Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Cooking under pressure




Did your mother have a pressure cooker? Mine did. I clearly recollect the hissing pot on the stove many times. Fortunately, my mother’s pressure cooker never blew up, but my aunt’s did once, spraying split pea soup all over the kitchen at such a pressure it made dents in the ceiling.

I guess incidents like this are what caused them to go into disuse.

A couple of weeks ago, I heard an interview with the cookery editor and author, Suzanne Gibbs (daughter of Australia’s cookery doyenne, Margaret Fulton, Australia’s Julia Childs) on Radio National’s Life Matters programme. She has just written a book of pressure cooker recipes. Of course, she was extolling the virtues of the pressure cooker, and my ears pricked up at phrases like “quick”, “energy efficient”, “money and time saving” and “healthy” She then went on the describe the stews and soups you can knock up in half an hour with the aid of a pressure cooker. She reassured listener that modern day pressure cookers are far safer than the post war pressure cookers. Whew! That’s a relief.

My weeknight cooking possibilities are constrained by the short time frame I usually have. I arrive home between 5.30 and 6.00 most weeknights (whether working or not), with the aim of having dinner on the table by 7.00pm. Stews, braises, casseroles and soups are normally out of the question. In winter, stews, braises, casseroles and soups are precisely what I want to eat, too. Clearly, I had to investigate this pressure cooker caper further.

I bought Suzanne Gibbs’ book, borrowed an American book on pressure cooking from the library and did my research on pressure cookers on line. Yesterday, I bought my pressure cooker at my local hardware shop for an excellent price.

I am already in love with it. As soon as I got home, I made a ragu Bolognese for pasta. This took about 50 minutes, go to whoa, instead of 2 ½ -3 hours. It tasted great. This morning I went on to make a borlotti bean soup for dinner while we were having breakfast. Preparation and cooking - 30 minutes. Time saved: 90 minutes.

The great thing is not just the time saving, but in both cases, once the cooker was at pressure, it cooked on the lowest flame on my smallest gas hob. The energy saving will be substantial.
Could this be a revolution in the kitchen? And why doesn't the whole world know about it?
The link to the Radio National interview here.

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