The pressure of cooking pulses…

Though not a vegetarian, of late lots of pulses (beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc), have been finding their way into my diet, the more so since I started tinkering with food that has a pronounced Spanish influence (the flavourings, rather than the actual recipes, though my home-made versions of chorizo and morcilla are rather good).

The trouble with pulses, though, is that they can be a bugger to cook and, improperly cooked, not only are they unpleasant to eat, but they will wreak terrible revenge on your innards. And badly-cooked red kidney beans can be fatal,** which is why ALL bean packs tell you to boil the bejesus out of them for 10 minutes. Which isn’t actually necessary at all, as long as you cook beans until they’re properly soft. High temperatures destroy the toxins, it’s true, but so does proper cooking at sensible temperatures.

**In the eighties, a few young people (students, I believe), whose collective cooking skills would probably have burned water, made a chilli with red kidney beans that were, by any definition, uncooked. Some died, hence the paranoia and the needless labels on all pulses now. That they actually ate almost raw beans does rather suggest a high level of stupidity in the first place. Didn’t they notice, ffs? Being young is no excuse for having the brains of a turnip.

Anyway, the main problem is that you never know how old pulses are when you buy them, the BBE date being relatively meaningless in this context. I recently cooked a dish of  dried baby chickpeas, roasted red peppers and panceta, and very good it was, except for the bullet-like chickpeas. They must have been a lot older than the BBE date of March 2013 suggested.

I soaked them for a good 12 hours (I’d usually soak the normal-sized ones for 24-36 hours), and simmered them for over three, the handful I fished out towards the end  were acceptably tender – they must have been the only ones that were! Having been cooled, then reheated the next day, they were positively hard. Not just firm, but don’t-eat-me solid. So I didn’t, though they did taste amazingly good.

Which set me thinking about the days when I was a veggie, and the fact that I almost invariably cooked pulses in a pressure cooker. Now, I don’t know if you’ve looked at these things lately, but some manufacturers have gone to extremes to complicate what is, at heart, an extremely simple device – a sealed pot which cooks food at around twice atmospheric pressure – and in consequence, jack the prices up into the stratosphere – look, guys, you can’t make things idiot-proof, as idiots will always find a way – see the bean farce, above! There are even some with electronic controls which, since electronics don’t like heat, seems a tad ambitious. You don’t need electronic controls, which just add needless expense and complexity, you just need a timer, which any half-decent cook will have anyway.

Back in the mists of time, there were two companies big in pressure cookers, Prestige and Tower, and both, as a rummage on Amazon showed, still make sensibly-priced models. Prestige, though, has a problem – they can’t be bothered telling potential customers what’s in the box. Do they, for example, come with trivets, steamers, and separators, or do you just get a bare pan? I have no idea, as even their website is mute on the subject, so too bad, Prestige, you lost a sale. Probably lost plenty of  others too, which serves you right for having such a useless website (yes, it looks good, but pretty pictures are no substitute for information).

Tower, though, could be bothered to provide information (the answer is yes, a steamer at least), and I got a 4-litre pan for £19.99. It might not be as highly polished and nicely photographed as the Prestige pans, but what the hell, at that price I don’t care.

Tower 4L pressure cooker

Incidentally, pressure cookers are fantastic at cooking things, like vegetables, that you would normally boil and, as they actually steam rather than boil (but way faster than a steamer), the flavours are excellent – even the humble spud tastes better and, yes, I know the microwave has rather taken over from pressure cookers, but for me, at least, while they’re excellent at reheating stuff, they’re really pretty crap at cooking, and with vegetables the texture is invariably changed in the process, and not for the better. There is also the unresolved question of whether nutritional changes take place, but for me that’s secondary to the naff texture.

For spoonies, a pressure cooker is good for almost everything**see footnote – you can even cook porridge, but how you’d stir it I have no idea! Soups, stews, pot roasts, almost anything that you can cook long and slow can be knocked out in minutes, and the results are pretty good.

