Pressure Perfect!

Working in publishing definitely has its perks, so when I found myself debating on whether or not to purchase a pressure cooker for my new apartment, I decided to go straight to the source, someone I knew would put me on the right path to pressure-cooker wisdom—award-winning cookbook author Lorna Sass. Lorna is not only an expert on all things related to pressure cookers, she is also the recipient of the James Beard award and the author of many acclaimed books such as Pressure Perfect, The Pressured Cook, Cooking Under Pressure, and the Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure

I had heard from a few people about the amazing benefits of owning a pressure cooker—tender oxtails in half the time, fresh beans in just minutes—but I was completely clueless on how to go about finding the perfect one for a beginning cook. After thumbing through a few of Lorna’s books, which in themselves provide a wealth of information to help any first time buyer/user navigate the aisles in search of the perfect pressure cooker—I decided to send Lorna a few follow-up questions.

1. Why do you think pressure cookers have had such a resurgence in popularity today even with microwaves and slow cookers as alternatives?

Who can resist having a lentil soup done in 10 minutes and risotto in 5? People have finally realized that pressure cookers are safe to use and the answer for busy cooks wanting to prepare soulful and healthy meals at the last minute—in 1/3 or less the standard cooking time. Unlike with the microwave, timing does not increase when you increase the amount of food inside the cooker.

2. Upon reading your books I realized that there are two types of cookers, one that operates on the stove and an electric one. Which type do you recommend for a beginner?

I prefer stove-top models since electric cookers take up a lot of counter space, cook at a lower pressure (therefore taking food a few minutes longer), and can’t be set under cold, running water to quick-release pressure.  However, many people find electric cookers convenient since they have built-in timers and can be pre-set.

 3. In your opinion, what is the best cut of meat/vegetable to cook in a pressure cooker? Do you have a favorite dish?

Inexpensive cuts of meat, such as chuck, brisket, and shoulder, quickly become fork-tender under pressure. The dense root vegetables like potatoes and beets are especially delicious, and chickpeas cook to perfection in 35 minutes without any pre-soaking. Chickpea Curry is a personal favorite.

4.  For novices like me who are considering buying a cooker for the first time, what is the most important advice you can suggest when selecting a pressure cooker?

A stainless steel cooker with a heavy bottom that has an aluminum or copper sandwich for even distribution and to avoid scorching when you bring the cooker up to pressure over high heat. I recommend at least a 6-quart size for versatility and an 8-quart for people who like to cook in quantity.

Thank you, Lorna! While I haven’t found the time to go to the store and buy one, I will surely be adding this to my registry for a housewarming gift.

And here’s Lorna’s favorite recipe, Chickpea Curry.

Chickpeas cooked under pressure retain their shape beautifully and develop a remarkably creamy texture. Serve this curry as a main dish over rice or as a vegetable side dish. To make it more substantial, after the chickpeas are cooked, stir in ¼ cup raisins and one 10-ounce package frozen (defrosted) chopped spinach. Heat thoroughly, and adjust the seasonings before serving.  Serves 4

(35 MINUTES UNDER HIGH PRESSURE, THEN 1 5 MINUTES FOR NATURAL PRESSURE RELEASE)

  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 tablespoon mild curry powder
  • Dash of cayenne pepper (optional)
  • One 3- inch stick cinnamon, broken in two, or ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1½ cups dried chickpeas, picked over and rinsed
  • 1 quart (4 cups) water
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Heat the oil in the cooker. Add the cumin seeds and sizzle for 10 seconds. Stir in the onion and red bell pepper and cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the curry powder, cayenne (if using), cinnamon, chickpeas, and water.

Lock the lid in place and over high heat bring to high pressure. Adjust the heat to maintain high pressure and cook for 35 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the pressure to come down naturally, about 15 minutes. Remove the lid, tilting it away from you to allow steam to escape.

If the chickpeas are not sufficiently cooked, replace the lid and simmer over low heat until tender. Discard the cinnamon sticks (if used).

The mixture will thicken on standing, but if you are serving it right away, puree some of the chickpeas and stir the puree into the pot. Add the ginger and salt to taste.

Chickpea spread

To create a hummus like spread or dip, puree 1 cup of drained curried chickpeas with 2 to 3 tablespoons of the reserved cooking liquid.

Makes approximately 1 cup

Chickpea soup

To create a creamy soup, use an immersion blender to puree the chickpeas, adding vegetable broth as needed to reach a desired consistency. If you wish the soup to have some texture, before pureeing remove some whole chickpeas; then stir them back in.

Serves 4–6

Comments
One Response to “Pressure Perfect!”
  1. Jessica says:

    Hello everyone, sorry for my tardy resopnses (ahem).Hi Jane – Er yes, the flies issue is a big one when I have kids constantly going in and out! Ah well LOL.vTg – Yup, I leave it on while I’m out. I make sure there isn’t anything touching it and it has good air flow around it and I’ve never had any problems :-)Hi Deb – Oooh, how good is beef rendang! Love a good curry :-)Sonja – I hope you can borrow a copy of the book for a squiz, it’s pretty good :-)Ecoinspired – Thank you 🙂 And yes, how great is it to be busy all day but not have to worry about putting a nourishing meal on the table at night?Cheers, Julie

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