Tag: slow cooker

a butternut squash

image from Wikipedia

I love butternut squash. It has a lovely texture, and works in so many things: risotto, roast veg, Thai currys, soup, etc. But there’s no denying that it’s a faff to deal with due to the peel. So I did a little experiment.

I wanted some soup to come home to on Saturday, and astonishingly, there was no mongrel soup on the go (which I must address). And there was a squash in the fridge. I cut the top off the squash, and then chopped the rest in half, scooped out the seeds, and put it in the medium slow cooker with about ½” of wine (all there was left in that bottle, although obviously in this house, other bottles were available). I then added about 1″ further of water. Switched it on, went away. Returned after a couple of hours and added a diced and peeled Bramley, because it struck me that it would work rather well.

In the small slow cooker, I put a big onion, chopped, three cloves of garlic, and some chopped sage leaves from the garden. Half of this mixture went to make sage and onion tear and share bread (which I baked in the Remoska when we got home),

After four, or maybe five, hours, the squash seemed well cooked, so I scooped a bit out, and lo – even the skin was really soft. So I put it, the apple, the onion and sage mix, into the food processor and blitzed it all. Returned it to the pot with a bit more water, tasted it, and decided it needed some toasted cumin, which Pete obligingly provided. Switched the slow cooker onto medium, and it was all done and dusted when we got home, just half an hour to bake the bread. Splendid.

And then …

I had planned to make Anjum Anand’s Gujarati lamb on Sunday, and had removed half a shoulder of the relevant beast from the freezer. I usually add a squash to this, because the texture is so nice, but there was a bowlful of soup left and it seemed rude not to use that instead. So instead we had a kind of use it up Gujarati lamb, which went like this.

one shoulder of lamb, browned on all sides.
one onion, finely diced
some garlic (I used about six cloves) and a big piece of ginger, made into a paste with some water
a couple of handfuls of dessicated coconut
ground cumin, coriander, turmeric
some chilli flakes
leftover butternut squash soup (I accept that most of you won’t have this to hand)
some chickpeas (I always used dried, so had them cooking in the small slow cooker while this was going on)
lemon juice – about a tablespoon’s worth
salt and black pepper

Soften the onion in some vegetable oil, then add the garlic/ginger paste and fry for about three minutes. Tip in the spices (quantities here are very individual – we like our foot spicy). Fry a bit longer. Put the lamb in the slow cooker, tip the onion mix in, add the soup, and a little water if required – I wanted it to come about half way up the meat. I normally add sweet potatoes, but mine had gone mouldy (oh the shame).

Cooked it for about six hours (adding the previously cooked chickpeas about two hours from the end)  and it was just beautiful. We gorged on it, and there was plenty left for today’s lunch. And indeed there’s still a fair bit of the sauce left, so I shall be adding red lentils and veg to that, and making it into this week’s  mongrel soup.

So there you go – slow cook your squash, and no need to peel. Win win.

a chicken pie

(I said it was a busy weekend).

The last of last weekend’s roast chicken was languishing in a bowl in the fridge, and the weather forecast was Not Nice. So we decided that A Pie was called for.

Due to the unexpected trip to Lakeland, I started the filling in the tiny slow cooker before I went out. In went two chopped rashers of back bacon, about 30g of finely diced chorizo (oh, chorizo, how I love thee), a chopped leek, and about half a punnet of tired chestnut mushrooms. A small glug of olive oil, a grate of black pepper, some fresh thyme, and I set it on low, and went to Beverley. I’m getting so much use out of that thing, I just love it. I want a medium slow cooker now, but I really don’t think I have anywhere to keep it 🙁

There was a gorgeous smell when we returned! Once the cake baking marathon was over, I transferred the mix to a deep frying pan, added the chicken and warmed it through. And then, while warding off the Senior Cats, I added about two or three tablespoons of plain flour and cooked that off, and then just enough milk to make a sauce. No idea how much, just until it was right.

Pete manfully rolled out the puff pastry (which came from the freezer – I’m not that daft), and we ate it with mashed swede and carrot, and very nice it was too. And we were so hungry I forgot to photograph it, but I will do so when we have reheated the other half for tomorrow’s supper.

shepherds' pie

shepherds' pie filling

[apologies for the poor quality of the photograph – it looks better than this]

love shepherds’ pie. I don’t dislike its poorer cousin, cottage pie (made with beef), but much better is a cottage pie, made with lamb mince. So as I have a couple of friends coming for supper tonight, I popped into Normans on Tuesday and bought some lamb mince, enough for tonight and to pop a load of cooked filling into the freezer.

