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Cooking under pressure

Angela Day demystifies the pressure cooker to help you save time and money

Pressure cookers have come a long way since those hissing, spluttering and sometimes exploding machines our grandmothers may have used.

Recipe: Cider chicken with apples and parsnips. Credit: INLSA

Today’s pressure cookers are safe and easy to use. Because they work best with cheaper cuts of meat that cook in a third of the time of stovetop cooking, they are cost efficient and time saving.

HOW THEY WORK

A pressure cooker looks like a large pot except its lid locks onto the top, forming a tight seal. The cooking liquid inside the pot boils and creates steam.

As the steam is trapped inside, the pressure increases, which in turn increases the boiling point of the liquid to about 120°C. Because of this increased temperature, the food cooks much more quickly.

TIPS FOR USING A PRESSURE COOKER

TRY THESE RECIPES

BEEF AND RED WINE STEW

Serves 4

50ml seasoned flour

750g soft shin, cubed

50ml olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

10ml chopped garlic

3 celery sticks, chopped

2 carrots, diced

1 sprig of rosemary

250ml red wine

250ml beef stock

15ml tomato paste

salt and pepper

125g baby potatoes, halved

Put the seasoned flour into a plastic bag and shake well to coat the meat. Heat the oil in the pressure cooker pot and, over a medium high heat, brown the meat in batches. Remove and set aside.

Add the onion, garlic, celery and carrot to the pot and cook for about 5 minutes. Return the meat to the pot.

Add the rosemary, wine, stock, tomato paste, seasoning and potatoes.

Secure the pressure cooker lid in place and heat on high until a good amount of steam escapes from the valve.

Reduce the heat and cook for 40 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside until the pressure cooker is cool enough to open.

If the sauce is very runny then simmer the mixture uncovered until it reduces and thickens or stir in 15ml cornflour that has been mixed with a little water.

CHICKEN WITH CIDER AND APPLES

30ml olive oil

8 chicken thighs

1 red onion, chopped

330ml cider or apple juice

1 red pepper, cut into 2cm pieces

2 green apples, peeled and cut into wedges

3-4 parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks

45ml chopped parsley

Heat the oil in the pressure cooker pot and brown the chicken over high heat. Remove and set aside.

Add the onion and garlic and fry for 2-3 minutes. Return the chicken to the pot and add the cider.

Secure the lid in place and bring the pressure up to steam. Cook for 10 minutes. Remove and rapid cool the pressure cooker.

Remove the lid and add the peppers, apples, parsnips and seasoning. Secure the lid in place and bring it up to pressure again. Cook for 5 minutes.

Remove from the heat and cool the pressure cooker. Stir in the parsley before serving.

PEA AND HAM SOUP

Serves 8

1 onion, chopped

3-4 celery sticks, chopped

2 carrots, peeled and diced

750g ham hock

2 bay leaves

500ml chicken stock

1 litre of water

300g split peas, rinsed and drained

375ml frozen peas

50ml chopped mint

Heat the oil in the pressure cooker pot and over a medium heat fry the onion, celery, carrots and garlic for 5 minutes. Add the hock, bay leaves, stock and water. Secure the lid in place and bring the pot up to pressure. Cook for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and rapid cool the pot.

Remove the lid and add the split peas. Return to the stove and secure the lid in place. Bring it up to pressure and cook for another 20 minutes. Remove and rapid cool the pot.

Open the pot and remove the bay leaves and the hock. Add the peas, mint and seasoning to the pot and simmer uncovered for 5 minutes.

Remove from the heat and purée the mixture using a hand blender. Remove the fat and bones from the hock and shred the meat. Return the meat to the soup and heat through before serving.

MUSHROOM AND CHORIZO RISOTTO

Serves 6

30g butter

2 shallots, finely chopped

125g baby mushrooms, wiped

330ml risotto rice

60ml white wine

750ml chicken stock

5ml picked thyme leaves

10ml grated lemon rind

12ml grated Parmesan cheese

1 chorizo sausage, sliced and fried

Heat the butter and fry the shallots until soft. Add the mushrooms and fry for a few minutes. Stir in the rice and cook until coated with the butter.

Add the wine and cook until evaporated. Add the stock, thyme, lemon and seasoning.

Secure the lid and bring it up to pressure.

Cook for 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and rapid cool the pot.

Remove the lid and stir in the Parmesan and chorizo. Serve immediately.

CREME CARAMEL

80ml castor sugar

500ml full cream milk

the rind of 1 orange, removed with a potato peeler

60ml castor sugar

4 eggs

Put the castor sugar into a small saucepan and heat over a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture turns caramel brown. Pour the caramel into a 1-litre ovenproof bowl and swirl to coat the base and sides of the bowl with the caramel.

Combine the milk, orange rind and sugar in a saucepan and heat to just below boiling point. Remove from the heat and set aside for 20 minutes to infuse. Discard the orange rind.

Beat the egg and add the milk. Pour the mixture into a 1-litre pudding basin. Cover the top securely with foil. Place the bowl on an upturned saucer in the pressure cooker. Add about 5cm of water. The water should not touch the bowl.

Secure the pressure cooker lid and bring it up to pressure. Reduce heat and cook for 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely. Open the cooker and remove the basin. Stand at room temperature until completely cooled.

Remove the foil and turn out onto serving plate.

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