Indian cooks have discovered the Instant Pot and how well it works for Indian cuisine—it can be used to cook everything from rice to yogurt to complex layered meat and vegetable dishes. There are at least 10 Indian Instant Pot cookbooks on Amazon at the moment, and I suspect there are more e-books out there on the topic as well. There are also a ton of blogs that focus on Indian recipes made in the Instant Pot.
I recently purchased an Instant Pot but had never used it. I tried it out with a recipe from Instant Indian: Classic foods from every region of India made easy in the Instant Pot! By Rinku Bhattacharya. The recipe I chose was Cozy Butter Chicken. The instructions for this dish were incredibly clear, so much so that I was able to make this dish without having ever used the Instant Pot before. The author points out that timing is an issue “You need to factor in the time it takes to come to full pressure, the actual pressure cooking time, and the time for steam release. I have accounted for the complete cooking cycle by noting a total time needed with all my recipes.” But that was the problem I had with the recipe which states:
TOTAL TIME: 40 MINUTES
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Sauté Time: 15 minutes
Pressure Cook: 10 minutes
Pressure Release: 10 minutes
I found that this does not include the time it takes for the Instant Pot to come to full pressure, and an accurate time for pressure release. It took almost another 10 minutes to reach full pressure and over 15 minutes to release naturally rather than the stated 10 minutes. That is a considerable amount of additional time.
|Cozy Butter Chicken, on the right according to the instructions and on the left with the sauce reduced|
The other issue I had with this recipe was that the finished dish was incredibly watery and the chicken was somewhat overcooked and falling apart. The sauce did not resemble the thick creamy sauce I know from having had this dish in the past. I spent almost another 10 minutes reducing the sauce in a saucepan. Once I did, the sauce and the dish were absolutely delicious.
I struggled with the decision to purchase an Instant Pot because I really don’t have room for it. But I thought perhaps I would be able to replace my rice cooker and my pressure cooker with it. But I found it took longer for the Instant Pot to come up to pressure than it takes my old pressure cooker, so I’m not sure that it will replace it after all. The biggest convenience factor to making this dish was the built in timer which allows you to set the cooking time. I also like that it has settings for things like yogurt and rice.
So would I recommend the Instant Pot and using it for Indian Recipes? Probably, but I will need to do some more experimenting.
Disclaimer: A pdf of this book was given to me for review purposes
Good shortbread cookies are always buttery, with a melt-in-your-mouth texture that keeps you coming back for that second bite. They tend to be simple cookies with short ingredient lists, where the butter is the star of the show. That doesn’t mean that you can’t add extra flavors to your favorite shortbread recipe, of course, and that is exactly what I did here. This Salted Toffee Shortbread has a classic buttery shortbread base, but is studded with sweet toffee bits and topped with a sprinkling of coarse salt.
To make the shortbread, cold butter is cut into a mixture of flour, sugar and salt. I prefer to combine the ingredients in a food processor so that the butter can be very finely chopped into the dry ingredients, resulting in a very even-textured shortbread. The food processor also makes the prep for this recipe take less than a minute! If you don’t have a food processor, you also can cut the butter in by hand, but be sure to get it as fine as possible.
The shortbread mixture will be very crumbly when the butter has been incorporated and the mixture will look very dry. Don’t worry, as that is exactly how the shortbread is supposed to look! Simply stir in the toffee bits, then pour everything into your prepared baking dish and spread it into an even layer over the whole base of the pan. Next, firmly press the mixture down and pack it evenly (use your fingers or the bottom of a glass). Sprinkle the shortbread with the coarse salt, then score it lightly into pieces using a sharp knife. Scoring the dough before baking will allow you to cut it more easily once it has set.
This shortbread is similar in style to Walker’s shortbread, meaning that it the pieces are a bit taller and more tender than some other shortbreads. I really enjoy this style because it almost melts in your mouth as you eat it. If you like your shortbread to be extremely crisp, you can pack the shortbread base into a 9×13-inch pan and bake until lightly browned. The shortbread should still be scored before baking to ensure that you can cut it apart without crumbling the cookies too much.
Salted Toffee Shortbread
3 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, chilled
1/2 cup finely chopped toffee bits
1/2 tsp coarse salt, for topping
Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9-inch square pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, sugar and salt. Pulse a few times to blend.
Cut butter into large chunks and add to food processor. Whiz for about 1 minute, until dough has a very sandy and starts to clump together. Remove from food processor and stir in toffee bits. Pour into prepared pan and spread into an even layer. Use a flat-bottomed glass to press down the dough firmly, creating as smooth a surface as possible.
Score dough lightly with a sharp knife, marking 4 rows by 8 rows of shortbread pieces. Dock the dough with a fork, if desired. Sprinkle with coarse salt.
Bake for about 35 minutes, until shortbread is very lightly browned all over and is set.
While the shortbread is still hot and still in the pan, use a sharp knife or a bench scraper to cut shortbread all the way through along the lines you scored prior to baking. Allow shortbread to cool completely in the pan once it has been cut.
