We're all for saving energy. So, what about the latest suggestion to help reduce your fuel bills - cooking in your dishwasher.

That's right, using a dishwasher to cook meals. As long as your food is kept in a container, this is being hailed as the most eco-friendly and practical way to feed your family.

Every time you run your dishwasher, the combined cost of the electricity to heat the water and detergent can come to about 85 cents. Assuming one load a day, that's more than $310 a year.

And whenever the machine is half-empty, you're pouring money down the drain. So, how about filling some of the empty space with a few watertight jars and cooking tonight's dinner?

Not only will you be using your dishwasher more efficiently, you won't have to switch on your oven.

More On This...

The idea is not as silly as it sounds and is being promoted by a cook and environmental campaigner from Milan called Lisa Casali.

Her book, Cucinare In Lavastoviglie ('Cooking In The Dishwasher'), has been a surprise hit in Italy. For many years she's been experimenting with dishwasher cuisine - with recipes for a range of dishes, such as couscous, veal, tuna and even fruits and desserts.

She is working in a fine tradition. Back in the Seventies there were occasional jokers who wrapped a piece of salmon in foil and put it in a dishwasher.

But Casali's book is deadly serious. Her guidance is that you shouldn't try with food that needs to rise or get crispy (so it's not much good for pork crackling or fairy cakes).

Rather than using aluminium foil (which websites recommend, although it tends to leak), you should put the food into airtight jars or food vacuum bags. So you can add soap to the cycle and clean your dishes while poaching dinner.

The technique is best for foods that need to be cooked at low temperatures. A hot dishwasher cycle cleans at 167 F - the perfect temperature to slow-cook.

Fish is particularly suitable because it steams in the heat of the water. Dishes such as coq au vin and lasagne, however, are more difficult to get right, especially for beginners.

The idea is catching. Food writer William Sitwell, editor of Waitrose Kitchen magazine, says: "If it's just as good as using a really good steamer, then why on earth not?"

The only way to find out whether it works is to put it to the test.