A cookware investment that gives great returns over the years is a good quality pressure cooker. My mother often cooked with a pressure cooker when I was growing up in Zambia. The propane gas tanks to fuel our stove were transported via truck (or lorry!) over 300 miles of dirt roads. Thus, we were very aware of how much it took even to get the gas we used for cooking and baking. The oven was never turned on just for one item. When we baked, we prepared enough at one time to make full use of heating up the oven.
Because roasting meat in the oven takes so much time and gas, my mother usually cooked the game meat my father hunted in a pressure cooker. It was the older kind that had a pressure regulator on the lid which jiggled up and down once the pressure built up—the sound that lunch would soon be ready!
Over ten years ago, I invested in my own, updated design pressure cooker. After considerable research, I purchased a six-quart Fagor Splendid model. While the pressure regulator itself no longer makes noise, there is still the strong hissing of the steam, plus the wonderful smell of whatever is cooking!
I use it mostly for “utilitarian” cooking—that is, preparing foods for use in other dishes, such vegetable stock and pumpkin/squash/sweet potato purée. The next level of investment would be to buy a larger size to process pumpkin and squash in fewer batches, plus to do pressure canning.
Some people are intimidated by pressure cookers. If you get a quality cooker in good repair and follow the instruction manual, it is quite simple.
Here is a favorite recipe I make in the pressure cooker, Lentil Soup. (Adapted from "Lentils, Monastery Style" in Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappé.)
1/4 cup (or less) olive oil (Now, I would use either butter or coconut oil)
1 or 2 onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 carrot, chopped
1/2 teaspoon each of thyme and marjoram
3 cups seasoned stock (I use homemade vegetable stock)
1 cup lentils, rinsed
1/4 cup chopped cilantro (The original recipe calls for parsley. The cilantro gives an extra-special flavor, in my opinion.)
1 one-pound canned tomatoes (purchased or home-canned—or fresh)
Grated Swiss cheese
Heat oil in large pot and sauté onions, garlic, and carrot for 3 to 5 minutes. Add herbs and sauté 1 minute. Add stock, lentils, half of cilantro and tomatoes and cook, covered, until lentils are tender, about 45 minutes in a regular pot. [Pressure cooker: Lock lid and bring to high pressure. Cook at high pressure for 10 minutes. Use quick release method. Consult your pressure cooker instruction book, etc.]
Add remaining cilantro and, if you wish, purée in blender or put through sieve. Grate cheese into bowls and fill with soup.
Do you use a pressure cooker? What are some favorite recipes or tips?
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