It's only in winter that I hanker for the warming qualities of a piping hot bowl of thick, nourishing belly-satisfying soup.
Ever since Minh posted her adapted recipe for the Sweet Corn and Basil Veloute by Justin North, I'd bookmarked it for future reference. It sounded rich and sweet and I loved the idea of making a soup using a stock simply by boiling corn cobs.
Following an off-hand remark about my intent to purchase a pressure cooker, I was recently sent three different brands to test by the lovely Peter from KitchenwareDirect. Whilst I have several colleagues who are huge fans of the speed and convenience of pressure cookers, I had yet to try cooking with one myself. Faced with three gleaming pressure cookers, I decided to put them to work simultaneously for a three-course dinner party, each one responsible for a different dish.
Cuisinart pressure cooker
The Cuisinart pressure cooker is one of the few electric pressure cookers on the market. I was also excited to see it featured in Thursday night's episode of MasterChef when Chris used it to cook his pig's trotters and beef cheeks.
Pressure cookers work by trapping steam, creating an internal pressure that allows water to boil at a higher temperature. Food cooks faster and it is said that less nutrients are lost due to the shorter cooking time.
Most pressure cookers have a Low Pressure and a High Pressure option - high pressure means food cooks at a higher temperature and therefore faster. As the pressure rises, the float valve rises. The pressure that has built up inside the pot can either be realised manually, known as Quick Release, where the valve is flicked by the user and the steam escapes rapidly. Otherwise the temperature will drop by itself and the steam is released slowly, also known as Natural Release. The food will continue to cook if Natural Release is used. The float valve will drop when all the steam has been released.
In this instance, the pressure cooker didn't save much on cooking time but I didn't have to worry about skimming the soup as it boiled. Whilst there's always a an element of trepidation the first couple of times you use a pressure cooker, the fact this was electric was exceptionally handy as the heat was automatically regulated and a timer function let you know with a beep when it was ready.
Automatic heat regulation is a godsend for anyone with an electric stove (*sob* me). It also means another burner free on the stove, and when you're cooking for a dinner party, that's always a good thing!
Sweet Corn and Basil Soup
Adapted from eatshow&tell who adapted it from French Lessons by Justin North.
I upped the corn and the basil for extra intensity.
A rich and velvety soup that is sweet with the flavour of fresh corn, a hint of garlic and the aroma of basil.
If you don't have a presure cooker, simply use a pot on the stove and simmer for the times show, adding an additional five minutes for each cooking time. Increase the amount of water to 3 litres.
8 whole cobs of corn
2.5 litres of water
1 whole garlic bulb
8 sprigs of thyme
80g unsalted butter
1 onion, finely sliced
salt and pepper
100ml pouring cream
Whole bunch of basil leaves
Snap the whole corn cobs in half and use a knife or corn zipper to remove the corn kernels. Set aside the corn kernels in a bowl.
Cut the cobs into half again and place into the pressure cooker. Add half the bulb of garlic (smash the cloves with the flat of a knife but leave the skin on) and four sprigs of thyme. Pour in 2.5 litres of water.
Lock the lid into place and select High Pressure. Set the timer for 20 minutes.
Whilst the stock is boiling, peel and finely slice the remaining half bulb of garlic.
When the audible beep sounds on the pressure cooker, use the Natural Pressure Release to release all the steam. When the float valve drops, remove the lid carefully, tilting the lid away from you to provide a barrier against the escaping steam.
Remove the corn corns and strain the stock through a sieve over another pot to remove the garlic and thyme.
Return the inner bowl back to the pressure cooker and select Saute. Add the butter and allow it to melt. Add the sliced garlic and onions and saute until the onion changes colour. Add the corn kernels. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for a few minutes.
Add the corn stock and the remaining thyme. Lock the lid into place and select High Pressure. Set the timer for 20 minutes. When the audible beep sounds on the pressure cooker, use the Natural Pressure Release to release all the steam. When the float valve drops, remove the lid carefully, tilting the lid away from you.
Transfer the stock to a pot on the stove. Remove the thyme and add the cream. Bring the soup back to a gentle simmer. Remove from heat and use a stick blender to puree. There will be lots of corn bits - don't worry, these will be sieved out later.
Add the whole bunch of basil leaves--bruised with the back of a heavy knife--and place lid back on pot. Leave for 30 minutes to infuse.
Pour the soup through a fine sieve in batches, using the back of a spoon to push the thick soup through. Taste and season with more salt and pepper if needed.
Keeps in the fridge for 3 days. Not suitable for freezing.
Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Pressure cooker recipe: Beef and Guinness stew
Pressure cooker recipe: Lemon cheesecake
Bill Granger's corn fritters
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7/19/2009 03:03:00 a.m.