28 Apr 2009

More adventures in pressure cooking

Since my adventures with a pressure cooker, I have begun a regular Indian cooking class with Amita - a very skilled and knowledgeable cook. The first lesson we were making Dalcha, a lentil dish with lamb on the bone cooked in 2 pressure cookers for speed – one for the lamb and one for the dal. But first I need to set the scene. My classmates are British and Americans expats who have already taken a series of classes with our teacher. As part of this course they toured the bazaars of Old Delhi for authentic spices and cooking implements (plus a few pearls and yards of fabric for good measure). One of the purchases they each made was a pressure cooker. So, back in Amita's kitchen, as the steam started to pssssssschhhht out of the pressure cooker spout we all jumped out of skin. It seemed I was not alone in my fear of this speedy cooking beast.

As Amita attempted to talk over the immense amount of pressure being released on the stove, she looked calm and relaxed. This was exactly the steam explosion I had been witnessing in my own kitchen... “was this the whistle?” I wondered.

Breaking the silence and admitting my fear and trepidation of using my pressure cooker – the others each chuckled bashfully admitting theirs were still in the wrapper - they too were scared!

So Amita, whilst trying to contemplate the thought of cooking meat on the bone without the speedy pot, confirmed that the racket coming from the stove every minute or so was indeed the “whistle”. I had been waiting for the gentle steam train sound I recall from the days my mum made lemon curd hers... but my baby was an Indian pressure cooker. Mine was not the same.

So, after a hugely informative and enlightening class, I returned home to face my demon. Determined not to be beaten by a glorified saucepan I pulled out my dal recipe, took a deep breath and washed my dal thoroughly - in four changes of water, just to be sure. I measured the dal and water as instructed, secured the lid and waited for the steam to shoot through the nozzle, when I whacked on the weight.

I waited for the screech. It screeched. Really loudly. But I remained calm, utilising some yogic breathing from my dawn yoga class. Whilst anxiously holding my breath, I waited for the pressure to subside and noise to stop, which it did. Result! I had made it through my first whistle... only one more to go. I braced myself...

So this pattern continues. I am not sure if I will ever stop jumping each time the pressure is released with a hiss from the pan – but I have felt the fear (of the dal exploding all over my rented ceiling) and cooked it anyway. And according to my resident guinea pig this was my best yet!

Below is the recipe for my best dal yet, which I now use on a weekly basis at least. Dal is an staple dish on every Indian table. It varies depending on whether I have fresh tomatoes in the house, but one thing is consistent – I use my Indian pressure cooker every time!

My best yellow dal yet


1 cup of urad (yellow) dal cooked in the pressure cooker with 3 cups of water for 6 minutes (2 whistles)

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1tsp cumin seeds

1 onion finely chopped

1 green chilli finely slices

1 tbsp grated fresh ginger

2 cloves of garlic minced

3-4 fresh tomatoes diced or half a can of tinned or packet tomatoes

3/4tsp tumeric

3/4 tsp garam masala

1 1/2tsp ground coriander

100ml water

Heat the oil in a meduim sized heavy based pan and fry the cumin seeds until fragrant and spluttering.

Add the onion, chilli, ginger and garlic and fry until the onion goes brown

Add the tomatoes fry for a couple of minutes

Add all the spices and the water and simmer for about 1ominutes, or until the oil has risen to the surface.

Add the mixture to the lentils and cook for a few minutes to meld the flavours and serve with basmati rice.

NOTE 1: This dish best made ahead and eaten a day later when the flavours have developed.

NOTE 2: If you aren't brave enough to use a pressure cooker, you can cook the lentils in a saucepan for about 30-40mintues. Break the lentils down with the back of a spoon so that you get a pressure cooker style texture on them and a thicker sauce.

1 comment:

H.Peter said...

I grew up with a pressure cooker.

My mother would always say it shortens cooking time. She never mentioned it weas always mashed potatoes