According to a recent study by the energy company Utilita, microwaves typically cost 8 pence a day, compared to 87 pence for an electric range, so it’s wise, Mark, to use yours in these trying times.
In addition to defrosting, reheating, and melting things like butter and chocolate, you can also cook vegetables in one. “It’s my preferred method,” says chef Tim Anderson, whose latest book, Japan Easy Bowls and Bento, comes out in October: “You preserve flavor, color, texture, and you can fine-tune the cooking to the second”. Not everything works, but it had more successes than failures. “Green vegetables like broccoli, green beans, asparagus, mange and spinach are fantastic in the microwave,” she says. Ben Tish, chief director of cubitt house group in London, agrees: “Put green leafy vegetables [kale or cavolo nero, say] in a bowl with a splash of water, lemon juice, salt, pepper, chilli flakes, chopped garlic and a good amount of extra virgin olive oil. Cover and cook over high heat until softened for “delicious Italian ‘braised’ vegetables [that are] as good as the traditional method.”
You also get good results with eggplant. Anderson quarters it, then softens it in the microwave for two to three minutes, to make mapo eggplant, a Japanese version of Sichuan. tofu map. Conveniently, the rest of the dish can also be made in the microwave: gobble the minced meat, uncovered, for a few minutes, add pieces of soft aubergine, peppers, leeks and oil, mix and microwave. Pour over a sauce – “garlic, ginger, doubanjiang, sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, sake, red miso, ketchup, that sort of thing” – mix it up and give it another blast. “You end up with this delicious, spicy, sweet eggplant dish.”
The benefits of a jacket or sweet potato are undeniable, and a microwave speeds things up nicely. “People always talk about how you can’t beat them made in the oven, but the oven takes ages and [uses] lots of energy,” he says. Melissa Thompsonauthor of Homeland, published this month. She starts her sweet potatoes in the microwave: “They don’t take long, maybe 10 minutes, then she finishes them in a super hot oven or deep fryer, which is energy efficient.”
Also on the substantial side is rice (as a risotto, for example, or with chicken), fish such as poached salmon in sauce, white fish in papillote (on paper) or fried eggs (American chef and founder of momofukoDavid Chang, grease a bowl, add salt and cook at 30% for 90 seconds). Then there’s the pasta, which Anderson found herself craving in the heat wave. To avoid “steaming up the kitchen,” he experimented with microwaving yellow bell peppers, olive oil, garlic, olives, salt, and pepper for six to seven minutes, until soft. He added canned chickpeas, heated them up, then mixed and matched them with pasta (also microwaved): “It will never be the best pasta you’ve ever had, but it was efficient and easy.”
The same goes for microwaved cakes, adds Thompson. “The children are always impressed.” You don’t need a lot of ingredients, either: “A little flour, butter, sugar, eggs, maybe chocolate, mix it up, microwave it for a minute and a half, and you end up with something akin to cake. And sometimes that’s just what you need.