Age of steam: Mark Hix invests in a pressure cooker

It can save precious time in the kitchen and is the perfect piece of kit for conjuring up warming soups and stews.

We have just installed a high-tech Frima pressure cooker in the new restaurant in Belgravia which means that we can cut the cooking time of many of our slow-cooked dishes and stocks. To give you an idea, a normal veal stock would need six hours of simmering time and with this brilliant contraption, it now takes just three hours. It can cook overnight and turn itself off – when we rock up for work in the morning all the hard work is done!

I've recently replaced my home pressure cooker with a Fissler. It's not a Frima, of course, but it cuts down the cooking time for all sorts of things that normally simmer away on the back of the stove for hours just creating steam. And it has many uses, from making gravy to cooking vegetables such as beetroot – which otherwise take forever to cook. It's become an essential part of my home kitchen saucepan collection.

Braised oxtail with celery

Serves 4

Oxtail can take anything from 1-2 hours to cook – in a pressure cooker, however, it takes only about one hour, and you'll find there are no fumes in your house, either.

1.5 kg oxtail, cut into 2-3cm thick pieces and trimmed of any excess fat
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1tsp fresh thyme leaves
80g butter, plus more for the carrots
70g flour, plus a little extra for dusting
2tsp tomato purée
200ml red wine
3 litres beef stock or a couple of good-quality stock cubes, dissolved in 2 litres of hot water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large or 2 small heads of celery

Preheat the oven to 220C/gas mark 7. Season the pieces of oxtail and lightly dust them with flour. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes, turning them halfway through to make sure they're nicely coloured on both sides. Meanwhile, heat 60g of the butter in the pressure cooker pan and gently cook the onion, garlic and thyme for 3-4 minutes until soft, stirring every so often. Add the flour and tomato purée and stir well. Gradually add in the red wine and stock, stirring well to avoid lumps forming, and bring to the boil. Add the pieces of oxtail then close and secure the pressure cooker lid.

Cook on the lowest heat for 45 minutes then remove from the heat and release the pressure and remove the lid. Check the pieces of oxtail. The meat should be tender and easily removed from the bone; if not, replace the lid and cook for another 15 minutes or so.

If you haven't got a pressure cooker, allow up to 2 hours to cook the oxtail in a covered pan on a low heat preferably with a simmering plate. Check after one and half hours to see if it's tender. Remove the oxtail pieces and put to one side.

Skim the fat from the sauce in the pressure cooker with a ladle (if the sauce is not thick enough, drain it off into another pan and simmer until it thickens, skimming every so often).

Meanwhile, remove any excess root from the celery, but not too much as you want it to remain intact, then trim it to about 8-9cm in length and keep the trimmings for a stock or soup (see the following oxtail broth recipe). If the outer stems are stringy, then carefully peel them. Cut the celery into 4 lengths and place in the oxtail sauce. Put the lid back on the pressure cooker and close it and cook for 15 minutes.

Remove the celery and keep warm, return the pieces of oxtail to the pressure cooker and reheat for 4-5 minutes. Spoon the oxtail and sauce into bowls with the celery. Reserve any extra sauce for the soup below.

Oxtail broth with winter pulses

Serves 4-6

If you are making the braised oxtail above, then it makes sense to cook a little extra and use the skinny tail pieces for a hearty soup. You can buy packets of mixed, quick-cooking, small, dried pulses from good supermarkets these days which is perfect for soups like this. Some don't even need soaking, so check the packet.

A good knob of butter
1 small onion, peeled, halved and finely chopped
A few sticks of celery from the recipe above, cut into rough cm dice
1 small carrot, trimmed, peeled and cut into rough cm dice
A couple of sprigs of thyme
60g small dried pulses, soaked for 2-3 hours in cold water
The remaining sauce from the oxtail plus extra beef stock to make it up to about 1.5ltrs
The remaining small ends of oxtail removed from the bone
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Melt the butter in a heavy-based saucepan and gently cook the onion, celery, carrot and thyme for 2-3 minutes, without colouring, until it softens.

Add the remaining sauce and stock, bring to the boil, add the pulses and simmer very gently for about 30 minutes or until the pulses are tender. Add the pieces of oxtail, season and simmer for a couple of minutes, then serve.

Quick chicken stock

Makes a couple of litres

A pressure cooker is perfect for making great quick stocks and by simply blanching the bones first you don't need to go to all the trouble of laboriously clarifying the stock with egg whites and minced chicken.

2 chicken thighs, skinned if making the soup below
A couple of raw chicken carcasses, chopped into 4 or 5 pieces
1 small onion, peeled and quartered
2-3 sticks of celery, roughly chopped and washed
1 small leek, roughly chopped and washed
10 black peppercorns
A few sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
1tsp salt
1 chicken stock cube

Put the chicken thighs and bones in the pressure cooking pan without the lid, cover with cold water, bring to the boil then drain and rinse with cold water. Return to the pressure cooker pan with the rest of the ingredients and add 2.5 litres of water. Bring to a simmer, close and secure the pressure cooker lid and cook on a low temperature for 30 minutes. Remove from the pressure cooker and strain through a fine-meshed sieve, reserving the thighs if using and making the consommé below. The stock should have a nice strong flavour; if not, just simmer for a further 10-15 minutes until it strengthens and re-season if necessary.

Consommé julienne

Serves 4-6

This is a classic consommé that I learnt in my college days. At home, no one can really be bothered to go to the trouble of making a clear soup, but if you use the simple method in the recipe above you'll find it considerably easier. Julienne is a culinary term for finely-shredding vegetables into matchstick-like pieces which you can do on a mandolin or by cutting with a very sharp knife.

The stock from above
1 medium carrot, peeled, trimmed and cut into 3cm-long matchstick strips
A couple of sticks of celery, peeled if necessary and cut into 3cm-long matchstick strips
1 small or half a leek cut into 3cm-long matchstick strips and washed
The two chicken thighs from above, finely shredded

Bring the stock to the boil, add the vegetables and simmer for a minute or so until just cooked, then add the chicken and serve.

News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
Life and Style
CHARGE BOOSTER: Aeroplane mode doesn't sound very exciting, but it can be a (phone) hacker's friend. Turning on the option while charging your mobile will increase the speed at which your phone battery charges
techNew book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    SCRUM Master

    £30 - 50k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a SCRUM Master to joi...

    Franchise Support Assistant

    £13,520: Recruitment Genius: As this role can be customer facing at times, the...

    Financial Controller

    £50000 - £60000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A successful entertainment, even...

    Direct Marketing Executive - Offline - SW London

    £25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A fantastic opportunity h...

    Day In a Page

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
    Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

    'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

    The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
    Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

    Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

    A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
    The 10 best smartphone accessories

    Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

    Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

    Liverpool v Real Madrid

    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
    West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?