Slow Cooker & Pressure Cooker Risotto Bolognese

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Slow Cooker & Pressure Cooker Risotto Bolognese

"It's setting everything in the wrong time zone! It set my lunch date for 2am" I wailed after putting in an entire month's worth of appointments.

"Calm down" he said.

"Forget it, I don't want it" I said and I may have even stomped off in a pouty tantrum. After that I was still resistant. I had an appointment with my beautician who is so sought after that I need to book her 3-4 months in advance. So I did what any slightly technology inept person would. The next time I was in her salon and we needed to make appointment I fished out my large paper desk calendar from my bag much to her alarm and we coordinated dates. Luckily large bags are in fashion and I can bring large desk calendars with me. But I did see his point. I would need to be more at one with technology.

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I had the new Breville Fast Slow Cooker sitting in the apartment for weeks before I dared go near it. It was sent to me from the nice people at Breville and whilst I loved the idea of it, I was too busy and phobic to first open it. Until I came across a recipe that I wanted to make in it. Then I couldn't rip open the packaging fast enough. I first saw the recipe for risotto bolognese on Claire's lovely site where she baked it in the oven I knew that I would just have to make it. My adopted mum Barbara in the US then made it also after having seen it on Claire's site and I was just waiting for the right moment to do it. Instead of doing it in an oven I wanted to test it out in the Fast Slow Cooker. Last year, slow cookers were incredibly popular which if I can brutally honest, didn't quite understand. I love pressure cookers which cook things in a quarter of the time.

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I recall hearing a joke about the late Elizabeth Taylor (RIP) from Joan Rivers saying that she was the only person that told a microwave to hurry up. Well I do that too and the idea of waiting 6 or 8 hours for food to be made while smelling its delicious aroma was too much for me. The slow cooker isn't really aimed at me as I work from home and I do understand the idea of having a lovely meal waiting for your when you get home after a day at work. But for me I used one a couple of times and then gave it to my mother. I also just don't like having appliances on while I am out of the house.

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The pressure cooker however was just my sort of thing. Cooking something in a quarter of the time appealed to me enormously. I know that people are frightened of pressure cookers and to be honest I am still quite jittery but I've never had an accident using mine (touches wood) and neither has my mother who adores hers. So I thought what better recipe to try this on that the risotto bolognese as risottos work well in both a slow and a fast cooker. I didn't use risotto rice but instead used Arroz Cebolla which is a Spanish paella rice that I was sent in a Spanish hamper from Emirates Airlines to publicise their new Madrid route. It's not a risotto rice but it would have to do.

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When the pressure cooker has done its job (and to see a comprehensive review of the cooker please read below) it looked like it wasn't ready as the liquid was all pooled at the top but once I stirred it around and allowed it to cool a little I tried it. My god it was good. The sauce was creamy and flavoursome, it wasn't too dry and the rice was perfectly cooked. Even the risotto hater Mr NQN scoffed his share and went back for more and more. This is the kind of dish that I would imagine entire families loving. There were a few browned rice pieces on the base which came off easily and truth be told I love these slightly crunchy bits.

Buoyed by the success of the pressure cooked version I then tried the slow cooker version. This of course tested my patience more than Mr NQN's messiness ever could. By the end of the six hours I was chomping at the bit having being tempted by the aromas for hours. The texture of the rice was also softer almost like a congee and perhaps cooking this for a shorter amount of time might have been better (although there is only a choice of 6 or 8 hours). Out of the two I preferred the pressure cooked version but if you're in the mood for ultra soft comfort food (or even baby food) the slow cooker version might suit. But do try this wonderfully comforting recipe whether it be cooked in the oven or slow or fast cooker as it's moreishly good and rib sticking with the seasoned soft mince and thickly sauced rice. Just the perfect meal for this sudden onset of Winter!

So tell me Dear Reader, do you prefer slow or pressure cookers? Dutch ovens? Or something else?

Risotto Bolognese

Adapted from Claire K Creations, originally from Nigella Kitchen

  • 1 onion

  • 1 carrot

  • 1 stick of celery

  • 1 clove garlic

  • 75g bacon

  • 4 anchovy fillets (I used white anchovies)

  • 1 tablespoon oil

  • 250g/half a pound minced beef

  • 1/2 cup red wine

  • 250g risotto rice (I used paella rice, naughty!)

  • 400g diced tomatoes

  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste

  • 2 tablespoons milk

  • 6 cups beef stock

  • 2 bay leaves

  • salt and black pepper to season

Using the Breville Fast Slow Cooker as a pressure cooker:

There are some basic rules to using pressure cookers:

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  • Make sure the silicon seal is in good condition and attached properly

-Do not move the pressure cooker while it is cooking

  • Ensure that the valve is set to release steam while it is cooking

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Pressure cooker risotto

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The Breville Fast Slow cooker ($199) is easy enough to use. I don't like equipment that you have to do too much to when you take it out of a box (putting together Ikea furniture is solely Mr NQN's domain) and this is pretty much push in the plug and go. The non stick insert allows you to sear meat and vegetables before they are slow or fast cooked which is handy and there's also a steamer insert and steamer setting should you want to. And the interesting part is that this 6 litre cooker actually the same price as their 7 litre slow cooker ($199) by itself which begs the question why would someone buy a slow cooker if they can get a slow and fast cooker together. Apparently they know that people are scared of pressure cookers.

