The desert chefs who cook with the sun

Piercing rays of light beamed down on the Chilean village of Villaseca as Luisa Ogalde placed a pot filled with cabrito (young goat’s meat) in an angular, transparent-topped box and angled it in the direction of the mid-morning sun. The cabrito, she explained, would stew in that box for four hours, slowly transforming into meat so juicy and tender you could slice it with a fork.

In another box nearby Ogalde placed rice, which she said would take 40 minutes to cook, and dough, which would need about an hour to become bread. Other boxes contained rabbit, chicken and pork, which would each simmer for about two hours under the fierce sunbeams that sizzle towns like this on the southern edge of the Atacama Desert.

“The benefit of living here is we have sun practically every day of the year,” said Ogalde, explaining that she uses it – instead of gas, electricity or firewood – to power her restaurant, Entre Cordillera Restobar Solar, which opened in 2018. The boxes are solar ovens and they work by heating meat the same way a parked car heats a human on a hot summer day. Ogalde has eight of them, as well as a parabolic solar cooker she uses to boil water and a solar dehydrator that lets her dry goat meat into ch’arki(jerky), which is a key ingredient in the traditional potato and pumpkin stew charquicán… (continue reading at BBC Travel).

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