Barbour dispels rumors at library event

AMHERST – Just the words “pressure cooker” can strike fear into the heart of anyone who grew up with stories of boiling hot stew exploding all over the kitchen.

Liz Barbour tried to dispel that anxsiety during a recent Amherst Public Library evening program on using the new electric pressure cookers.

The kitchen gadget of the moment, it plugs into the wall like a blender and can simmer, seer, saute, slow cook and even make yogurt and is especially popular among people who make Indian food.

Barbour recommends the Instant Pot brand and she loves it. She brought three of different sizes to the library and in front of a packed audience made Indian Butter Chicken with cauliflower, lavender rice and chickpeas.

Many improvements have made the cooker safer, almost foolproof, she said, and it makes “incredibly flavorful” and more nutritious food, and it is especially good for meats, beans, rice and chickpeas. It can make crispy chicken, pasta and sauce and meat balls. Cheesecake made in an Instant Pot she called “hands-down the best of your life.”

Cheaper, tougher cuts of meat are ideal for the Instant Pot, she said, and spices are more flavorful because the steam and flavor is sealed inside. As a reheater, she said, it retains much more flavor than a microwave.

The end results of her Instant Pot cooking were shared with the audience. They were delicious and cooked relatively quickly, but Barbour had some Julia Child moments as she struggled with one of the devices.

“All of you are learning an incredible lesson right now,” she said as she tried to get one pot to release its steam.

What about explosions, her audience wanted to know. Accidents are unlikely, she said, because if there’s too much pressure, the valves automatically allow steam to escape, but “it’s really, really important to read the instructions.”

Barbour recommended “The Keto Instant Pot Cookbook” by Urvashi Pitre and demonstrated the use of several go-with gadgets and showed how to improvise if you don’t have them.

Barbour is a cooking instructor who started Liz Barbour’s Creative Feast and uses fresh herbs and edible flowers from her Hollis gardens, which have been featured in New Hampshire Magazine, New Hampshire Home, New Hampshire Chronicle and Colorado Home.

She is the author of “Beautifully Delicious: Cooking with Herbs & Edible Flowers” and is a popular presenter of adult programs. Amherst Library Director Amy Lapointe said she had capped attendance for the June 21 program at 50 and had a deep wait list.

“Feasting from Your Instant Pot” was the first in the library’s summer programs for adults. Next is “Amazing National Parks, with Steve Farrar, who has explored 57 of the country’s 60 national parks. It’s on Thursday, July 12, from 7-8:30 p.m.