Mmm. Yum! Just love the aroma of French onion soup simmering away in the slow cooker. The long low-heat cooking brings out the flavours and there’s more than enough to feed the hungry gang when they come in from the cold. Served with crusty bread, this wholesome warming soup will banish any thoughts of takeaways which are more expensive and less nutritious.
Getting to know your slow cooker is important. They vary in size therefore the cooking time for a particular recipe may vary. Using the low setting, most foods will cook in about six to eight hours. On high they will take about four to six hours. One hour in a 180 degree Celsius oven is equivalent to about four hours on high in a slow cooker.
• For easy clean-up, rub the inside of your cooker with a little oil before use. Once the food is removed from the cooker rinse it to ensure bits don’t stick to the sides.
• Always thaw meat before placing it in the slow cooker.
• Because liquids do not evaporate, in most cases you can reduce liquids by one-third to a half when converting a traditional recipe for a slow cooker.
• Keep the lid on as removing it slows the cooking time.
SLOW-COOKED FRENCH ONION SOUP
Great to cook for the gang or freeze in meal-lot quantities.
Soup: 2 tablespoons olive oil
1kg brown onions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup brandy
4 cloves garlic, crushed
4 tablespoons plain flour
1 cup chardonnay
6 cups good beef stock
1 bouquet garni
freshly ground salt and black pepper to taste
Topping: 12-16 slices French bread
12-16 slices gruyère cheese or similar
Heat the oil and butter in a large frying pan, until the butter stops foaming. Add the onions and brown sugar. Stir well. Cover and cook the onions on very low heat until transparent and soft, about 20 minutes. Stir occasionally. Do not brown. Add the brandy and flame. Add the garlic. Place in a slow cooker.
Sprinkle in the flour, stir well, then add the chardonnay. Stir well. Pour in the stock and add the bouquet garni. Cover and cook on low for about 5 hours. Season. Discard the bouquet garni.
Meanwhile, toast the sliced French bread. Top with the cheese. Grill until the cheese is bubbly. Place the slices on the soup on an angle. Serve immediately. Serves 6-8.
SLOW-COOKER PORK, PRUNES & APPLE
It isn’t necessary to brown the pork but the flavour is improved if you do. The kumara could be cooked separately but if added to the meat it will help thicken the liquid.
3 rashers rindless middle bacon, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1kg boned pork shoulder, cut into 3cm pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup each: orange juice, chicken stock
2 red-skinned apples, cored and thickly sliced
12 pitted prunes
1 large kumara, peeled and cubed
Pan-fry the bacon until crisp. Place in the slow cooker.
Season the pork. Brown in the oil in the pan in batches and place in the slow cooker.
Sauté the onion in the oil until soft then add the garlic. Add to the meat. Pour the orange juice and water into the frying pan and boil for a minute scraping any tasty pieces from the base of the pan. Add to the slow cooker together with the apples and prunes. Mix well.
Cover and cook on low for 4 1/2 hours. Add the kumara and continue cooking for 30 minutes or until the kumara is cooked. Serves 6.
IRISH LAMB CHOP STEW
A stew any husband can cook. The potatoes do not need to be peeled but the carrots do as they will discolour. A sliced leek could also be added. Thicken with a little flour and water paste, if preferred.
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 onions, diced
500g washed potatoes, cut into 3cm cubes
4 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
salt and pepper to taste
6-8 lamb shoulder chops, trimmed
1 bouquet garni
11/2 cups beef or chicken stock
Heat the oil in a frying pan. Sauté the onions until soft. Place in the slow cooker. Top with the potatoes and carrots.
Season the chops. Pan-fry both sides until browned. Place in the slow cooker. Top with the bouquet garni.
Pour the stock over. Cover and cook on low for about 6 hours until the lamb is very tender. Serves 6.