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Category Archives: Pressure cooker cooking

Cooking with Ghosts

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Happy Halloween! Well, a day late, but I started this post yesterday and then got waylaid.

First things first: yummy discovery, care of Christian, who posted a photo of the Chinese junkstreet food goodie he had a few days back and which I then needed to try. Jianbing.

Ummmmmm.

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Basically, a wheat flour crepe, with a fried egg coating…and inside a bit of ginger chicken, a spicy garlic sauce and a crunchy fried cracker to make the eating experience especially toothsome. Pour some nice ginger vinegar sauce on top and you are good to go. Very tasty – being served up at LeDu at Karlsplatz, just a couple S-bahn stations from where I work. But I went over there Monday, a day off – yes yes yes…I am finally getting some holidays, a big relief – during my shopping and running around. There are a couple of them apparently, scattered around Munich. Le Du’s, I mean.

And they must have inspired (?) my dinner this evening. The whole food wrapped up in a pancake thing. I had a craving for Indian food – because of the second source of inspiration, which came from the NYTimes’ special food article for Diwali, where they must have posted about 30 really good recipes for various dishes. And then there was the third inspiration. The Ghosts.

Namely, the Carolina (Ghost?) Reapers, given to me by my friend, Kurt, who knows I like a challenge.

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Look at those babies! Cute! So cute. And so deadly. These are currently the HOTTEST pepper in the world. People try to eat these things whole and go to the hospital.

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I cut one of the itty bitty ones Kurt gave me in half and then in half again. See. No, I didn’t dare to put that in my mouth. I lightly crunched a sliver of that between my two front teeth to see how bad it would be. I spit it out after about 5 seconds and went to find a cracker. It was that bad. But they were indeed very flavorful, if insanely hot. You breath fire for a few minutes, but it is a very fragrant sweet sort of fire. You don’t know what I am talking about…yeah, well, come over for a pepper, needless to say, they are not going very fast. But they’re keeping well.

But….a little bit went into a dish of dal. A bit went into some sauteed cauliflower….a whole small one went into my pressure-cooked chicken. And all in all, we were not gasping for breath at the end of my meal.

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After cooking the chicken, I broke it down into bits and cooked it with some onions and herbs,

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Defrosted some pizza dough and turned it into fake naan…

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And served it up with the cauliflower, dal, some yogurt and an apple and tomato salsa for some Indian Burritos (patent pending 😉 )

Which were quite ok.

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How’s that for cooking with ghosts?

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Pumpkin Sage Dessert

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Unexpectedly, I was in Cologne on November 11. The city goes a bit mad on this day, and I got to observe a little of it in the morning as I walked to the office. Lions and tigers and bears, and whatever else, costumed in celebration of the carnival to come in early spring next year. Inside our office there was no evidence of craziness, (or maybe there was, but it wasn’t carnival related).

I got home later that week…and maybe all the costumes reminded me of Halloween and pumpkins…who knows. Anyway, the bright little orange kombochas all over Munich started singing my name.

This dessert creation was the result.

I can’t really call it ice cream…because it’s a kulfi, which always has the requisite ice crystals, at least a very mild smattering of them, scattered through the otherwise very creamy frozen dessert. I had a craving for some vegetarian Indian dishes and ended up with a fusion mix for the meal. The traditional Paneer butter masala – indian cheese in a thick aromatic and delicious curry gravy, some unusual but very good carrot pancakes – made with a beaten egg, a handful of chickpea flour, shredded carrots and chopped coriander, and finally some flash fried spanish pimento peppers with just a bit of salt and pepper. But to finish off, I wanted to try something a bit nontraditional Indian, and had come across this blog recipe for pumpkin sage kulfi.

Beautiful photos over there and an easy straightforward recipe. But…he made his kulfi with almond milk and I admit I wasn’t willing to do that – I like almond milk, but I also like cow milk ice cream. Maybe next time. He also used canned pumpkin puree, which is hard to find here. Germans do love their pumpkins, you find them at every fresh produce stand around the city, big ones and small ones, and you can even simply take a slice home instead of buying something so huge you can’t possibly eat it all without turning orange.

