If you ask the average cook in an Indian home what their two appliances in their kitchens that they could not do without (ad I did ask some of my friends on Facebook), the mixer/ grinder (also known as the “mixie”) and the pressure cooker are likely to make it to the top of the poll. I know that that’s what I would say for sure. I might be able to manage for a short while without the mixer/ grinder but I know my pressure cooker makes short work of cooking especially rice and lentils.
I have not one but two pressure cookers, one a slightly large one that was given to me by my mother (it’s about 25 years old!) and a smaller and newer pressure pan, a slightly squat looking pressure cooker that’s a newer innovation. The former now comes out only when we have company and I need to cook larger quantities of food, while the latter is the right size for my everyday cooking chores. Both these, like the pressure cookers in most Indian homes, are stovetop models.
Then Preethi recently sent me the Touch or digital variant of their new series of Electric Pressure Cookers. Electric Pressure Cookers are comparatively recent in India, and I was curious to see how different it would be from the stovetop version, having seen it being used quite a bit in the Masterchef Australia kitchen this season.
An Electric Pressure Cooker cooks pretty much whatever a stovetop pressure cooker will, and the difference is only in the way the appliance works to cook the food. Preethi’s Touch Electric Pressure Cooker is a 5L digital model in stainless steel and comes with a plastic measuring cup, and two ladles as accessories. The cord can be disconnected and all these can be stored inside the cooker when not in use.
The Electric Pressure Cooker has pre-programmed Indian cooking menus to help you cook a gravy, chickpeas, rice, pulao, biryani, meat and steam idlis. If you want to cook something their pre-set menus don’t offer, then the Electric Pressure Cooker can be customised to do so.
Preethi’s Electric Pressure Cooker is built with a variety of safety mechanisms and comes with an inner non-stick bowl in which the cooking happens. One can sauté / fry onions, tomatoes, vegetables or a spice mixture in this pan as for biryanis, or chole for example, and then then lock the cover on and pressure cook the dish as one would on the stove top. This makes Preethi’s Electric Pressure Cooker quite versatile. The Pressure Cooker also has a magnetic locking system and a 24-hour pre-set timer with a “keep warm” function that automatically switches on once the cooking is done. This keeps the food warm for up to 4 hours. This is really helpful if you want to cook ahead. There’s a pressure release valve so no worries about misplacing the “weight” if that is a concern.
While I been finding cooking in the Electric Pressure Cooker very convenient and all my attempts have turned out really well, I was totally disappointed in the User Manual that comes with it. If you’ve never used an Electric Pressure Cooker before, I can promise you that the Manual is more likely to confuse you than makes things clearer. This video helps a little. Since there was no mention of it that I could see in the Manual, it took me a little while to figure out that the small plastic receptacle that came with the cooker was meant to be fixed along the outer side to collect any condensation that may occur during cooking (at least, that’s what I’m assuming it was for)! It would have been nicer to have a more detailed explanation of the use of the appliance and the inclusion of a few basic cooking recipes would have helped immensely.
Given that the pan of the Electric Pressure Cooker is a bit small to take average Idli mould/ plates, steam cooking Idlis in this cooker doesn’t seem very feasible. It would have been very convenient if Preethi had at least provided a trivet to place inside the pan as an accessory for steam cooking.
Once you figure out how the Electric Pressure Cooker works, then it’s a breeze. I’ve cooked Pulao in this cooker a few times and they’ve turned out perfect each time. The trick to is to initially use recipes one is familiar with till one gets the hang of using the Electric Pressure Cooker. Today, I’m sharing the recipe inspired by the Shirin Polov/ Plow. Depending on which part of the world you’re in, this can be spelt and pronounced as Polo, Plow, Pilau or Pilaf and in India we call it Pulao.
Traditionally, the Shirin Pulao is a rich and sweet rice dish (shirin means sweet) that is served on special occasions in Azerbaijan and Persia in particular though all manners of Pulao is cooked and eaten across the Middle East and much beyond the trade areas of the old Silk Route. Shirin Pulao is cooked with long grain rice, carrots, orange peel, dried fruit like golden raisins, dried apricots or plums, almonds and a must is the crusty cooked rice layer at the bottom called the “tahdig” or “kasmag”.
My recipe does not have added sugar and so the Pulao is just mildly sweet and I have added a little bit of a few “savoury” spices normally used in the Indian kitchen. I cooked my Pulao without the traditional “crust” of the Shirin Pulao, but should you desire it, you can marginally reduce the water added to the rice, and the Electric Pressure Cooker will create the crust at the bottom of the pan.
One can use any variety of long grain rice though I personally feel Basmati works best. A lot of people like to use stock instead of water but I would plump for water any day as it doesn’t interfere with the flavour of Basmati and the Pulao. It is important to soak the Basmati in water and rinse it out a couple of times as this removes the excess starch and prevents the rice from becoming sticky and stays fluffy.
Please note the quantity of water in the recipe below is what I generally use (1 cup Basmati rice : 2 cups water with no other additions) and you might need a little less or more depending on the variety of rice you use. This recipe can be cooked in a stovetop pressure cooker or in a largish pot with the same ingredients and following the same procedure except to cook the Pulao as you normally would.