Pressure cookers: the thing of the future! Or the past. According to my mom: “It was the Big Technology of the 50’s & came to represent a Betty Crocker life, so was despised in the 60’s.” Well, they’re easy to use and efficient with resources like gas or an outdoor fire and cook really quickly and I love them.
In Nepal, a 5-ltr. pressure cooker will cook enough dal for eight people for two-three days, in under thirty minutes. First fry tomatoes and onions with masala, then add rinsed dal and fill it up with water halfway. Let it ffffssssst three times and then open it and taste—may need some more time or water or salt.
Some tips: if you’re cooking outside over a fire, smear the pot with mud—a very good insulator. Sealing the lid is tricky; realize that it’s elliptical and must be inserted with the lid handle at 90º to the pot handle. Make sure all the steam is out before you remove the lid, and if the lid still sticks, hold the steamhole open (with a piece of cloth or cardboard because it’s kind of hot) until all the steam is released and then bang the lid in.
In addition to dal, pressure cookers boil potatoes and cassava/yam-type roots so fast, bake cakes supposedly, and cook especially delicious rice (even better if you have Bhutanese or Sikkim red rice). Plus they make this fantastic loud ffffssssst sound when the steam comes out.