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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Kitchen Essentials: Steamer Saucepan

For those who are discovering cooking as a survival skill for the first time this is the first in a short series of tips for new cooks.

I first started using a steamer saucepan set when I was wandering around in a caravan in 1997-98. I discovered a set in an op-shop while we were wandering and found it to be a wonderful tool for cooking a full balanced meal with several vegetables on a tiny two-burner caravan stove.

After I was diagnosed I found it became an essential tool in my kitchen as I increased the range of vegetables on my menu. I use it daily; often cooking five or more different vegetables at a time. I believe in the KISS rule (keep it simple) in most things; for cooking there are few things simpler than steaming. You really have to try hard to over-cook steamed veges, so you can concentrate on other foods where timing is more critical.

Apart from the obvious advantages of steaming vegetables to retain most of the vitamins and minerals, a steamer takes a lot of the work out of cooking regular meals.

I thought about polishing mine up for the pictures, but decided to show it as it is, because this battered old saucepan set has been in constant use for many years now:

Over the years we have added bits to it; not all match:

We use those extra sections for big family dinners. Usually we only need the base and one steamer section when cooking for three or four. For example, for dinner last night I put potato and Aussie pumpkin (Winter Squash) to be boiled in the bottom in just enough water to cover them; in the steamer section was 1/3 cob corn, peas, sliced carrot, broccoli and cabbage with chopped bacon. Each vegetable was placed separate from the others so that they could be easily served later without mixing together excessively. Here is how it looks with the boiled veges moved to the top section to keep warm while my fish cooks beside it and my wife's chops cook under the griller:

Some tips when using one.

1. Put root vegetables that need to be boiled, such as potatoes, in the bottom section and leafy/watery veges in the top for steaming.

2. If the veges in the bottom section cook before the rest of the meal is ready, transfer them to the top section to remain warm without over-cooking.

3. If the veges are cooked before your other foods are ready, remove the steamer set from the heat and transfer any veges in the bottom section to the steamer section. The residual heat in the hot water will act as a bain-marie and keep the veges warm without over-cooking them.

4. Don't overfill the base with water; use just enough to do the job with a little extra for safety so that you never boil dry. When the water comes to the boil, reduce the heat until it is just simmering. Retain that water after cooking for an excellent stock if you like to cook vegetable soups or stews.

5. As you gain experience, don't restrict the concept to just vegetables. Experiment with other foods, especially fish and seafoods.

Cheers, Alan, T2, Australia

Everything in Moderation - Except laughter

1 comment:

RodS said...

I've gone upmarket recentally with an electric 3 basket steamer set, saves a lot of hassles the auto timer is a saver for me as I usually manage to forget about things boiling away on the stove (ask me for my cremated corned beef recipe sometime) The unit only cost about $50 and I haven't managed to ruin anything yet. Nice design feature is that the water that steams doesn't return to the main water pan but to a seperate collection pan so food isn't flavoured by other things being steamed depending on how you stack it.