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Slow Cooking

Can you imagine being able to cook your lunch just with the power of the sun? The first thing you need for this is a good sofa. The only local manufacturer of solar cookers is Sunok. Shall we try it out to see if the device is worth the money? The product comes from Lisbon and is represented by Senhor Nuno Martins. ECO123 obtained the smaller model for two people for this test. It’s priced at 400 euros, without the sofa. At first sight, that is not exactly cheap for an average household, given that a normal gas or electric stove costs less than half that. But with the Sunok, there are no further costs in terms of energy: the sun cooks the food and the whole thing is simply sexy.

But how long will the cooking take, I wonder? The preparations start at eleven o’clock. The solar cooker, consisting of a metal box decorated and insulated with cork on the outside, measuring 52 x 43 x 32cm and cleverly covered with mirrors on the inside, arrives packed in a cardboard box together with a light, black pan and a dark metal bowl. I fetched it from the cellar and placed it on a table on the terrace facing south (160 degrees). The mirror is opened with a hinge. During the afternoon, the table is turned slightly to the right to 200 degrees so that the cooker is

I place five medium-sized, peeled potatoes and three carrots in half a litre of water. They provide the basis for a stew for two people. For this purpose, I soaked 80 grams of dried lentils in water overnight. The final experiment starts at 11.30. I set my alarm clock and make myself comfortable on the sofa. After an hour, the finely chopped leek is added to the pot. Salt, pepper and nutmeg round off the stew, which so far is vegan. You can also add chilli, entirely to your own taste. Finally I add a little pumpkin from last autumn. That produces a nice combination of colours. Most of the ingredients come from my own garden. From the spring onwards, other types of vegetable will be available. We replace lentils or chickpeas with fresh peas or green beans.

Meanwhile, I prepare the starter and dessert. I make my way from my sofa to the avocado tree and pick two very ripe fruits. The avocados are cut open, the stones are removed, the flesh is puréed and the peel is placed in the compost. A little olive oil, home grown and pressed in Pardieiros/Alferce, is added; then I take the juice of half a lemon, and some salt heated with sesame seeds in a frying pan, all of which is mixed in along with the insides of several red tamarillo fruits. If you don’t have any of those (not everyone can live in Monchique) cherry tomatoes can also be used.

Cooking food can be tiring. Three small sweet carrots, one beetroot, five walnuts and the juice of one sweet orange form the basis of a dessert that is rich in vitamins. The carrots and the beetroot are grated very finely, the walnuts pounded finely and added. Clementines, kiwi, local bananas, all fruits of the season, round off this fruit salad; don’t forget the cinnamon!

Oh, my God. Suddenly it’s three o’clock. I’ve been sleeping for two hours. The black cooking pot has been simmering in the midday sun for three and a half hours and has been heated to a princely 80 degrees Celsius by the mirror in the solar cooker. The spring vegetable stew is cooked and ready to serve. Hurrah! If you like to add some finishing touches, you could use coconut cream and grated black chocolate from São Tomé* for decoration. For non-vegans, there is a wide range of other options, including frankfurter sausages or chouriço. They can just be laid in the liquid of the stew for a while. Bom apetite!

The Sunok solar cooker is certainly a beautiful little box, compact and very useful. Yes, you can cook with it. You can even leave your little friend alone. But when it’s raining or when the sun isn’t shining, the cuisine will be cold. And during the week, it’s only made for households where people work independently and cook slowly. But otherwise it’s a brilliant companion for a sunny weekend à deux with no time pressure, in other words a ménage à trois. Nothing gets burnt and the food just simmers away gently, while the cooks doze. And incidentally, cooking is even more fun where there are two of you. Then you could put a real four-poster bed out in the sunshine, instead of a sofa. At some stage you’ll start to feel hungry, even if it’s only at tea time. Sunok is an ideal toy (eco!) in a society in which no one has time anymore; either for cooking, or for eating, or even for good sex. So, what are we waiting for?


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