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Want to cook from scratch quickly and easily? Try the Instant Pot

Contrary to what the very existence of this column might have one believe, I am no fan of appliances. Most are dust collectors while you own them and all are landfill when you finally give up on them. This attitude explains why it took me so long to get around to owning an Instant Pot.

My friend Phil, who is one of the best cooks I know, insisted for about a year that I couldn't live without one of these all-in-one pressure-cooker/slow-cooker contraptions. "I seem to be holding up well enough so far," I resisted. He immediately went to his cupboard, pulled out a bag of brown rice, and was serving me nutty spoonfuls of it precisely 22 minutes later. "Take that," he boasted. (Apparently he takes healthy brown rice lunch bowls to work all the time, something he'd never do if it had to be simmered for a good hour.)

Next time I visited, it was hummus he showed off. Rock-hard chickpeas, with no soaking whatsoever, were overcooked to squishing perfection in 30 minutes, just enough time for a lively debate over whether to proceed with the Ottolenghi recipe or the famous Zahav one.

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It was the dried bean magic that sold me on the machine. Beans of all kinds are so much better made from scratch than they are poured from a tin. It's not that soaking overnight and simmering is difficult, it just means you can't be spontaneous about, say, a summery salad of haricots blancs and tuna. You have to think ahead. The same goes for something like beets. They can take hours to cook in the oven, which rules out any possibility of a quick chilled borscht to start an evening's dinner party. (In the Instant Pot, they take about half an hour.)

The last straw was a demonstration of chicken stock. I make some every time I roast a chicken and always thought my broth was fine, until I tried the Instant Pot version. It was noticeably richer tasting and more fragrant, plus you don't have to stand around monitoring its progress (or forgetting all about it and finding the pot burnt dry).

I'm late to the game, but I have to confess I've finally been converted. I'm trying new ways with the Instant Pot every chance I get (recipes abound on the internet). The slow-cooker part of the equation will have to wait for winter to get my full attention, but in the meantime if you'd care to pop by for the whole-head-of-cauliflower-cooked-in-one-minute demo, I'd be happy to oblige.

For all the nitty-gritty features of the Canadian-designed Instant Pot Duo Plus, see www.instantpot.com. $149.95 on amazon.ca.

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