Beans and The Pressure Cooker

Too often beans are what comes in cans, either complete with sauce, or pre-cooked and ready to be added to the sauce of your choice. The pressure cooker brings all sorts of beans and all sorts of flavours into your sphere of cooking potential.

Beans are as much fun to play with as pasta and rice, but they have had such a bad press few of us bother with them, fearing disasters. Disasters, in the sense of antisocial behaviour, in buses, trams, boardrooms and beds. Their long-lasting signature tunes have not been of paramount concern to me, such being as normal a part of life as snoring and singing in the shower, and going glazy-eyed when the Ashes tour comes around.

What bugged me about beans was the interminable time it takes to get them to the post. You have to soak them in baths, and drain them and soak them, and cook then under watchful eyes for hours, in stocks and the like, and then, once you’ve got them to the point where they’re ready to run through the banner, you have to dress them up.

Coming as I do from the school of what’s available, now, beans were not a significant part of my life until the pressure cooker became as important in my kitchen as the pile of sharp knives in the corner. One of the first things I did with my new toy was try a packet of speckled beans, by the name of borlotti, from the far corner of the cupboard. I remembered to leave them soaking, and came home and the missus, who does most of this sort of cooking, had retired in a state of unwellness and was entirely uninterested in anything to do with food. She did say, however, that there was a minced beef and tomato sauce hanging about in the fridge if I could find it. So I cooked these beans in the PC, and in 12 minutes they were life-threateningly tender, and I mixed them with the mince, and added a handful of chillies, and immediately was at one with peace and love and joy.

Beans share with pasta and rice that wonderful ability to complement a dish but, unlike those great carriers, beans are just as good left to their own devices, served naked. Better than that, though, is the mix of beans cooked in a well-made veal stock, which has also been prepared in the pressure cooker.

whatever beans you like

a fair dinkum stock (allow 1 ½ cups stock to every cup of soaked beans) – Make with shin bones to impart that sticky jelly quality to the stock.

6 cloves garlic

handful of fresh herbs

black pepper

Parmigiano Reggiano, freshly grated


Check through your beans carefully: sometimes a bean is a pebble. Then give them a good wash. Soak the beans for a minimum of 4 hours, discard the soaking water, and give your beans a good rinse. Beans do not like acid during the cooking process, so don’t believe that you can finish the cooking in tomatoes. In the old days, baking soda was added to the water to speed up the cooking process. This also, it is said, reduces the flatulence, but it takes out proteins and other goodies as well.


Place the beans in the pressure cooker, cover with stock, and add the garlic, just for the fun of it. Cook on full pressure for 12 minutes, and let off the steam. Serve with whatever stock is left, a handful of fresh herbs from the garden, black pepper, and freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano. That anything so simple could taste so delicious.

Two Alternatives

1. Place the beans in a pot, cover with stock, and add the garlic. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove, and cook very gently for 1-2 hours, until the beans are just done. You may need to add more stock as the process puddles along. It’s not pregnancy that causes the beans to swell up. Serve as above.

2. If you don’t have stock, substitute water and cook as above and serve with any of your usual favourite accompaniments. Start with vinaigrette, go through chillies and tomatoes and don’t stop.

SOME SAUCES: Whatever thick sauces you enjoy with pasta, use with beans. Naturally, a slow- cooked chilli and tomato sauce, so thick it can stand up, is one of the great partners. Bolognese sauce, given extra weight with tomato puree, is another great match. Pesto and beans go together like Guinness and St Patrick’s Day. Try spinach, goat’s cheese and eggplant cooked and mixed through beans, the lot overbaked with cheese. Or perhaps a puree of pumpkin and fresh peas. And, of course, beans are the foundation stone of that great Italian soup, minestrone.

EXPLOSIONS! Beans contain a carbohydrate that is indigestible. Carbo x makes its way through our system and has a party in the digestive tract with all sorts of fun-loving bacteria. As with all good parties, there’s a mess left behind, and when you’re talking digestive tracts, you’re talking one-way street. Soaking removes some of this hangover, but only some. The truth is, enjoy. And enjoy.

WINE: I’m a fan of beer with beans – although this probably increases the risk of anti-social behaviour the next day.