Welcome to Tanya from 'Out Back' and Penny from 'Black Sheep Cottage'.
I've been delighted with my mini (oven) and already it is a firm favourite for cooking all sorts of things from main meals to bread and cakes, however, never one for being satisfied ! I've been looking for more ways to cook to save fuel.
Cooking under the bonnet (hood for American readers) seems to be very popular, there's even a couple of cookery books devoted to this method on Amazon.
I don't really like this idea, because even though the food is heavily wrapped in foil, I still think it's got to absorb some of the smells and tastes of the engine, i.e. oil/petrol/grease. A nice pork chop basted in sump oil doesn't really fill me with enthusiasm. Also, surely there is a danger of those little 'packages' of food slipping into the engine parts where they're not supposed to be and cause some damage, not to mention spillages ?
'Sorry Mr Mechanic, I'll clean the remains of my pasta meal off the engine before you start work' - !!
Also, this method is only suitable for those who do a lot of mileage, truckers perhaps or reps, the engine has to be very hot for a long time to cook something through thoroughly. The cooking times are given in mileage! also, there's always the possibility that when you pull over for lunch, you realise you've left it somewhere on the M25.
I do, however, like the idea of using heat that would otherwise go to waste. I read somewhere that the heat that builds up inside the car can be used to cook food. It gets very hot inside a closed car - 'like an oven', so yesterday I decided to give it a try as the sun was shining and the inside of the car was getting warmer.
I quickly made some sponge mixture and threw in a handful of dandelion flowers (they're free), then placed them on the parcel shelf in the car and made sure it was facing the full sun.
I checked throughout the day and there did seem to be signs of 'cooking' i.e. tiny bubbles appearing around the edges of the tins. I was excited.
However, the sun decided to disappear half way through the afternoon and it was clear that no more cooking would take place, so I brought them in and finished them off in the mini, it took 5 minutes.
They didn't rise as much as cooked all the time in a conventional oven, but were fine and tasted good.
Conclusion: it will work, but needs a hotter day, one of those days when it's so hot you can't touch the steering wheel. Unfortunately we don't get many of those days here in UK, so it's a good job I don't have to rely on this method of cooking or I'd starve ! but it is a definite 'yes' to try again.
Also on the subject of 'in car cooking' I came across these:
A small oven that plugs into the cigarette lighter in the car, I think this is a brilliant idea for long distance drivers. They've been around for some time, but I've never given them much thought in the past, however it occurred to me that they could be used in conjunction with a 12v battery ? I'll give that some thought, it may be that the cost of buying a battery and the cooker will outweigh the savings made.
Thermos flasks and heated lunch boxes are also a consideration, but you have to cook the food first with those.
A solid fuel AGA would be perfect, but I'll never get another one of those (sigh).
I'm now looking at how to make a solar oven from cardboard boxes, foil and black paint or fabric - sounds good, but with our weather it probably won't get much use - ha ha.
Any ideas for cooking for free ? I'd love to hear them.