Hot from my post on sous vide cooking last week, I am looking at the slow cooker this week. It really seems to be having something of a revival. Caroline has just purchased one and there are many people out there who are passionate users of their cooker on a regular basis. I think you might just be tempted too!
A slow cooker is an electric cooking pot with a tight-fitting lid cooking food at around 93ºC (200° F )
A new book The Slow Cooker Cookbook: Time-Saving Delicious Recipes for Busy Family Cooks by Audrey Deane is a very reasonably price book with recipes to please the beginner and the more experienced. Kay Devlin is my reviewer for this book. Kay lives in Edinburgh and loves cooking and cooks regularly, but she describes herself as “more homely in style and ability”. She loves eating out at all types of restaurants and eat out about once a week. She is Northern Irish and has lived in the city for 18 years. She has a Morphy Richards 6 litre slow cooker and first used a slow cooker 3 years ago.
Kay ‘s Review
Firstly I liked how the The Slow Cooker Cookbook was laid out and the sections covered. At the beginning of the book I found the introduction to slow cooking useful and would be great for someone who had never used a slow cooker before. Personally I appreciate having pictures alongside the recipes and I found the recipes well written.
Since I use my slow cooker regularly, I did not want to try the usual slow cooker recipes like casseroles and chilli as I have taken a long time in developing my own recipes. So I asked my husband to chose a recipe from the book and straight away he chose the salt beef recipe. This was a time consuming recipe but was technically easy. It involved soaking the joint in a brine solution for seven days then rinsing overnight before cooking for 10 hours. The recipe allowed for adaptation of the herbs and spices used. I added fennel seeds.
It took probably around 30 mins in total to prepare the meat at various stages which was good. When cooked the meat was tender and pulled apart easily. I probably would cook the recipe for less time as I would have preferred to slice the beef rather than it pull apart. The flavour was good and I enjoyed the results. I served the dish as per a roast dinner with yorkshires, potatoes, veg and gravy. Leftovers were great too! My only comment would be that the vegetablles used in the recipe are not suitable to eat as they soak a lot of salt from the meat during cooking and perhaps the recipe could have stated this. I would make this again but am planning to try some of the dessert recipes next!
Kaye’s top tip: Buy the size most suitable to your family size and what you wish to do with it.
Two Edinburgh Foody readers, Stuart and Anthony share their experience with slow cookers:
Stuart’s Top 7 Tips for Slow Cooker Dishes
Stuart Rankin left school a did a bakery/confectionery apprenticeship and was in the bakery trade for 20 years. Now he drives for a living, enjoy all types of cooking, good food and wine and travelling across Europe. He started to use a slow cooker after his wife died and found it was a chore to cook after a long day at work. He describes the purchase of a slow cooker “as the best thing he ever did”.
Stuart started to experiment quite soon after purchase as he hadn’t found recipes that suited him focusing on adapting conventional recipes. Stuart’s top tips:
- Slow cooker does not need as much liquid as the same dish cooked in a conventional oven.
- Pasta was a disaster at first, but then I realized that if I cooked the pasta first, then added it to the rest of the ingredients in the slow cooker, I got perfect results. The dish also benefited from the slow cooking as the sauces and meat would gently infuse with the pasta over a few hours giving a much better flavour.
- Rice is great but it is a case of experimenting. You have to remember to decrease the amount of liquid, it’s really a matter of taste, but I can get a perfect rice pudding with 25% less liquid than a conventional recipe
- Ribs are excellent, it is best to use a saucer or small plate to elevate the ribs out of the water, wrap them tightly in foil and just let them slowly steam, the same applies to chops, fish etc. Try adding a sauce in the foil its great.
- Most root vegetables need to be cut into small pieces as they do take a long time to cook and should always be placed in the bottom of the cooker.
- Cakes are great, just put the mixture into a basin or cake tin that will fit in the slow cooker, cover with greaseproof paper, fill with water half way up the container and cook, great tasting cakes every time, this method also applies to a lot of puddings as well”.
- Once I had got going I discovered the world of steamed puddings, the kind we used to have as kids. Steamed sponge, suet puddings are delicious. Having a Scot for a father I was used to eating some Scottish food, so when I found my aunt’s recipe for clootie dumpling which she always made for me as a kid I thought give it a go, result was perfect”.
Slow cookers are very reasonable in price and start around £15 depending on size
Anthony’s Slow Cooker Creme Caramel
Anthony Mudge, a choral composer and singer, once hosted a dinner party in which each of the seven courses contained a different gin. He has a thing for goat’s cheese and Viennese Christmas markets
Anthony has a couple of slow cookers. “One of which is a combination slow cooker/rice cooker/steamer and great for making a cheat biryani. The other has a ceramic pot (much better for dishing up from), but however good it is for making stews – I’m making coq au vin for Christmas. The best recipe for for a slow cooker is crème caramel, the massive sort that serves at least six people at a dinner party. Two hours cooking time and once it’s cooled, pop it straight into the fridge ready to serve hours later.
Before you start cooking, make sure your soufflé dish fits into your crockpot! You will need to lift it out when it’s full of hot custard, so it’ll need a bit of space to either side so you can do this without tipping. Depending on the shape of the lid of your crockpot, you may also need to place an upturned plate over the dish to prevent water droplets falling from the lid into the custard as it’s cooking. You will also need a plate with a substantial lip to serve, otherwise the caramel will go everywhere …
- 300g caster sugar
- 1 litre milk
- 6 eggs
- vanilla essence
- Pour a tumbler of cold water into the base of the crock pot.
- Fill the sink up to about half an inch with very hot water.
- Butter the soufflé dish and place it the sink.
- Pour half the sugar into a saucepan and heat until it's turned into a dark caramel. Pour this into the soufflé dish and tip it until the caramel covers the base.
- Heat the milk with the remaining sugar and a couple of drops of vanilla essence until it reaches boiling point. (Use the same saucepan if you want a darker custard.)
- Beat the eggs (preferably with an electric, hands-free whisk) and, with the whisk still on, pour the milk into them.
- Place the soufflé dish in the crock pot.
- Sieve the custard mixture over the caramel and place an upturned plate over the dish if necessary.
- Cover and cook on a high setting for two hours.
- Remove from the crock pot and leave to cool before refrigerating for at least two hours.
- To serve, loosen the edges of the crème caramel with a spatula before turning out on a plate.
Thanks to all the people who contributed to this post.
The Slow Cooker Cookbook
Published by Spring Hill
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