beef stew (pressure cooking)

cookery chat with david & sandra biddle

4: beef stew

June and July have been incredibly warm this year, in fact it has been roasting and almost unbearable to sleep on the boat, never mind cook!

Earlier we chatted about BBQ’s and the love of our Cobb. But, to be honest salads and BBQ’s after a while can become very boring and tiresome in our opinion. Sandra also finds cleaning up after a BBQ harder than instructing me to wash a few pots on board!

The answer to this dilemma is to cook a meal that uses the least amount of rings on your stove. In our case it’s about not turning on our Heritage Uno (AGA equivalent) but to use the slow cooker or our pressure cooker – sitting on our small spirit stove. Our little spirit stove is safer than a gas ring and it’s great for cooking things slowly. We got it from Germany; they use these sorts of stoves quite a lot for camping holidays.

small pressure cookerSo what is pressure cooking? It is basically a process which allows water to go above boiling temperature (100 degree C or 212 degree F) under pressure. It means water can go to 250 degree F and with it being under pressure steam is forced through the food cooking it faster. It is also incredibly good for tenderising cheaper meats.

Until you have had experience of cooking with a pressure cooker, it can be a little scary, the pot hisses and spurts and some people can feel anxious about it exploding – which modern pressure cookers can never do as they have safety valves built in to release the pressure if it becomes too high.

The thing to remember is to bring it to boil and then let it simmer. It’s also really important you reduce cooking time accordingly or you will open it up and have a disaster awaiting you!!

The other things to consider are making sure you add sufficient water to allow the steam process to take place and cook the food. Basically the rule is a quarter of a pint of water for every 15 minutes of pressure cooking – simple!

When the food has been cooked and it’s time to turn it off – it will not allow you to open the lid until the pressure has dropped. You can leave this to cool down and release the pressure slowly until the lid can be released – or you can, with a tea towel, hold down the valve and let the pressure out faster - whatever you feel most comfortable doing.

small pressure cookerThe costs of the pressure cookers vary quite a lot; it’s mainly down to who has manufactured it (Prestige etc) and whether it is stainless steel and so on. Being thrifty, as we are, we wanted a small cooker ideal for two and one that wasn’t too costly. We sourced ours off ebay and paid around £10.00! Brand new.

Cooking preferences: -

If you like meat or indeed vegetables to have browning then before cooking without the lid on brown off the meat and or vegetables with a little oil or butter. (keep the juices!!)

Some thickening additives like gravy or soup can stick to the bottom – so thicken up at the end or add sufficient water to stop this.

Remember if you are adding vegetables at the same time as the meat then don’t expect them to be al dente.

Are you ready to try a recipe now???



1½ pound (680g) diced beef or beef of a joint of brisket diced (cheapest cut as the meat will tenderise lovely)
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons oil or butter
2 small onions , finely chopped
3 garlic cloves , crushed and chopped
2 celery stalks , chopped
2 carrots , chopped
sherry wine (optional) could add a bit of Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon (8g) flour
Bay leaves
Dried thyme
3 potatoes diced large (large)
Chicken Stock Mixture
2 cups (500ml) chicken stock – those new chicken stock ‘pots’ are great for this
1 tablespoon tomato sauce or brown sauce – you decide!
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tin of tomatoes
3 tablespoons tomato paste


1. Prepare the Pressure Cooker: Heat up your pressure cooker over medium-high heat.

2. Brown Beef: Trim off excess fat on the beef brisket. Then, generously season the beef brisket with salt and pepper. Add oil in the pot. Ensure to coat the oil over the whole bottom of the pot. Remove beef

3. Make Chicken Stock Mixture: While the brisket is browning in the pressure cooker, combine chicken stock and sauces - soy sauce etc.

4. Vegetables: Now add 1 tablespoon oil to the pot, then add onion and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the onions are tender and brown, then add garlic and add chopped celery, carrot, then cook for 2 minutes.

5. Deglaze: Add a dash of sherry wine and completely deglaze the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. Then, allow the wine to reduce. Add the Chicken Stock Mixture to the pot.

6. Beef : Add the beef – it should be deiced into 1 – 1.5 inches cube chunks, then toss with flour.

7. Pressure Cook Beef Stew: make sure the beef chunks are spread out, so each piece can soak the stock mixture. Don’t stir the beef as you don’t want too much flour to get into the stock mixture. Then, add bay leaves and rub dried thymes against your fingers and sprinkle them in the pot. Add the potatoes on top. Pressure Cook at High Pressure for

8. -Stovetop Pressure Cooker: 35 - 45 minutes, then Natural Release

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About David Biddle

David & Sandra Biddle have been boating for around 25 years. They have both made their careers out of cooking, and enjoy sharing their passion for food and good wine. Their tastes are wide ranging - from spicy, to Italian to good old English.