Colder days are with us — time to enjoy yummy warming meals from the slow cooker. It’s the busy cook’s best friend. I’m using ours twice a week. I just throw all the ingredients in the cooker, cover it and let it slowly simmer away all day filling the house with mouth-watering aromas.
Slow cookers use little electricity; they can be stored in a cupboard or just left on the bench; and can be used in the smallest of kitchens making them ideal for flats and holiday hideaways.
To obtain the greatest flavour, meats and veggies are best lightly browned before placing in the cooker. If time is limited, this step can be eliminated. However, it is important to pre-cook onions either by sautéing in a frying pan or in the microwave. Raw onion can dominate the flavour of the dish.
Most of your favourite casseroles or pot roasts can be slow-cooked. As very little moisture is lost during cooking, reduce the amount of liquid by one-third to one-half if adapting your fave to your slow cooker. Little or no stirring is required when on low but occasional stirring may be necessary to distribute the heat evenly when cooking on high.
SLOW BARLEY & VEGETABLE SOUP
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 each: large carrots, potatoes
4 large celery stalks
4 cloves garlic, crushed
410g can diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoons mixed dried herbs
6 cups vegetable stock
1 cup barley, washed and drained
Garnish: chopped parsley, shaved parmesan cheese, freshly ground black pepper to taste
Heat the oil in a frying pan and sauté the onion until transparent. Transfer to the slow cooker.
Peel the carrots and slice into rounds. Peel and dice the potatoes and celery. Add the vegetables to the slow cooker with the garlic, tomatoes, tomato paste, bay leaves, smoked paprika, mixed herbs, stock and barley.
Cover and cook on low for 5 hours or high for 2 1/2 hours. Add extra stock if too thick.
Garnish with the parsley, parmesan and black pepper. Great served with crusty bread. Serves 8.
TEX-MEX PORK BAPS
Barbecue-flavoured pulled pork baps.
Pork: 2kg piece pork leg
1 cup barbecue sauce
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup each: brown sugar, water
1 tablespoon each: prepared mustard, Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon diced chili, optional
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons dried thyme
Baps: 8 baps, split and lightly toasted
4 cups finely shredded iceberg lettuce
1 red onion, finely sliced
Place the pork in the slow cooker with all the other ingredients. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or high for about 4 hours, until the pork shreds easily with a fork.
Remove the pork from the cooker. Discard any fat. Using two forks, finely shred the meat. Return to the cooker to heat through in the juices.
To assemble, place the shredded lettuce on the bap bases. Top with the hot pork and juices, the onion and bap cap. Serves 8.
SLOW-COOKED CORNED BEEF
Great accompanied by mustard sauce or piccalilli.
1.5 kg piece corned beef
1 large leek
2 large carrots
3 bay leaves
3-4 slices root ginger
2 tablespoons golden syrup
8 whole black peppercorns
Wash the corned beef in cold water. Place in a slow cooker.
Wash the leek well. Trim and cut the leek and carrots into 3-4cm lengths. Add to the slow cooker together with the bay leaves and ginger. Drizzle the meat with the golden syrup and peppercorns. Add enough water to almost cover the beef.
Cover and cook on low for 6-7 hours. Serves 6-8.