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So I quickly chopped up my pumpkin and threw it in the pressure cooker for five minutes on high (perhaps two cups of pumpkin when chopped up.) Meanwhile I warmed my milk (4 cups) with two tablespoons of chopped sage leaves, and skimmed them out after 5 minutes of cooking, added the sugar (3/4 a cup of brown sugar – but to which I added probably ANOTHER 1/2 cup later because the mixture was so very non-sweet, surprisingly.) I let this cook for a bit. After the pumpkin was done, I pureed it, and added a good cup or so of it to the milk mixture along with 1 1/2 teaspoons of cornstarch.  And that is it. Let it cook until it thickens a bit and then take it off the heat and pour it into cups. I use old yogurt cups.

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Nice serving sizes, not too much.

The kulfi itself was nice, but a bit one dimensional. So I made a little ginger syrup to pour over the top (1/2 cup of chopped ginger, a cup of water, cup of sugar – heat on the stove for about 20 minutes until it reduces down by half. Pour into a jar and use as needed. Keeps forever. And finally, to give it all an herby note I candied some sage leaves, which sounds complicated but which takes just a few minutes:

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Brush each leaf (or dip, which is what I did) with egg white and then dip them into sugar. Let dry for a few hours until they harden. Also will keep for several months without a problem.

So the dessert concoction in the end was a nice complex combo: The creamy caramelly pumpkin kulfi infused with sage, the spicy sweet note of ginger syrup and the herby candied sage leaves over the top. Worth a try, although a bit fidly/takes some time. Most of the work can be processed simultaneously, and much of it is simply waiting around. But lovely presentation in the end.

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Spice Cabinet Orga = Dhoka

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Last weekend I couldn’t look at my kitchen countertops anymore. They seemed to be filling up with crap everywhere. Out of control. Spoons and spatulas spilling out of a huge bucket, oils and vinegars and peppers and salts littering the space next to the stove, containers filled with coffee and muesli huddling at the endges. Enough was enough. A new strategy.

Honest assessment. What do I need here, what can go? What absolutely needed to be on the counter and what could live inside a drawer? How many wooden spoons does a girl need? (Note: I decided three.) And so there were several hours of rearrangement and clearing. I didn’t touch the spice cabinet – a nightmare by itself, all the little bottles and baggies. Horror. So I stuck with the counters. Step 1. Felt good.

Step 2 happened this morning. The rain was pissing down – the glories of German summer. Or as I learned …wimmer (winter+summer). It just starts in November and extends…to November. I wasn’t quite ready to jump into my running tights and head to the gym, so tackling the spice cabinet seemed a good activity. You can see the result above. We won’t discuss any further the “before” version. In order to hopefully maintain some order I even labeled the shelf sections. Let’s see how long the spices stay in their respective areas. It’s a bit like my clothing. I make nice orderly stacks of t-shirts and pants and sports clothes and 3 weeks later everything is asunder again.

As you might have noticed, the most common spices are the Indian/Pakistani ones. Granted, there are some crossover spices – I mean, where does “cinnamon” really belong? (Indian? Baking? Turkish?), but for the most part I sorted by instinct – “where would I look for something first?”

And to celebrate the order, I made a new Indian recipe. Something called Dhokla, a recipe for it was just published by the nytimes a week back or so. It’s, in this case, a semolina flour version. I decided to try it as the starch in our meal this evening rather than just a standard naan/roti. Dhokla is a steamed savory cake, usually served as a kind of snack in India, from what I learned.

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And it worked and came together pretty quickly. Chili and ginger make it like a sort of spicy cornbread. I learned this fast trick – I don’t remember where I read it. To peel ginger, don’t bother with a knife. Just take a spoon and scrape off the skin. It comes off quickly and easily and significantly reduces the hassle and waste you normally get by trying to peel the knobby root.

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Dhokla is steamed, not baked. I had to make a sort of make-shift steamer. Which was fine.

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Tumeric surprisingly turned it red, not yellow, after it was steamed, although it started out yellow as you can see above. Must have been some sort of chemical reaction? One note is that the recipe calls for 20 minutes of steaming, but in my case it took about 35 minutes until the top was firm. My steamer set-up was slightly different than that described in the nytimes recipe, so perhaps that’s why.

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You make a tarka for the cake – an oil in which you quickly fry some mustard and curry leaves and chilies. To serve, pour a bit of this over the top, and sprinkle with some fresh coconut slivers and chopped cilantro.

