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How to Cook an Easy One Pot Meal Using a Pressure Cooker
Pressure Cooker - European Model
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
Preparation Tips for the Basic Pressure Cooker Recipe
or, How to have a great one pot meal without hardly any effort!
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
World's Easiest Healthy Meal
- 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
Many Variations to the Standard Pot
- Prepare the beans as described above
- 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.
- Fill the pressure cooker with 2 liters of water and 2 tsp salt. Add the vegetables and the beans.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.