Before you begin to cook vegetables, whether in the steamer or pressure cooker, it is essential to clean them thoroughly. Rinse the vegetables under running water. Wherever possible, avoid peeling off the skins, to retain maximum nutrients. And when eating peels, it is imperative to thoroughly scrub vegetables, especially root vegetables and spuds.
It is important that you cook the vegetables for as little time as you can to preserve nutrition. Although there are many different methods for cooking vegetables, I personally like the pressure cooker method as it is fast and also retains nutrition.
Steaming vegetables is one of the best possible ways to cook them as it not only retains the colour but also the vitamins and nutrients. Fresh steamed vegetables are a healthy alternative to canned or frozen varieties. With a little time and patience and also using a good quality steamer you can have fresh steamed vegetables in a matter of just a few minutes.
Wash the vegetables that you want to steam and cut into your desired shape. Vegetables that are not cut take a longer time to steam. Vegetables that are cut into smaller chunks take relatively lesser time to steam.
With heat on high fill the steamer pot with about two to three inches of water and bring to a boil. The amount of water will depend on the size of the steamer. A good measure is to make sure the bottom of the steamer basket does not touch the water that is boiling in the pot beneath it.
Place the vegetables in the steamer basket; then place the steamer basket on top of the pot of boiling water. Turn the heat to medium and cover the steamer with a lid and allow the vegetables to cook. Allow them to steam until the vegetables are tender or reached the desired consistency. Most commonly green vegetables take about 5-7 minutes to steam and tougher vegetables like carrots, beans or potatoes take about 10 - 12 minutes or sometimes even about half an hour if they are not chopped into moderate pieces.
Once the vegetables are tested for doneness turn off the steamer and allow it to rest for a few minutes before opening the lid. Take care when opening, as the steam may come gushing at you and could scald your skin.
Pressure Cooker Method
Pressure cooking is a method of cooking in a sealed vessel that does not permit air or liquids to escape below a preset pressure. Using a pressure cooking speeds up the cooking time, uses much less water and is energy efficient too.
Manufacturers provide steamer baskets that stack one on top of the other, allow more foods to be cooked together inside the pressure cooker. I have below given a few steps for cooking the more common vegetables. If you are not used to pressure cooking method, experience will make you better at using it.
Cooking greens, green vegetables and carrots: Place the washed and cut vegetables in the pressure cooker with the weight on along with a little salt and about two tablespoons of water. With heat on high allow the first whistle, after which you can turn off the heat and hold the pressure cooker under run water from a tap. This ensures that the pressure cooker releases its pressure quickly. Open the cooker and your vegetables are ready. The reason we release the pressure immediately is to ensure that the greens don’t lose their colour and don’t get over cooked.
Cooking potatoes and other root vegetables: Place the potato or other root vegetables with skin halved in the pressure cooker with its weight on along with quarter cup of water. Cook on high heat and after the first whistle, lower the heat and simmer for three minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the pressure to release naturally. Roots take a longer time to cook, hence wait for the pressure to release. They continue to cook under the latent heat, even after the flame has been turned off. They will be ready for use when the pressure has released and the lid of the cooker opens easily.