I’m a confident cook. I enjoy cooking and like to think I’m reasonably good at it. Now I’m trying something new and feel like a novice again. It’s not the first time I’ve learned new cooking techniques. When I was sixteen, I became a vegetarian, and for most of my twenties I only knew how to cook vegetarian food. Even when I moved to Nunavut and started eating meat again, I rarely ever cooked it myself. It may seem bizarre, but I learned to skin and butcher animals long before I became comfortable with cooking meat. Then I met Julian ten years ago, a carnivore par excellence and a very confident cook, and he introduced me to a whole world of cooking with meat.
Among the jumble of things on board Carina when we bought her was a pressure cooker. Both summers we’ve lived aboard I’ve used it as an ordinary saucepan, which is a waste of a fantastic piece of culinary equipment. The truth is, I had no idea how to use it, and was a little scared. We’ve all heard the stories of exploding pressure cookers. But for the past six months or so I’ve been mulling over learning to use it properly.
For the live aboard cruiser, for the frugal, for the environmentally-minded, the pressure cooker is a must. It cooks food far more quickly than conventional cooking methods, using minimal water and minimal energy. If you live on a boat where conserving water and cooking gas are top priorties, and where space to cook is at a premium, then it makes sense to use one.
So I started to do some research. I tried watching YouTube videos, but that wasn’t for me. My Luddite tendencies drew me to books. A few months ago Sheila Dillon devoted an episode of The Food Programme on BBC Radio 4 to pressure cooking, interviewing Catherine Phipps, author of The Pressure Cooker Cookbook. While listening to Catherine, I ordered the book online. At the same time, my mother-in-law sent me another pressure cooker cookbook. Between the two, I have over 200 recipes to try out! Phipps book is wonderfully easy to follow and contains some ingenious recipes.
And so to my plan. A few weeks ago I asked Julian to bring the pressure cooker back to the house when he next paid a visit to Carina. I scrubbed it up, and put it sitting on the worktop. And there it sat…and sat…and sat. I looked at it last week and realised this couldn’t go on. The pressure cooker and I would have to develop a relationship.
On Sunday I had my first simple but successful attempt at using it. I steamed potatoes, broccoli and cauliflower for the girls and I, using less than two centimeters of water in the bottom of the pan. Once the cooker had reached the required pressure, I transferred it to a cooler ring on the hob and the potatoes cooked in seven minutes. SEVEN minutes. Wow. What a save on water, energy and time.
The possibilities for beans, pasta, casseroles and goodness knows what else are limitless. I plan to cook a couple of meals with the pressure cooker each weekend, so that by the time we move aboard Carina, I’ll have gained confidence and competence, built up a repertoire of family favourites, and minimise our use of water and gas.
Watch this space….