I have been tardy with my blog of late, I had most of August off, for most of September I was eating my way though the store cupboards and not really cooking anything that exciting, so I really should have caught up on my reviews by now. I would like to stick to my ideal of one review for every 3 recipes, but now I just want to get down to it and clear the back log so the next time someone kindly offers me a product to review I can do so and then write about it immediately.
Shortly after I took part in the food bloggers mini Masterchef cookoff, Miele contacted me and asked if I would like to borrow a steam oven for 3 weeks for testing. I agreed, and at the crack of dawn few days later a brand new steam oven arrived. The courier was distinctly unimpressed by the fact that my flat is on the top floor, but did carry it upstairs for me. I knew little of steam ovens, other than I had once looked at a flat whose kitchen boasted a steam, but no regular oven and had dismissed the Estate Agent’s praise for steaming as mere sales patter.
The oven was about the size of a large microwave, and comfortably sat on my kitchen table. I quickly scanned the instructions and set to work. To use, you simple plug in, fill the water container, set the time and temperature and away you go. The first time you use the oven you need to calibrate the temperature by setting your altitude. This was quickly done with some hissing and clouds of steam. With subsequent uses the oven makes about the same amount of noise as a kettle.
I had a group of friends coming round that evening and wanted to use the oven, so I and choose to make a chicken biryani from the Miele Steam Oven Cook Book. It really was as simple as bung all the ingredients into a dish and steam, resulting in perfectly cooked rice and meat 25 or so minutes later. Here I made my first mistake and did not read the paragraph that clearly stated that cooking in a dish other than the metal trays supplied with the oven would result in far long cooking time. However it really did not matter, longer cooking time meant a longer drinking time and we all greatly enjoyed the biryani. It was fantastic be be able to relax drink lots of wine with friends and know that my biryani would not dry out or burn.
I think that the best things that I made in the oven were fish and vegetables. The fish was tender, moist, perfectly cooked and the salad potatoes were delicious, the most potatoey potatoes I have ever had earthy and full of flavour. I cooked some everyday I had the oven.
Another success was brisket, melting in the mouth tender, with a lovely gravy and perfectly cooked vegetables (and more of those delicious potatoes).
Other successes were a steamed pudding, although not that different from the ones I usually cook in the microwave, bulgar wheat pilaf, and a risotto.
I also used the oven to sterilize some homemade apple butter rather than using a water bath, which was a great success, far far easier than putting jars in and out of boiling water. The oven was also fantastic to decrystallize several half eaten jars of marmalade and half a jar of solid honey, after several months none have recrystallised.
According to the instructions the oven can also be set to 40C to prove dough (it was baking hot when I was trialling it so I did not use it for this), and I am sure that I read somewhere that steaming apples and pears for a few minutes at a lower temperature helps them to keep all through the winter.
Having to wipe it would after every use was a slight nuisance, there was always a pool of water at the bottom, although I just grabbed a tea towel dried the oven and slung the towel in the washing machine for the next wash. Also boiling condensation drips from the ceiling of the oven when you open it, this caught me twice when I was taking things in and out, it is not a problem, as making sure the back of your hands are covered by oven gloves soon becomes automatic.
If I had the space, and the money (the oven I was using costs around £750) I would seriously consider getting one. As it is easy to reheat dishes in the steam oven, it could also replace the microwave, although reheating is not as fast but in reality I only use the microwave for reheating, cooking rice and softening butter so it would not be a great loss. I would be interested to try the both the pressure steam oven (cooks at 120C) and the combi steam oven. I think that had I not been lent the oven at the height of summer I would have used it far far more, it would be perfect for warming and lower fat winter dishes.
Many thanks to Miele for the free loan, and to Elspeth for talking me through lots of ideas for it.