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How to Cook an Easy One Pot Meal Using a Pressure Cooker

Updated on August 5, 2012

Pressure Cooker - European Model

Many families find a pressure cooker / express pot a lifesaving device in preparing nutritious, one pot meals.  The steam pressure aids in faster cooking.
Many families find a pressure cooker / express pot a lifesaving device in preparing nutritious, one pot meals. The steam pressure aids in faster cooking. | Source

Beans and Meat with Vegetables

An Easy One Pot Meal

Whenever I need to go out of town the next day, I prepare my handy-dandy pressure cooker. It is a miracle worker! I rinse it under the faucet to make sure no dust has gotten into its little innards. For a family of four, a six to seven liter sized pressure cooker will be enough for two meals, lunch and dinner let's say. It takes about 20 to 30 minutes to clean the veggies and fill the pot up. Except for a brief intervention to turn down the temperature on the pot, I basically ignore my pressure cooker - it does all the work alone. YAY! What more could a busy Mom or Dad want?

NOTE OF CAUTION: Be sure to read carefully the manufacturer's directions on the packaging. In most cases, you will need to allow an empty space at the top fifth of the pot to allow for cooking. This is where the hot steam, which aids the cooking process, will create the pressure needed for faster food preparation time. Do not ever open a hot and bubbling pressure cooker.

How to Sort Beans - It's Easy

Pinto Beans

Pinto beans are a nice shade of light brown, and release both a nice rich color and flavor into the stew broth.
Pinto beans are a nice shade of light brown, and release both a nice rich color and flavor into the stew broth. | Source

Preparation Tips for the Basic Pressure Cooker Recipe

or, How to have a great one pot meal without hardly any effort!

Overnight

Soak and clean about 1/2 kilo of beans. (I have an extra large pot, so make a half batch or less if your pressure cooker is smaller.)

About the Beans

I like the dark beans like kidney or pinto beans. You can combine them if you wish. An emotional decision on my part, they seem to be healthier when they are dark. Other people I know love Great Northern beans, the white ones. The main point is to soak them for at least a few hours. Beans are hard and dense and will not cook like they should unless they spend some serious time in cold water.

More Preparation Information

Before soaking them - it would be wise, especially if you buy your beans in bulk, to sort them for any tiny rocks or dirt clods. Yes, they can be hidden in there. The best way I know how to sort them is by placing them on a flat cookie sheet, preferably in a contrasting color (dark beans, light cookie sheet. Light beans, dark cookie sheet). Move them little by little from one side to the other. In the process, you will quickly identify any hidden "hitch hikers" in your pot of delicious bean and beef stew. There is nothing worse than biting a rock. Besides that you may find a papery piece from the grocery store sack that the beans were stored in. The whole idea is to sort out what you don't want floating around in your stew.

When you are finished sorting, Rinse (see above). The beans might be slightly dirty so the water will be a light brown. Use fresh water to rinse them again, soaking them a bit more.

Vegetables will also need to be soaked in water and cleaned. Root vegetables like carrots need to be scrubbed and scraped.

The Importance of Celery

The celery stalk root needs to be cleaned well to remove all dirt.  One 1/2 inch slice is enough to add a big taste boost to the bean stew.
The celery stalk root needs to be cleaned well to remove all dirt. One 1/2 inch slice is enough to add a big taste boost to the bean stew. | Source
If the root section is not available at the grocery store, the upper leafy section is also good for releasing a much appreciated flavor addition to the stew.
If the root section is not available at the grocery store, the upper leafy section is also good for releasing a much appreciated flavor addition to the stew. | Source

World's Easiest Healthy Meal

3 stars from 2 ratings of One Pot Bean and Beef Stew

Cook Time

Prep time: 30 min
Cook time: 1 hour 30 min
Ready in: 2 hours
Yields: Six to eight servings; two meals for a family of 4

Ingredients

  • 1/2 kilo or 1 Lb. Beans, sorted, rinsed and soaked
  • 2 medium Onions, Trimmed of outer layer
  • 2 medium Carrots, Soaked and scraped
  • 2-3 Celery Tops, Rinsed
  • 5-6 Peppercorns, smashed with knife handle
  • 2 tsp. SALT
  • 30 dkg Beef (with bone), some fat but not too much
  • substitute polish sausage or ham hocks
  • 1-2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste

