Sunday, 27 March 2011
Pressure cookers are just not for me
Ever since I last blogged about pressure cookers (three years ago I discovered, to my amazement) I’ve had this sense of unfinished business. They are such a frugal way of cooking it seemed wrong not to give them another try. I was prompted to have go by the publication of a really inspiring book by my colleague Richard Ehrlich called 80 Recipes for Your Pressure Cooker.
Now you can see how many of the recipes I fancied from the number pink post-it notes marking the pages. I really thought this was going to be it. The big breakthrough. I unearthed the pressure cooker from the back of a cupboard, dusted it down, managed to find the instruction book (no small feat) gave it the recommended checkover and was ready to go.
I chose a delicious-looking recipe for chicken with sherry, mustard and olives as I had most of the ingredients and followed the instructions to the letter. Everything seemed to go fine - the pressure indicator went up, steam emitted, the cooker burbled comfortingly - the 10 minutes recommended cooking time was up and .... the chicken wasn’t cooked.
I put the lid on again brought it back up to pressure, cooked it for another 5 minutes which did the trick but worryingly it didn’t smell particularly appetising despite the presence of onions, garlic (my addition) and fino sherry
The end result while looking just about presentable was almost inedible. The skin, despite the fact I’d browned it, was wet, limp and colourless. The onions were devoid of flavour. No taste of mustard, olives or even sherry despite the fact I’d used the full 100ml Richard recommended. My husband laboured manfully through it but basically it was crap.
There are a number of reasons why that might have been the case:
* I could have failed to follow the instructions. Always possible but I was careful to read them through again carefully
* My AGA plates might not have been sufficiently hot to get the wretched thing up and running. Maybe but the thermostat didn’t show it was running slow. And I couldn’t find anything that suggested you shouldn’t use a pressure cooker on an AGA
* Maybe the gasket needed replacing. Again possible but I’d only used it a couple of times (and the result had been equally unsatisfactory then). And it didn’t look or feel as if the rubber had perished
* It’s not a particularly good model. Could be. Tower is a reliable make, long associated with pressure cookers, however it doesn’t get very good reviews here
* Richard’s recipe didn’t work. No way. It sounded good - it should have been good. I’m sure if he’d made it it would have been good . . .
* Pressure cookers and I are just incompatible. The most likely explanation. I’ve never liked microwaves either . . .
Anyway if you ARE a pressure cooker fan let me recommend the book. It’s got lots of lovely frugal - and not so frugal recipes - in it I can’t wait to try including a couple of cracking meat loaves, a great-sounding shin of beef with an Asian dipping sauce you seem to be able to rustle up in a quarter of an hour and an awesome New England blueberry pudding. Only I’m going to have to find another way to cook them.
So, you pressure cooker lovers out there - what do you think I did wrong? And tell me why you like yours?