Pressure cooker polenta

Polenta, polenta, polenta. It used to be that I didn´t see the point of polenta, not at all. All that effort for something so bland, why?

But somehow reading about polenta always made me hungry, and I always have a bag of cornmeal to make the underside of my bread crunchy, so it was only a matter of time before I made it. I just didn´t want to stir for hours, so I turned to my gadgetry.

The Thermomix makes a good polenta, no question. Just use the proportion of any recipe you like, put the butterfly thingy in and set it for 45 minutes. But be warned that cleaning it out is a right bore.

The rice cooker is also great, and easy to clean. Put 1 meassure of cornmeal and 4 of water and you´re good to go.

The pressure cooker is, naturally, the fastest.

All three methods make falling off a log look very complicated, so take your pick. For me, because I´m still in the honeymoon phase and because I´m apt to improvise dinner, the best is the pressure cooker, but all three work perfectly.

Once the polenta is done you can bask in the warm glow of one of the most comfortable comfort foods there are, but before sitting down to eat, remember to pour out what´s left in the pot into a shallow tin or tray so that it can cool and set, and have that the following day in it´s crisp incarnation. It freezes perfectly, and is great food to have on hand for feeding a toddler.

Pressure cooker polenta

(serves 4, with leftovers)

Bring 2 litres of salted water to a boil in the open pressure cooker. Sprinkle 400 gr. of the cornmeal and stir well. Cover, bring up to pressure and cook for 15 minutes. Bring the pressure down quickly, and have a look. It´s a slightly grainy porridge, soft and wonderful, but if you like to have it creamier still add some water and leave it a while longer in the open cooker, stirring well.

Spoon in some butter and black pepper and serve it as a pillow to tomato sauce, or garlicky greens, or a poached egg, or what you will.


Ice cream

Sometimes only ice cream will do. You can either rush out and buy a tub of whatever´s your poison, or you can stock it for emergencies, but that way you usually eat the whole thing and then feel slightly sick and mildly guilty.

I prefer a bit of DIY, a spot of therapeutic chopping, a minute or two of mindsettling pottering about, so here´s how. Take two scoops of plain vanilla ice cream and let them soften a little in a pretty bowl. Meanwhile chop some very good 70% chocolate into very small pieces, and a couple of biscuits (plain Digestives, or whatever´s around) into chunkier ones. Put these in the bowl, mix them around, and there you have it, a perfect indulgence, just the right size, creamy and crunchy and exactly what you need.


Pressure cooker rice pudding

Here´s a good reason to love the pressure cooker; it´s honest, real cooking. There´s nothing gimicky about it. The spectacularly cut-down times only come after you have done all the real work of a recipe, slicing, dicing, browning and sauteeing. So it´s not really less work than the tradtional methods, where you leave things to simmer away on their own for hours. But it does make it possible to make spur of the moment stews and soups and bean salads that you would otherwise have to plan for. And they come out tasting as good or better than the usual.

I´m very impressed with pork shank soup done under an hour, mashed potatoes in ten minutes, and beef stew in half an hour. And note that these are the real times, not just the minutes they spend under pressure, and I factor in the depressure time too. The recipe I´ll give you, though, if for one of my all time favourite puddings, done in record time and much better than the way I used to make it. Please welcome the 

20 minute rice pudding

(adapted from Lindsey Bareham and Diane Page)

Put a walnut sized knob of butter in the open cooker, and turn 60 gr. pudding rice in it until it´s translucent. Add 600 ml. milk and three tablespoonfuls of sugar and bring to the boil with whatever flavouring you like; lemon peel, vanilla, cinnamon. Bear in mind that because no steam escapes flavour is intensified, so use less than you would normally.

Lock, and leave 12 minutes under pressure. Let it come down naturally and put it in a basin to chill. Just made it looks a bit soupy, but after a few hours it´s the creamiest, most delicious pudding, and the rice mantains its bite. Wonderful.

This image is one I´ve used before, in the days before I met my rice cooker and fell in love with it, but that was a long long time ago, and it´s a pretty drawing, no?