Our Adventure Racing Club AGM last week delivered more than I'd anticipated. We were kindly hosted by club member Jonathan Beattie at his Voodoo Lily Cafe in Illovo. It's a super venue with excellent meals, including great Banting and veg meals.
I arrived early and took a look around. Jonathan recently renovated and the space is lovely. And there on a rack I spotted them - Wonderbag.
I've known of these insulated, heat-retaining cooking bags for a few years - and now I have one. I've got the Medium, which can fit a pot from two to 10 litres in size. It's perfect for pretty much everything.
The Wonderbag is much like a non-electric slow cooker. In short, you get the cooking started on the stove, bringing the dish to boil. After boiling for a few to 30 minutes (depending on the dish), you put it into the Wonderbag, pull the drawstring tight and leave the meal to cook in its heat for two or more hours (depending on the dish).
It comes with a recipe book and there are loads of recipes on the Wonderbag website.
On Monday AND Tuesday nights I whipped up butternut soup variations. Both delicious. I sautéed the onions first, tossed in a bunch of veg, including the butternut, brought to boil for a few mins and then put the pot in the Wonderbag for about 2hrs. I then blended the mix and served. It was still piping hot.
The Wonderbag was developed by South African Sarah Collins and it is indeed a means to change the lives of women and children in rural areas. When firewood is limited, cooking is affected (and the environment, of course). If one can use fuel to only bring a pot to boil and then insulate it and allow the food to carry on cooking in its own heat, time and money and resources are saved. In a big way. Never mind firewood, even when money for electricity is limited, the Wonderbag is a big saving - using electricity for 10 minutes vs 45 minutes (or more!).
You've probably even wrapped a pot in blankets to keep the contents warm - same concept. Only now the retained heat is actually being used to continue to cook the meal. And, while the food is cooking, without worry for burning or the liquid boiling off, you can go off and do other things. This makes it a great time-saving device too.
We've got gas at home, which we installed in about April last year. We've got a 7kg gas bottle on it, which we replaced for the first time in January this year. We've been super impressed with our electricity saving and I'm sure we can do even better with the Wonderbag in our home.
The Wonderbag works well for dense meals like stews, is perfect for one-pot meals and does everything from soups to rice and bread and desserts. I'll definitely get the children into experimenting with meals that they can prepare, put into the Wonderbag and eat later for lunch or dinner.
With butternut soup a success, I'm in the process of trying the Tender Roast Chicken recipe to take to my mom's home tonight. For this dish it has to boil for 30 minutes before being placed in the Wonderbag for three hours.
This is a useful product not only for rural Africa - it is also for everyday energy, fuel and time conscious cooking.