One of the things I really like about my house is an old Glowburn wood heater, which I’ve just lit up for the first time this year. A friend chided me for using it, muttering something about global warming, to which I responded that I am only interested in the warming of my lounge room, but in any case I don’t really contribute to global warming because I go to great lengths to source waste wood from local arborists. That means all I’m doing is accelerating the carbon cycle of dead wood and I don’t have to feel bad about burning 300 year old Ironbarks, which is something to feel guilty about.
So, while I was sitting in front of the toasty Glowburn this afternoon, supposedly writing, I decided that it would be wasteful to burn fossil fuel by firing up the gas cooktop or the electric oven to cook the stew I had planned for dinner. Why not use the wood heater? Would it get hot enough to actually cook a beef stew? Only one way to find out, and tonight I am child free and my intended dinner guest doesn’t mind waiting if it turns out to be a slow meal. So I decided to do it and, because I really should be writing something else, to blog the results of this experiment in fossil-fuel-free cooking.
4.00pm: Put pot on wood heater, add some olive oil and two quartered onions.
4.16pm: Pot and onions warm to the touch, and nice smells are emerging, but no real action. Add two garlic cloves, whole because I like how they melt. Here’s how it looks, dark blue pot is hard to see on mission brown stove.
4.30pm: Nice sizzling sounds from pot. Safe to add spices for toasting – a tablespoon of cumin seeds, about a teaspoon of ground coriander, a shake of cinnamon and a touch of garam masala.
4.37pm: Smells yum but wonder if strong food smells in your lounge room are a good thing. Decide you should only do this if your house is open plan. Of course also need a wood heater.
4.50pm: All seems warm and brown in the pot so have just added a kilo of diced steak and about two diced and salted medium eggplants (which I found in the bottom of the crisper and I say about two because I used three but there were grubs in some bits so I took the grubs out, along with the sections the grubs were chewing). Also have thrown in a couple of handfuls of cherry tomatoes from my freezer, two baby carrots and a few sprigs of oregano, and a cup of beef stock.
Now I’m just going to leave it alone.
5.44pm: Not much of an aroma, figure fire probably needs stoking, but when I take the lid off it’s simmering. Stoked fire up and will check back later.
6.15pm: Ask dinner guest to please bring red wine as nice smells of eggplant and beef require a shiraz or cabernet sauvignon. The wine will have incurred food miles, but my dinner guest is arriving by foot so he’s not otherwise adding to greenhouse.
6.18pm: Occurs to me that I will need something carbohydrate to accompany stew and that it would be cool to manage carbs without using Westinghouse. Couscous? Barley?
6.27pm: Decide on the latter as it’s all simmering away nicely and there’s enough liquid to cook the barley. Add about two thirds of a cup of the pearl variety plus an extra cup of stock and a cup of water to leaven the saltiness.
6.31pm: Pause for smug reflection on how all food in this meal has come from my pantry, freezer and garden and that I have not had to go to the shops for anything at all. Think am getting much better at shopping sensibly and saving food miles, dollars and time. Remember am supposed to be writing other article and smug feeling disappears.
6.39pm: Dinner guest arrives, early. Wine is welcome, as is dinner guest. Pot simmering fast but barley taking a while so refrain from adding logs to fire in the hope it all settles down a bit.
7pm: News time. Try not to let news about asylum seeker situation ruin dinner, hope for happy Sunday night stories soon. Oh, here’s some news about rising electricity prices in NSW. I don’t feel exactly happy, but do feel smug again.
7.05pm: Seems barley is just right, serving time! Chopped fresh coriander on top … btw, not a table-cloth, the rug. A Syrian camel rug, no less, but the story of how I got it is too long to narrate.
7.25pm: Bloody yum! Meat not as tender as I had hoped, but suspect it was the cut and recommend chuck or blade for future attempts, plus earlier introduction of barley. But the barley is divinely nutty and goes really well with the beef and spice flavours. Onya Glowburn – now all that’s left is to wash up, using the solar hot water system which finally works after the electrician figured out how to stop the cockatoos eating it.
Yours in extreme and nauseating virtuousness plus inelegant sufficiency, Dr Sister Outlaw.