Sunday, February 4, 2007

How to make a Cooking Basket or Hay Sack (Fuel-less Cooker)

Cooking Baskets (fuel-less cookers based on the old idea of Hay Box technology), are already being made by several community and women's groups in different parts of Kenya, such as the Kakamega rain forest and Arabuko Sokoke, and can be bought here locally.

'Shimwelo' Kakamega Forest Cooking Baskets, made by members of the Kakamega Environmental Education Programme (KEEP), are also available for sale at the Nature Kenya shop which is based at the National Museums of Kenya in Nairobi.

If you don't have access to these and other Cooking Baskets and wish to make your own, or if you wish to start a small income generating project for your local community or women's group in your own home area then I hope you will find the following instructions helpful.

Materials needed to make a medium-sized Cooking Basket:

  • A container (preferably a basket, but it's also possible to use a large sack or a sturdy box).

NB. Choose a container that is large enough to contain your cooking pot once the container has been thickly padded. A basket container can be made from sturdy material, or sisal, or reeds, or willow, etc. In fact, the basket can be as simple or as fancy as you like, such as the ones shown here in the photographs. If you are making a hay sack, make sure that any tears in in the sack are sewn closed first. For a Hay Box, make sure that your box container is reasonably sturdy.

You will also need:
  • Scissors, needle and strong thread, about 20 metres.
  • A sheet of plastic, about 2 metres by 2 metres.
  • A piece of material, about 3 metres by 3 metres.
  • A medium-sized cooking pot (without handles) and lid.
  • Stuffing material (this can be whatever you have available to you, eg. approx 1 sackful of hay/dried banana leaves/warm blanket material/pillow or duvet stuffing/ shredded paper/polystyrene packaging/wool, etc. In fact, whatever is a good insulator and will help to retain heat.)

NB. The sheet of plastic has two purposes: first, it keeps the steam in & helps to stop heat escaping and it also stops the sack or basket getting moist. An extra piece of material is also useful to wrap the hot cooking pot when you are transferring it and out of the Cooking Basket or Hay Sack.. This extra piece of material also helps to protect the inside of the sack or basket from the sooty-bottom of your pot (the piece of material is easier to clean than the basket or the sack itself)

Constructing your Cooking Basket or Hay Sack

  1. Make a 'nest' inside the basket or sack or box by thickly padding the bottom and sides with clean dry stuffing material (see above). The padding should be firm and about 4 inches thick (the widest part of your hand) all around the nest.

  2. When you have done this line the inside of the 'nest' with the sheet of plastic and trim the plastic to fit neatly.
  3. If you are making a Cooking Basket, now make a final lining for the 'nest' using a piece of the material. Cut the material to the size that you need then neatly sew the material so that it holds the plastic and the stuffing material firmly in place. (It is not necessary to use material to line your Hay Sack or Hay Box).
  4. Finally, make a cushion to cover the top of your Cooking Basket or Hay Sack or Hay Box. Make the cushion using another piece of the lining material or another piece of sack. Now firmly pad the cushion with the stuffing material so that the cushion is also about 4 inches (the width of a hand) thick. If you are making a hay box then a large cushion or a pillow will do.

For further information on how to use a cooking basket please also see 'Suggested Cooking Times' and 'Recipes'


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