We hear a lot about food waste, but not so much about the energy we waste while preparing food. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, is a regular cooking instruction for the carby staples that form the backbone of our meals. Kitchens fill with steam, energy-hungry extraction fans pump it out into the night. We have to lower our dangerously high carbon emissions. We have to transition away from gas as a cooking fuel and into renewable electricity. The demand for electricity to power cars, heat our homes and stream our entertainment is climbing ever higher. So if we can learn to cook with less energy all the better.
The cooking energy is in the steam. We just need to harness it rather than waste it by pumping it out
Geraldine Hegarty is the woman behind the Cooking Cosy. It looks like a woolly hat for a unicorn. The first time I used it to cook rice I wore it on my head afterwards to the amusement of no one in my family. The hole in the centre of the hat is for the handle pot. The idea is simple. Instead of "bring to the boil and then simmer" cooking, you use the cosy to do the simmering, with nothing under the pot but a cork mat or wooden board to insulate the heat that's already been generated. The cooking energy is in the steam. We just need to harness it rather than waste it by pumping it out.
Like any new piece of kitchen kit it takes a bit of practice to get used to it. Pasta, rice, pulses, vegetables and eggs can all be cooked using it. The second time out I skipped the “stir well” part of the instructions and it didn’t work as well so it is important to follow the instructions. Brown rice takes a little bit more “cooking” under the cosy. Hegarty’s website also points out how handy a cooking cosy could be for camping trips or for people living off grid. In these situations cooking fuel becomes precious. There is a tangible limit to how much you can consume and consequences to carelessness. It is those limits that are missing in our everyday use of fossil fuels. The pipeline keeps pumping. The sting is in our utility bills and the catastrophic effect of emissions.
So the €18.95 cooking cosy pays for itself fast. It leads to more mindful cooking, less steamy kitchens and unlike the boil and simmer approach food doesn’t get baked (or burned) onto pots. More food is eaten and less effort and hot water goes into the cleanup. My bugbear is the washing up performed by running everything under a gushing hot tap. But that’s a battle for another day.
Catherine Cleary is co-founder of Pocket Forests