Instructions

  1. Prepare the beans as described above
  2. Prepare the vegetables. They can all be soaked in a large plastic bin, then removed and placed in fresh water. Remove any visible dirt and non-fresh looking sections. Peel back the outside skin of the onion.
  3. Fill the pressure cooker with 2 liters of water and 2 tsp salt. Add the vegetables and the beans.
  4. In a skillet, brown the meat in a little oil. Browning it helps release more flavor. Some people use the oil from the meat to make a roux, with flour and additional liquid to thicken up the broth and add a few more calories to lunch. (I don't do this - I like a clearer broth.)
  5. When the meat is looking nice a soft, brown and tender, add it to the pot with the sauteeing oil. The finishing touch to recipe is to slice the carrots in a paper thin thickness. This makes them more attractive and the flavor from the carrots tends to disperse better. Also because carrots are pretty hard to begin with, the thin slices will cook quickly and easily.
  6. Last but not least, add 2 T. Tomato Paste to the pot and mix it around so it better disperses. It adds flavor and color - and as most cooks know, presentation goes a long way.
  7. Especially when I use sausages instead of fresh meat, I try to limit the salt. Ham hocks are another delicious substitute to fresh meat. Ham is sweet all by itself and makes a perfect companion to beans or split peas, which is another excellent option. When I use split peas I put parsley in, too.

Meanwhile, back to the Pressure Cooker

The Pressure Cooker is used in Europe where it's called an Express pot (like speedy Gonzales). In the days when the women worked in the factories from 6 am to 2 pm, they would get up an hour earlier to start the lunch. The kids would get up at 7 am and turn it off before heading off to school.

Once the pressure cooker starts cooking, leave it alone. It is a small bomb. The pressure from the inside makes the food cook so quickly. The top must never be removed until it has become depressurized, or until the food has stopped cooking and has cooled down a bit.

Some pressure cookers. like mine, has an oval shaped top. That means you have to turn it to a specific angle to open it or close it. This is an additional safety feature. Once it is fitted on top, it is held tight by the use of a special rubber gasket, that will need replacing from time to time. When you buy a pressure cooker there is usually a replacement gasket included inside. After that you will have to find out where you can buy one.

Some pressure cookers are made of steel, others from aluminum, and some very ancient ones from the 1950s are made from iron-clad steel. These pots are made to last, and can even be lethal weapons if necessary! There is an old Mediterranean saying, "Men do not belong in a kitchen, because there are so many knives in there!" So this applies as well.

Taking Care of Your Express Pot

Washing your express pot in soapy dishwater is best, avoiding the dishwasher. There are lots of nooks and crannies to clean in the lid. I remove the gasket so it doesn't get caked on. A golden fleece works well on the metal. Be careful not to scratch. Dry on a dish towel and keep it protected.

Sometimes I put a tablespoon of cooking oil on a rag and rub the inside of the pot with it to keep it shiny and healthy. All that cooking in salt water can take a toll on the pot and it can be functional for ten years or more, so it's worthwhile to keep it in good condition.

Comments

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    • Melovy profile image

      Yvonne Spence 

      6 years ago from UK

      I love my pressure cooker. I cook beans often and the pressure cooker saves so much time. I've never thought of cooking the vegetables in with the beans though so will try this recipe (without the meat as I'm vegetarian.)

      A very useful hub!

    • EuroCafeAuLait profile imageAUTHOR

      Anastasia Kingsley 

      6 years ago from Croatia, Europe

      Great, Alan. The slow cooker might be a good start. The pressure cooker is powerful but no need to fear it. I use it all the time and my kids know not to touch it, just like they wouldn't touch any other pot on the stove. Thanks for sharing childhood memories. Yes, today's models are more streamlined and I think, more user friendly. Let us know how it goes!

    • AlanRimmer profile image

      AlanRimmer 

      6 years ago from Southwest UK

      Thinking about the pressure cooker brings back childhood memories for me. My mums seemed to be a huge cumbersome thing compared to what you can get these days. I know the main instruction to us kids was not to go anywhere near it. I think we were even scared to touch it when it was in the cupboard. That said they are a brilliant piece of kitchen kit and although I don't use one my daughter finds hers invaluable with a husband and three growing kids. Great hub. Like the sound of the recipe might try it in my slow cooker.