The first day I ran out of time to make this in a slow cooker in time for the best light for photographs so I started off pressure cooking the risotto. The searing was easy and the instructions easy to follow. It's pretty much sear everything and then add the liquid and rice and then put the lid on and press function, the time you wanted and then start (which is also the cancel button). One important thing that I found a bit ambiguous in the instructions was a vital one which was make sure that the valve is set to release steam. Now from looking at the picture and instruction book the only hint was the arrow that was going anti clockwise. I moved it anti clockwise but I wasn't sure how far and so a little worried I turned it on and set it to cook for 12 minutes and then left the kitchen taking all my valuables in tow just in case...

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It seemed to work and over the next 12 minutes I heard some steam hissing from the pressure cooker and everything seemed to be in order. However it does take some time to get up to the steaming level so you will wait about 10 minutes or so and then the 12 minute count down will begin. One thing that I did notice however on subsequent uses is that it is possible to use the pressure cooker without the timer. That is, I thought I set the timer but I forgot to hit start as I was busy talking on the phone. However the pressure cooker started working and it was only when I thought that the time was up that I wandered back into the kitchen only to see that the timer hadn't started but the pressure cooker had started. That seemed a bit strange and really _not _how you want it to be.

I heard a beep and my risotto was ready. I wasn't sure what to do now-did I let enough steam escape already? There was a steam release button  which I pressed which made the valve release a tiny more amount of steam. Just in case I waited another 10 minutes to let it settle down before opening the lid. I stirred it around and voila, it was ready!

Instructions for pressure cooker risotto bolognese:

Step 1 - In a food processor blend the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, bacon and anchovy until chopped finely-you can even take this towards a paste too. Heat the searing insert and once hot add the oil and cook it until soft for five minutes. You can also set it to sear for five minutes while you stir it.

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Step 2 - Add the mince and brown it by breaking it up as you brown it. Add the wine, tomatoes, tomato paste, milk, stock, rice (I didn't wash the rice before putting it in as I wanted to give it extra starch) and bay leaves. Set it to pressure cook for 12 minutes (or 10 minutes if you want more sauce). Ensure that all pressure is release by pressing release steam button. Remove lid and season with salt and pepper.

*Using the Breville Fast Slow Cooker as a slow cooker:*

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The next day I tried it out with the slow cooker function. The night before I had already prepped the soffritto base and had it all ready to sear by the time I started at 10am (a girl needs a cup of tea and to check her emails before doing anything like this).  I seared the vegetables and meat and used the same amount of ingredients. I had removed the silicon seal and washed it the previous day so I put it back in and put the lid back on. The lid wouldn't go on and the slow cooker started beeping at me insistently. I went back to the instruction booklet and saw that I needed to put the silicon seal with the arrows facing up and if it wasn't inserted properly the lid wouldn't fit and beeping would ensue.

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Countdown, 15 minutes!

I was quite glad of this safety precaution as it's not such a big issue for a slow cooker but the seal is very important for when you are pressure cooking and it's not immediately obvious when you're putting the seal back into the lid as it fits both right way up and the wrong way up. I then set the slow cooker to cook for six hours and waited and waited. "Hurry up!" I said to it. The aroma was tempting me like a pair of the latest sparkly Louboutins and I had to stop myself from opening it up and peeking inside. "Damn you slow cooker! If I had made you using the fast cooker setting I would be eating it by now!" Yes I talk to myself and my appliances a lot. Another result of working from home by yourself.

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One thing that some people may not like is not having a glass lid so that you can see how the food is progressing. Here it has a metal lid and it was only after the first hour when the time changed from saying 6 hours to read 5 hours remaining that I knew that it was working. I think a count down for the minutes rather than just the hours or some sort of indication that the slow cooker has started cooking would be a good idea.

After six hours of inhaling delicious aromas I opened up the slow cooker. The mince has come to the top and rice was a bed underneath. The rice having been slow cooked also had not stuck to the bottom. It did look quite different to the pressure cooked risotto. The pressure cooker risotto was more vivid orangey red in colour whereas the colour for the slow cooked version was paler and more washed out in colour.

In terms of price, there are much less expensive slow cookers and fast cookers on the market so it depends on what you're willing to spend. Slow cookers start at around $50 by themselves and pressure cookers start around $80 but of course with this you get the both in one plus a steamer and the searing function. I preferred this pressure cooker to my mother's as there were more indicators and safety catches although there was the ambiguity with the valve that I experienced which I am told they are now going to change in the design.

Instructions for slow cooker risotto bolognese:

The seals and pressure valves aren't relevant for the slow cooker. I used the exact same recipe and cooked it for 6 hours as that was the shortest period of time specified. The rice was a little too soft for me so I'd recommend perhaps cooking it for 4 hours.

Summary of the Breville Fast Slow Cooker - $199

Pros:

-Being able to sear in the same pot as you cook so less dishes

-LED display makes it very easy and precise with cooking times

-Some safety catches such as the one with the silicon seal

-You get the two cookers in one so it requires less space

-Very easy to work and close and open

Cons:

-The steam release valve is ambiguous for such an important function (this will be fixed in later models)

-You can't tell whether the slow cooker is working until an hour has elapsed and the time changes

-The cooker can work independently of the timer

-No glass lid to see how food is progressing (slow cookers usually have glass lids)

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Slow cooker risotto