I have always considered myself quite a nice person. I like food of all shapes, flavours and colours. From every country and continent. I don’t discriminate, I am an equal opportunity eater. It’s only the doctors who say I’m intolerant. And certain foods who refuse to tolerate me. They certainly refuse to recognise and respect my right to eat them without major physical discomfort and distress.

Gluten and lactose are not my friends.

Despite the negative attitudes surrounding me from many of those I love best, (cakes, ice cream, hot toast) I decided to become a chef. Not always easy when you live in a bread and milk filled world. I like to think that this has helped me become a better person as I embrace my differences and refuse to let the gluten get me down. I believe InTolerance. I am the InTolerant Chef.

Food should not be about what you can’t eat, but what you can and what you enjoy eating. This blog is about my journey of cooking and eating and discovery. It’s not a definitive guide to allergy awareness nor do my intolerances make me an expert. Your body is your responsibility, not mine. I only know what works for me.

I can tell you this..... No glutens were harmed in the making of this website.

August 26, 2014

Sweet and Sour Pork with the Billyboil

Have you ever heard the term Thermal Cooking before dear Readers?

It certainly wasn't a term I was familiar with until recently. Also known as Vacuum Cooking, it's a great method to create delicious meals while saving on time, energy and power bills

The nice people at Billyboil kindly sent me a unit to play with, no strings attatched regarding writing a review or plugging their product, but I was genuinely impressed with it's ease of use and overall performance and just couldn't help letting you know how great it really is and how easy it is to use

The Billyboil is a nice little unit that has an insulated outer pot that acts as a thermos maintaining temperatures for quite a long time, and an inner pot that's just like a regular saucepan or stockpot.
 It's perfectly suited for 'Wet Dishes' like casseroles, curries or braising, but you can also use it to cook rice, pasta or even breads or cakes!

I thought the best way to try it out would be with a dish I'm comfortable and familiar with so I'd have something to compare it to at the end of the day

The recipe I decided to go with is pretty much my tried and true Sweet and Sour recipe. I blogged about it a few years ago here: Cooking En Masse  It's actually still one of my favourite posts, as it shows a little about what I love to do and what it's like to put your food and heart on a plate :)

I have cut down the process a little and have chosen more store cupboard ingredients along with the fresh veggies as this is more suited to the style of the Billyboil with it's camping/mobile application where you might have limited pantry access

Sweet and Sour Pork
* If you aren't lucky enough to have a Billyboil on hand, you can of course cook it gently on the stove top, in a slow cooker, or even a pressure cooker if you're pressed for time

500gm diced Pork
large tin/440gm tin Australian Pineapple Pieces
1/2 cup gf Hoisin Sauce
1 tab Sesame Oil
1 tab Arrowroot Powder
375ml tetra pack Chicken or Veggie Stock
1 big tab minced Garlic
1 big tab minced Ginger
1 large Capsicum
1 large Onion
2 large Carrots
2 large Tomatoes

For those who don't know, this is arrowroot. It's a great thickening agent that sets clear, works well with acid and doesn't need to be boiled to thicken up- it's also gluten free

You can use any cut of pork, but I used fore quarter chops and just trimmed off the bone and fat. They are such an economical cut of meat and well suited for this style of cooking

Mix the ginger, garlic and sesame oil into the pork and let it marinate for a while. Overnight would be fine, but even just while you prep the veggies will be OK

Slice the veggies into nice bite size pieces. They don't need to be too thin as you don't want them to mush

Using the inner pot, brown off the meat in a little oil. I always like to do this to seal it and add a little extra depth of flavour, but you can skip it if you don't have the time

Add in all the veggies

Combine the pineapple with all the juice, hoisin sauce and stock together, then pour into the pot and mix through

Bring the pot to the boil, then simmer for about 10 or so minutes to bring the temperature of the contents up to a safe region

Yes, the pot is quite full- I was greedy and made a huge batch. With wet dishes like this I always make extra to add to my Freezer Meal stash for busy days. The recipe given above is more manageable with just a nice generous amount for 4 or 5 hungry people. The inner pot has a 3.5 litre capacity and as you can see I filled it right up

As I don't want to give anyone food poisoning, I took the temperature of my dish after simmering so I had a bench mark to compare it to before serving, it was definitely nice and hot indeed

