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Sunday, July 19, 2009

The pressure test: Sweet Corn and Basil Soup



It's only in winter that I hanker for the warming qualities of a piping hot bowl of thick, nourishing belly-satisfying soup.

Ever since Minh posted her adapted recipe for the Sweet Corn and Basil Veloute by Justin North, I'd bookmarked it for future reference. It sounded rich and sweet and I loved the idea of making a soup using a stock simply by boiling corn cobs.

Following an off-hand remark about my intent to purchase a pressure cooker, I was recently sent three different brands to test by the lovely Peter from KitchenwareDirect. Whilst I have several colleagues who are huge fans of the speed and convenience of pressure cookers, I had yet to try cooking with one myself. Faced with three gleaming pressure cookers, I decided to put them to work simultaneously for a three-course dinner party, each one responsible for a different dish.


Cuisinart pressure cooker

The Cuisinart pressure cooker is one of the few electric pressure cookers on the market. I was also excited to see it featured in Thursday night's episode of MasterChef when Chris used it to cook his pig's trotters and beef cheeks.

Pressure cookers work by trapping steam, creating an internal pressure that allows water to boil at a higher temperature. Food cooks faster and it is said that less nutrients are lost due to the shorter cooking time.

Most pressure cookers have a Low Pressure and a High Pressure option - high pressure means food cooks at a higher temperature and therefore faster. As the pressure rises, the float valve rises. The pressure that has built up inside the pot can either be realised manually, known as Quick Release, where the valve is flicked by the user and the steam escapes rapidly. Otherwise the temperature will drop by itself and the steam is released slowly, also known as Natural Release. The food will continue to cook if Natural Release is used. The float valve will drop when all the steam has been released.

In this instance, the pressure cooker didn't save much on cooking time but I didn't have to worry about skimming the soup as it boiled. Whilst there's always a an element of trepidation the first couple of times you use a pressure cooker, the fact this was electric was exceptionally handy as the heat was automatically regulated and a timer function let you know with a beep when it was ready.

Automatic heat regulation is a godsend for anyone with an electric stove (*sob* me). It also means another burner free on the stove, and when you're cooking for a dinner party, that's always a good thing!



Sweet Corn and Basil Soup
Adapted from eatshow&tell who adapted it from French Lessons by Justin North.
I upped the corn and the basil for extra intensity.

A rich and velvety soup that is sweet with the flavour of fresh corn, a hint of garlic and the aroma of basil.

If you don't have a presure cooker, simply use a pot on the stove and simmer for the times show, adding an additional five minutes for each cooking time. Increase the amount of water to 3 litres.

8 whole cobs of corn
2.5 litres of water
1 whole garlic bulb
8 sprigs of thyme
80g unsalted butter
1 onion, finely sliced
salt and pepper
100ml pouring cream
Whole bunch of basil leaves

Snap the whole corn cobs in half and use a knife or corn zipper to remove the corn kernels. Set aside the corn kernels in a bowl.

Cut the cobs into half again and place into the pressure cooker. Add half the bulb of garlic (smash the cloves with the flat of a knife but leave the skin on) and four sprigs of thyme. Pour in 2.5 litres of water.

Lock the lid into place and select High Pressure. Set the timer for 20 minutes.

Whilst the stock is boiling, peel and finely slice the remaining half bulb of garlic.

When the audible beep sounds on the pressure cooker, use the Natural Pressure Release to release all the steam. When the float valve drops, remove the lid carefully, tilting the lid away from you to provide a barrier against the escaping steam.

Remove the corn corns and strain the stock through a sieve over another pot to remove the garlic and thyme.

Return the inner bowl back to the pressure cooker and select Saute. Add the butter and allow it to melt. Add the sliced garlic and onions and saute until the onion changes colour. Add the corn kernels. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for a few minutes.

Add the corn stock and the remaining thyme. Lock the lid into place and select High Pressure. Set the timer for 20 minutes. When the audible beep sounds on the pressure cooker, use the Natural Pressure Release to release all the steam. When the float valve drops, remove the lid carefully, tilting the lid away from you.

Transfer the stock to a pot on the stove. Remove the thyme and add the cream. Bring the soup back to a gentle simmer. Remove from heat and use a stick blender to puree. There will be lots of corn bits - don't worry, these will be sieved out later.

Add the whole bunch of basil leaves--bruised with the back of a heavy knife--and place lid back on pot. Leave for 30 minutes to infuse.

Pour the soup through a fine sieve in batches, using the back of a spoon to push the thick soup through. Taste and season with more salt and pepper if needed.

Serve hot.

Keeps in the fridge for 3 days. Not suitable for freezing.


Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Pressure cooker recipe: Beef and Guinness stew

Pressure cooker recipe: Lemon cheesecake

Bill Granger's corn fritters

11 comments - Add some comment love

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posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 7/19/2009 03:03:00 am


11 Comments:

  • At 7/19/2009 7:25 am, Blogger Marilyn Rodrigues said…

    My mum used to have a pressure cooker exclusively to cook rice. Now my stovetop rice is quite good not sure I'm sold on the cooker concept. I wonder how long the soup takes to cook without it? Thanks for the recipe, will have to go to the markets to get some fresh corn.

     
  • At 7/19/2009 9:32 am, Blogger Peter G said…

    Lucky you! Pressure cookers are so 70's! But very useful indeed! Mmmm...the combination of ingredients sounds delish!

     
  • At 7/19/2009 4:20 pm, Blogger TimChuma said…

    I've seen a steam value blow off a pressure cooker once, made a lot of noise and the valve hit the ceiling and fell down again. Was one of the old-school ones though.

     
  • At 7/19/2009 5:46 pm, Blogger Karen said…

    Hehehe how cool to receive three pressure cookers! I haven't tried one yet...my mom use to have an old one that made a hell of a noise! But it was handy using it to make red bean soup or black glutinous desserts because of the drastically reduced cooking times.

     
  • At 7/19/2009 10:08 pm, Blogger FFichiban said…

    Ooh will you be doing some trotters and beef cheeks to go with this soup mmm? Just had red bean soup recently via pressure cooker... so good ^^!

     
  • At 7/20/2009 1:56 am, Blogger Helen (AugustusGloop) said…

    Hi Marilyn - I did read about using a pressure cooker to cook rice but I'm not keen on having to cook in so much water - anything else but the absorption method seems like sacrilege! lol.

    I've amended the recipe notes so those without a pressure cooker can still use it. Otherwise you can refer to EatShow&Tell's original recipe for her stove-top method.

    Hi Peter G - And just like everything else from the 70s, pressure cookers are so in right now! They're a great time-saving device and seem to work really well with tenderising meat.

    Hi Tim - Now don't go scaring people. I admit I was a little nervous but I think most pressure cookers these days all come with safety locks so there's a lot less danger involved!

    Hi Karen - The whistling noise is a little freaky. I admit I kept hovering in my kitchen to monitor it. I love the idea of using it to make red bean soup or black glutinous desserts. What a fantastic idea! Why didn't that suggestion come in the accompanying recipe book! lol

    Hi FFichiban - Oh didn't realise so many people used pressure cookers to make red bean dessert. I wonder if you could use it to make congee too?

     
  • At 7/20/2009 8:40 am, Anonymous Veruca Salt said…

    Good thing your testing out pressure cookers. Mum wants one but I was worried about any safety issues. The whistling noise would freak me out.

    Iron chefs manually release theirs and you just see all this steam rushing out.

    Was eyeing the Cuisinart after seeing it on Masterchef.

     
  • At 7/20/2009 9:26 am, Anonymous Minh said…

    Mmm I love the colour of that soup! Glad you enjoyed it :D

    I remember my mum using a pressure cooker for curry, I get a bit worried using pressure cookers just because I can't see how it all going!

     
  • At 7/20/2009 1:01 pm, Blogger Forager said…

    Never tried to use a pressure cooker for soup! Interesting! The soup sounds very nice. The colour and combination of flavours sound/look like they'd marry very well together. Yum! What's that corn dish Tetsuya makes? That's probably the best tasting "corn soup" I've ever tried..

     
  • At 7/20/2009 1:57 pm, Blogger Debzillah said…

    UH! Noooooooo!! Wait, come back!! You've left me on the edge, in suspense, I'm hanging here! I need closure! What were the other 2 pressure cookers? The other 2 dishes? The menu of your dinner party? Was it a success?? I WANT TO KNOWWWWWWW.... kthxbai :)

     
  • At 7/21/2009 12:19 am, Blogger Helen (AugustusGloop) said…

    Hi Veruca Salt - The whistling noise is a little freaky. I released all of mine manually and yes, the steam rush is crazy.

    I liked the ease of the Cuisinart - I'll post a quick review comparing the three once I've posted all the recipes.

    Hi Minh - The soup was so yum - thanks so much for sharing the recipe. I kept the leftovers in the fridge and it made for every handy leftovers.

    I agree, it's quite stressful how you can't monitor its progress. I guess you guess used to it. Am determined to get more practice in!

    Hi Forager - Oh yes Tets' cold corn soup with basil ice cream was amazing.

    Hi Debzillah - lol. Don't worry, the posts will be coming! The mains will be served this week, I promise :)

     

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