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Apr 10, 2017

Shortcut cuisine

by Gary Rapps - Managing Director

Shortcut cuisine

On a scale of 1-10, I am certainly a high 9 when it comes to enjoying food but a low 2 where cooking it is concerned. Someone once said I would even struggle to boil two pans of water at the same time, which is probably why I have become a convert to the school of shortcut cuisine. My culinary radar is always on the look out for ways to reduce the time from ‘shelf to self’ without necessarily falling into the chicken ding trap of microwave meals or (pot) noodle nosebags. Last week I spotted The Grocer was reporting on the demise of one invention that I remember was going to take the beverage industry by storm back in the early noughties … the self-heating can.

Big players like Premier and Nestlé led the charge with products that would offer a hot drinks solution without the need for a kettle but with little success. Today it’s really only the camping sector that seems to carry the technology linked to portable meal kits but even they are hard to find.

The recent International Food Exhibition (IFE) at Excel did feature one company though, Joseph Company International Inc., that had taken the opposite approach to heating things. Their innovation, ChillCan, was all about keeping drinks cool via a unique can that reduces the contents temperature in under three minutes.

The ChillCan works by utilising a cylindrical chamber of high-pressure CO2 gas, which ends in a valve that extends through the base of the can and is capped by a button. When the user pushes the button, the valve opens and the CO2 rushes out of the bottom of the can and into the air. As the gas expands, it absorbs heat from the surrounding liquid, lowering the temperature. Pretty cool!

Time, environmental challenges and ultimately cost, will decide its success and the same can also be said for another potentially groundbreaking invention – The Sous La Vie.

Designed at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, under the guidance of Liora Rozin, it’s a tyvek bag for vacuum-cooking in a washing machine!

Yes that’s right, I said washing machine.

The vacuum-sealed packaging is made from waterproof paper and takes its inspiration from the tradition of sous-vide cooking, a method in which food is placed in a vacuum-sealed plastic pouch and placed in a water bath with the aim of cooking food evenly throughout.

The product is made from Tyvek paper to keep the soapy water out and has an inner plastic liner bag to prevent leaks. To prepare a meal, consumers will have to simply place the bag of food in with their laundry and adjust the settings using the instructions. Now that’s what I call multi-tasking.

And while we are taking about white goods has anyone ever cooked a meal in their dishwasher?

Well Italian food writer Lisa Casali has and she’s even gone on to write a book about it called "Cucinare in lavastoviglie".

According to Casali, if the food is contained in a vacuum pouch or an airtight container it will not be touched by the dishwasher tablets or dirt from the crockery. She says that the method is environmentally friendly too because it enables you to clean your dishes while cooking at the same time. Genius.

Lisa’s recipe collection embraces everything fromcouscous and veal to sea bass and apple pie and she even has her own online videos to talk you through the process. Here’s one I prepared earlier:

My final dish of the day has to be the world’s best fast food invention ever and one that is definitely a big hit with the team here at Toucan.

The Toastabag, invented by Guy Unwin around 20 years ago, is all you need to convert a bland cheese sandwich into a mouth watering cheese toastie, even if I say so myself.

The process works by inserting said sandwich into the bag and then into the toaster. The outer material prevents the bag from burning whilst allowing its contents to heat up nicely and the bread to toast to a golden colour.

Not only that but, according to the packaging, they are great to warm up pastries, pizza slices, fish fingers, chicken nuggets and even fries although I think I’ll stick to cheese and bread for now.

Not sure if any of this has made you hungry or not, although I do urge you to give the last idea a go if you’ve never tried it, but at least you now know that next time I invite you for dinner the washing will be done, the plates will be clean and the food will be fast.

Bon appetit!

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