The question: Why are pressure cookers the next big thing?
The expert: Lisa Loveday is the author of The New Zealand Pressure Cooker Cookbook. A home science graduate, she’s completed City and Guilds chef’s training and has always worked in the food industry.
She’s also a keen vege gardener, selling excess produce through OOOOBY (Out of Our Own Backyards).
The answer: A pressure cooker saves power so it’s environmentally friendly; it’s healthy, quick and the flavours are great.
I became a convert while writing a manual for friends who were importing pressure cookers. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t got into pressure cooking sooner. I’ve always been a bit disappointed with slow cookers – some recipes end up a bit watery. The flavours from a pressure cooker are more intense; they’re closer to oven-cooked food. And it’s so quick. I’m an impatient person. To be able to cook so quickly all those cheaper meat cuts, which usually need long, slow cooking, is fantastic. I like the fact that you brown the meat in the pressure cooker itself. When you’re using a slow cooker, you brown everything in another pan – there are more dishes to wash, plus you lose some of the lovely flavours from the bottom of the pan when you transfer your meat to a slow cooker.
Why is it healthy? It’s great for cooking beans, lentils or chickpeas. They’re very cheap and good for you, but they take a long time to cook in a saucepan. A friend is on a budget at the moment, so I suggested she cook a big batch of beans or lentils in the pressure cooker and then freeze them in small packs. She can add them to meat dishes, which is healthy because of the extra fibre, and she’s extending the protein part of her meal cheaply.
Is it easy to adapt your own recipes? In my book I’ve used a lot of my favourite casseroles – you need to make sure there’s enough liquid and reduce the cooking time to a third of what it would normally be. A casserole that would have cooked for an hour and a half needs only 30 minutes at pressure, although you need to allow time to depressurise. It’s good to let meat dishes depressurise slowly by turning the heat off and leaving the cooker to cool, as this relaxes the meat – rather like letting it rest. If you need to open it more quickly, put the pressure cooker in the sink and run cold water over it to cool it down fast.
What’s surprised you the most? How versatile a pressure cooker is. I’ve made cheesecakes and crème brûlée and it’s good for crustless quiches. Just sit the dish on a trivet over water and cover it with tinfoil to prevent condensation getting in.
Aren’t pressure cookers dangerous? Not these days, but I think memories of the old ones exploding put some people off. The new ones have safety features that mean they can’t blow up and you can’t open them when they’re under pressure. You can also get electric ones – you just set them, they come up to pressure, turn themselves down and then switch off when they’re finished – they’re a good option if you’re nervous.
For more tips see lisaloveday.com