For speedy, delicious winter comfort food, Simon Hopkinson turns to the pressure cooker.

Beef-and-mushroom pie (serves 4)
Naturally, you can also make this pie filling in the traditional way, cooking everything together slowly either on the stove-top or in the oven but it will take a couple of hours, as opposed to the 25 minutes in
a pressure cooker.

Ingredients
2 beef cheeks, cut into 2cm chunks
2 large onions, roughly, but neatly chopped
10 large flat, dark-gilled mushrooms, roughly, but neatly chopped
1 can beef consommé (approx 400g)—Baxters is a good brand
1tbspn Worcestershire sauce
Scant tspn sea salt
Plenty of freshly ground black pepper
50g butter
40g flour
1 x 320g sheet of all-butter puff pastry
A little beaten egg

Method
Pre-heat the oven to 200˚C/ 400˚F/gas mark 6.

Simply put the first seven ingredients into the pressure cooker, clamp on the lid and bring it up to pressure. Cook for 25 minutes. Strain the resultant broth through a colander into a clean pan and leave the solids to drain for a few minutes.

Tip the meat mixture into a bowl and put to one side, then put the pan of broth onto a low heat and bring up to a simmer. In a small solid pan, melt the butter, stir in the flour and cook this ‘roux’ for about five minutes over a low heat until it’s a sandy colour. Tip this all at once into the hot broth and immediately vigorously whisk together until smooth.

Simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until nicely thickened. Check for seasoning and stir well into the meat mixture. Tip into a dish, allow to cool for about 30 minutes, then cover with the pastry, trimming it to fit your chosen dish. Brush with beaten egg, decorate the edges if you wish and make 3–4 incisions in the pastry to allow steam to escape.

Bake for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 180˚C/ 350˚F/gas mark 4 and bake for a further 30 minutes or so, until the pastry is puffed and golden brown. I love pickled red cabbage with this.

 

Braised beef cheeks with onions (serves 4)
In contrast to the note above regarding the alternative cooking method, here is a traditional braise, but I have also made this successfully in a pressure cooker, too, with excellent results. Once the meat is cooked and for a paltry 45–50 minutes rather than three hours! simply follow the same instructions thereafter.

Ingredients
1.25kg–1.5kg beef cheeks

Salt and freshly ground white pepper
Flour (to dust beef)
2–3tbspn olive oil or, even better, beef dripping
1kg onions, halved and thinly sliced
2 bay leaves
1tbspn red-wine vinegar
2–3tbspn anchovy essence, or to taste
2tbspn finely chopped parsley (curly, for preference), plus a little extra to garnish

Method
Pre-heat the oven to 170˚C/ 325˚F/gas mark 3.

Season the beef well, then evenly dust with flour. Melt the oil/dripping in a large, lidded roomy pot until hot. Lay in the beef cheeks, turn down the heat a little and colour well on all sides, until a rich golden brown. Lift out the meat and remove all fat from the pot with a spoon. Tip in half the onions, return the cheeks to the pot and push them down into the onions. Pop in the bay leaves and cover with the rest of the onions.

Now, take a sheet of greaseproof paper and cut it into a circle slightly bigger than the diameter of the pot lid. Dampen it, lightly grease one side and lightly press it over the onions (greased side down) and also against the side of the pot; this effects a kind of baffle over the ingredients so that steam and juices stay intact, producing a moist, flavoursome result.

Put on the lid, slide the pot into the oven and leave there for one hour.

Have a peek in the pot now and see how the onions are doing; they should be starting to collapse. Don’t disturb them too much, but scrape off any bits that are stuck to the side of the pot. You should, however, be able to see some of the natural juices of the onions seeping out and moistening the assembly.

Replace the paper and lid, return the pot to the oven and continue to cook for a further 1½ hours at 150˚C/300˚F/gas mark 2.

The beef will now be swimming in soft and juicy onions. Push a skewer into one of the cheeks to see how tender it is; there should be little resistance. Lift the cheeks out of the onions, then put them into a small roasting tin and cover with foil. Place the tray in the oven, turn it off and deal with the onions.

First, remove the bay leaves, then stir in the vinegar and anchovy essence, place the pot over a high heat and bring the onions and their juices to a simmer. Quietly reduce this mixture, stirring occasionally until it starts to become a delicious, sticky mass.

To finish the dish, check for seasoning; you shouldn’t need any extra salt, due to the anchovy essence, but I would always add more pepper at this stage, as I like the dish quite so.

Finally, stir in the parsley. Remove the cheeks from the oven (if any meaty juices have been exuded, add them to the onions) and slice them thickly. Arrange onto a hot serving dish and pile the onions over the top.

Sprinkle with extra parsley and serve piping hot, perhaps with creamed potatoes.