Twice as Nice

We have been having some difficulty with cooking plain rice of late. Neither of us has been able to turn it out nicely. It is possibly because we have not had a suitable pan. Previously I used the smaller pan of my two-base pressure cooker with its close-fitting glass lid. The pan was very heavy bottomed and the seal was good. Since selling up to go travelling, I no longer have that pan. 

The Tefal Ingenio pans that we bought for the van are very good and suitably heavy but the lids have two cut outs, one for pouring and one for fitting around the clip-on handle. It is impossible to effect a good seal, though we tried adding a foil insert and so on.

So, possibly the pan but, more likely we think, poor quality rice. 

What if… we ruled out the pan issue by using our new Mr D’s Thermal Pot? We had curry tonight and I duly tested out the thermal cooking of my rice. I used the same rice that we have been using (it’s the only Basmati that we had to choose from at our local shop), washed it well (it takes forever to get the starch out of this stuff) and drained it, leaving it to dry for a couple of hours.

Using 1 1/4 cups of water to 1 cup of rice, I added both to the smaller/top pot and brought the pan to the boil, then put the pan in the vacuum casing for thirty minutes.

Now, can I say that it produced perfect rice? No, unfortunately not. However it did show improvement and I do think that I have proved that it is the rice at fault and not the cook. If we find a good Asian supermarket on our next travels I will invest in some good rice and repeat the test. I did like the ease of preparation and the fact that it requires no supervision at all. Also a plus: no sticking to the base of the pan. None whatsoever. That will make washing up in a tiny sink a lot more pleasant.

In Other Culinary News (sorry, I know this is a travel blog and not a cooking one but travellers need to eat too) I have invested in a Kindle copy of Yotam Ottolenghi’s Simple. I think that it might be just what I need to kick off some  culinary inspiration when we are travelling.

SIMPLE includes recipes made in under 30 minutes, one-pot meals and store-cupboard recipes. Ideal in a small van, I suspect.

Watch this space.

Two snails, one dog, a couple of cats and Mr D

The Winter Tour

Two Snails are making preparations for the 2018/2019 Winter Tour. Mr Snail has a hankering to repeat last Winter’s experience of spending the turn of the year in the warm sunshine rather in Rain, Frost and Snow. So, we are off to Spain and Portugal again. Or not. There is still a possibility of going Somewhere New.

It turns out that there are complexities associated with crossing borders when it comes to gas bottles. This had never occurred to me as the last time that we were down there we had an onboard tank and did not have to consider such matters. With two French bottles on board we hope to manage for a couple of months without the complication of ditching one in exchange for a Spanish or Portuguese one plus the new necessary fittings.

How to conserve gas supplies? Eat salad! That’s fine if the weather is as good as it was last winter. What if it’s not? and the journey down could be wet or cold or both, it certainly was at times last year. Eat out! Can’t do that all the time though…

Enter Mr D and the concept of thermal cooking.  

Mr D’s Thermal Cooking pot is a modern take on the old haybox cooker and also, if you like, a Slow Cooker that needs no power to do its cooking. It has useful application for the off-grid traveller. More importantly for us is the matter of using less of our precious gas. Instead of cooking a meal for half an hour, an hour, or more on the hob (depending on what you are actually planning for dinner of course) it’s simply a matter of getting the pan going on the hob. Once it is fully hot, the pan goes inside the insulated casing and cooking continues with the residual heat. So you can slow cook a stew that would normally take two to three hours on the hob top with just ten minutes use of gas, or thereabouts. A slow cooker would do the same job but requires an electric hook-up to be available, this thermal pot needs no input. 

There are other benefits to using a thermal cooking pot. Of interest to Snails is the ability to cook on the move. There is the potential to start dinner off before we pack up and leave a site, leave the Mr D’s sitting in the sink for security, arrive at our night stop and find dinner already cooked for us. Awesome!

Similarly, we can set dinner away to cook and then go off walking the dog or out for the day. No safety worries about leaving things plugged in. Nothing burns. Nutrients are locked in. Odours and steam are locked in. This latter is also very useful when living in a van.

We dithered for a while about a Mr D’s; they are not cheap. It was the gas bottle issue that swung the decision. We ordered one up.

It took a while to get here; two weeks from ordering. We were watching the tracking and it left Hythe, in Hampshire, and sallied forth via Bournemouth, then Hinckley (!) and… Poland (!!), where it sat for at least 48 hrs. It moved on, to The Netherlands (!!!). We were losing hope of it arriving before we leave.

Battered and bruised after a long and complicated journey. I thought it best to photograph the damage to the box just in case the contents had suffered,

This morning, tracking indicated that our package was still in The Netherlands but later in the day it updated to say “Out For Delivery” and this afternoon it arrived – just as I was about to make soup for dinner.

Well, what’s a Snail to do? I made my soup in the Mr D’s.  It was late in the day but my leek and potato soup had two hours in the pot and was both properly cooked and hot enough to eat without any re-heating.

Mr D’s Thermal Cooker

Notes so far:

  • The manufacturing quality is apparently good
  • This 3 litre size is ample for two
  • The internal pan is narrow and deep, boiling up the soup took quite some time
  • Instructions are to cook in the closed thermal case for a minimum of three hours but two hours was plenty for this simple leek and potato soup.
  • Much less liquid is required than when cooking on the hob, where the liquid evaporates. I thought that I had used sufficiently less but it turned out that I should have cut back further – my soup was somewhat lacking in body (though full of flavour)
We purchased the 3 litre “Twinpot”  setup. One large cooking pot, one smaller top pot, and a thermal casing. A lid for each pot is included.

I look forward to further adventures with my thermal cooker.

Tagged: Mr D