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It’s a snack, but I made it for dinner. The taste? Quite similar to a cornbread, perhaps like a jalapeno cornbread, freshened up with the yogurt raita I served it with, really delicious. Although I look forward more to the leftovers, as usually by the time I am done cooking, I can barely face dinner – I’m sick of the flavors. Give it a day break, and it’s great again though.

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Surrounded by a spianch daal, a fresh aubergine and pepper dish, and a saag paneer, we were happy eaters this evening. And tomorrow evening happier with the leftovers.

Now…time for the Football. Go “Schlaaand!”

 

 

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Daaaaaaling

November Isar

November Isar

As beautiful as the Isar is during all times of year, it’s sometimes startling to see how it can change so rapidly in just a few weeks. Look at this photo from a few days back compared to the one I posted in the last blog entry. Winter is coming. (But unfortunately not yet the new season of Game of Thrones.)

Two weekends ago, we had another cook-in at Caro’s place – making use of some of her 70 kilos of garden-grown vegetables that she harvested. I had wanted to try out a salad I saw posted in the New York Times a couple months back and finally I had the chance. In addition to a lovely chicken dish plus broad beans with a saffron sauce and pan roasted and smashed potatoes, we got to work peeling carrots in order to re-create the Roasted Carrot and Avocado Salad. And what was amusing along the way – the big advantage of growing your own vegetables as Caro does – is that you get the most amazing shapes sometimes…have a look at this beauty. 😉 I think Mallorie chopped her up in the end…

The salad was great. Can highly recommend it. Also it would be great with other root vegetables – parsnips, turnips, or pumpkin.

Roasted Carrot and Avocado Salad

Roasted Carrot and Avocado Salad

Today it pours outside and I hear the temperature will drop substantially in the next 24 hours. Perhaps it is better to say Winter is Here, although I would rather prefer to believe there is a little more sun in the future. Anyway, there will be soon enough when I go home for Thanksgiving.

To get in the spirit of fall, don’t hesitate to make a big pot of Daal – in my pressure cooker, this is a super fast dish to throw together. Not many ingredients plus you can tweak the recipe as you like, choosing the types of lentils/beans you like, and adjust the seasonings to your preference. Yesterday I did this one:

Daal prep

Daal prep

Directions: chop up a small red onion and fry it for a few minutes in some mustard oil (ideally in a pressure cooker, but any medium sized sauce pan will work). When the onion begins to brown, throw in a teaspoon of brown mustard seeds. When they begin to pop, put in your dry spices: some ground cumin, tumeric, asafetida, ground coriander. Stir. Chop up your chili and throw it in. Stir and let the flavors begin to meld. Chop up two tomatoes – remove the skins if you prefer – and put them in. Let everything cook down a bit – your tomatoes should begin to get mushy. When they do, put in two whole peeled garlic cloves, 5-10 curry leaves, a handful of chopped cilantro and a half a cup of yellow split peas and a half a cup of green lentils and one to two teaspoons of salt. Finally add 4 cups of water and stir everything around once before putting on the lid. If you’re cooking with a pressure cooker, set your timer to 25 minutes, and select the higher pressure valve setting. Let it cook. In 25 minutes you will have a daal. Rich and spicy, perfect served with a scoop of yogurt and a sprinkling of fresh cilantro.

Daal

Daal

 

 

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Me vs. The Pressure Cooker

Me: 4, Pressure cooker evil devil: 1.

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I think I’ve never before actually been excused from work officially by a doctor. Certainly it is a “luxury” that one will never get in the USA, and I’m grateful to exercise it once in 5 years here in Germany. I’ve had a good week to recover from what turned out to be a nasty case of BPPV (I didn’t know what it was either), or alternatively an infected nerve between the brain and the inner ear. The doctors (and there were many – too many in the end) didn’t quite know what it was. I gave up before they did. Will have one or two more appointments…but then that’ll hopefully be it.

Anyway, I’m working a bit from home today, which is a break from doctors and from an admitted dose of boredom. Thankfully the room doesn’t spin anymore when I look at the computer. Read a great post by Avinash Kaushik about today’s best digital marketing experiences, which led me to find a really wonderful new website: songza (don’t bother clicking unless you are in the US/Canada or using an IP address that shows you in the US/Canada – it’s not available in Europe or Asia). I’ve already hyped it on facebook, but a second plug here (yeah, I have one of those IP addresses that shows me on the east coast of the US).

