Instapot Pilots Recipes!

By Robin Schoenfeld

Our PTV community really loves a home cooked meal, and fortunately we have a whole globe’s worth of delicious flavors and ingredients to choose from!  Making use of some donated Instant Pot electronic pressure cookers, a small but intrepid group of our kitchen explorers have recently been putting this appliance through its paces.  We are exploring how our clients most treasured recipes can be successfully adapted to this cooking method and we are investigating the ease in which folks can use the Instant Pot without access to a full kitchen. And for our pilots who are relatively new to cooking themselves, discovering if the results are as tasty and time-saving enough to make cooking something from scratch worthwhile.

While our research is ongoing (yum!) some of our findings are that dishes made of dried beans, peas, maize, lentils, and plantains cook up beautifully in the IP!  This means that Pozole, banana leaf steamed Matooke, Chilis, and Cameroonian vegetable soup with barley and dried shrimp seasoning can be ready to eat with much less time and effort than preparing them on the stove top.   Because the ingredients are cooked under pressure, flavors are more intense, cheaper cuts of meat become tender and stay juicy, and vegetables don’t get mushy.  A very useful sauté function means that folks without access to a stove can still toast spices, brown onions, and garlic, or get a tasty sear on stew meat.  With the cooler weather coming in, the Instant Pot Pilots are gearing up for a renewed season of cooking adventures – it’s chicken Pilau and Ground Nut stew time!   We continue to explore ways in which we can  expand our store of donated Instant Pots and our circle of cooks outward.

This month, we invite you to join in our fun by attempting two of our favorite recipes and post feedback on our social media handles at: @ptvla.


Ugandan-style Instant Pot Risotto with Xawaash Grilled Chicken 


2-3 Tbs ghee

1 tsp salt

freshly cracked pepper to taste

2 sprigs fresh thyme

2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms

4 green onions, thinly sliced

2 cups dry Arborio rice, (do not rinse)

½ cup dry white wine

1 quart chicken or mushroom broth

chopped fresh cilantro



    1. With InstantPot cooking insert in place, press sautéMelt 2 tbs of the ghee until it covers the full bottom of the pot.  Add mushrooms and stir to coat with the fat, cooking until mushrooms release their liquid.  As the mushrooms begin to brown, add remaining 1 Tbs of ghee if the mixture seems too dryAdd salt and thyme and stir.
    2. Add Arborio rice to the mushrooms and stir rapidly to coat the grains with ghee and juices.  Cook for 1-2 minutes to toast the rice, stirring to prevent sticking to the bottom of the pan.  (The edges of the rice will begin to look translucent, and there will be crispy mushroom bits gathering on the bottom of the pan)
    3. Add white wine to the rice mixture and keep stirring vigorously to scrape up flavorful browned bits that might be sticking.  Let the wine cook down to ¼ cup.  The mixture will look very thick and starchy.  Shut off the sauté function.
    4. Add in the broth and stir again until your spoon moves completely smoothly around the pan.  You want to make sure that there is nothing clinging to the bottom of the pot before starting the pressure-cooking process.
    5. Place the lid with the sealing ring in place on the Instant Pot and turn to lock in place.  Turn the vent to sealed position, and select Pressure Cook on high from the settings panel.   Set the time to 5 minutes.  The pot will automatically heat up to bring itself to the selected pressure, and will maintain it for the requested 5 minutes, then will shut off the heat.
    6. When the IP beeps that the 5 minutes is up, use a long-handled spoon to manually release the pressure valve.  The escaping plume of steam is loud and very hot!  Keep well away from the steam release until it finishes, and the pressure lock drops down.  (see Instant Pot operating instructions for more info) Carefully open the lid and remove it.
    7. Stir the risotto to incorporate any remaining liquid on the top.  Remove the thyme sprigs.  Add in the chopped green onions and taste for salt.  Top with cracked black pepper, chopped cilantro, and grilled chicken (recipe follows) to serve.


Xawaash Grilled Chicken

Xawaash is a spice mixture and has been called the ‘Garam Masala of Somalia’.  Each household tends to compound their own to taste. The mixture is great in stews, soups, & rice dishes, but this Xawaash also really shines as dry rub for roasting vegetables or grilling meat!   These amounts of ingredients will yield you a lot of Xawaash, but it keeps up to 6 months in a sealed jar.  You can also scale the quantities down if you like.

2” piece of cinnamon stick, broken into small pieces

½ cup whole cumin seeds

½ cup whole coriander seeds

2 Tbs black peppercorns

6-8 green cardamom pods

1 tsp whole cloves

2 Tbs ground turmeric

Chicken thighs, salt, and olive oil, for grilling.


    1. Place all the spices but the turmeric into a small heavy skillet set over medium heat.  Toast the spices, stirring constantly, until the smell is very aromatic – about 2 minutes.  Take skillet off the heat and let spices cool.
    2. Grind the toasted spices in a clean coffee or spice grinder until fine.  Add in the ground turmeric until well combined.  Transfer to an airtight jar.
    3. Place desired number of chicken thighs in a Ziploc bag or a glass baking dish, sprinkle with salt and drizzle with olive oil until chicken pieces are moistened.
    4. Use enough Xawaash spice mixture to lightly coat the chicken (some people like more, some like less) and rub it well in.  Seal (or cover) the chicken pieces and refrigerate for at least one hour and up to 24.
    5. Grill chicken pieces, turning frequently and watching for flare ups, until done,
    6. Carve chicken away from bones into bite-sized pieces and serve over the risotto.