Look into the kitchen of any aspiring home cook, and you will find the usual assortment of equipment: pots, pans and woks, perhaps a sous vide machine. But for something that is fast, easy and versatile, consider the pressure cooker.
From raw chickpeas cooked in an hour to beef stew done quicker than a Netflix movie, a pressure cooker can make life behind the stove much simpler. It works by cooking food under high pressure. In normal conditions, water boils at 100 degrees Celsius. Raise the atmospheric pressure, and the liquid withstands higher temperatures. Together with the steam generated inside the pot, this reduces cooking time by up to 70 percent, said chef Stephan Zoisl, who uses the device at his eponymous restaurant in Singapore.
While electric pressure cookers exist today, the stovetop version wins for having the fastest cooking time, resulting in lower power bills. It also produces healthier and captivating meal. “More vitamins and minerals will stay in there,” said Zoisl. “Even the colour. Your dish will be more vibrant.”
Despite the benefits, some negative perceptions still hold. Look for the device on Google, and one of the predictions is “Can pressure cookers explode?” In the US, a products liability law firm has made a niche for itself suing manufacturers for defective pressure cookers.
Modern iterations, however, have features that greatly negates the danger. German company WMF designs its equipment with a bayonet lock and positioning aid, and pressure builds up only when the lid is properly secured. The pot doesn’t open until the cooker is completely depressurised.
Equally handy is the two settings on WMF pressure cookers. At level 1, and the temperature stays low enough to produce tender vegetables, fish and poultry. Turn it to level 2, and it cooks more robust foods like meat and potatoes.
If you are ready to give it a go, here’s how to use a pressure cooker for a four course meal. Zoisl helpfully provided recipes to make a starter, appetiser and main course, and WMF’s cookbook offers instructions for a cheesecake.
How to cook a four course meal using a pressure cooker
Hokkaido scallops with sunchoke, brown butter sabayon and kombu
Pressure cooker, frying pan, blender, mandolin
200g Hokkaido scallops (sashimi grade)
10g Salted dried kombu
50ml White wine
30ml Lemon juice
20ml Olive oil
1 Egg yolk
Grapeseed oil for cooking
optional: Dill oil, dill leaves
Peel and dice 200g of sunchokes, then keep in water to prevent oxidation.
Heat the pressure cooker. Add 10ml olive oil and 10g butter, and sear the sunchokes until lightly browned. Add vegetable stock or water until the sunchokes are barely submerged. Season with small amount of salt and set under pressure. Cook at level 1 for 10 minutes. Release the pressure and take care when opening the lid. Use a blender to make a smooth puree. Set aside.
With the remaining sunchoke, make chips. Cut thinly on a mandolin and fry at 180-190 degrees Celsius in grapeseed oil.
To make the brown butter sabayon, melt the remaining butter in a small pot and clarify. In a double boiler, combined egg yolk with white wine. Whisk and be careful not to overcook. Add the brown butter in slowly. Whisk until blended well. Set aside.
Pan sear the scallops on high heat for 45 to 60 seconds on each side. The centre of the scallop should stay raw.
Add the pureed sunchokes, scallops and sunchoke chips sauce on the plate. Finish with the brown butter sabayon, dill oil and dill leaves.
Venison ossobuco ravioli with celeriac, ricotta and blueberries
1kg Venison ossobuco
80g Celery, blanched, marinated and thinly sliced
50g Carrot, diced
50g Celeriac, diced
50g White onion, diced
10g Juniper berries
10g Black pepper
10g Coriander seeds
400ml Veal or dark chicken stock
150ml Red wine
8 Celeriac, baked and sliced thinly into sheets
4 Fresh bay leaves
1 Cinnamon stick
Heat the pressure cooker. Season the venison with salt and pepper. Sear on both sides on high heat. Once well browned, remove and set aside. Cook onions, carrots and diced celeriac. Add spices, bay leaves and red wine. Add the venison back into the pressure cooker. Add stock and water until the venison is covered. Set under pressure and adjust to level 2. Cook for 30 minutes (adjust slightly based on the size of the venison).
Once the venison is cooked, remove the meat and pull out the bones. Taste the broth, add seasoning if necessary then reduce further for more intense flavour.
Add the deboned venison into the celeriac sheets. Roll them up like a ravioli. Transfer onto a tray with melted butter. Warm by steaming in the tray covered with aluminium foil.
Plate the ravioli with ricotta, celery slices and blueberry. Top with the broth.
Bacon wrapped turkey breast with mashed potatoes
Pressure cooker, frying pan
500g Turkey breast
400g Potatoes, peeled and diced
100g Chestnuts, cooked and chopped
50g White onion, diced
50g Cranberry jam
50 g Hazelnuts, chopped and toasted
2tbsp Italian parsley, chopped
1 tbsp Chives, finely diced
1 Bacon strip
Prepare the filling. Use a wide pot, cook onions in butter, add chestnuts, hazelnuts and breadcrumbs. Once cooled, add chives and Italian parsley.
Butterfly the turkey, fill with stuffing, wrap with bacon and roll tightly in cling film. Steam the turkey for 10 minutes in the pressure cooker at level 2 with the steaming basket. Remove the cling film (be careful as the turkey will be very hot). Sear the turkey in a frying pan with a small amount of oil. Cut into 4 pieces.
Use the pressure cooker at level 1 to cook the potatoes for 10 minutes. Mash the potatoes, and season with salt and fresh grated nutmeg. Add milk and butter. Whisky to incorporate.
Add the mash potatoes and turkey on a plate. Top with cranberry jam.
350g Cream cheese
120g Raw cane sugar
100g Oat biscuits
100g Sour cream
1tsbp Vanilla extract
2 Egg yolks
1 lemon, zested
Melt butter, crumble biscuits and mix into the liquid butter. Line a springform pan (20cm diameter) with baking paper, pour in the mixture and press down evenly onto the base. Chill it until you are ready to bake.
Mix cream cheese, sugar, cream, vanilla extract, lemon zest, flour and sour cream in a bowl. Stir in eggs and egg yolks.
Pour cheese mixture onto the prepared base and seal well with aluminium foil. Add the minimum quantity of water into the pressure cooker. Place the springform pan on the trivet and set under pressure. Cook for 35 minutes on level 2.
Release the steam from the pressure cooker or let it cool down slowly. Open the pressure cooker and carefully remove the aluminium foil so that the water does not drip onto the cake. Leave the cake to chill, ideally overnight.