£12. Twelve pounds [falls over]. And it didn’t even look that much meat. Still … Last night I chopped onions, carrots and courgettes, and bunged them in the slow cooker in readiness. And this morning, I browned off the mince (in the wok – free firelighters!); I’ve always been wary of slow cooking mince without browning it first, and I’m not trying it for the first time with 12 quids’ worth of lamb.

The browned lamb went into the slow cooker, and I added some chopped herbs, about ¼ of one of those huge 99p tins of tomato purée (which reminds me, the rest of it is in the fridge), about ½ a glass of red wine, which has been sitting by the hob waiting to be used, some chopped garlic, and one of those little stock pot things. And a very little water, because I’ve been caught out before with sloppy stuff in the slow cooker – the lid fits too well! And that’s it, really – it’s comfort food, not posh.

I used always to add a can of baked beans to shepherds’ pie filling, but flushed with success after the home made baked beans, I took a different tack this time. I’d run out of haricots, and so bought a bag from the Indian grocer up the road; they were labelled as haricots, but when I slow cookered them yesterday, they looked more like butter beans by the time they were done. They also enlarged themselves quite dramatically, so look out for a post in the next day or two involving leftover haricots and tomato puree! Anyhoo, after the mince mix had driven us mad all morning, I added some? most? of these pseudo haricots, and left it all to sit.

I had intended top top it with a mash of swede and potato, possibly with finely chopped spring onions (guess what I found in the back of the vegetable drawer? 🙂 but, sadly, the swede was unpleasantly squishy. So I did a load of cheesey mashed potato, with the spring onions, bunged it on top of the lamb, and put it in a hot oven.

And it was probably the best shepherds’ pie I’ve ever made.

Pudding? Well, it’s a weekday, and I haven’t much time, and Aldi had a 99p Apple Strudel. Nothing wrong with shortcuts when you’re busy, eh? Nobody wanted much more, so it remains in the freezer.

a mini slow cooker

lakeland mini slow cooker

We do a lot of batch cooking for the freezer, as regular readers will know. I have a big (6.5l, I think it is) slow cooker, which is great for cooking huge amounts, but useless for a meal for both of us.

Fuel prices are becoming ever more ridiculous, so for ages I’ve been thinking about a very small slow cooker, that I could dump a tub in from the freezer and leave for the afternoon. And we are lucky enough (or unlucky, depending on our wallet’s point of view 🙂 to live within spitting distance of a Lakeland store (the one in Beverley, should you be interested). I phoned them this morning to see if they had one of these little chaps in stock, and they kindly set one aside for me, and this afternoon we trundled over there (via the car part shop and Screwfix. And the library). It seems perfectly adequate for the purpose, and we also bought some Parameswaran’s peppercorns, which is our black pepper of choice.

It cost £19.99, which is far more than a big one costs, paradoxically, but I think we will get a lot of use out of it. It currently has a tub of frozen chilli con carne in it, as an evaluation 🙂

some meatballs

Buried in the back of the freezer, I found 2lbs of sausagemeat, clearly left over from the festering season, and never used. I’m diabetic, and shouldn’t really eat sausage rolls, so I poddled up to the butcher and bought 300g of lean minced beef, and on Sunday we had a meatball cook-in.

Italian: Pete manfully combined the meats, then divided the combination into two equal parts. The first part had garlic, herbs and season added and was divided into walnut sized pieces. I chopped onions, carrots and courgettes, and more garlic. I made a sauce with half of  a 99p (huge) tin of tomato paste, and a good splash of red wine. Bunged the lot in the slow cooker, left for four hours. Gorgeous – made 9 portions.

Moroccan: The other half of the meats was seasoned with some Ras el Hanout, while I chopped red peppers and onions into thin slices, and cubed three yellow courgettes. I sautéd these down very slowly, with a teaspoon of honey, some olive oil, lots more garlicm and some sesame seeds. Then added the meatballs, a tiny bit of red wine (as it was too hand), and some seasoning. Left on a slow simmer for about an hour. Also made 9 portions.

The empty shelf space in the freezer is disappearing!

a sort of chickpea fusion stew

[Apologies: I really meant to take a photo of this, but now we’ve scoffed most of it]

As I’ve written before, I love pulses. I try to use dried ones, because they’re so much cheaper, and they cook up beautifully in the slow cooker, without filling the kitchen with steam or having to be watched in case they boil over. You just have to be organised enough to put them in to soak, which I actually managed this week.

