Last month, I was invited to London along with a few other bloggers to try out the Tefal Cook4Me. It's a kind of pressure cooker made modern - that seventies metal monster updated for the digital age. An onboard computer of sorts is programmed with recipes, making the process pretty idiot-proof as it tells you what to do/chop/add at every stage.
On the day itself we arrived at the most breathtaking home I've ever encountered. I've always been into modernist architecture and this house was a dream of slick, white walls, classic modern furniture and floor-to-ceiling glass windows looking out over drizzly Highgate.
We split into teams - girls v boys - to make two starters and two main courses using only the Cook4Me. Team Girls (me, Jem and Jacinta) made a prawn bisque while Team Boys (Kip and Alex) went for a stilton soup. The Cook4Me is intuitive, it lists the ingredients and prep needed, and talks you through the recipe. Once all the ingredients are ready, just seal the lid and hit the big red button. Each recipe has a different cooking time but we're talking minutes rather than hours, even for dishes that typically require lengthy cooking.
The starters came out well. Our prawn bisque was full of flavour, the prawns well-cooked and flavours of spiky coriander and cool cream evened each other out. Bread was shared, wine was poured. A promising start(er), indeed.
For the main course, we were tasked with preparing a chicken risotto, while Kip and Alex made a veggie chilli. I was skeptical that a risotto could be made in such a shorthand fashion. For me, one of the joys of cooking a dish like that is the ritual. The gentle stirring, patience and aching arm are rewarded with a meal of taste and texture, hard-won and unwinding onto the plate as you relax into the evening. But the texture was impressive and the risotto smelt delicious. I opted to try the boys' chilli, which was rich with red wine, and the texture of the Quorn remained unexpectedly good despite the intense cooking process.
While we ate our main course, Team Tefal cooked dessert: sponge puddings, four ways. I went for the lemon curd - sharp and sweet and hot. The idea of baking in a pressure cooker seemed wrong. Again, I love the baking process and don't particularly want to cut it short, but that's a very particular personal preference. These puds were cooked to perfection.
Where I can see the Cook4Me coming into its own is on weekdays, when I want to cook good, real food for the kids but am short of time. The idea of being able to get a meal on the table in minutes is pretty irresistible, although I'd be more inclined to enjoy the full-length process of traditional cooking at the weekends.
Thanks to Tefal for inviting me to try out this clever gadget.
All words and images are my own.