Sunday 5 June 2011

BBQ Pork Wonton Noodle Soup

I have a new pressure cooker! They have a bit of a reputation because older models had a tendency to explode, covering kitchens in pea soup. New ones have multiple safety features - you simply can't open them if they're under pressure, and the valves let the pressure release safely. The science of a pressure cooker is based on the principle that water boils at a higher temperature when it's under pressure. So you can gently simmer your food at 150 degrees or more without the water boiling. So tough foods like meat on the bone, dried legumes and root vegetables cook in a fraction of the time. 

I see the pressure cooker as the opposite of a slow cooker. In a slow cooker, you throw everything in, turn it on and go enjoy your day, knowing that dinner will be ready when you get home. A pressure cooker gets used when you realise that you wanted to cook curry for dinner but got home late and only have 45 minutes to get dinner cooked. It requires your attention but rewards you with super fast results. Both are handy if you're busy, so it's no wonder they've had a revival.

Heston Blumenthal recommends using a pressure cooker to make stock. The higher temperature means that you extract more flavour from the ingredients, without losing flavour and volume from evaporation. Best of all, it takes less than an hour to make a pot of rich stock, so it's not only better, but much easier!

I've never had much success making my own stock. It always seemed to be insipid and watery - not tasty like the commercial made stuff. So I was very keen to try making stock in the pressure cooker. I'd saved a fresh chicken carcass and some chicken wings just for this purpose. Because I wanted to make an asian soup, I added carrot, celery, onion, peppercorns, star anise and some dried shittake mushroom. After it reached full pressure it cooked for approximately 1 hour, and the result was a beautiful, fragrant golden stock with plenty of gelatin - success!

The only thing left to do was season it up with some soy, shaoshing wine and fresh ginger, and turn it into a fabulously warming soup with some home made pork wontons. 

Next challenge - to make some brown meat stock - french onion soup perhaps?

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