When cooled, shortbread pieces should break apart very easily. Store in an airtight container.
Makes 32 pieces.
Instant Pot is a smart Electric Pressure Cooker designed by Canadians aiming to be Safe, Convenient and Dependable. It speeds up cooking by 2~6 times using up to 70% less energy and, above all, produces nutritious healthy food in a convenient and consistent fashion. Instant Pot Duo is a 7-in-1 programmable cooker, it replaces 7 kitchen appliances as it has the functions of a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, sauté, yogurt maker & warmer. 14 built-in smart programs (Soup, Meat/Stew, Bean/Chili, Poultry, Sauté, Steam, Rice, Porridge, Multigrain, Slow Cook, Keep-Warm, Yogurt, Pasteurize & Jiu Niang) cook your favorite dishes with the press of a button. A 24-hour timer allows for delayed cooking. Automatic keep-warm holds the temperature of the food until you serve it. Instant Pot generates almost no noise and leaks no steam. It traps all the aromas in the food without heating up the kitchen. The 3-ply bottom stainless steel inner pot is extremely durable and leaves no health concerns associated with non-stick coatings. The slim body design has lid holders for both left and right handed users. The brushed stainless steel exterior is finger print resistant. Its elegant and durable design makes it easy to clean and pleasurable to use for the years to come. Instant Pot Duo uses the latest technology with an embedded microprocessor, which monitors the pressure and temperature, keeps time and adjusts heating intensity. The cooking programs have been lab-tested hundreds of times for optimal effect. These greatly improve cooking result and maintain consistence. Instant Pot is carefully designed to eliminate many common errors that could cause harm or spoil food. It passed the stringent UL certification giving you uncompromised safety and peace of mind and protects you with 10 proven safety mechanisms and patented technologies.
Over the years I have bought McQuade’s Celtic Chutney to give as gifts, made recipes using her various varieties of chutney and been an all around fan of her products. Faced with a box full of peaches this year supplied to me by the Washington State Stone Fruit Growers, I knew I wanted to make chutney but couldn’t imagine just turning to any old recipe. So I called on Alison for some guidance. Her recipe uses weights, so if you don’t have a digital scale, please use this as the excuse to buy one, they are not expensive and are essential for baking. The one I currently use is a SmartWeight model that cost less than $20 and displays pounds, ounces, grams and milliliters. You’ll note the chutney is in Ball jars for gifting, and the company that produces them makes a donation to Feeding America for every package purchased (up to $150k).
An Amazon Brand.
Anyone that is a regular reader will know that I am a coffee lover. Not only do I pair baked goods with it all the time, but I also frequently incorporate it into my dishes. More often than not, coffee comes in a liquid form, but the Flat Brew Coffee Spread is a unique spreadable way to get a little caffeine fix. This product is almost like ganache, but made out of coffee instead of cacao, and it can be a treat for a real coffee fan.
The spread is made with sugar, cocoa butter, cream, butter and plenty of coffee. It is nearly black in color. Ganache is made with cacao, cocoa butter (though those two ingredients are often listed simply as “chocolate”), sugar and cream/butter. Getting the coffee to come together smoothly with those other ingredients is no small feat, yet the spread is silky smooth and melts onto your tongue almost like a traditional chocolate ganache! It has a deep and intense espresso flavor that is not particularly sweet, though there is enough sugar in the mix to bring out some of the fruity and chocolaty notes in the coffee. It is rich, packs a serious coffee kick and it doesn’t quite taste like anything else I’ve had.
I think that this spread is delicious, but unlike Nutella or sweeter spreads, it may be too potent for you to want to eat more than a small spoonful straight out of the container. Instead, consider spreading it on toast, pancakes, waffles or using it to sandwich two soft cookies together. It can also be used as a dip for breadsticks, fresh fruit or crisper cookies, such as biscotti. I picked mine up at a specialty kitchen store, but it is also available online. If you’ve tried it or have a favorite use, be sure to share in the comments!
French Guy Cooking is a YouTube sensation. A Frenchman living in Paris, Alexis loves to demystify cooking by experimenting with food and cooking methods to take the fear factor out of cooking, make it fun and accessible, and charm everyone with his geeky approach to food.
In this, his debut cookbook, he shares 100 of his absolute favorite recipes – from amazingly tasty toast ideas all the way to some classic but super-simple French dishes. Along the way, he shares ingenious kitchen hacks – six ways with a can of sardines, a cheat’s guide to wine, three knives you need in your kitchen – so that anyone can throw together great food without any fuss.
I think almost every child likes charsiu (also spelled “char siew”), aka Chinese barbecued pork. There’s something wonderfully delicious about the combination of juicy, tender pork and the salty-sweet and very umami charsiu sauce. It’s something that my own kids, especially my son, absolutely loves. It’s highly addictive when done right. And I add that caveat because there are just as many horrendous, dry versions of charsiu sold in hawker centres all over the island as there are wonderfully plump, tasty and moist versions. The absolutely worst ones feel like cardboard, have artificially colored pink exteriors and unappetising grey flesh. I feel sorry for any person whose first taste of charsiu was one of these substandard and frankly embarrassing versions.
