Beyond The Show Room Kitchen – Baking Without An Oven
Our client administrator Nadia loves cooking. Her multicultural background has given her a rich heritage of recipes from Indonesia, the Philippines and the Netherlands. However, Nadia’s real passion is baking, which made it particularly challenging when a change of location meant she and her partner found themselves renting without an oven.
How do you go from having an enormous oven that has the capacity to roast a couple of full sized turkeys to having none at all?
This was the question I had to face when I downsized and settled in a different part of the country. To say that I was happiest when cooking or baking is an understatement, so having to deal with this issue is nothing short of a catastrophe in my world.
I had plans, I would be getting a new oven, purchase all new equipment and happily go back to baking. Alas, this was not as easy as it sounds. Dealing with a new business, I realize I had to watch my cash flow in a way I never had to before. I realized, that purchases that were not an absolute necessity should be put on hold at the moment.
So from a 6 burner stove, I learned to cook on a single burner. It works. I am not discounting the fact that it works because we are a 2 person household. Compared to a family with, say 4 kids this may be a challenge. Doable yes, but still a challenge.
So, the cooking gets done with the help of a one-burner gas stove. What about the baking? What about roasting a chicken, baking a cake or even reheating a casserole? What could be done? I currently live in a country where having an oven is considered being in the upper-crust of society. Not only because of gas and electric costs to run the oven, but the ingredients needed to make a recipe…flour, butter and eggs does not come cheap in my part of the world. Thirdly, space. Where do you put such a massive kitchen equipment in kitchens that sometimes fit only 2 people? This is why sometimes you would see ovens out in garages or even in porches. The fourth reason people around here don’t have ovens would be heat. In a country where it gets excessively hot and humid most days and where air-conditioning is not so common, the heat coming from running an oven is sometimes oppressive to members of the household.
But should this really stop me from doing what I enjoy the most? Of course not. There are ways around this. Let me just highlight the two ways I do this.
This small kitchen appliance has helped households since the early 80s replicate the function of an oven. It’s not that expensive to purchase, does not take up precious counter space and costs much less in electricity to run than an electric oven would. It was so common that every household seemed to have one. I definitely saw one tucked away in one part of our kitchen when I was growing up. Recently, I have noticed some countries outside Asia recognize this appliance. It’s called a halogen oven in some parts. It works exactly like an oven would. It has a clear glass bowl big enough to hold a large chicken or an 8×8 pan with halogen lights on top. The lights then emit the heat needed cook the dish. Working exactly like an oven would, it cooks the dish like an oven. From experience, I find that roasting chicken in this results in a much crispier skin, casseroles have a much more even top and cakes takes less the time to bake than in a conventional oven. Probably due to the size of the oven, it traps heat more efficiently thus resulting in much more even roasting or baking. As an added benefit, it is portable! So it’s amusing to see several female relatives lug theirs around during get-togethers to cook their respective dishes, ensuring the quality of the dish by baking on-site.
In a country where rice is a staple, we have devised ways to create cakes out of rice flour. These cakes are steamed, not baked. So as long as I have a steamer, or any improvised steamer which is quite easy to do, I can make rice cakes. Because of steaming, these cakes come out a lot more tender and soft. Topped with a generous helping of sugar and coconut flakes, believe me you won’t miss frosted cakes at all. Usually these cakes have rice flour as its base, then we would then add sugar and eggs. Flavourings are then mixed in for variety, the most common would be coconut, vanilla or screw pine. A distinct and very endearing feature I think these cakes have would be that they often come in small sizes, about 1 to 2 inches, just enough to take a bite or two. We do have molds created especially for steaming these cakes, and they are available in almost every corner market here. So it’s no surprise that for any occasion or celebration we find these rice cakes abundantly offered by the host.
Like I mentioned earlier there are a number of ways people here bake without an oven. Like charcoal cooking, where charcoal is placed on top and at the bottom of a covered clay pot to emit dry heat and would then bake like an oven would. Microwave baking is another example, I have seen recipes for mug cakes cooked in the microwave and I suppose in a pinch, these would work. Ideal for students at universities when they crave a cake. Dormitories often have a microwave and mugs available for them to use. More recently, though I haven’t tried it out myself yet, Rice Cooker baking. A number of recipes have been surfacing in social media about the success of some people using the rice cooker to bake a cake. I suppose, it came about because every home here has a rice cooker and it would be a good example of working with what you have. Not looking to what you don’t have but looking to the resources you have within your reach and making it work.
Do I miss having an oven? Not really. Initially, I thought I would. But I just refuse to let not having an oven dampen my enthusiasm. It’s all in the attitude I believe. Not having an oven has given me the opportunity to explore other venues in cooking, to innovate, and in the process relieve a certain kind of nostalgia by making the same recipes my grandmother or even great-grandmother fed her family. And then, time and again I am reminded that the simple things in life could be the best things as well.
Client Administrator – Finance Women
Beyond the Showroom Kitchen –
There’s something about a kitchen that is quite primal. What could be more evocative of your emotions than the room which nourished you as a child. Whether you dream of an indoor/outdoor ensemble, a chef’s stainless steel workspace, a modern kitchen with clean lines or a country kitchen complete with an Aga, flicking through the home interior magazine or watching another episode of Nigella can leave you drooling, and somewhat disappointed when you turn back to your 1970s laminated chip board excuse for a kitchen.
But we know that home is where the heart is and the heart of the home is in the kitchen. We know that the real magic happens with those who prepare their food with love and care. We want to celebrate those of us who cook in less than ideal kitchens, feed our friends, our families, ourselves and our souls, beyond the showroom kitchen.