I don’t agree with pressure-cooking aficionados who claim that the results are as good as traditional methods, as some things really do benefit from long, slow cooking, the leisurely interchange of flavours, and the textural changes that take place gently, plus an overnight wait in the fridge while the flavours snuggle up to each other. But if savings in time and effort are important, as they are to we spoonies, then it’s at least worth a try.

You don’t, by the way, boil pulses in a pressure cooker, as to do so will get you a spray of superheated foam through the pressure valve. All pulses produce froth, when boiled, which has to be skimmed off. In a pressure cooker, which is sealed, you can’t do that, hence the foam fountain. The secret is to steam them.

Put them, pre-soaked of course, in the perforated container, put a ramekin in the bottom, in the centre, full of water (for stability when you add water to the pan), add water to the specified level (as per the manual), sit the beans on the ramekin, and proceed as usual. The beans will steam to wonderful fluffiness with absolutely no drama, and lose none of their taste in the process, as they do when boiled. Beans cooked this way are absolutely perfect for making bean burgers, which is what I used to do back in the day, stirring in herbs, seasoning, and olive oil while they were still hot.

By the way, when cooking pulses in a pressure cooker for use in a recipe, always allow the pressure to drop naturally, as this will reduce any tendency for the beans to burst, as they almost certainly will if you reduce the pressure quickly; it also shortens the cooking time. Bursting isn’t a bad thing, though, if you’re making burgers, as it allows them to take up flavours from the oil, herbs and seasoning more thoroughly.

In writing this, I’ve realised  that I’ve pretty much forgotten what I knew about pressure cooking (pulses need about 10 minutes, other than that it’s a blank).

So I need a book. I don’t need pictures, just information, so a Kindle book will be fine – question is, which one. As I’ll primarily be cooking vegetables and pulses, one for vegetarians would seem to be the best bet. I also have my own notebooks from my veggie days, but I can’t remember if they contain timings for pressure cooking. I’m sure the bean burger recipe does – if I can find it.

The book search isn’t going well. I don’t need recipes I have shelves full of cookery books going back over a century. I read them for inspiration, or just for the hell of it; I almost always never use anyone else’s recipes. I don’t need to.

Arrogant? No, not really, just confident in my own abilities to create recipes myself. One, a work in progress in my head, involves the large Spanish butterbeans, Judion de la Granja, cooked with roasted peppers, garlic, paprika, ground coriander, and studded with my own chorizo-ish sausages. As these beans take over 3 hours to cook – they’re over twice the size of our normal butterbeans – they’re a perfect candidate for the pressure cooker, while the sauce and sausage get the long and slow treatment, combing the two near the end, then leaving them overnight to snuggle up.

The perceptive among you will realise that the above isn’t a million miles away from my Fabada Wirraliana, though without the morcilla and panceta, but with the addition of roasted peppers and garlic.

Anyway, abandoning the book idea, I’ve found a website which has a veritable plethora of pressure-cooking times, including pulses (I was right about 10 minutes), which will be downloaded, pasted into Word and printed out in the very near future. It’s here. And I might very well take advantage of Amazon’s system to have it converted to Kindle format (not a breach of copyright – it’s for my own use, not publication).

** I’m unsure, incidentally, whether this genuinely counts as a spoonie item, despite how quick and easy they are to use, as although pressure cookers of this size are described as “light” I remember mine as being pretty heavy, though as I was a hell of a lot stronger then than now, it didn’t matter. Amazon say the weight is 2.1kg, which sounds about right. Still, I’ll know better when I get mine, at which point I’ll update this if necessary. However, using a pressure cooker is certainly spoonie-friendly, because of the greatly reduced time you spend in the kitchen on your feet. Sadly, it does nothing to reduce prep time and that, for me, is the biggie.

