You know when middle aged-ness has crept up? It has happened to us, sure enough – we own a driveway (paved!) and also spent last weekend pressure washing the patio. There’s no going back after that. And to complete this middle aged suburban hat trick? We now own a slow cooker. Oh yes, my friends, the days of carefree, dizzy nights out are but a faint glimmer in our eyes. But who cares? Slow cookers are an amazing thing and worth staying in for (especially in front of an episode of Paul Hollywood’s Bread. I am mesmerised by his hands and beard). Some people are fanatical about their slow cookers. They represent gourmet cooking for the lazy. I am lazy. And so is my husband. Hurrah for us.
Here’s the little beauty:
Slow cookers are low maintenance. All you have to do is sear the onions, meat (if you’re a carnivore) and garlic in the normal way, then throw the seared mixture into the slow cooker along with uncooked veggies and some liquid (most likely a bottle of wine, or stock, or both), then you can go to bed or go out and leave it to do its thing. The result is a beautiful stew that tastes like it spent many hours simmering on the hob or slow roasting in the oven, without you having to fret over it. Slow cookers use a fraction of the energy – the same amount that powers a light bulb. Nerdily satisfying!
The only thing that I find a little daunting is the idea of putting together a slow cooker meal before a day at the office (theoretically) – nothing quite like searing stewing steak and onions in your work gear, blinking at the early morning light, while trying to drink a cup of tea. Bleurgh. I actually prefer assembling stews last thing at night, then letting the slow cooker putter away while I’m asleep, filling the house with lovely wafts.
We got our slow cooker from Lakeland. They’re not too expensive, and will save you a ton of energy. Think of it as lazy cooking with light bulb power.
Eeeeeeh, now where did I put my hot mug of Bovril and slanket? And what next, a caravan?
Serves 4 hungry lazy people
You will need:
300g organic beef mince
1 spicy cooking chorizo, skin removed and chopped into small pieces
2 ancho & 2 chipotle chillies, soaked in warm water (available from The Cool Chile Company. If you can’t wait to mail order them, you could instead use 2 tablespoons of smoked chipotle Tabasco sauce, or even 1 heaped tablespoon of smoked paprika, plus extra chilli powder to taste)
1 tbsp cumin seeds
2 tbsps coriander seeds
1 cinnamon stick
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 sticks celery, diced
3 carrots, diced
2 tins chopped tomatoes
(optional: 1/2 tbsp cocoa powder)
Salt to taste
Cook separately: 250g black turtle beans (or you can use kidney beans)
1. Before you do anything else, soak your black beans 8 hours ahead (eg overnight) then when that’s done, start boiling them (they usually take an hour). You could do this the day before. Add a half teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda to any stubborn pulses that refuse to completely soften, works a treat.
2.Toast the dried chillies in a frying pan until they smell nutty, then put in a small bowl and cover with boiling water to soak them.
3. Toast the whole spices in the frying pan – heat until fragrant, put the cinnamon stick aside, then grind up the coriander and cumin in a pestle and mortar.
4. Dice the onion, then fry in rapeseed or light olive oil until translucent. Add the beef mince, and fry everything together, breaking the beef mince apart, until the meat is browned. Add the chopped chorizo, crushed garlic and cook for a minute or two, then add the ground coriander and cumin and fry for another minute. Take off the heat. This is the end of the actual cooking part!
4. Plonk the meat/onion/spice/garlic mixture in your slow cooker bowl. Tip over the chopped tinned tomatoes, then add the cinnamon stick , celery and carrots. Roughly chop up the soaked chillies, then add them and the water they were soaking in as it will have a lot of flavour too. (If you’re using cocoa, add it now). Give everything a mix, then put the lid on, set your slow cooker to ‘slow’, then leave it for about 8 hours.
5. When it’s ready, season with salt to taste. Serve with rice, garnished with crumbled Feta cheese and freshly chopped chorizo (and sour cream if you want to be fancy). Don’t forget the salted tortilla chips and wedges of lime…
Have YOU got a slow cooker? What do you cook in it?