It’s frankly totally awesome. Check out the home page when you land on it:

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Super simple. And it looks to my computer to see what day of the week it is and what time of day. Then rather than sending me down a long route of filtering exactly what genre I want (although it offers me that option too if I what it), it starts off with offering me some easy options. When I work and write, I’m not able to listen to music with lyrics, it’s just way too distracting for me – and I guess a bunch of other people aren’t as well, because that is one of their categories (Working, no lyrics). A few clicks further, I had picked out Acoustic Guitar to listen to and I was on my way.  Really nice music curation – at least to my taste.

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Now back to that pressure cooker…

Actually there isn’t much of a story to tell yet. I am not an expert yet. But I have cooked with it 5 times already:

1) Chicken soup: great and fast as promised. Cut the cooking time down by about 2/3.
2) Chana Dal: ummmmm great. Very creamy and tasty. Again, cooking time down significantly – at least 50%
3) Black beans – sort of mexican style. Solid, not great – I could have let them go longer. Flavor not as developed because of the shorter cooking time (I think).
4) Chickpea and spinach soup. MAJOR DISASTER. By this point perhaps I was a little too cocky, I dunno…but what happened was that this soup is supposed to be pureed when you’re done cooking the chickpeas and only after that do you add the spinach and pressure cook it for *one more minute.* It seems like that was where the mess came in. I must not have thoroughly mixed the soup up enough. So the bottom of the soup – heavy with unpureed or partially pureed chickpeas – burned. And I don’t mean just a little burned. I mean CHARCOAL. As I waited for the pressure cooker to heat up the second time I could smell something burning and I was hoping that it was just a tiny bit on the bottom worst case. Nope. Soup went uneaten. 😦 Pot was a wreck. Took me 30 minutes to scrub the charcoal from the bottom of that thing – and that was after the recommended baking soda and vinegar treatment.
5) Tomato Broad beans (yeah, I know, there is a bean trend, but I think broccoli will be next): Whew – back to success. These suckers take at lease 3 hours in boiling water when you don’t soak them overnight in advance (which I hadn’t). In a pressure cooker: 1 hour. Nice. Those were lunch today.

So all in all, it’s been fun experimenting. Now I want a slow-cooker. 😉 If I come up with any brilliant recipes in the next weeks, I’ll be sure to pass on the wisdom.

The part I hate though: that you can’t open the pot until it’s done. Very frustrating and something to really get used to for someone like me, who is used to opening the pot every 5-10 minutes to check on progress. Learning patience.

 

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Under Pressure

But take the title of the post literally, not figuratively. The week did not end well health-wise.

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What was supposed to be a fast day-trip to Cologne on Thursday ended up turning into an unplanned for overnighter.

I woke up feeling dizzy on Thursday, which has been an ongoing problem (yes, will see if I can get an appointment with a neurologist next week or an ear/nose/throat doctor…), but I wanted to make the trip for the internal handover of some client responsibilities (from my colleague to me)…and everything seemed reasonably ok until around noon, when it just wasn’t anymore.

Dizzyness got unbearable, no early flight home to be found, rushed to airport at around 4:30 through sheets of rain and buckets of hail in a revolting-smelling taxi that had no-smoking stickers all over the interior of the car but which reeked of cigarettes, only to be told that the flight wouldn’t leave because of storms until after 8 pm so…off to the hospital in Cologne (Lufthansa’s choice based on my illness/symptoms), where in the ER they could find little wrong with me. Anyway, enough details. Seems I just have the flu – terrible sinus pressure. I slept in an airport holiday inn and flew home yesterday morning.

So today I get to browse the web, read, watch movies, with two kitties warming my feet. (They don’t like to share the foot space…I hear whining and growling every few minutes.)

The warm spot at the foot of the bed

The warm spot at the foot of the bed

But…I will get a gift later today…a pressure cooker. Never had one and have been interested in them for quite awhile now. Debating if should buy one. My mother’s enthusiasm over hers finally convinced me. Perfect gift for today…to make some chicken soup as a first recipe. Maybe some matzo balls too…just saw a recipe for them over on the smitten kitchen blog that looks quite do-able…if I can find some matzos in this country…

WMF Perfect Pro Pressure Cooker

WMF Perfect Pro Pressure Cooker

So…pressure cooker reviews, recipes, experiences to come….meanwhile going to look for another movie to download or something.

Oh, and Happy Groundhog’s Day. 🙂

 

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