I resisted buying a pressure cooker for a long time, thinking I could continue to make slow-cooked dishes by putting a pot over a low flame.
Once I had a cooker, I used it for a few dishes - most notably to make hummus; the dried chickpeas were ready in 30 minutes, without any need to soak them or add baking soda to the cooking liquid. I wasn't enamoured with the pressure cooker, though. Using it meant there was none of the casual but calculated process of improvising with a dish: stirring in a bit of this and that as the food cooked for hours, until the meat was tender and the flavours were just right.
I only really started to love the pressure cooker, and appreciate its speed, when I made the dish for this photo shoot. Nellie Ming Lee, my food stylist, and I were behind schedule: Jonathan Wong, the photographer, was shooting the first dish, but the next three recipes we planned to make were hours away from being ready. I made an executive decision: we'll cook the short ribs in the pressure cooker. Twenty-five minutes after bringing them to pressure, they were tender. We took the meat out of the pot, simmered the sauce over a high flame to reduce it, adding in other ingredients that didn't need to be cooked for as long and adjusting the seasoning, and the dish was ready in less than 90 minutes.
Short ribs in rioja (pictured)
If you don't have a pressure cooker, prepare this dish in a heavy pan over a low flame - but bear in mind, it will take at least three hours to cook, and you'll need to use more liquid. The presentation will probably be nicer, though, especially if you use an enamelled cast-iron pot (such as those by Le Creuset or Staub). A pressure cooker is not attractive enough to use as a serving dish.
1kg short ribs, cut through the bone into pieces about 2cm wide
About 45ml cooking oil, divided
2 onions, sliced about 1cm thick
6-10 large garlic cloves, peeled
400ml unsalted chicken stock, preferably home-made (or use water)
10 shallots, peeled
About 350 grams button mushrooms (if they're large, halve or quarter them)
200 grams pancetta, sliced about 5mm thick, then cut into 5mm-wide pieces
250 grams carrots, cut into 1cm cubes
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Over a high flame, heat 15ml of oil in a pressure cooker that holds 4.5 to six litres. When the oil is hot, brown the meaty sides of the short ribs. Do this in batches and turn them over as needed. Put the short ribs back into the pot and add the onion, garlic cloves, rioja, chicken stock, anchovies and a teaspoon of salt. Put the lid on the pressure cooker and lock it, then place it over a high flame. When it reaches maximum pressure, reduce the heat. Cook at maximum pressure for 25 minutes (longer if the short ribs are thicker).
While the short ribs are cooking, prepare the other ingredients. Heat 10ml of oil in a wok or skillet placed over a high flame. Add the shallots and briefly brown them, then put them in a medium-sized bowl. Add 10ml of oil to the wok or skillet and half the mushrooms and a sprinkling of salt. Cook the mushrooms over a high flame to brown them, turning them over as needed. Put them in the bowl with the shallots, and repeat with more oil and the remaining mushrooms. Put the pancetta in the wok or skillet and stir-fry over a medium-high flame, until the pieces are brown, then transfer them to a small bowl.
After the short ribs have cooked for 25 minutes, remove the pot from the heat and let the pressure drop naturally. When it's fully depressurised, remove the lid. Carefully take the short ribs from the pot (they'll be very tender) and put them into a large bowl. Use a slotted skimmer to remove the onion and garlic from the pot. Skim off as much fat as possible from the surface of the liquid. Place the pot back on the stove over a high flame and add the pancetta. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer. While the liquid is simmering, purée the onion and garlic in a food processor or blender. Stir the purée into the pot of simmering liquid. When the liquid has reduced to half the amount, add the shallots and mushrooms, then simmer for 10 minutes. Add the carrot and simmer for 10 more minutes, then stir in some black pepper and salt, if needed. Put the short ribs back into the pot and cook just long enough to heat the meat. Transfer the ingredients to a deep dish and serve immediately.
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