Fun with the sun.

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Two days ago on the first stinking hot day we had… it’s stretching out into daaaays with no relief…. I decided not to waste the sunshine and so dragged the solar oven out and dried herbs in it. My oregano was going nuts in the front wicking bed and it dies down over winter (who knew? Discovered that fun fact last winter when I went out to get some oregano for a pasta dish and there was none left), so now that it’s grown back I have to start harvesting some for the cold dark days.
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I didn’t want it to fog up like when we made biscuits, so I put a very high tech device in the door to let a little bit of air flow happen.

Then I put a huge handful of oregano onto a tray with a cooling rack on it in the solar oven and came back after 20 minutes to check what was happening.

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OMG!!! Done! After only 20 minutes. That’s faster by far than my electric dehydrator. And the smell…. mmmmmm…
I think because the leaves dried so fast it captured a lot of the oils. When I opened the oven it smelt like pizza.
I got all enthused and went and cut some golden oregano. Why not?

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In it went.

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Out it came. I crushed up the leaves a bit and mixed them all into the same jar. It smells fantastic. As I said on Facebook, I had no idea dried herbs were meant to smell like this. The supermarket ones smell of dust and despair. Then I looked about me. There was lots of sunshine out on that porch still going to waste…

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So I dried some rosemary. I like very finely crushed rosemary to put on oven fried chips when I’m baking them, so I used the end of the thermomix spatula to crush the leaves down finely.

But I still wasn’t finished. It was around 4PM by this stage and I still had sunlight to use up. It was sinking lower in the west so I had to move fast.
I grabbed this book that came with the solar oven.

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It has a recipe for brownies and I had some walnuts that needed using, so my mission was clear.
The first step was to melt the butter.
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The book said something like “Melt the butter in the solar oven if you have time…”

Huh! “If I have time…” I’m on holidays, baby! I have nothing but time.
I had to make a double batch because I don’t have a tiny little baking tray like the one in the recipe (8″ x 8″. REALLY??? Who am I meant to be cooking for… leprechauns?)

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I think because of the double batch it took longer to cook these… nearly 2 hours. But very delicious and gooey in the middle. I’ve never made brownies before so I was quite pleased.

*** But tried to cook an impossible pie in the solar oven yesterday. I knew I was taking a gamble by putting it in at 5PM but I thought I’d give it a go.
It didn’t cook. By 7.30 it was still runny, though the cheese on top had melted and it was trying to get going. So I finished it off in the oven.

I think the problem is that I still have no real idea about how to aim the mirrors at the sun. I set it up but I probably had the sun’s rays shooting out to space instead of aiming at the pie. I always position the oven (and the kettle) to have the shadow behind them, so I’ve grasped that concept. I just need to find out if the side and back mirrors need to change position depending on the angle of the sun or if it’s “one position fits all”.

One last thing… I used the thermomix to chop all of the vegies for the impossible pie, which took 25 seconds. So quick and efficient. I really like the idea of using the high-tech appliance to prepare the meal, then using the low-tech one to cook it!

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This entry was posted in cooking, dehydrating food, solar cooking, thermomix. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Fun with the sun.

  1. Gavin says:

    Those herbs and brownies look fantastic. The sun oven obviously works like a treat. Where did you get it and may I be so bold as to ask the cost?

    Gav x

  2. Bev says:

    Um….I hate to rain on your parade, but herbs shouldn’t be dried in full sun, & definitely not in a solar dryer. It’s far too severe for them.

    Dried herbs should still be green.

    From Penny Woodward’s Herbal: “Choose a place out of direct sunlight with good air movement, some warmth, and as little moisture in the air as possible. The final colour of the dried herb is a good indication of the volatile oil content; the better the colour, the higher the content”.

    It probably smelt good because most of the oils were in the air and not in the leaves.

    I dry mine inside on wire racks. I used to cut them up before drying, but figured I was probably losing volatile oils by exposing more cut surfaces, so now leave the leaves whole and only crush them in small amounts when needed. The thermomix does this really well.

    The brownies look great however, & the impossible pie was well-named.

    Have sent you my basil pesto recipe as an apology for criticising your dried herbs ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. river says:

    I love the smell of home dried herbs! I would have told you about the oregano dying down if I’d known you didn’t know. I always dried my own if I had them growing, I rinsed, shook dry and dried just the leaves without the stems. For parsley I found that because it was so dense it dried faster and still remained green when I chopped it finely and spread on paper towels on big trays. Every day I’d stir it around a bit then recover it with mosquito netting to keep the spiders out. It would take about a week, but still smell like parsley.
    Yum…brownies!

  4. Jayne says:

    That is wonderful!
    As Gavin asked – whereabouts did you get it and what is the ballpark figure?
    Tried making my own, with varying successes, a big cast iron camp oven with glass lid seemed to work the best for baking bread but I think the real deal would be better.

  5. dixiebelle says:

    Awesome work. I was cooking in our solar oven again last evening, with all this long Summer days. The condensation is a bit of a problem, but then if I cooked with lids on the pots or dishes, guess that would help. I am going to try dehydrating some apricots, propping it open with muslin around the open section to stop flies getting in!

    Heather sells the Sun Ovens for $490 http://suncooking.com.au/ plus Freight. Tricia has blog posts about hers here: http://www.littleecofootprints.com/solar-cooking/

  6. Fairlie says:

    That solar oven looks fantastic. If you can make brownies late in the afternoon, imagine what you could do at ‘mad dogs and Englishmen’ time?

  7. Jenny @ Erinport says:

    Happy New Year Froggie and family – I see you’re getting busy in your holidays ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Liz says:

    That’s interesting – my oregano doesn’t die down completely in winter – we must be that bit warmer than you. Yumm – I want to eat brownies!!!!

  9. Scott says:

    Sorry your herbs are burnt. Brownies look great!

  10. isabelle says:

    I’d never heard of a solar oven. Possibly we don’t get enough sun in Scotland. But then we don’t get “stinking hot” either… Always fragrant, that’s us.

    Very interesting, though.

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