Tuesday, May 8, 2012

My Hawkins Pressure Cooker!

I'm obscenely excited about this! A Brand New, Shiny 5L Hawkins Classic from Sabzi Mandi!

After much deliberation, I decided to go with the quickest, cheapest and easiest option - I bought the famous Hawkins Pressure Cooker from Sabzi Mandi (at the mythical Main and 51st location)!

See, it DOES exist! The internet may not support that notion, but it is here. And it carries MANY Hawkins cookers!

While Jen put up a very convincing argument for the Presto 1781 monstrosity, I couldn't actually get it here easily (and I wasn't about to pay more than $50 extra to buy the same product off the Canadian site when our dollar is worth more than a greenback!). The logistics of not only the purchase and shipping, but also of storage did not end up in favour of the Presto. Perhaps one day, given a house and a family and much canning, I'll look into it again. If you could use a giant pressure cooker - please follow Jen's recommendation and enjoy!

I already know which Vij's recipe I want to try first!

I'm so ridiculously excited about this little Hawkins pressure cooker! I went to bed reading the instruction manual (a 139 page Indian cookbook-cum-operations-cum-DIY repair manual!), and as soon as the alarm went off this morning, I picked it up again. It's really not my fault - this stuff is riveting! (Literally - there's these special alloy rivets in the handles.... oh, nevermind! I'm turning into my grandpa with all these terrible puns!).

I am starting to believe that I may lack in impulse control. This felt like the culmination of a 5 year mountainous journey with setbacks, upswings and surprises along the way; when in actual fact, two days ago I decided I "needed", desperately, a new kitchen gadget. I suppose this is what comes of the Sesame Street generation - short attention spans and lack of impulse inhibition.

These may as well be Tibetan prayer flags on the summit of  Mt Everest for all my celebrating

I heard through the grapevine that television is about to become much more dangerous to those even worse than me - the sort of people who "CALL NOW!" when infomercials shout at you to do so, the sort of people who are so easily persuaded by advertising. I'm not allowed to divulge what I know, but let's just say if you see something on TV and you want it, you'll be able to click on it and buy it off the internet instantly. Talk about targeting those with impulse control problems!

Fortunately, I have very strange shopping tastes. Though I fall nicely into that 30-39 age range, I'm not representative of most females. For example, I get really, really excited to buy kidney beans in bulk from the Sabzi Mandi. So excited that I blog about it:

2.19 lbs (that's 0.99 kg!) of dark rajma (kidney beans) for $3.26! Hooray!

Give me the choice between a day at the spa (oooh!) and a equivalently priced shopping spree at Devan Greenhouses in Abbotsford, and I'll be racing down the #1 like my life depends on it! A Coach purse loaded with lovely things from l'Occitane en Provence or having a Sabzi Mandi move onto 4th Avenue? Well, you can probably guess. I'm rather strange that way, I suppose. While most young girls spent time planning their dream weddings, I designed landscapes and made wishlists out of seed catalogues (I kid you not!).

In a by-gone era, I think I would have made quite the happy homemaker! I found a funny little excerpt to that effect in the Hawkins cooker manual:

"And substantial saving in time allows the housewife to devote more attention to the management of her household and pursue her other interests."

This advert didn't have a charming statement like the above, but I thought it was too cute to not share:

I like my new appliances to come with a faint waft of another culture. The pages of the manual even smell like Indian paper (Christine - it smells like your letters! I can't explain how!)

When I first brought my Hawkins home (note the language usage: MY Hawkins! Oh yes, there's ownership in that statement!), I wanted to get it going right away. I had heard about how misuse of a pressure cooker, much like misuse of an autoclave, can result in gross personal injury and property damage (alright! I feel like the Tim Taylor of the kitchen - MORE POWER!), so I was of course careful enough to at least briefly glance at the booklet and all the the bright red warning inserts...

And of course it recommended that I not only look over but "read this whole book from cover to cover and act upon it. Become an expert."

So I naturally skimmed through to the "How to Close and Open Your Hawkins" section, where it says, "The closing and opening of your Hawkins pressure cooker is easy once you have understood it and practised a few times." Hmm. Not immediately obvious, eh?

It's actually very well-engineered! Would you expect anything less from India?

I decided to soldier on - I'd figure it out, being the mechanically-minded sort. I jumped straight to the "Hawkins Cooking Tips" and started to get out my ingredients for Eggplant and Navy Beans in Kalonji and Tamarind Curry recipe....

