Thursday, May 22, 2008

pressure cooking

Pressure cooking ... you either love it or hate it, don't you?

I use our pressure cooker about once a week, for making soups
or for very quickly cooking lentils. The rest of the week, I
use the same base plus additional trays as a steamer to do all
our veg in.

I do find using the pressure cooker somewhat scary, at the
moment when it "fires up" at full steam. I remember well the old
steam trains, when on walking by, there'd be a sudden blast of
steam which would make me jump out of my skin. I'm sure the
engine drivers let the steam off on purpose, for a good laugh
("Let's scare him shitless!").

Anyway, modern pressure cookers are very safe, when used
correctly. Ours is a 6 litre Prestige one, which I bought about
7 years ago after I retired (yes, that is a huge amount of time).

In general, pressure cooking halves the amount of cooking time
and therefore saves a lot of fuel. For making any veg soup, we
often don't bother frying the onion, as it pressure-cooks well.
For additional flavouring ... garlic, herbes de Provence, a bay
leaf (or two), and/or one or two organic veg stock cubes. The
latter can be very salty, so I check the end result before
seasoning with salt & black pepper. For thickening we often add
a sprinkle of red lentils (one of Mrs C's tips to me). You have
to take care not to overfill your pressure-cooker (see the
instruction book for your cooker for the guide-lines).

Timing: full pressure for 5 mins on a very low gas flame. Switch
off the gas and leave for up to 5 mins before de-pressurising
and taking off the lid. Diced/sliced potato will be cooked in
this time. And then we lightly blitz it with our Braun blender
(the hand-held whisk-like thingy) ... though we don't liquidise
any bay leaves of course.

Red lentils: lightly cover with boiling water (add a bay leaf or
two, if required in the recipe). I use 2oz or 60g of lentils per
person, though sometimes reduce this figure to 45g. Bring up to
pressure in the cooker for 1 minute only. Switch off the gas,
and leave for another minute before rapidly de-pressurising and
taking the lid off. You have to experiment with the amount of
water and the timing, but you end up with a brilliantly cooked
and fairly dryish mixture, which you can then use for making any
lentil dish you like. So that's an amazing 2 minutes' cooking time,
and you don't end up with a mess all over your cooker top, to
clean up afterwards.

Another time, I'll give you a recipe for one of our favourites:
fennel and red lentil au gratin, which is out of Rose Elliot's
"The Bean Book". I find it time-consuming to make, but I make
enough to last us a couple of days.


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