Thursday 30 October 2008

The Wood-Fired Cooker

With my continuing colds and the deterioration of the weather here, I decided it was time to light the ESSE. This is the first time I will have cooked using wood, barbeques apart, and the first time I’ve burnt plum wood. My neighbour had a lot of problems getting plum wood to burn although Ann and Regis use it all the time with no problems and have a blazing fire.

So it was with great trepidation I lit the first fire; it barely caught. It did produce a lot of smoke to start with, which was great as I took the opportunity to check there were no leaks in the chimneystack where it goes through the loft.

The basic building here can be a bit ‘interesting’. The chimneystack is a stack of hollow square bricks. Fine so far but the path from the kitchen to the roof is not vertical so my chimney has a curve in it. Add to that, when I went into the loft area on moving in, I discovered that the exhausts for both the extractor hood and the propane water heater just passed through the kitchen ceiling and vented into the loft! Hence why I wanted to check out the integrity of
the chimneystack.

All was fine and I went back down to keep an eye on the fire. I reasoned that I needed to build up an ash bed. My neighbour who had the problems with the plum wood insisted you don’t need one but somewhere in the depths of my mind I have the recollection that wood fires need an ash base while coal fires don’t.

After about 4 hours the fire finally caught properly and the oven temperature gauge began to rise. Encouraged by this I started some bread. I still couldn’t get the oven into the hot zone but did manage to bake 3 large loaves and some buns.

By now it was evening and the next test presented its self. Could the fire last overnight? I added a few logs and closed all the dampers and went to bed.

Yesterday when I got up the cooker was cool but the
re was still a good glow in the ashes so I added more wood, opened up the dampers and waited. After about an hour I had a good blaze going again and this time the cooker heated to the top of the hot zone.

Time for more baking and yesterday it was buckwheat pancakes (because I had the flour and it let me see how well the ‘hot’ hotplate worked); some spice biscuits and some gingernuts. All were great, cooking times are a bit hit and miss, generally baking seems to be quicker. I’ve also put a casserole in the slow oven that’s looking good and should be perfect by tonight – the original slow cooker.

So I’m really happy with it, not only do I have hot water all day, it has a back boiler, I have a source of heat in the kitchen, I can cook more or less whenever I want (the other cooker is electric and takes quite a time to warm up as well as being expensive) and it keeps my cup of tea warm too. And if all the above wasn’t enough it can iron too, I think I’m in love!

Tuesday 28 October 2008

Colds, Colds And More Colds

Having got through my depressed spell I’m raring to catch up on everything. I even started a healthy eating regime, making sure I did take the time to get my 5 a day and not opt for a burger or egg sandwich for my main meal just because I was tired and couldn’t be bothered to cook for myself.

So why, oh why, have I had a cold ever since? I’m just getting through my 4th cold in 4 weeks. Just as I think I’m getting over the cold, I start sneezing again. At least the last 3 have only been head colds and not gone to my chest like the first. On the plus side I should be gaining immunity.

I think I should go back to a chocolate and chips diet and see if that gets rid of the colds, this healthy eating is killing me!