    • EuroCafeAuLait profile imageAUTHOR

      Anastasia Kingsley 

      6 years ago from Croatia, Europe

      Marlene, my father in law swore by this method, but I honestly don't remember if he put them in the soaking water or "what" he did. Wish I could be more helpful. I bet there is someone out there who might know. Good luck. (If I find out, I will post it here.) Regards,

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 

      6 years ago from USA

      Thanks EuroCafeAuLait. I am going to go try this. I'll add some baking soda while they are soaking and see what happens. Great advice.

    • EuroCafeAuLait profile imageAUTHOR

      Anastasia Kingsley 

      6 years ago from Croatia, Europe

      Hi Denise! Yes, I figured I needed to provide an example of how it works. Thanks for your up votes, they are appreciated! Best regards.

    • EuroCafeAuLait profile imageAUTHOR

      Anastasia Kingsley 

      6 years ago from Croatia, Europe

      Yes, cold water softens them up without shocking them. Don't ask me why, I just do as I am told. But yes, just a few hours of overnight soaking makes a big difference in the cooking time. I was told that if you put baking soda with the beans they will be less gas forming, but I honestly don't know if it is during the soaking or the cooking process. Does anyone know about this? Thanks for the comment, Rgds, Ecal

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 

      6 years ago from North Carolina

      Great idea for your hub. :) Nice that you included a tasty recipe along with it. :) Voted useful and interesting.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 

      6 years ago from USA

      I remember my mom using a pressure cooker. I also remember it exploding one time and it scared me so much that as an adult, I was afraid to own one. After reading your experience with pressure cookers, I am inspired to try using one. And, thank you for that little tidbit about soaking the beans. I never knew why they had to be soaked in COLD water.

    • EuroCafeAuLait profile imageAUTHOR

      Anastasia Kingsley 

      6 years ago from Croatia, Europe

      Hi Moonlake: Be sure to read the instructions on the manufacturer's directions and you can't go wrong. You can ask your neighbor to give you a hand if you feel more comfortable. To the halfway point go the ingredients, to about 3/4 high goes the water, then air. The beans really grow a lot - maybe even double. The savory broth you get it so good I could eat it all by itself. Regards, ECAL

    • EuroCafeAuLait profile imageAUTHOR

      Anastasia Kingsley 

      6 years ago from Croatia, Europe

      Hi Arlene :D

      Don't worry - just follow the directions - everything should be fine...

      So nice to be able to put it on the stove and let it be. If it's cooking too fast I turn it down, my food tastes better when it's done at a gentle boil not a rolling boil. I dare you to try it and let us know how it goes. Best!

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 

      6 years ago from America

      I cook beans all the time. Great northern beans with ham so good. I have never used a pressure cooker I should try one. My neighbor always used one. Nice hub voted up.

    • profile image

      Arlene V. Poma 

      6 years ago

      UP+++ and everything else! EuroCafeAuLait, I have never tried to use a pressure cooker because I don't know how! I always thought I would blow something up. LOL! Anyway, I would like to try one, so I will keep your Hub to help me out.

    • EuroCafeAuLait profile imageAUTHOR

      Anastasia Kingsley 

      6 years ago from Croatia, Europe

      Wow, what a story! I would be scared too after that. If you are up to it, try it again. After all probably the kids have moved out. It is an economical way to eat, too. On the video in my Hub, Ms. Watkins explains that canned beans are 4x more expensive than traditionally sorted and cooked beans. So that is something to think about.

      Good luck, and I sure hope this time you have a positive result. An hour or so should be plenty of time to wait - maybe even less. Best, ECAL

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 

      6 years ago from Deep South, USA

      I know the pressure cooker is a wonderful cooking tool, but some people are too klutzy to be trusted with one. I am one of those people.

      The last time I used a pressure cooker was about 45 years ago, when the top blew and my kitchen ceiling was redecorated with stew! I thought I was being very careful to keep the heat low enough, and the gauge didn't give me any indication of what was about to happen. The resulting explosion was enough to scare anyone (including my then-small children). The mess was horrendous, and guess who got to clean it? Since that day, I've stayed far away from pressure cookers!

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