I'll never be a MasterChef.
I know this because not only am I quite positive I would draw a complete and utter mind blank when faced with a mystery box or invention test (in front of cameras, and the threat of a national TV audience no less!), but I also know I am terrible at plating. And food styling.
When I cook for guests, I'm usually more worried about whether the room is too hot or cold, if they have enough drinks, whether the background music is too loud, if there's something to nibble on, and if I'm going to manage to get everything ready for dinner all at the exact same time.
These are the thoughts running through my head as I test out the second pressure cooker, kindly provided by KitchenwareDirect, for a three-course dinner party for the entire family. For the first course, I'd made pressure cooker sweetcorn and basil soup. The second course would be beef and Guinness stew.
I'm testing the Fagor Duo Pressure Cooker for the main course. Priced at the low-to-mid price range, I'm quite impressed by its simple design and user-friendly features. A little groove on the lid provides an alignment reference point so the lid can be locked on with ease. The canary yellow switch on the handle is pressed as another locking precaution. As a relative newcomer to pressure cookers, I quite like the reassurance of having so many locking options.
The dial on the top acts as the third safety lock, moveable between low pressure (8psi), high pressure (15psi) and pressure release.
Whilst I've eaten plenty of pressure-cooked stews, casseroles and sides of corned beef, it's my first time cooking meat in a pressure cooker myself. I'm an instant convert. The meat is placed into lockdown, away from prying eyes, and when it's sung its song, the pressure is released, and one opens the lid to find beef that is tender, soft, relaxed and ready to fall-apart at the mere nudge of a fork.
The time saving is phenomenal. On a stove this dish takes three hours. In the pressure cooker it takes 45 minutes.
Serve to a hungry mob on a bed of mashed potato and a side of vegetables. Take a quick photo if you please but dig in quickly, and join in on the conversation.
Beef and Guinness stew
(adapted from Nigella Lawson's recipe for Comforting Beef Casserole in Feasts)
2kg beef chuck steak, trimmed and cut into chunky dice
1/2 cup plain flour
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon dried sage leaves
2 teaspooons ground all spice
1/2 cup olive oil
2 large onions, diced
6 large carrots, cut into thick diagonal slices
1 large orange, zested and juiced
500ml (2 cups) Guinness (or substitute with stout or dark ale)
125ml (1/2 cup) water
6 bay leaves
Combine the beef, flour, salt, pepper, sage and all spice in a large ziplock bag. Seal and gently shake until all the meat is coated evenly with the flour and spices.
Heat a generous splash of olive oil in the pressure cooker pot and fry the onions and carrots for about five minutes until they become glossy and start to soften. Leave the onions and carrots in the pot and remove from heat.
In a large non-stick frypan, heat some of the oil and fry the beef in small batches, taking care not to overcrowd the pan. Remove the sealed meat to the pressure cooker.
Add the orange zest, orange juice, Guinness, water and bay leaves to the pot.
Close and lock lid. Select 2 (High Pressure) and place on high heat until pressure has been reached. Cook for 45 minutes. Use the quick release method to release pressure, remove lid and check on the beef. It should be tender, otherwise lock lid on again and cook at high pressure in short bursts until meat is ready.
If you do not have a pressure cooker, use a large heavy based saucepan or casserole pot. Add a further 1 1/2 cups of water and heat the pot until almost boiling. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer and cook with lid on for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, checking on the liquid level and giving a gentle stir every now and then.
Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Pressure cooker recipe: Sweetcorn and basil soup
Pressure cooker recipe: Lemon cheesecake
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7/23/2009 02:41:00 a.m.