....when I came across this passage: "Read this section carefully after you have taken the trial run and before you attempt to cook in the Hawkins pressure cooker."

This little vent weight IS the pressure regulator...hmm. Better read the instructions!

And so I valiantly admitted defeat and put a frozen pizza into the oven instead.

I've now practised opening and closing the cooker a few times - there is a knack to it, but it's really not that difficult. Like I said, it's amazingly well-designed, and there's a 5 year warranty and replacement parts and some impressive safety features as well. So far, so impressive!

Did I mention the price? Oops, how could I get so far without posting this!

My 5L Hawkins classic pressure cooker cost $44.99 from the Sabzi Mandi at Main and 51st on 7 May 2012.

Travel from Kits: #99 B-Line to Main street, #003 Main Street Bus to 49th or 51st. Easy! Return trip is the same - #003 to Broadway, then hop a B-Line back home to Kitsilano. The #003 bus travels as frequently as the B-Line during peak hours.

Sabzi Mandi Express - 6684 Main Street (Main & 51st) in Vancouver, BC. Great prices on sabzi (veggies)!

The #003 Main Street bus can easily deposit you here - catch it at Main and Broadway

$44.99 - that's it! The cheapest pressure cooker I could find elsewhere (London Drugs) cost $50, and it didn't look especially good. Those which cost $70 at Canadian Tire (on sale at 50%) off had the absolutely scathing reviews online that I mentioned in part 1 of my search for a pressure cooker. So I feel absolutely confident that I invested my money properly in a Hawkins.

I had done quite a lot of research on pressure cookers and had surmised that the Hawkins brand was the only choice when it came to the Indian-style cookers. The cashier at Sabzi Mandi even reiterated that this particular brand was famously good.

Of course, whenever I go to Sabzi Mandi (or its competition), I can never leave with just one item. I also bought the hilariously-named "Chunky Chat Masala" and "Deggi Mirch" (chilli powder) as recommended in that useful blog post by NellaLou that I mentioned in my last post:

Sabzi Mandi has the "Kitchen King" spice mix too, but it was just a mixture of spices I already have.

Chunky Chat masala contains black salt, musk melon and Bishop's weed (whatever that is!), so I figured it was a good investment as I didn't already have a stock pile of dried Bishop's weed....

Oh, I guess I do! Bishop's weed seeds are "ajwain"! Well, nevermind, I definitely do not have dried musk melon at hand.

The Deggi Mirch was more of an impulse buy, though it is nice to have a curry-specific chilli powder instead of the typical cayenne or Mexican chilli powder I generally have on hand. Also, "Deggi Mirch" just sounds cool, right?!

As if I needed any more recipes (honestly, I cannot advocate more for your purchase of a Vij's at Home: Relax Honey cookbook! It's all you'll ever need!), the Hawkins cooker came with a Northern India-specific recipe book, which also contains 8 recipes each from Western, Southern and Eastern India as well (there's 98 recipes in it, including some rather revolting "white people food" recipes in the back. Or maybe I'm the only one who finds caramel custard and spaghetti bolognaise gag-worthy! Poached mackerel is sure to do it for you - I'm sure the Brits got the better end of the culinary exchange when they moved into India way back when!).

My only real complaint about the Hawkins is the cover image on the manual. Urgh.

Speaking of mackerel, if you have never seen the "Weight Watchers Recipe Cards circa 1974" that Wendy McClure has written about, you're in for a treat! It's hysterical - the images are so horribly unappetizing, let alone the actual dish itself (would you make "Fluffy Mackerel Pudding"?! I didn't think so!). The front cover of the Hawkins North Indian cookbook is rather reminiscent of some of those infamous recipe cards (this one in particular!).

At any rate, I'm all set for my trial run this evening, before having a bash at the Eggplant and Navy Bean recipe (can cook those suckers in 11 minutes!) from Vij's. I'll be sure to rant or rave about my first forays into DIY autoclaving at home (oh, did I mention that the Hawkins manual also explains how you can sterilize injection syringes?! Oh my! Sterilization is a good thing, but perhaps let's not be reusing needles just in case. Hepatitis C is a terrible thing to contract!).

Although I am happy that the 121 degree steam and 15 psi will kill just about anything, I'm not sure I want to replace InSite with a Hawkins pressure cooker. Sterilization of drinking water is pretty boss, though. And I'd feel alright about cooking cheap cuts of meat, too.

And so there we have it! I have procured a pressure cooker! And not just any pressure cooker, a HAWKINS 5L Classic! Woo baby!

Now we're cooking!

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