***

Note: People, like me, used to the pressure cookers of the eighties and earlier, may be surprised to learn that pressures are now lower. Aluminium pressure cookers, like mine, are now typically around 0.88 bar** or 12lb psi (per square inch), while vastly more expensive stainless steel models are still 15lb psi (or, more likely, 1 bar). Frankly, it’ll be a cold day in hell before I’d stump up £100 or more just to save a couple of minutes cooking time, and the aluminium will cause dementia paranoia of the last 20-odd years has proven to be unfounded. Yes, there is a lot more dementia about, but there are also a lot more old people about too – these facts are not unrelated.

**1 bar is atmospheric pressure, 14.7lb psi.

 

 

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23 thoughts on “The pressure of cooking pulses…

  1. well while you are buying yourself a pressure cooker …..
    (my one and only was ,like you say, very heavy.a wedding present from my then hubbys place of work who just happened to sell them.lol.used countless times for years till the kids grew up.),,,,
    i have just bought myself 2 kitchen appliances. 1 is a 1 cup kettle. similar to the box like things in some cafes where you help yourself to drinks by putting a cup under a spout and pressing buttons. these days im finding it hard to lift even half a kettle of water. a friend had one of these and I thought what a good idea. in future i will only need to fill it with a cup or mug and i get 1 mugful at a time of hot drink in less than 2 secs.saves on lecky and water too.will boil only 1 cup if thats all yu want. as i get older and , you never know, possibly more accident prone, this will make life so much easier for me.
    2nd item ive not had for years is a blender. i dont cook meals, have problems chopping veggies or lifting heavy dishes from an oven.~(I use the dreaded ready meals) but i do like berries. but find the seeds a darned nuisance. specially my fave fruit, blueberries. so a blender will help to sort that problem for me and if i sieve the liquid through muslin, a nice fruity drink. or smoothy with no seeds.
    hope you enjoy using your pressure cooker.

    • Just replaced my pans with stainless steel casseroles, much lighter and with two handles, much easier to, er, handle.

      The only thing that goes in my oven is bread, everything else gets cooked on the hob.

      I did the ready-meal thing once for about a year, not an experience I’m keen to repeat so now, when I’m able to cook, I cook for the freezer, which means I mostly live on stews. Not necessarily a bad thing – got some nice rabbit stew in there, and a couple of packs of sliced braised beef in gravy I put up last year. Frozen home-made sausages too, easy with an electric mincer. No cheaper than buying them, but at least I know what’s in them.

      I buy dried veggies.
      http://www.justingredients.co.uk/culinary-herbs-and-spices/dehydrated-vegetables/cat_38.html

      Generally the mixed veg but next time I might buy the individual ones and mix them myself. Not as good as fresh, but pretty good, and no work involved – perfect for tossing in a soup or casserole.

      Ron.

      • trouble is i have only the top of my chest freezer for prep space. my kitchen is so small. im diabetic, with acid reflux, so have to watch what i eat and supposed to be low fat low salt..not a casserole fan at all.hate stuff mixed up. prefer the ingredients seperate. though dont mind the odd stew.(no dumplings now though :(,,,, will look at that site for prices., gonna try my hand at soups with that blender, how hard can that be?must admit those ready meals have almost killed my appetite though. and drinks are a nightmare. ive gone right off tea. drink mostly decaf coffee made entirely with skimmed milk. (my diabetic nurse says thats bad for my cholesterol which has gone up by half a point to 5.(in 4 years) but most skimmed milk has little or no fat in it). so am trying to find new drinks too. i hate water. drink soda water/sparkling water. but not tap water.but can only drink 1-2 glasses of that per day due to the reflux. anyway im gonna try to do the things i said at least, big things from little acorns etc.eh?

        • Are you taking any PPI drugs for the reflux – Omeprazole, Pantoprazole, etc? If not, you should be. I take 20mg at 17.00, another at bedtime, and finally got mine under control. It’s important to sleep on your left, too, as the oesophagus enters the stomach on the right – lying on your left causes acid and anything else in your stomach to drain away from your oesophagus and makes reflux almost impossible.

          Sounds like you’re dehydrated, though, and that will worsen the acid reflux; water dilutes gastric acid, and flushes it away. First line of defence though is PPIs to stop acid production overnight.

