Today I’m excited to bring you a guest post from Laura of Hip Pressure Cooking. I’ve fallen in love with my pressure cooker over the past couple of years, and I’ve come to rely on Laura’s site as the definitive resource for how to use it. She doesn’t make pressure cooker recipes simply to speed things up. For her, it isn’t a useful recipe unless the dish comes out as good or better than it would on the stovetop or in the oven. Laura is Italian, and you can imagine an Italian woman would take a lot of heat for suggesting that traditional foods like polenta can be made successfully in a non-traditional way! So you can be sure assured that her recipes don’t just work, they knock it out of the park.
For today’s guest post, she shows us how to make a cream of stinging nettle soup, which is perfect timing because nettle season is just about to get going, at least in my part of the country. If you don’t forage for them yourself, check out your local farmer’s market, as nettles don’t typically appear in grocery stores. Take it away, Laura…
Introduction to Pressure Cooking
Pressure cookers considerably shorten the cooking time of just about anything – including soups!
A pressure cooker is a normal high-quality stainless steel pan with a fancy top which seals shut at the beginning of cooking and traps vapor inside allowing the pressure to build and internal temperature to rise higher than what can be achieved with conventional cooking – resulting in faster cooking, more intense flavor, and better preserved vitamins and minerals!
Technology has made modern pressure cookers safer (with redundant safety mechanisms), faster (more pressure) and quieter than ever- no more whistling, shhshing or unexpected bursts of vapor while under pressure.
How Much Faster?
- Soaked chickpeas ready in 33* minutes vs. 3 hours (or more) of simmering – black beans need only 20*!
- Pasta and Sauce cooked together, with al dente results ready in the time it would take to get a pot of hot water to boil.
- Almost any veggie steamed to perfection with just 5 minutes or less under pressure (with exception of potatoes, pumpkin and beets)
- A veggie stock can be cooked at pressure for only 5 minutes, and then the residual heat of the pressure cooker will keep cooking it for 10 minutes or more (no energy!).
- A steamed dessert custard can be fully cooked without curdling in 5-10 minutes (depending on the size of the container)
*Cooking time includes time to pressure and open – in other words, from start to finish!
Why is Pressure Cooking Good for Vegetables?
Pressure cooking prevents the oxidation of veggies, using the steamer basket preserves the water-soluble vitamins, the sealed top keep the vitamins from evaporating away, and the quick cooking helps to retain more minerals that could be destroyed by longer cooking times. The result will be more flavor, more color and a retention of up to 95% of vitamins and minerals (vs. regular cooking, which only retains about 40%).
So What Can it Do?
You can use a pressure cooker to cook vegetables, fruits, dessert, grains (meat and fish, for the omnivores) and it is famous for how quickly it can cook beans! A pressure cooker will let you cook in the following ways -including combining traditional cooking techniques with this super-fast cooker:
- Brown – this is the first step in many recipes, like risotto, and can be done before the lid is placed and pressure cooking begins, or after it is removed.
- Boil – just add enough water to cover the food by half.
- Steam – insert the accessory, or a metal-foldable steaming basket with 1 cup of water.
- Braise – brown the food in the pan, and then add 1/2 a cup or less of liquid (wine, milk, broth, water).
- Stew – throw everything in, cover with liquid, and close the top.
- Steam Roast – place the food suspended with rack, trivet or steamer basket with just 1-2 cups of cooking liquid.
- Reduce – after the lid is removed, cook on high flame to reduce liquids if desired.
- Water Bath (Bain Marie)– place a heat-resistant bowl (ceramic, Pyrex, stainless steel), covered in aluminum foil on steamer basket inside pressure cooker with 1 cup of water on the bottom.
- Perfectly Cooked Rice – add the correct proportion of rice to water, bring to pressure and turn off the pressure cooker. The residual heat and vapor will cook the rice perfectly.
- Extract Juice – place fruit in steamer basket with container underneath.
Though the recipe below does not require a pressure cooker – you will find that once you discover the taste and speed at which your food is ready that you won’t ant to put it down. Making this recipe “the regular no pressure way” would have you use a stock you made beforehand (instead of making it on the fly), boiling the potatoes for 30 minutes and tossing in the nettles during the last 10 minutes.
Picking & Washing Stinging Nettles
A web search will yield a host of bloggers picking nettles with tongs, gloves and anything possible to avoid getting stung. The reality is that if you’re getting stung, the nettle is really too old to be picked and cooked. The soft, young nettles which have not yet bloomed will not prick you and.. if you are brave enough to stick one in your mouth they have a very strong and refreshing flavor of cucumber – just taste it though, stinging nettles are not a raw food. There may still be some traces of “formic acid” which is the “sting” one would get from red fire ants which is destroyed during cooking.
The youngest pieces can be picked and the leaves and stalks can be used… though the slightly older will have slightly more woody stems that will need to be separated from the leaves.
To wash, simply put them in a colander and then submerge it in water (either in a bigger bowl or sink). Swish them around so any dirt will fall to the bottom and then strain out and shake them a bit to get out any excess of water.
You will need a lot of nettles to make this recipe (about two colanders full). Nettles are very thin, weigh nothing and will practically disintegrate during cooking. You can supplement your foraged nettles with equal amounts of baby spinach to get to the right weight.
Crema di Ortiche – Stinging Nettle Soup (Pressure Cooker)
Vegetarian and gluten-free
- 7 oz. or 200gr of Stinging Nettles (or mix of Nettles and Baby Spinach),
- 1/2 Tbsp. Butter
- 1/2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
- 1 small Scallion, sliced
- 1 small (or half of a large) carrot, roughly chopped
- 1 stalk Celery, roughly chopped
- 2 medium potatoes, medium dice (with skin on)
- Salt and Pepper to taste (about 1 tsp. of salt and 1/4 tsp. of pepper)
- 4 cups or 1lt Water
- 4 Tbsp. Cream or Yogurt
Special equipment: Pressure cooker; immersion Blender or blender
- In the pre-heated pressure cooker melt the butter and soften the scallion, then add the carrots and celery and lightly brown them. Next, add the potatoes, salt and mix everything together. Lastly, add the nettles. Let them rest on top of the water and do not stir them in.
- Close and lock your pressure cooker. Turn the heat up to high until it reaches pressure. Then, turn the heat down to low and count 5 minutes cooking time at HIGH pressure. When the time is up, open the pressure cooker with the Cold-water-quick release – bring your pressure cooker to the sink and pour water over the top, tilting it to avoid having water get into the valves. For electric pressure cookers, open with the Normal release – twist the valve to release pressure quickly.
- Puree the contents of the pressure cooker and serve with a spoon of yogurt or cream for flavor and garnish.