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Byron Shire
July 18, 2024

Eco Cooka Sisters

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By Vivienne Pearson. Photo by Jeff Dawson

Sisters Cathy and Natasha Buirski are avid users of retained-heat cooking and they are keen to introduce it to the Byron Shire.

They first heard of this cooking method during their childhoods in South Africa, though it was not part of their daily lives. When Cathy found herself living in an eco-village with two children, no income and limited fuel, she instantly realised that it was an answer to many of her challenges.

On moving to Australia more than a decade ago, they chose the Byron Shire – in Cathy’s words because: ‘It is diverse, sustainability oriented, and close to the ocean and the mountains’. They brought their retained-heat cookers with them and now use them multiple times a day. ‘They are out on benches, not packed away in cupboards,’ Cathy says, describing how useful they are for soups, stews, vegetables, legumes and puddings. ‘I don’t know how people live and raise a family without it,’ says Natasha, who even makes yogurt using this method and notes that others make jam, bread and fermented foods.

Despite their enthusiasm, they philosophically note that their vision of every home using retained-heat cooking every day might be a long time coming. They reflect that, in the past, it has been seen as only for those who are desperately poor or living a hippy lifestyle. ‘But there will come a time when we will all need to watch our energy consumption,’ Natasha says.

It was Renew Fest (the celebration of all things sustainable that took place in Mullumbimby in June) that prompted the sisters to start towards their vision. They have started the manufacture of an insulated container (called an EcoCooka) that looks like two bean bags and is easy to use and highly effective. They are offering a class in retained-heat cooking at Byron Community College and are planning to offer ongoing monthly classes at other venues as well.

Retained-heat cooking may not take off like a burning flame, but Natasha and Cathy are happy for to take a ‘slow boil’ approach – pun intended.

Information: For info and bookings for the class, to be held on Sat 27 August: www.byroncollege.org.au. For information about EcoCookas or to contact Cathy and Natasha: Facebook/EcoCooka. 

eco cooker2

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  1. Not just poor or hippy folk using them. They have been on the market for years with Caravanners. As the temperature falls I wonder if there is any risk of bacteria growth or is it too short a time?.

  2. Hi William, thanks for your comment!! Yes, Retained Heat Cooking has been around for yonks, especially before the 1960’s…after the advent of the microwave it “got lost” in our modern and faster world! As far as safety goes it has been shown that boiling/simmering meat for 20 minutes will keep the food sterile for 24 hours…I have made many many meals for many years this way and have never had a problem. The main concern is that if you “contaminate” the food with saliva it’ll certainly become a breeding ground if left and re-eaten.

  3. Hi Tash, hope you well ? Lovely article, how you doing, have been thinking of you a lot !! Miss you ! When you coming to visit ? Love to the girls and Cathy ? Sending lots of love xx


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