          • ~I was put on Lanzoprazole 15mg over 4 years ago while in hospital being treated for a suspected heart attack which turned out to be a warning only. The lanzoprazole was given me after getting severe indigestion from the clopidogrel and aspirin (among other things) they had put me on. (didnt suffer from that before), came off aspirin within a month of coming out of hospital., i am an asthmatic with COPD (yes you guessed it i did use to smoke) the aspirin affected my breathing badly. i had told the specialist i wasnt supposed to take it but he insisted the benefits outweighed the side effects…….i got so i had to sit down every few minutes. and couldnt cross an ordinary width road without being severely out of breath. had not been like that when i first came out of hospital. found that if i wanted to stop the lanzoprazol (as i had to for a test they did on my stomach) i was in extreme pain in my stomach area. i did not take the clopidogrel during the 2 weeks i had to be without the lanzoprazole. that was before i started getting the reflux symptons. once i did i was put on gaviscon advance 20mls at night. that worked great till the brand of lanzoprazole i had taken for all that time was changed. just about a month ago. the 15mg simply wasnt doing its job the same and i got all the symptoms back. the doc upped the lanzoprazole to 30mg. he said till the chemist got the old brand back in stock but as there is a licence issue with that particular manufacturer i cant see that being very soon. i still get very slight symptoms and my voice is more husky than usual. my atrovent asthma spray made it husky in the first place.but this reflux has made it worse. i do sleep mostly on my left but having spinal spondylosis, and leg cramps, i tend to have to get up every 3-4 hours, walk to get rid of the cramp (and i have got quinine sulphate but it doesnt make a lot of difference). then i get back into bed and lay on the other side. otherwise i wake up stiff and in pain. need putting in a bag and shaking up dont i? sorry this is a bit long.

              • Ron said
                I take magnesium sulphate for cramp – 600mg daily. Very effective – almost completely eliminates it.

                i have 2 types of tablets similar here. my daughter suggested them/ cant remember why i stopped taking them…. 1 is calcium,250mg plus magnesium 125mg and vit D.. the other is magnesium and vit B6 500mg tablets…
                probably didnt take them because i find swallowing tablets of that size hard to do these days. the smaller dose ones are easier as they are lozenge shape.but much less magnesium in them.which would account for them not working. im a bit of a tabletphobic.dont like taking if not strictly neccessary. so probavly didnt take enough/ it does say 1-4 per day. on that one. label is hard to read. i just got magnifyer to it to read it.

                neither appear to be magnesium sulphate though one doesnt say what sort it is. the other has magnesium stearate and magnesium oxide in it. maybe i will be better going to the health store and asking for the sulphate at 600mg do you take those at morning or at night?

                • Actually I was mistaken – mine is magnesium oxide. Magnesium stearate is more expensive, but no more effective.

                  Mainly I take them when I remember! It doesn’t really matter when, they don’t conflict with anything. You can always cut the big magnesium tablets into 2 or even 4, if you need to.

                  I take Vitamin D3 (Vit D is poorly absorbed), 5,000i.u a day. It allegedly reinforces the immune system, and I’ve not had so much as a sniffle since I’ve been taking it (don’t believe people that claim you can safely take 10 times that – you can’t!). Supposedly protects against flu, too, and I’ve not had that either, though I’ve refused my flu vaccine for the past couple of years. It’s never actually stopped me getting flu, and it always makes me ill. I’m better without it.

                  • Ron if i had known lanzoprazole didnt coat the stomach to stop the blood thinner causing bleeding of the stomach lining i would have stopped it long ago. before it got so i cant do without it. but that was what the hospital docs told me it did.mind you that lot also overdosed me on thyroxine, giving me 15mg twice daily, instead of once daily. was high as a kite 4 of the 6 days i was in. so it does make you wonder just how much of what i was told is/was true .
                    will look at your COPD blog tomorrow. am literally falling asleep while i type having had a day out at the east coast. the sea air is knocking me out tonight.lol. thanks for all your help.