A well-made piece of charsiu is a thing of beauty. The pork should have flavour. It should be moist and have a little bite (meaning, it shouldn’t be too tender). I’ve played with a wide variety of charsiu preparation and cooking methods over the years. For a significant period, my preference was to use sous-vide techniques in the process. But more recently, and mostly because I was never 100% satisfied with the texture of the sous-vide charsiu, I’ve gone back to more basic styles of cooking.
Several foodies (online) have advocated a braising method in which you cook your pork in a wok, allowing the liquid it is cooking in to reduce until it finally becomes a sticky caramelised coating for the meat. I tried out a few online recipes but didn’t like the results. Not only did the meat come out overly sticky (which made it a mess to handle) but cleaning pots and woks in which you’ve reduced caramelised sauces is a real bitch.
But I liked the idea of braising the meat. Especially when you can add aromatics to make the liquid and the meat that much yummier. So, I tried braising the pork, letting it cool in the braising liquid, and then basting it in charsiu sauce, followed by a short but super hot turn in the oven. After a few iterations, I think I’ve come up with something that works well. Based on the family’s reactions, it appears to be a winner with kids and grandparents alike. I’ve found that the braising time greatly effects the texture of the meat. The best charsiu should have some bite. So if you braise the meat too long, while the pork can come out nice and tender, it will also fall apart… which isn’t particularly what you want. An hour seems to be sufficient to cook the pork nicely and still provide some nice resistence when you cut it as well as when you bite into it.
I’ve also taken to making my own charsiu sauce. I tend to avoid both commercial charsiu and Hoisin sauces these days and instead prefer to whip up my own concoction (which is admittedly very adjusted to my specific palate). Of course, it helps that I have a very well stocked pantry, courtesy of the superwife. That means if I want to use fermented soy beans I have multiple options to choose from. I make my sauce and use it as marinade and in the cooking process, and then use it again, with honey added, for the final roast.
The recipe is below. While this takes considerably less time than other charsiu recipes I’ve posted previously, it is by no means a quick dish to make. You’ll want to block off a few hours for this the first time you make it. And, since we all have different tastes, as always you should adjust the seasoning and ratio of the various ingredients for your own tastes.
2kg of fatty pork neck, cut into strips, approximately 4cm wide, 4-5cm tall, and 20cm long.
2 leeks, trimmed and cut into rough chunks
2 onions, quartered
1 carrot, peeled and cut into rough chunks
5 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 2cm knob of ginger peeled
1 bunch fresh coriander (a few sprigs)
1 bunch fresh spring onions (a few sprigs)
2 tablespoons cooking oil
For the marinade
1/2 cup of Chinese red yeast rice wine lees (paste)
4 tablespoons creamy/smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons fermented soybeans, mashed up
4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons dark thick soy sauce
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Shaoxing rice wine
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons scallion oil (if you have it)
1 tablespoon five spice powder
1 to 1.5 litres chicken stock or dashi
1/3 cup of honey
In a big jar, mix all of the marinade ingredients together. Taste. It should be very punchy and sweet and salty. If you think it needs more sugar, add some; more salt, add soy sauce or salt.
In a large mixing bowl, mix the pork pieces and half of the marinade together. Let sit for around 30 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 160 degrees Celsius.
Heat up a large pot over medium-high heat. Add in 2 tablespoons of cooking oil. Once hot, add in the onions, leek and carrot. Stir for 5 minutes or so, just until the onion is beginning to soften. Then stir in the garlic and ginger. Transfer the pork with the marinade into the pot, add in the coriander and spring onion, and stir all the ingredients around for a few minutes. Then pour the stock/dashi over the meat. You just want to cover all of the meat under liquid. Taste the braising liquid and adjust the seasoning again if need be. Bring the liquid to a boil and cover with a cartouche made from baking paper. Place the lid over the pot and put it inside the oven for 1 hour.
After an hour, take the pot out, remove the lid and let the pork cool in the liquid. Once cool, you can remove the pork and place it on a wire rack, that you’ve set up on a large tray.
Mix the remaining marinade with 1/3 cup of honey. That should give you just enough for the basting process. If you feel like you need more, make another batch of marinade and mix it with 2/3 cup of honey.
Reset your oven so that it is at the highest possible temperature. You may also want to consider a grill or broil option. The oven I use has a grill + fan option, which is what I use. Baste the meat completely. You want to try and cover every single bit of the pork. Then pop it in the oven for 10 minutes. If you are using a unidirectional heat setting (like I do), after 5 minutes, take the pork out, flip the meat over, baste again if necessary, and pop it back in for the last 5 minutes. You want the pork to take on that signature charred glossiness that the best charsiu have.
Once done, cut, eat, enjoy.
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