It’s definitely slow cooker season, so here are five things you can make in your crock pot to give you some winter comfort.
With the weather turning colder, if you’re like me, you may be looking to your slow cooker to provide some comforting tasty meals.
In my house, the slow cooker is on at least once a week – and often much more than that.
You can really spend as much or as little as you want on your slow cooker. I have had one from Asda that cost less than £10, while my current unit, also a multi-cooker, retails for more than £100.
And after my colleague Rebecca Shearer showed last week what you shouldn’t put in your slow cooker, in the interests of balance, we thought we should share some of the amazing things you can create using this hugely under-rated appliance.
My top five things to slow cook
1. Whole chicken – and you get broth too
Last week it was revealed that some types of chicken can become dry in the slow cooker, but one thing you absolutely must try is cooking a whole bird – and you can get two dishes for the price of one!
Slowly cooking your chicken in stock with your favourite vegetables, pearl barley and lentils or broth mix results in an amazingly moist and tasty chicken and a moreish broth.
Scroll down for an easy recipe.
2, Tex Mex chilli beef
Another favourite of mine is Tex Mex chilli beef, the recipe for which you can find here. Slow cooking some stewing steak or braising beef with some amazing spices results in the most flavoursome dish – and the great thing is, as with all slow cooker meals, you don’t even need to worry about it.
I tend to buy my beef already cubed and just snip it into smaller pieces with a pair of scissors. This dish is great as an alternative to chilli with mince.
If you’re looking for a veggie or vegan option, beef pieces are widely available and also work superbly in this.
3, Lamb Madras
This is a curry I return to again and again as a slow-cooked favourite, and there is a recipe here.
Once you have browned off cubes of lamb, it’s just a case of adding your spices and liquid, although not too much as very little escapes from your slow cooker.
The end result is an absolute delight and you don’t need to make it to Madras strength, just lower the amount of chilli you use for a milder curry.
4, Beef casserole
If ever there was a dish that is absolutely suited to a slow cooker, it has to be a beef casserole.
Similarly to the lamb, the most difficult part of the meal is browning off your meat. After that just add the vegetables you want to your casserole and your beef stock and forget all about it.
I like to add my veg chunky when I do this and have also been known to put some pearly barley – not too much – through the sauce as it helps thicken it and, for me, really works as adding a different texture.
Again, for a veggie or vegan option, meat pieces work well in this, you just don’t need t cook it for as long.
5, Sticky toffee pudding
Despite being someone who uses their slow cooker all the time, and not being a massive sweet tooth, I had never even considered making a pudding.
This, however, changed everything for me on the slow cooker front.
After a wee bit of prep, you can simply place all your ingredients into a pudding basin and cover with some baking parchment and allow to cook for eight hours.
During your normal times, put it on in the morning before you leave for work and you have a delicious pudding waiting for you in the evening.
However, please avoid doing what I did and becoming a little over-confident in the abilities of your slow cooker.
I decided to roast a cut of brisket one time and thought it would be a good idea just to leave it on low overnight.
As an early riser, it was, of course, that morning when I slept rather longer than I expected. I did, however, wake up to the most amazing smell of brisket emanating from the kitchen.
Unfortunately, any thoughts of some lovely slices were gone as I had inadvertently created pulled brisket! It was great on a sandwich though.
If you fancy trying out my chicken and soup, then here is the easy recipe.
Cooked chicken and broth
- 1 whole chicken – size isn’t important just needs to fit in your cooker
- 1 large onion
- 2 large carrots chopped
- 2 celery sticks chopped
- 2 litres of chicken stock made from a couple of cubes
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Half a cup of pearl barley
- Half a cup of red lentils
- Place all your vegetables in the bottom of the slow cooker and place your chicken on top.
- Pour over the stock and set your cooker to low and cook for around 6 hours.
- Remove the chicken from your crock pot and remove all the large parts of the cooked meat and use in any main dish, such as a curry or with gravy, or as coronation chicken. Chop or shred any smaller pieces and return to the slow cooker with your pearl barley and lentils and cook for another few hours.
- Skim off any scum that has formed from the fat and serve immediately or the soup will keep for a number of days chilled in the fridge.
Top tip: Try this with a ham hock, using ham cubes, and make another marvellous soup.