Monday, June 29, 2009

Pressure cooking

One of the cooking utensils that Adam brought into our relationship (along with a fabulous set of excellent chef's knives) was a pressure cooker. It's a lovely modern cooker, with a low-pressure and high-pressure gauge, not at all like my mother's old stainless steel pot with its jangly little bell. It used to whistle on the stove, rocking around with the pressure of the steam, and my sisters and I were always fearful it would blow up. Mum usually used the pressure cooker for corned silverside and not much else, so I don't have many recipes for pressure cookers and Adam and I really haven't used it much.

But a recently released cookbook has inspired me to pull out the pressure cooker, dust it off and give it a try. The Pressure Cooker Recipe Book by Suzanne Gibbs features more than 80 recipes, many of them a surprise to me. Of course a pressure cooker is a logical choice for braises and casseroles, turning a long slow-cooked casserole that would normally take several hours into a quick weeknight meal that can be whipped up within 20 minutes or so. But Suzanne includes recipes for nibbles such as hummus and lentil tapenade, terrine, stocks and soups, vegetable braises and even desserts such as lemon cheesecake and puddings. I was impressed by the range and variety of dishes, many of which could be cooked in a conventional oven but would take much longer. As Suzanne notes in her introduction, "The pressure cooker has brought back into my life those delicious braises and stews that used to bubble away on the stove for hours. Now I think nothing of making a melt-in-the-mouth osso bucco or a French daube at the drop of a hat. Those many hours of long, slow cooking have miraculously turned into half an hour. A great bolognese sauce that used to take three hours now takes just twenty-five minutes."

When we moved house last year, we planned to sell the pressure cooker in a garage sale but somehow it missed the sale. Now I'm really glad it didn't and I'm equally glad that this new cookbook has opened my eyes to a range of recipes to try. I still enjoy having a casserole cooking slowly on the stove for hours but, for days when I don't have time, I'll gladly be pulling out the pressure cooker to replicate the end result.


Esz said...

My mum loves her pressure cooker too. She doesn't make desserts but uses it for pretty much any dinner. My favourite dish is Hungarian stuffed cabbage....Yum!

Melinda said...

Hi Esz - I'm amazed at how versatile pressure cookers are. You must have a great repertoire from your mum if she uses it so often. Hungarian stuffed cabbage sounds delicious!

Karen Harris said...

Up until about a year ago, I avoided pressure cookers as well, fearing that they were bombs waiting to explode. I now own one and love the delicious results that come from it. Thanks for sharing your story. Enjoyed your blog.

Melinda said...

Thanks Karen! I think the new versions are much safer than the old ones - everyone seems to have a story about an exploding pressure cooker but that doesn't seem so common now. I'm amazed at how versatile the pressure cooker is - it really does do so much of the work for you.