Sunday, January 11, 2009

Pressure cooking with my own produce

Happy New Year! Let's hope peace breaks out around the world this year, and the dire economic situation is taken as an opportunity to build a more humane and sustainable economy.

Recently I've been left on my own due to various piano events involving the missus and young master, and so I've been experimenting with making dinner with home-dried ingredients that the missus seems to baulk at using. The results have been most satisfactory to my mind.

We have a 'super-pressure cooker' (a 'kasturyoku nabe' from Asahi Kasei*) which cooks anything in about 1 minute. The first thing I tried was chicken breast with shiitake and wolfberries.

* The word is out on these things. If you want to buy one now, there's a waiting list of several months.

Fry garlic and ginger, then sauté pieces of chicken breast.
Add equal quantities of vegetable oil, sesame oil and sake/shokoshu mix, with sugar and salt in sensible quantities.
Add shiitake with the stems removed, and a suitable quantity of wolfberries (dried).
Bring to the simmer and pressure cook for 1 minute in a super-pressure cooker.
Open the lid and enjoy the smell of ... ramen!

When my family came home, they said "It smells like ramen!" more times than I could count. I served it on rice with boiled broccoli. It had a hearty, wholesome taste and the wolfberries went very well with rice. But the young master was not keen on them and eventually forked the remainder onto my plate, while approving of the chicken, shiitake, and 'ramen' gravy. The many cookery blogs of English-speaking Asians attest to the common theme that wolfberries are not really a children's favourite. Well, tough, they're good for you.

You may recall that in the summer, I sun-dried my excellent mini-tomatoes. The other day I was on my own for dinner and I made a risotto with sun-dried tomatoes and minced pork.

Simmer sun-dried oil-stored tomatoes in a pan with a little water (as to quantity, your guess is as good as mine).
In the pressure cooker, sauté garlic and onion in the olive oil from the dried tomatoes, then add pork/beef mince and sauté until sealed. Chicken or white fish would probably do too.
Put the tomatoes in the pressure cooker, and in the remaining water, dissolve a bouillon cube.
Add a seemingly sensible quantity of rice to the sautéed mix and ensure that it's well coated in oil. Then pour on the bouillon water, simmer, and pressure cook for 1 minute.
Open the lid with trepidation and excitement, transfer to a bowl and stir in plenty of black pepper and Parmesan. Top with fresh, chopped Italian parsley.

Since the water content was calibrated extremely roughly, the result was something between risotto and congee. However, the rice was pleasantly al dente even if the consistency overall was a little sloppy. The tomatoes had the same characteristics as when they were fresh; sweet, tangy flesh, and rather tough skins. The sweet, tangy taste more than made up for the toughness, and drying them intensified the flavour. The whole mélange was very agreeable, especially with a glass of white wine.

From this I conclude something of interest to the agriculture and food culture of Ehime and to parts of Japan with a similar climate. Both mini tomatoes and wolfberries can be grown without the use of chemical fertilizers, and can be preserved relatively easily by sun-drying. They can also be combined with readily available foodstuffs to make delicious, healthy, and easily prepared dishes. Nota bene as we Latins say.

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