This week author and food writer Catherine Phipps shares 10 things you need to know about modern pressure cooking with lots of tips and tricks on how to get the best out of this eco-friendly, low-cost cooking method.


Listen out for next week's episode to hear Eleanor Ford share 10 things you need to know about the ancient spice trails.

Food writer and author Catherine Phipps explains how this gadget can save you time and energy

Cooking veg

Most people associate pressure cookers with meaty casseroles, stews, soups and stocks. But I’ve developed lots of different ways of cooking vegetables to retain their nutrients and freshness. You also get a good al dente texture – they’re not going to be overcooked and soggy. I do this by cooking them with a small splash of water, sometimes the water that I’ve just washed them in. If it’s greens, I’ll just shake them off, put them in the cooker and that’s it. Or I will do an approximation of roasting, which works really well. If I’m cooking a wedge of cabbage, I’ll fry it quickly in very hot oil – it will go in and sizzle. And then because it’s so hot, I’ll add around 50ml of water then put the lid on very quickly. The pressure comes up almost immediately and it’s done. Just three to four minutes from start to finish.

Intensifying flavours

Pressure cooking intensifies the flavour of things. People have said, “I’ve never tasted broccoli that tastes so much like broccoli” — it really accentuates the sweetness. Carrots are similar. It also intensifies certain spices. A revelation for me was curry leaves, because I find them quite an elusive flavour. I put them in a dhal and the pressure cooker just punched that amazing flavour right the way through. You get more depth of flavour with a pressure cooker. It’s one of the reasons a lot of chefs use them to make stock, because the pressure is pushing out every little bit of flavour into the liquid.


They are extremely versatile. You can use them as a bain marie and they will emulate the type of souped-up steam oven that they have in professional kitchens. So if you’re doing gentle custards, crème caramels, anything like that, they’ll cook really quickly and efficiently. In that way, you can use them for cakes as well, which was a surprise to me. But then I thought, I do steam sponge puddings so it makes sense that a cake would work. Making baked cheesecakes in a pressure cooker is very popular. You get a good texture and they don’t crack. And then there’s also marmalade. Whichever method you’re using, whether it’s boiling the oranges whole or slicing them up and then cooking the peel to soften it, you can do that in a fraction of the time.

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Catherine’s top 3 effortless cooking hacks

LEMONS If you have leftover lemon hulls from squeezing juice, chop them up, cover with sugar and leave to macerate. The sugar will break down into a syrup and the essential oils from the peel will infuse into it.

SALTING BEANS If you are cooking dried beans of any kind, adding salt to the cooking water – especially if you live in a hard-water area – will help cook the beans more efficiently so you have a creamy interior and the bean keeps its shape.


TOMATOES If I’m cooking anything that has a tomato base, like soup or sauce, instead of adding sugar to balance out the acidity, I add a pinch of cinnamon. You won’t taste any spice, it just adds a delightful bit of sweetness.


Janine Ratcliffe Portrait
Janine RatcliffeFood director

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