Full steam ahead: Mark Hix reveals the pleasures of pressure cooking

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Long, slow cooking is all very well, says our man in the kitchen, but when you want to cook up a storm in a hurry, a pressure cooker will prove invaluable.

It's probably a couple of years now since I last encouraged you to brush the cobwebs off your pressure cooker and put it to good use. In the meantime I've been using mine just as much as ever, and recently I have even invested in a Prestige electric pressure cooker which is absolutely fantastic – you just plug it in, set the timer and go.

If you are the kind of cook that tends to get put off by the idea of long, slow cooking, then it's time to invest in a pressure cooker. I know you may just think it's a piece of kit from the Dark Ages that your grandmother used to cook with, but it really does cut the cooking time down by 50 per cent and keeps in all of the flavour.

I find this old-fashioned gadget really useful at home for making stock, which often requires long cooking; with a pressure cooker you can knock up an intense stock in no time. Furthermore, because a pressure cooker doesn't actually boil the liquid, your stock will come out nice and clear and good enough to pass as a consommé.

Game and turnip broth

Serves 6-8

I've used some deer shanks here but you could use any slow-cooking cut such as the neck or shoulder, or other game birds.

1 deer shank or other slow-cooking game cut, weighing about 600-800g
1 large onion, peeled, halved and finely chopped
A couple of sprigs of thyme
3ltrs chicken or beef stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

To serve

3-4 medium-sized turnips, peeled and cut into rough 1cm dice or larger if you wish
2tbsp chopped parsley

Put the deer into a pressure cooker with the onion, thyme and stock, season lightly, bring up to pressure and cook for an hour. This should be enough time, depending on the cut – if it's not tender, continue cooking.

Once the meat is tender, remove the meat from the cooking liquid and leave to cool a little in a plate to catch any juices. Simmer the cooking liquor until it's nice and strong; then season to taste if necessary.

Cut the meat into chunks about the same size as the turnips and return to the cooking liquor with the turnips.

Simmer for about 6-8 minutes – until tender – then add the parsley and simmer for another minute; serve.

Lamb pudding

Serves 4-6

Vegetable oil, to fry
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2tbsp plain flour
600g neck of lamb fillet, cut into 3cm cubes
2 lamb's tongues
6 lamb's kidneys
25g butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
1tsp tomato paste
Glass of good red wine
150ml stout
1.5 litres lamb or beef stock (or good-quality stock cubes will do)
A sprig of thyme
Half a bay leaf
About 1 teaspoon cornflour (optional)

For the suet pastry

250g self-raising flour
125g shredded beef suet
150ml milk

Heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan. Season and lightly flour the neck of lamb with half a tablespoon of the flour, then fry it in 2 or 3 batches until browned. Do the same with the kidneys; put to one side. Heat the butter in the base of the pressure cooker; fry the onion for a few minutes until soft.

Add the remaining flour and the tomato paste; stir over a low heat for a minute. Slowly add the wine and stout, stirring to avoid lumps. Bring to a simmer, add the thyme and bay leaf; simmer until it has reduced by half. Add the beef stock and the pieces of lamb and the whole tongues, bring back to the boil, close the lid and cook for about 40 minutes or until the meat is tender.

When the meat is cooked, remove the pieces of neck and the tongues; put to one side to cool a little. The sauce should have thickened to a thick consistency. If not, mix a little cornflour to a paste with water, stir into the sauce and simmer for a few minutes until it thickens. Leave to cool. Remove the skin from the tongue and cut into chunks the same size as the lamb neck. Add the neck, tongue and kidneys back to the sauce once cool.

Meanwhile, make the pastry: mix the flour and suet together in a bowl, then gradually mix in the milk to form a dough. The dough should be soft but firm enough to roll out into a circle large enough to line a 1.5 litre pudding basin, or individual ones. Cut a quarter out of the circle for the lid and to ease the lining of the bowl.

Butter the pudding basin well, drop the pastry into it; join up the edges where the quarter was removed. Remould the pastry for the top and roll it out to the correct size. Spoon the filling into the pudding mould, leaving any excess sauce to serve once cooked. Lay the pastry lid on top and press the edges together so that the filling is sealed in.

