Stove-top baking

As we are off grid, I’m always experimenting with alternate cooking methods. On sunny days, of course, the solar cooker is the best option. And it does double duty – cooker plus bird toy. This little hen robin can’t wait for the cooker to be brought out and opened so she can play with her doppelganger.

Trouble is, we don’t have too many sunny days in the year. Nor rainy days, either. What we have is a lot of wind and cloud, with the sun playing hide and seek. My friend Gracy, a fabulous cook, tells me she has a new, vastly improved solar cooker. It cooks and bakes in half the time. But I’m getting on, and don’t want to keep adding to my possessions.

So we have to use some kind of fuel, fossil or otherwise. Mostly we use LPG because it’s convenient and readily available. Some day I plan to shift to biogas. But a lot of planning needs to be done first.

Once in a while I experiment with other things. For instance, this Servals TLUD (top-lit up-draft) stove, which can use coconut shells and small twigs, and reduces them to charcoal that I add to my compost.

All this is for traditional cooking, like the sambar above. Baking is a different story. Except at the height of summer – mid-February to mid-April, the sun isn’t strong enough for baking. Most of the year, it isn’t even strong enough for drying things, and my chhunda generally ends up having to be cooked, while the sun-dried tomatoes turn sadly blackish. I had better success this year using a clever idea off the internet – drying stuff in the car with the windows rolled up.

For baking, I’ve gone back to the old, infallible handvo pot that I got in Ahmedabad 30 years ago. It’s meant for baking handvo, which is a kind of savoury cake. (Rice flour, urad flour and besan, grated vegetables, green masala, til, peanuts and, of course, a generous dollop of peanut oil.) This pot is really a wonderful invention. The tray of sand below keeps the contents from burning, and the chimney in the middle ensures perfect, even baking. Anything you bake will be ring shaped – but why not, as long as it tastes good?

I’ve only heard of the biscuit tin that my grandmother used to bake biscuits; never saw it to my knowledge. I think it used sand too, and sat on the stove top. I wish I could get hold of one, but even in the villages it’s a long forgotten artifact.

Do you know of any other kind of stove-top ovens? I’d love to hear about them!


16 responses to “Stove-top baking

  1. “drying stuff in the car with the windows rolled up” Really?! Great idea!
    Till very recently my mother used to bake real good cakes in the handvo pot.
    Here, baatis are regularly baked in a very efficient contraption – a tin canister cut into half such that the bottom portion is open, and the lid remains attached to the top. A metal jaali/mesh is fitted about half way in. You place the canister on the gas/ chulha, arrange the items to be baked on the jaali and close the lid. Oven on!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, there is even a cooker cake mix in the market. I’ve tried this method. But I read somewhere that heating a pressure cooker to high temps without water can distort its base and make it unsafe. So be careful.

      Liked by 1 person

    • That’s really sweet of you, Gracy, thanks a ton! But you’ve seen my kitchen – I don’t think it will hold one more pathram, specially a large thing like that. It’s a struggle even putting away my monthly groceries!


  2. Your blog makes me very hungry! My mom had an icmic cooker. Slow burning charcoal at the bottom most rung produced rice, dal and mustard fish that tasted heavenly. She used set this off in the morning and it took 4-5 hours to get ready. Perhaps it could be used for baking as well?

    Liked by 2 people

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