                    • No. don’t stop lanzoprazole just because it works differently to how you were told – the important thing is that it works.

                      15mg of Thyroxine is absurd – the stuff is measured in micrograms, not milligrams

                    • sorry. must have hit the g but missed the c and missed the 0 out. my desk top pc is doing weird things think its feeling its age like its owner. its 150mcg thyroxine. the gaviscon is not apparently available over the counter. its the advance one. much thicker, and its prescribed for me.i dont buy it.and yes i have some rice krispies with semi skimmed milk about 30-60 mins b4 bedtime.although my diabetic dietician prefers me to have it much earlier. all this does seem to work most of the time. it was thrown out of sync a few weeks ago though when the brand of lanzoprazole was changed.its more or less settled down now since they upped it from 15mg to 30mg.
                      my more pressing prob at the mo is hayfever.never had it this bad. my ceterizine anti histamine usually deals with it well. but they took all the trees up and dug the land behind us which is supposed to be the communal area for us Seniors in these bungalows. they put badly needed drainage in then left it all winter. result is almost a field of rapeseed right outside my door and windows.off to the docs this aft about it cos its making me miserable with a cough im lucky not to have usually, runny nose and eyes sore throat through coughimg and backache cos the coughing is setting my spondylosis off too.headaches,sinus.i got the lot. it calms down a bit after ive had my sprays and ceterizine ,or has done the last 3 weeks since the flowers opened. but today is not as good, specially my eyes,

                    • 150mcg is a lot. I Started buying Thyroxine after losing most of my body and facial hair to hypothyroidism about 10 years ago but because my tests came back normal (probably teetering on the bottom edge of the scale), my idiot GP wouldn’t prescribe.

                      I started on 25mcg, eventually stabilised on 50, and that’s where I’ve stayed. Got most of my hair back – at least where it’s visible – but some has gone forever.

                      Luckily I’m not allergic to much and, what I am, they have no tests for – horse chestnut pollen and tomato pollen are the biggies, but as long as I stay away from the former and don’t grow the latter, I’m fine. Oddly, some of the things I’m supposed to be almost fatally allergic to, according to the patch tests, like cats, dog, horses, goats and sheep, don’t, in real life, cause any problems at all.

                  • ok. so ill try the magnesium ones ive got then first..
                    as for flu jabs.whats them? ive not had one for 17/18 years. same reason as you. they give me flu that lasts 6 months one dose after another.but without the jabs i never get flu. and very rarely colds. chest infections yes. usually from taxi drivers who have a cold.,(grrr wish they wouldnt work when they have infections/viruses, specially when picking up the elderly or people with chronic chest /lung conditions. i know they cant claim sick pay cos they are self employed but they really should think that their cold could kill someone.
                    ok. thats a pet hate of mine.i am off mi soap box now.my family never come near me when they have colds etc. someone drops off any shopping i cant get myself at the door.and if i have a virus too so they dont get it from me nor i from them.definitely bed now. shattered here

  2. oh. i take the lanzoprazole in the morning before breakfast along with my asthma sprays.
    after breakfast i take the clopidogrel and antihistamine (doc thought getting a dog would help me get out and about.,it dont really. i cant walk him very far at all and i found his fur caused my breathing to be bit worse so doc slapped me on ceterizine)
    night time. my sprays, thyroxine, and gaviscon., sprays are also taken if im out about 5-6pm. as the effects are wearing off by then.at home it doesnt bother me much as in sitting down by then. sprays are ventolyn, beclaforte and serevent with atrovent, the latter only of i need it now, am and pm.

    • Doctors are idiots – mine as well. PPIs are needed at night, when the risk is highest.

      It’s Becloforte that’s making you hoarse, by the way – inhaled steroids always do. Are you using a spacer? It greatly lessens the problem.