Quickly add in the arrowroot dissolved into a little water, and stir to mix through
Pop the lid on, and then put the whole pot into the outer unit and close it up immediately

Now go and do whatever you want to do for pretty much the rest of the day. The Billyboil website claims the unit will retain it's heat safely for up to 8 hours, so far I've only tested it to 5 1/2, but with fantastic results

I left my meal for about 4 1/2 hours, and as you can see the temperature was still well and truly in the Safe Zone at over 80*C. I could have left it for a couple more hours if I was busy and it would still have been fine, but it was dinner time and the family wasn't prepared to eat at bedtime- even for the sake of scientific investigation. They can be difficult like that sometimes... :)

Cooking the meal the Billyboil way really does work indeed! It's such a lovely gentle method of cooking that results in tender meat, veggies that still hold their shape and structure, and sauce with a lovely clean, fresh taste. I can definitely see it becoming a fixture around my kitchen as it will save so much time, effort and energy!

You can see how convenient this little package is for caravanning adventures- just get it ready in the morning while you're still plugged in on-site, and you can have a nice hot meal at tea time without having to plug in or get a generator going. It's also handy for people like my parents who live on a rural property that can be regularly flooded in and suffer power blackouts.
Last year they had to go a whole week without power and had to cook everything over an open fire. The Billyboil would have been a godsend indeed, as it only needs to be on the heat for such a small length of time and would save so much fuel and effort

So Dear Readers, what's your favourite 'Wet Dish' and have you heard of Thermal Cookers before?

Thanks to the nice guys at Billyboil for sending me one of their products to play with! For more information, or to find out where to buy a Billyboil of your own, check out their website Here 
to answer any questions you might have about this energy efficient cooking style



  1. This sounds delicious. AND that is one very full pot indeed!

    I hope you're well!

  2. Mmmm...sweet and sour pork with pineapples. Yum!

    Gourmet Getaways

  3. I've never really heard of thermal cooking or a Billy Boil so this was a really interesting post-thank you! :D

    1. Thanks Lorraine, it's fairly new method to me as well, but certainly worth checking out xox

  4. Glad to see someone reviewing a thermal pot, have been interested in them for a while. Thanks

  5. Very interesting Bec. I guess I can see the benefits of it. Besides that I loev the sweet and sour

    1. Thanks Tania, it has all the right flavours without all the batter and sweetness. A much healthier option :) x

  6. Becca, what an interesting product! I'm always wary of slow cooking and food poisoning, but I know you're on the ball with all of that! It would save so much electricity too!

    1. That was my initial concern too Celia, and you certainly couldn't be lazy and leave it too long without checking the temperature. As long as the cook is responsible, it's a really great product though xox

  7. How interesting Bec! Never heard of this product until now. Thanks so much for sharing... and what a yummy pork dish!

    1. It's well worth checking out Lizzy, and thanks- it was tasty!

  8. I've never heard of a Billyboil and yes I can see it would be very good for campers and people living in areas where they often suffer blackouts. I love your sweet and sour pork recipe and the meat must have been very tender after all that cooking xx

    1. Thanks Charlie! It was lovely and soft indeed :) It's certainly a handy gadget to have have around xox

  9. What a wonderfully informative post. I saw this on a camping show a few months back but it was too quick and didn't explain how to use the thermal cooker the way you have just now. Brilliant Bec and your recipe, the pork with sweet and spicy is fantastic :D Things we can look forward to cooking with when we are retired and caravanning around Australia :D

    1. Thanks Merryn, I'm glad I could make it clearer for you :) Definitely something to look forward to indeed!

  10. That's fantastic. Makes me want to rethink buying the sous vide machine. :) I love your sweet and sour pork. That's one of my favourite dishes.

    1. Thanks Maureen, I hope you enjoy my version of it too :) The Sous vide is lots of fun, have you got any cookbooks for it, or are you just working it out as you go ?

  11. I'm a bit slow as I only just started investigating this as I was wanting to buy a new slow cooker, sold mine years back. I usually cook a small roast in mine, how do u think it would hold up?

    1. I really don't think it would be suitable for cooking any type of roast, sorry guys. The large piece of meat just wouldn't get hot enough internally to cook through or to have enough time in the safe temperature zone to be able to eat. Small chunks are the way to go, it will cook them brilliantly :)