Slow cookers are something you seem to hear very little about these days. Now, call me old fashioned, but there is nothing better than coming home in the evening to a house that smells of a good hearty meal, that technically you haven’t had to cook yourself. And with the wintery season fast approaching, it is about time I wiped the dust off of my own slow cooker and started to get excited about stocking up.
Regrettably, my slow cooker has been rather neglected over the last two years, for the simple reason that I forgot to take it back to university and on my trips back I traveled too lightly to be able to lug it back to Wales. But having nagged my darling father endlessly, he agreed to reunite me with one of my favourite cooking utensils when I graduated. So now that it is back in my clutches, I shall impart my slowly growing knowledge of the world of slow cooking.
Until recently, I had not realised just how versatile this machine is. Energy and space efficient, a slow cooker’s abilities extend far further than simple casseroles. (Casseroles which, I might add, are delicious.) A plethora of recipes are available, and most dishes can be adapted in some way to, for lack of a better phrase, cook more slowly. As a girl, our winters were filled with slow-cooked meals accompanied by mash potato or rice, and a chunk of crusty bread to mop up the dregs. And nothing could really be better! I test-ran my cooker with just a standard casserole the way my father taught me, and it worked a treat. Tasted even better the next day at work too, with a bowl of chips on the side!
Food prepared in such a way keeps its flavour whilst allowing others to permeate it. Much like simmering a sauce or (because I cook it often) a chili, a slow cooker allows meat and vegetables to absorb the flavours provided by stocks, herbs and spices. Cheap, tough cuts of meat are designed especially for slow cookers too: they are transformed into tender morsels which melt in the mouth. Potatoes become little packets of flavour. Even beans and pulses melt in the mouth. It also provides a much more healthy option for meals in a season which is all about hearty comfort food. Fat is not needed to cook with, and with such powerful flavours, salt should only be used minimally for seasoning. Home-made stocks are perfect here too: they can be made in the slow cooker and can be completely personalised to your own tastes. No preservatives, no salt, just pure flavour.
It is also the perfect opportunity to cook in bulk. Personal slow cookers are no fun, 5 litre ones are much better, even if you’re cooking for one. More often than not you will want to help yourself to afters later on, which will still be hot if you keep the slow cooker on low after serving. Once you’re done, let the food to cool overnight, then freeze in batches. More easy comfort food which can be either microwaved or heated on the hob in a matter of minutes! The clean-up is also incredibly easy, as the inner dish is usually incredibly non-stick and so a soak in hot soapy water for 20 minutes or so will usually solve most of your problems.
So it’s time to go find yourselves a slow cooker, and get cooking! (You can even cook breakfast/pudding in one, which has made me a very happy woman) You can pick decent ones up for pretty reasonable prices, and I can promise you they will NOT disappoint.
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