      • THATS WEIRD. I THOUGHT IT WAS THE ATROVENT. MAINLY COS I WAS PUT ON SPIREVA IN HOSP. BUT MY VOICE STARTED GOING SOON AFTER.. IT WAS STOPPED SOON AFTER I RETURNED HOME BECAUSE OF THAT AND A FEW WEEKS LATER WAS PUT ON ATROVENT, A MILDER DERIVITIVE OF SPIREVA I WAS TOLD. BUT MY HOARSENESS RETURNED. VERY QUICKLY BUT NOT AS BAD AND HAS NEVER LEFT ME PROPERLY SINCE. IVE BEEN ON BECLAFORTE OVER 15 YEARS ALONG WITH THE SEREVENT AND VENTOLYN AND MY VOICE WAS FINE TILL THE SPIREVA EVENT.
        I DO HAVE A SPACER BUT ONLY USE IT WHEN I HAVE CHEST INFECTIONS.
        WAS ALSO TOLD THE REFLUX COULD HAVE CAUSED IT TO GET VERY BAD FOR A SHORT WHILE.ALMOST LOST IT COMPLETELY. BUT ITS A LOT BETTER NOW SINCE GETTING TREATMENT FOR THE REFLUX. THO STILL SOMEWHAT HOARSE. CANT GET A SINGING NOTE OUT AT ALL. (MY KIDS LOVE THAT OF COURSE.LOL) ILL TRY THE SPACER WITH IT THO I NEVER FEEL IM GETTING THE SAME BENEFIT WHEN I USE THAT.
        SO I SHOULD PERHAPS TAKE THE CLOPIDOGREL AT NIGHT TOO?? I WAS GIVEN THE PPI TO COAT MY STOMACH AGAINST ANY BLEEDING THE BLOOD THINNER MIGHT OTHERWISE CAUSE. THATS WHY I TAKE IT AT MORNING, IT DOES ALSO MEAN I CAN EAT MORE OF THINGS I COULDNT OTHERWISE EAT. OR COULD. CANT AS MUCH NOW .IM SURE THE NEW BRAND ISNT AS GOOD.

        • PPIs don’t coat your stomach, they turn off acid production. Trouble is, they’re only effective for 12 hours, so you get no overnight protection if you take it in the morning.

          Clopidogrel is for preventing blood clots in CHD, so best stick to whatever the prescription says.

          You do lose a little using a spacer, but the amount is minute – you lose more in your mouth using an inhaler normally, and a space does improve the efficacy of the drug. If it worries you, have an extra squirt – you can’t OD on inhalers (well, you can but you’d have to take the whole thing at one go!).

          There’s a load of info about living with COPD on my blog – this is a good starting-place
          https://ronsrants.wordpress.com/2009/07/31/all-my-copd-and-flu-posts-in-one-place/

          I know it says “all” but that was when I wrote it, there’ve been more since. Try the search box for more.

          • you said:
            PPIs don’t coat your stomach, they turn off acid production. Trouble is, they’re only effective for 12 hours, so you get no overnight protection if you take it in the morning.
            (one more thing that hospital staff told me that was wrong eh?)
            but isnt the Gaviscon Advance supposed to give you protection at night? 20 mls,ls a lot to take if not doing what i was told it would do..i,e. cover the stomach contents to prevent any regurgitating during the night

            • What causes acid reflux is a weakness in the oesophageal sphincter, aggravated by over-production of gastric acid. PPIs, by turning of acid production, reduce the risks.

              As for Gaviscon, don’t believe the advertising – it’s basically garbage. A couple of teaspoons of anything can’t possibly coat your stomach – what it does is what any other antacid does – neutralise gastric acid.

              Gaviscon is overpriced too – somebody has to pay for all those TV adverts, and that’s the customer. Try, instead, a product called Altacite Plus. It’s a fraction of the price of Gaviscon, and in my experience, at least as good, maybe better. You’ll have to ask for it, though, as it’s kept in the pharmacy, not on the shelves in the shop. It’s about £3.50 for 500ml.

              Also, although the standard advice is not to eat near bedtime, to reduce the risk of reflux, I always have a snack last thing, usually milk and biscuits – I find it’s a great improvement.

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