Thursday, 14 May 2009

Saving Energy in the Kitchen

by Gavin from The Greening of Gavin

Last year, I received a pressure cooker for my birthday. The following day I cooked up a storm! The results were outstanding, and where just as I remember from my childhood. The meat was so tender, the tastes were amazing, and it only took 30 minutes (once the pressure built up) to cook the meal!

Before I cooked the first meal, I had to season the cooker by boiling 2 litres of milk and 3 litres of water. Apparently, because it is aluminium, this boiling of milk/water seals it and stops the stains from forming. The seasoning has worked, because a year down the track I have not yet had a meal stick to the bottom during cooking.

I started out simple and made a Beef Stew, with seasonal vegetables. Here is the recipe from memory, as I whipped it up on the fly when I cooked it.

Gavin's Beef Stew
500gm Stewing Steak or any cheap cut of red meat, 2 cm cubes
3 large potatoes, diced 2 cm cubes
1 stick of celery, chopped coarsely
1 large onion, slices
3 large carrots, sliced
3 cloves garlic, sliced
100gm mushrooms, sliced
1 sprig fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 litre beef stock, low sodium
3 tablespoons cornflour
3 tablespoons gravy powder
1 half cup water
2 tablespoons oil
salt & pepper to taste

Heat oil, add onion, garlic, rosemary and celery to soften. Add beef and brown. Add remaining vegetables and stock, seal pressure cooker, and cook for 30 minutes from when the control valve starts to jiggle, reduce heat so valve just moves. After 30 minutes, turn off heat, reduce pressure as per cooker instructions and remove lid. Make a paste out of water, cornflour, gravy powder and thicken stew. Bring to boil with lid off, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with mashed potatoes and crusty bread. Serves 6 with sufficient seconds!

A fantastically simple meal, and it was very hearty on a cold Sunday evening after I had been working on the chook house all day. I could not believe how tender the meat was, especially after only cooking for 30 minutes. Kim was very impressed, because she is normally put off by beef because of its chewiness. Normally that type of steak would take between 90-120 minutes to get to that stage in the oven. The vegetables all kept their natural favour and were really distinct in on the palette, with the potato breaking down just enough to help thicken the stew.

This type of cooking is not only energy efficient (I cooked on the medium gas ring on the lowest setting), but you can utilise the cheapest cuts of meat, and they will be tender in no time. I reckon that even game, such as kangaroo and emu would become very tender in a short time. Every time I have attempted to cook roo it has been tough as old boots! I have since used it to cook some kangaroo, and it is absolutely delicious!

I also found heaps of recipes on the net at the Pressure Cooker Centre. The model I have is a SILAMPOS Classic aluminium 10 litre, which is made in Portugal. A long way to transport it, but I could not find a pressure cooker that was made in Australia so it was the only option.

It was simple to figure out how it worked and the instruction manual was easy to understand. I would recommend this cookware to anyone who wants to lock in nutrition, and to cook meals quicker without resorting to processed fast food. In the year since I got this piece of cookware, I have made soups, stews, pot roasts, cooked lentils, chickpeas, and rice. Nothing has stuck to the bottom, and all have cooked extremely quickly, and tasted fantastic.