Sophie came across the Wonderbag on the radio and then The Guardian, so one arrived several weeks thereafter. Basically, a Wonderbag is a modern and green take on the slow cooker and that you find in books as far back as Mrs Beeton’s and even like the traditional way of cooking in a hole in the ground. It is a highly insulated textile bag that comes in very homely patterns and is filled with insulating balls that you wrap around your boiled pot of food. The key is to get them really hot and to have a pot that fits the amount of food you are making, rather than one with loads of space. We have found it a great way of preparing a healthy, wholesome stew in the morning for eating when we get back with the kids after school later in the day; much better than whacking on the microwave for a “ping meal”. Overall, it is a great and retro way of creating change in the world that works especially well with foods that do best with a slow cooking, for example pork ribs, casseroles and mince.
Wonderbags are so ethical in that for everyone you buy in the UK, one will be given for free to a family in South Africa. They are so green that they are said to save 30% on fuel bills for those using them in South Africa and we can save here in the UK as well. They have been hugely successful in South Africa and now are in over 150,000 homes (saving 50,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide) and Unilever is looking to distribute 5 million to people in poverty around the world.
In overview, the way to cook is summed up in the little booklet that comes with the bag:
“Just heat up your pot of food on the stove, kick-starting the cooking process, then place inside the Wonderbag. Wonderbag’s incredible insulating properties allow food that has been brought to the boil to finish cooking while in the bag without the use of additional energy.”
Pork ribs in sweet sauce
2 racks of pork ribs
2tbsp vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped finely
400ml / 14 fl oz apple juice
2tbsp cider vinegar
2tbsp dark soy sauce
4tbsp dark brown sugar
1cm / ½ inch fresh ginger, grated
Prepare the pork ribs: remove the thin skin on the underside by pulling this off with your hands (for more on this visit Youtube); then chop the ribs into thirds. In a heavy bottomed frying pan, add the vegetable oil and heat until hot. Add the pork ribs and fry until browned. Set aside.
Fry the garlic and ginger in the vegetable oil, then remove then add all the other ingredients, except the ribs and cornflour, and stir together. Put the cornflour into a small dish or ramekin, add a small amount of the sweet sauce and stir with a teaspoon until thoroughly mixed and without any lumps; add some more of the sauce and stir until you get a thickish paste, then add this to the sweet sauce and stir in. Now add the ribs.
Put the top on to your casserole dish and bring to the boil. Simmer with the lid on for 15-20 minutes, then place into the Wonderbag, close up and leave for 6 or more hours – the longer the better. If you need to reheat it before stirring, simply place bag on the hob and heat to boiling, then serve.
Serve with plain boiled rice and some stir fried vegetables.
Slow cooked mince
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, chopped into thin slices
500g / 1lb beef mince
2tbsp olive oil
1 glass of red wine
1 x 400g / 14 oz tin of chopped tomatoes
250ml / 8 fl oz water
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste
Add the olive oil to the casserole pot. When hot, add the chopped onions and lightly fry for 5 minutes. Add the carrots and fry for another 2 minutes.
Next add the beef mince and cook until browned all over.
Add the red wine, stir in and let it be simmered off.
Add the chopped tomatoes, water, bay leaf and season. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes until the sauce has reduced to your satisfaction. Put the lid on and simmer for a few minutes to get the lid heated through, then place into the Wonderbag and leave for 2 to 8 hours. Reheat if necessary on the hob before serving to get it piping hot.
Serve with rice or pasta, or some mashed potato.
Simple rice pudding
Firstly, wash the rice in water.
Add the milk to the casserole pot and bring to the boil with the casserole lid on. When it starts to boil, add the butter, caster sugar and vanilla extract and stir until the butter and sugar have melded in.
Add the pudding, bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes with the lid on.
Place into the Wonderbag, close it up and leave for 2 hours. When finished, grate a little nutmeg over the top, grill for a few minutes to brown off the top, then serve.