Solar Decathlon 2011

We are thrilled to share with you a little info on a competition happening right now in Washington, D.C. that the Our Kitchen team has been involved with. The US Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011 features 20 international teams charged with designing and building energy-efficient houses powered exclusively by the sun. Victoria University of Wellington’s ‘First Light’ house has been selected as the only entry from the Southern Hemisphere.

The Solar Decathlon consists of ten competitions including Architecture, Market Appeal, Engineering, Communications, Appliances, and Home Entertainment – where the team must hold two dinner parties for neighbours who award points based on the quality of the meal, ambiance, and overall experience. Most excitingly for the Our Kitchen team, we had the opportunity to provide the First Light team with some low energy meal ideas.

The idea for the First Light entry comes from the classic Kiwi bach (pronounced batch) – a New Zealand holiday home – where New Zealanders retreat to ‘get away from it all’ and get back to basics.  Baches exemplify our Kiwi values: a strong connection with the landscape, a hands-on ‘do it yourself’ mentality and socializing outdoors. We wanted to focus on recipes that fitted well with this theme, using simple, fresh ingredients that when thrown together create a sum most certainly worth more than its parts.

When we first started to brainstorm, the most obvious solutions were salads, sandwiches, and raw food – more assembly as opposed to hands-on cooking. But being the passionate foodies that we all are, we wanted the First Light team to cook for their guests, serving up some classic Kiwi fare that would welcome them into the little piece of New Zealand so beautifully constructed in the middle of Washington’s National Mall. And of course, as Fisher & Paykel have supplied the team with some of our most efficient appliances, we wanted them put though their paces!

So earlier this year, we spent a couple of weeks in the cooking lab, logging the amount of energy required to cook an assortment of dishes, from pavlova to a leg of lamb, to a whole salmon. It was a fascinating experience, providing us with a lot of valuable insights for further in-house development, and the numbers the First Light team required to design their menus.

On the menu for a few lucky guests at the First Light house over the next week or so will be… mini corn fritters, seared lamb fillet, pavlova crush, chips ‘n’ dip, fresh fish, and of course the perfect antipodean finish to any great meal, hokey pokey ice cream!

For more info on the competition, and to follow the First Light team’s (fingers crossed!) success – follow the link:

And some recipes that have been inspired by this process or included on the First Light team’s menu are:  Spaghetti el limone, Chocolate-dipped hokey-pokey, Corn and courgette fritters, and Tropical eton mess.

One comment

  1. Its quite beautiful! It’s not suprising that NZ is the only selected entry in the southern hemisphere 🙂 nice!

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