They look like a large and somewhat gaudy pumpkin being made up of an insulated base and numerous insulated segments that are pulled together with a drawstring. The insulation is made up of polystyrene beads. The idea is that you start a stew or casserole on the hob and, after a maximum of 30mins cooking, you tranfer the pot to the Wonderbag, add the insulated lid and pull the drawstring to keep the heat in. Then leave it alone for a few hours and the stew slowly cooks in the residual heat. The advantage of the bag, as opposed to the haybox is that you can use a large variety of sized pots whereas the haybox is really only for use with the size of pot it was designed for.
The idea comes from South Africa and is an idea for saving fuel, carbon emissions and expense, particularly for poorer parts of the world. The cost, in the UK is £38 each but for each one bought one is donated to a needy family in Africa. Upon seeing them Doreen's green and charitable credentials came to the fore and we ordered three. One for us and two for (Wait for it and remember it's still only April!) Christmas presents!
It was a couple of weeks before they arrived and I must confess to having been itching to try out ours. The first recipe was for a beef stew which I cooked on the hob for half an hour and then into which I also placed a few whole peeled spuds, cooked for another few mins and transfered into the bag. Seven hours later the pot and contents were still very warm but not boiling hot. Unfortunately the spuds weren't wholly cooked and neither was the meat, so back onto the hob for another half hour to finish off. Why weren't things cooked? Well I reckon it was down to using a pot that was a bit too big and had too much space left inside and also because I had used potatoes that were too big to have come up to temperature and start cooking before the transfer to the bag was made.
Since then a few other recipes have been tried plus another version of beef stew with cut up potatoes and all has been well. I have made a couple of modifications to the bag. The first was to cut a circular piece of silican baking sheet to fit the bottom of the bag, to help with any spillage and then, during a shed clear out at weekend, I found an unused closed cell sleeping mat and cut out two more circles, one for the bottom and one for under the lid together with a strip to go around the pot when it's in the bag. Will it make any difference? Who knows? The idea is that added insulation can't do any harm.
Other than cooking the bag can also be used as a cold bag for frozen or refrigerated stuff and I suppose you could also keep a boiled kettle in it to save time and fuel for those , like me, who like regular brews.
Are they any good? Yes! once you get used to them. Are they worth the money? That would depend on how often you would use them. The material that ours have come in is an orange 'ethnic' pattern. Good colour coordination for some of the older Dandys. Other colours and patterns are supposed to come along in due course.
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