Firsthand accounts

A recipe for meals of natural ingredients cooked with only a kettle

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A meal with this recipe. Visible here are oats, egg yolk, green cabbage, beetroot, swede, brown lentils, chia seeds, carrot and celery. The egg white is mixed into the oats.

Introduction

Here is a recipe for a simple meal and a way to cook it using only a kettle. It is intended to be healthy and to conserve nutrients in the food. It does not include processed foods or refined wheat and can use entirely organic ingredients.

The observations here are based on making and eating dozens of such meals, experimenting with various ingredients.

The essential recipe is a base of raw rolled oats to which is added olive oil, a variety of vegetables, and optionally lentils, seeds, eggs and cheese. The vegetables and seeds are either raw or “cooked” by putting them into a container and pouring boiling water on to them up to the brim and leaving them to stand with a lid for several minutes. Afterwards the water, with any nutrients in it from these vegetables, is not thrown away but used to moisten the oats. This is the only heating method used and nothing goes into the kettle except water.

Preparation

I use mugs of about 320mL for holding the vegetables while they are sitting in the hot water but in principle any container that does not loose heat too quickly could be used. The amount of vegetable in each container is restricted in order to leave about half of the container volume as air space above or between the vegetables to accommodate the boiling water. The idea is that there had better be enough water to provide a reasonably high temperature on the surface of the food. To help with this, you can also pre-heat the mug before putting the vegetables into it, by swilling a small amount of boiling water around it and then pouring it out. Different vegetables are mixed together.

After pouring boiling water onto them I immediately push down any that are sticking out of the water that I think need to be exposed to a high temperature and if necessary hold them down for ten seconds or so, before putting an improvised lid on the top to reduce heat loss.

What seems like a good idea, not yet tried by me, is to use a vacuum flask instead of a mug. It comes from an article in The Independent newspaper website which is a report on a 2015 book called How to cook without a kitchen by Hugh Morrison. [INDEP].

While the vegetables and possibly other things are left to cook in the slowly cooling water, the oats can be prepared by mixing in to them various possible additions.

After a five minutes or so, once the water is tepid or before, the vegetables can be taken out. As noted below lentils might stay in a few minutes more and sesame seeds always need longer.

Usually there will be more water from the cooking than the oats can absorb, so you spoon the water onto the oats, judging when there is enough to make them soft and pleasant, but not flood the dish. Any residual water from the vegetables can be drunk later. The oats absorb a subtle blend of flavours from coconut oil and the water off the vegetables.

Finally cooked and raw vegetables go on the top with olive oil poured on them.

Observations

The vegetables can be divided into those where boiling water improves the flavour, those where it reduces the flavour and those where it does not make much difference.

Flavours and textures that are improved by boiling water:

Flavours and textures that deteriorate:

The following sections report observations about each vegetable.

Broccoli

Broccoli when boiled to a mush in the traditional English way is not appealing. Raw it is rather abrasive. It turns out that pouring boiling water on it cooks it just the right amount. It is softened and yet still crunchy like the perfect al-dente pasta. And as a bonus, broccoli that has started to look a little tired sometimes returns to an attractive, verdant green.

Eggs

Raw egg yolk is delicious and creamy. In contrast, the raw egg white is slimy has no taste. In this recipe, the white and yolk are separated. The white is mixed with the dry oats, before adding the water from the vegetables. This helps to soften the oats and makes a more interesting texture.

The preparation of the egg is also with boiling water. I put one egg in a mug and fill the mug with boiling water and leave it to stand for a few minutes. Afterwards, I throw the used water away. Rather than to cook the egg, my intent here is to kill any pathogens on the outside of the shell that might come into contact with the contents when it is broken. The process leaves most of the white clear, with just the outermost part of it turning white although more will turn white if the egg is left in the water for longer.

Care is needed with the yolk on the oats as in the photograph. Before they have softened, their edges will easily break a yolk. If this happens the yolk will soon disappear into the oats like water into sand and you will not be able to savour its creaminess.

Capsicum

At barbecues roast capsicums even slightly burnt seem to be delicious out of all comparison with their raw state. It turns out that pouring boiling water onto slices of them and leaving them also produces something of this effect, though perhaps not as strongly as roasting.

Lentils

A handful of these can go in a mug with the vegetables. After about five minutes when the vegetables come out, I try them to see if they are soft enough, often deciding to leave them for a few minutes longer. They continue to soften even after the water is cooler. This is enough to make them soft to eat.

Turmeric

This is difficult to wash because of its flaky skin. It is also tedious to peel and I suspect that some useful nutrients (as with other vegetables and fish) are in the skin. So this goes into the mug for treatment with boiling water, with the intention of destroying any potential pathogens. It is not discernibly changed by the boiling water.

Red cabbage

Raw this is mildly spicy and crunchy. After being in boiling water it looses its spiciness and appeal and is almost tasteless. The inside leaves of a red cabbage always look clean to me and I prefer to eat them completely raw.

Garlic

The boiling water will make finely cut pieces of garlic taste relatively insipid, although still pleasant, which depending on taste might be what you want. They will also contribute some flavour to the water to go on the oats.

The inside of large clove will still be quite fierce.

Sesame seeds

These take longer to soften than all the other food described here and need to be left for 10 minutes or so. Even then they have to be chewed to a paste, and it is hard work. Texture wise it is something like chewing sand, although without doing damage to your teeth. You keep chewing until you can feel that the last grain is crushed. It is a challenge.

Chia seeds

They have no or very little flavour and when you put boiling water on them they immediately emit a sort of clear jelly that I suppose is starch. Mixed in with the oats they can contribute to making the oats more creamy, but I have not found much reason to use them.

Onions

As for garlic, I prefer to eat these with olive oil and raw. Pouring boiling water onto sliced onion makes it almost tasteless.

Leaks

Like onions these are best raw, with olive oil. Upper leaves where I had had to remove soil go into the mug for the treatment with boiling water but this reduces their taste to almost nothing. It does impart a pleasant taste to the water though.

Carrots

Pouring boiling water onto carrots and leaving them does not make an discernible difference to their taste or texture.

Beetroot

This is delicious and crunchy raw. If you put the boiling water on slices of beetroot, some juice and flavour will go into the water but the beetroot itself is not noticeably changed.

Nettles

It is easy to make a nettle tea by picking the tops of a few nettles and putting them into a mug. You can crush them to extract more flavour, but easiest is to cut them up with scissors. Only one or two tops are needed to give a good flavour though a few more can be even better. Then I pour boiling water onto them. and leave them for a few minutes. It is also possible to get some more flavour out by re-using them. But what I sometimes do afterwards is take the nettles out and eat them as another vegetable with the meal. Boiling water seems to instantly disable their stinging power.

Coconut fat

The taste of coconut fat is something that you can get very tired of. In fact you can buy coconut fat that has with the flavour deliberately steamed out of it. Despite being someone who did get very tired of the taste of coconut, the flavour of it mixed with the oats is very appealing.

References

See below for links.

[INDEP]
How to cook without a kitchen: Produce a hot meal every night with only a kettle and a Thermos flask, Ellen Manning, Independent, 24 November 2015

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