Cut a piece of foil big enough to fit over the top of the basin and come halfway down the sides, making a pleat down the middle to allow for expansion. Tie it in place with some string, making a string handle so it can be lifted when topping up with water. Clean your pressure cooker, pour in about 3-4cm hot water and lower the pudding or puddings into it. Close the lid and cook for 45 minutes. Serve immediately with extra sauce.

Braised shin of pork

Serves 4

This cut is known as osso buco in Italian and is used to make the famous osso buco Milanese, but is more normally made with veal. The shin is cut through about 3-4cm thick and can be used in all sorts of ways, incorporating seasonal vegetables or even Moroccan-style in a tagine.

Your butcher may well not have this cut but you can buy it from Donald Russell (donaldrussell.com), all cut and ready to go.

You can serve this delicious recipe with cheesy mashed potato or creamy polenta.

4 x 300-350g pieces of shin of pork (osso buco)
Vegetable oil for frying
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
80g of butter
1 onion, peeled, halved and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
2tbsp flour, plus extra for dusting
2tsp tomato purée
1 bay leaf
A couple of sprigs of thyme
100ml white wine or cider
1.5ltrs chicken stock
1 leek, trimmed, finely diced and washed
3 sticks of celery, peeled if necessary and finely chopped
The juice and grated zest of 1 orange

Heat 2-3 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a frying pan. Season and lightly flour the pieces of pork; pan fry them for 3-4 minutes on each side until they begin to colour. Remove from the pan; put to one side.

Heat the pressure cooker base on the stove with the butter and cook the onion and garlic on a medium heat for a couple of minutes; then stir in the flour and cook for 30 seconds or so, add the tomato purée, bay leaf, thyme and gradually whisk in the wine and chicken stock. Bring to the boil, season and add the pieces of pork.

Cover with the lid, bring up to pressure and cook for 40 minutes; you may need to give it another 20 minutes or so. Once tender, remove the pieces of pork from the sauce and put to one side.

Add the leeks, celery and orange zest and simmer for 8-10 minutes or until the sauce is coating consistency.

To serve, add the pieces of pork back to the sauce and reheat for a few minutes. Serve with Cheddar mashed potato or creamy polenta.

Earl of Sussex pudding

Serves 4-6

Over the past few years we have been using bergamot in the restaurants for cocktails; the actual bergamot orange is a fine fruit that is grown in southern Italy and is a member of the citrus family, but is more well known for flavouring Earl Grey tea than appearing in cocktails. To create this dish, I experimented with the fruit and substituted a lemon for a bergamot and incorporated it into one of my favourite puddings, the Sussex pond.

250g self-raising flour
125g shredded beef suet or vegetable suet
150ml milk
300g unsalted butter, softened
200g soft light brown sugar
1 lemon (or a bergamot if you can get hold of one)

Mix the flour and suet in a bowl. Mix into a dough with the milk. The dough should be firm enough to roll out into a circle large enough to line the pudding basin. Cut a quarter out of the circle, so that you can make a cone shape with the dough to fit more easily in the pudding basin, and leaving you leftover dough for the lid. Put this slice of dough aside. Butter a pudding basin well; drop the pastry into it, flattening it at the bottom, and joining up the edges where the slice was taken out.

Mix the sugar and butter together; put it into the lined basin. Prick the bergamot all over as much as you can with a roasting fork or skewer so that the juices can escape, then push it into the butter mixture.

Remould the pastry for the top and roll it out into a circle to fit the top of the pudding bowl. Lay it over the filling and press the edges of the dough together so that the filling is sealed in. Take a piece of foil big enough to fit over the basin with an extra 5cm all round. Make a pleat down the middle of the foil, place over the top of the basin; tie in place with string like a parcel – with a string handle so it can be lifted in and out of a saucepan.

Put enough water in a pressure cooker to go halfway up the bowl, place the bowl in, bring to the boil, close the lid and cook for 1½hours. Lift out, remove the foil and loosen the sides with a knife. Put a deep dish over the basin and quickly turn upside down. The centre will collapse and the syrup will ooze out. Serve with thick clotted or Jersey cream.

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