After several people asked my opinion about multifunction electric pressure cookers, such as Instant Pot, I invested in one and have been learning how to use it. Luckily, I have a copy of Marilyn Haugen’s “175 Best Multifunction Electric Pressure Cooker Recipes” (Robert Rose, Toronto, 2017) to refer to.
Stovetop pressure cookers have been around for a long time. Multifunction electric ones, which can be used to sauté and slow cook as well as cook foods under pressure, are more recent innovations. “Multicooker Basics”, the introductory chapter in Haugen’s book, provides an overview of how they work and what they can do. At the end of the book are charts of pressure cooking times for a number of basic foods.
Haugen confined her recipe selections to those that utilize the pressure cooking function and included no slow cooker recipes to prepare in the electric multifunction cookers. The instructions are tailored for use with these particular appliances, and not stovetop pressure cookers.
The book is in the trade paper format, with well-laid-out, well-edited, readable recipes, 16 colour photographs and a good index. The table of contents lists chapters on breakfasts, soups, stews and chilies, main courses, side dishes, paleo dishes, vegetarian and vegan dishes, desserts and bonus recipes on stocks and sauces.
Most of the recipes I tried worked well and tasted good. Exceptions are as follows: The vegetables were mushy in Thai tofu, carrots, broccoli and cauliflower with peanut sauce; the taste of the herb coating overpowered the flavours of the chicken, peppers and olives in the Mediterranean chicken breast rollups and the stated number of servings was underestimated in most recipes.
I will certainly make some recipes from this book again, especially for dishes such as soups that require long simmering on the stovetop to achieve the same tender meat and rich flavours as created in a much shorter time with the pressure cooker. This beef and barley soup has great flavour and just the right consistency for my taste.
Hearty Beef Barley Soup
500 g (1 lb) boneless beef chuck roast, cut into 4 cm (1½ inch) thick slices
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
15 mL (1 tbsp) vegetable oil (approximately)
30 mL (2 tbsp) butter
3 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
125 mL (½ cup) pearl barley
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
2 mL (½ tsp) dried parsley
1 L (4 cups) low-sodium beef bone broth (recipe in book) or ready-to-use
250 mL (1 cup) water (approximately)
Season beef with salt and pepper. Heat the pressure cooker on high/sauté/brown. Add oil and heat until shimmering. Working in batches, add beef and cook, turning once, for five minutes per side or until browned on both sides, adding more oil as needed between batches. Transfer beef to a cutting board. Let rest for seven minutes. Then cut into 2.5 cm (1 inch) chunks.
Meanwhile, add butter to the cooker and heat until melted. Add carrots, celery, and onion; cook, stirring for 7 minutes or until lightly browned. Add garlic and cook, stirring for 1 minute, or until fragrant. Using a slotted spoon, transfer vegetables to a plate and set aside. Cancel cooking.
Return beef and any accumulated juices to the cooker. Add barley, thyme, bay leaf, parsley, broth and water, stirring well. Close and lock the lid. Cook on high pressure for 15 minutes. Quickly release the pressure (see tip). Check to make sure the beef is fork-tender; if more cooking time is needed, reset to high pressure for four minutes. Discard thyme sprigs and bay leaf.
Add browned vegetables to the cooker. Close and lock the lid. Cook on high pressure for seven minutes. Quickly release the pressure.
If soup is too thick, add water, 60 mL (¼ cup) at a time, until soup is your desired consistency. Reheat on high/sauté/brown, if needed. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.
Makes eight servings
Tip: When releasing the pressure after cooking barley, begin by slowly turning the pressure release knob. There may be some initial spewing of foam from the valve. Close the knob. Continue to open and close the knob in short spurts until no foam remains.
Margaret Prouse, a home economist, can be reached by writing her at RR#2, North Wiltshire, P.E.I., C0A 1Y0, or by email at email@example.com