      London

Energy is an important in many ways. When I said energy let me concentrate just on one thing that is energy used in cooking. I still remember just like yesterday back home in Sri Lanka we used firewood for cooking because those days no gas and electric cookers were at our home even they were generally available. There was no problem of getting firewood from our own garden because we had a coconut land where other kinds of trees such as cashew, jack and other kinds of trees as well could be used for firewood. The servants usually collect firewood and stack them into a small shed so that whenever they want they just get it from there.

The firewood kitchens have their own way of cooking unlike any other types of kitchens. The places are sometimes smoky, dusty and generally hot due to radiation of heat from the stoves. Our servants cooked all kinds of food on these stoves and I never knew any difference between the cooking on gas or electric cookers. Sometimes my dear mum as well cook with the servants or visit to see if they are cooked or ready. The vessels were nothing but clay pots for cooking rice and curries but a metal kettle was there to boil water. The kettle was sometimes put against another stove than using a separate one so the water is always ready for making a cup of tea. A kerosene lamp sits somewhere near the stoves and sometimes, a little kerosene oil is poured over to light the firewood.

They are highly experienced

The servants cooked nearly everything quite perfectly, that really amazes me because unlike with gas or electricity cookers, the control of fire is not an easy task with firewood stoves. Usually there are two or three places to cook, sometimes they are in a row or separately. If too much fire is there for cooking rice then it is likely to get burnt rice. They repeatedly open the pot of rice and check the rice in the pot. A long wooden handled spoon acts like a dip stick in checking oil in the car. Sometimes they add some water and sometimes stir and sometimes rice goes pear shaped but very often get it right.

In cooking curries such as chicken or even dry fish, they open even the boiling curries several times in order to add this and that then keep on tasting the gravy to check the salt. Even recently I have seen some Sri Lankan ladies also did exactly what our servants did in the past. I was wondering was that a rule one must follow in cooking rice and curries or is it a habit?

Some British TV chefs are jugglers and jokers

I like to watch the British TV cooking programmes and competitions just to see what they do. There are quite a few during the week days then in the weekend. May be I am wrong but none of them showed any kind of energy saving and scientific type of cooking. They also followed exactly or worse than our servants back home. I can understand about the servants because they have little or no education, then what about the so called chefs in England? In England they have many modern facilities for cooking, cutting, grinding and mixing as many are done by machines. The firewood stoves had no control of the fire whereas gas and electric cookers have all that facilities. Many people including the TV chefs in Britain, just put fire at full blast and cook. When excess fire is there, liquids evaporate faster then very likely to burns the whole thing. When the liquid evaporates quickly it will leave the food uncooked. We have to make use of the liquid than just allowing it to evaporate. It will create some kind of convention currents so that it will carry some dissolved ingredients from the bottom to the top when the cooking pot absorbed heat due to conduction. That is one of the reasons why I choose quality cooking pans in my case of scientific cooking. I am not in favour of aluminium pots because the metal is soluble to some extent in acidic as well as in alkaline foods. I have witnessed in some restaurants they use aluminium cooking pots and pans.

When the liquid get heated, some liquid currents are created then slowly hit the food making any juices or ingredients to ooze out from some food substances and at the same time some other ingredients might get absorbed. In case of rice grains, the boiling liquid hit the grains and eventually and slowly the grains get hydrolysed. When this is continued for a while, all the food gets cooked consistently but one must understand that not all kinds of food get cooked at the same time. You need to set the cooking conditions consistent then only it works, At the start the ingredients must be allowed to get in contact or must be allowed to marinate with the food.

Explanations must go with demonstration

I have observed some chefs also some housewives in Sri Lanka repeatedly open the boiling curries and keep on adding this and that several times to the curries. That is not the end, then start to stir from the bottom to the top or keep on turning over. I understand there are cooked, partially cooked and uncooked food in a curry but if we get them to boil at consistency then there will be no problem. Then by previous experience one must understand how long it takes the food to properly cook. Say for example chicken takes about 25 minutes or maximum half an hour to get properly cooked if left under certain conditions. If the pressure is disturbed during that time, then it will not get cooked evenly. As I mentioned these words do not make the explanation, it should be properly demonstrated then it must be explained with respect to the demonstration. I have done that type of cooking demonstration in the TV for the benefit of the public. Just writing articles do not help, it must be properly demonstrated then should be explained. If I mentioned some scientific terms that are related to cooking such as intermolecular and intramolecular reactions, I am sure no ordinary people would understand. I am sure that kind of chat show would be really boring.

  I have experimented for sometime

Sometimes I leave the food to cook very slowly then attends some other work in the kitchen or watch the TV but not forgetting to come back after a few minutes yes after few minutes. I am sure cooking and chemistry go together because all the food we eat are made out of chemicals. One must have an understanding that has to be gained by experience. The servants know by long experience, how long it takes to cook rice, potatoes and vegetable. They are always not the same time but different times, how did they know, of course by experience. Green leaves like mukunuwenna” do not take that long to cook like potatoes. Rice takes around 25 to 35 minutes depending on the type of rice. Brown rice has harder grains so it takes extra five minutes longer than white rice.

University students are unaware of basic cooking

Most of the University students in England depend on takeaway food due to many reasons. One of the main reasons is not knowing how to cook simple food.  I have seen they just boil pasta, spaghetti, vermicelli then stir fry with mixed vegetables or roast chicken or just open readymade source bottles or packets and eat. The problem is they do not even know how to cook the basis thing that is pasta or spaghetti and they cannot afford to waste time in the kitchens but if they knew how to set them aside to cook for half an hour then they can come back when they are cooked. One thing they should understand not to leave the fire totally unattended. They put full fire and then spill over the cooker then keep on opening to test if they are cooked. That is too much for these students that is one reason why they stick to takeaway food.

 Do they know why ingredients are added?

The other thing is if anyone puts high fire, the spices and oil vapours escape quickly and some of it likely to deposit on the person who cooks. I am sure some people have no idea that these cooking ingredients including oils have low boiling points and they evaporate quickly. We must make use of these properties than let them run away or evaporate without any use. The purpose of adding ingredients are to flavour the food, not to wear them as kitchen cologne or cooking aroma cologne. The ingredients not only flavour the food, they have far too many good reasons such as antibiotic properties, anti-inflammatory properties, reduce the cholesterol on certain foods and many more.  The spices have aromatic chemicals with very low boiling points that means they are very sensitive to temperature. When the people walk about they might smell like mobile or tandoori kitchens. You might not notice but any outsider who comes in sense the smell immediately. Some ladies cover up these smells with body sprays so no outsiders notice any curry smell or cooking aroma smell on them. This is the point, if they knew by past experience that roughly how long a particular a food takes to cook then there is no need to open the cooking pots repeatedly to check if they are cooked. I have observed how our mum, aunty, grandma or sometimes the servants cook different things and they get the food perfectly cooked. Mainly if the cooking pan is opened and cooked then they get them perfectly cooked because they knew visually by change of the colour. Sometimes the problems arises when they are closed and cooked. Not all foods are cooked by closing some are cooked openly. Again in those cases as one has to watch out the amount of fire otherwise the things go wrong. They all come by experience. Your comments are welcomed [email protected]

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