So, in they went for a soaking on Monday afternoon, and on Tuesday lunchtime I put them in the slow cooker, with a change of water. Then I forgot to turn them off again until we got back from the pub, but they had come to no harm.

On Wednesday, I chopped up the last of the agéd chorizo – so useful if you’re in a hurry: instant paprika and garlic! I put that to fry off in my huge cast iron casserole, with a little olive oil, and then hurled in two chopped aubergines, two chopped courgettes, and two roughly chopped red onions. Put it on low, and left it for a bit for the veg to cook down.

Remembered there was a tub of tomato and red wine sauce in the freezer, so liberated it and dunked it in a washing up bowl of cold water. After a bit, it slid out of its plastic tub and I dumped it in on top of the veg to continue thawing. About twenty minutes later, I added some chopped herbs, and Quite A Lot of chickpeas (I do tend to overestimate these things). Stirred it all round, added a splash of water and some salt and pepper, and left it for half an hour.

We snarfed huge bowlfuls for supper last night (with nothing else, it didn’t need it), and then we had slightly less huge bowlfuls for lunch today. And there’s enough left to – oh, I don’t know – possibly eat with a pitta or somesuch. I’ll work something out.

p.s. That tomato/wine sauce is a winner. I’m going to make more of that.

two bean goulash thing

I looked at the remaining kidney beans, and I really felt that they weren’t going to make a substantial meal, so I bunged a load of black eyed beans into soak. I know you don’t generally need to soak/boil them, but these were quite elderly, so I thought it best.

On Sunday morning, I nipped round to the Turkish greengrocer and bought six red peppers, a huge mound of broad beans in their pods, a bunch of flat parsley, two aubergines, and two courgettes. And an enormous tin of tomato puree for 99 pence!

So on Sunday, into the slow cooker went three red peppers and two onions, thinly sliced, plus four carrots and a courgette, some diced chorizo from the very old one I found in back of the fridge, and a little olive oil. And a bit later, four diced cloves of garlic, because you can’t have too much garlic.

Left that for a while to soften the veg, then added the remainder of the kidney beans, the black eyed beans (which I had boiled for 30 minutes earlier). I put half the tomato purée in a bowl, added about a glass of red wine left over from the other night, and some water, then added that to the slow cooker. Also added some bay leaves, and chopped fennel leaves, from my herb garden. Seasoned it a bit and left it for a couple of hours.

I’d made some barley bread (because i found some barley flour in the flour cupboard) in the morning and left it to rise, so baked that off to accompany the bean stew. It was so gorgeous we went back for seconds, and there’s still a load left.

The rest of the tomato purée was mixed with the last of the red wine and a little water, and put in the freezer. That’s really cracking value, and I shall be using it again.

Using up:
black eyed beans
barley flour

making good use …

Guinness soda bread

We held a small gathering here the other night, to celebrate a friend’s birthday. We cooked up a slow cooker’s worth of lemony chicken and coriander, and  a big pot of dhal to accompany it, and also for the vegans/veggies in the throng. We also served (bought) chapatis.

That recipe, incidentally, is a base – we use a lot more garlic, chillis and spices than that, and I’ve discovered that if you just sling the chicken in the slow cooker without browning it, it still works beautifully, and you save a lot of time and effort, and a lot of oil too! Makes it a very low calorie dish. Anyway, I digress.

I also made a chocolate, ginger and guinness bundt cake, which left most of a bottle of stout left over.

So this morning, I tipped the remainder of the coriander chicken sauce into the stock pot, added a few carrots, a courgette and an onion which had been minced in the Magimix, and two mugfuls of red lentils, and a nice pot of spicy soup is now bubbling away for lunch. To go with it, I used (most of) the rest of the stout to make a Guinness soda bread loaf, which is now baking in the Remoska.

Sadly, Pete declined to drink the rest of the stout – it was two days old, I know, but still. I poured it down the sink.

pea and ham soup

Not terribly Reactive, I know, but still …

I had a ham shank in the freezer – they are ridiculously cheap, really; this one was £1.69, I think. And yesterday, our Morris side, Rackaback, was due to dance out in Bridlington, a seaside town on the East Yorkshire coast, where the wind blows straight from the Russian steppes, with nothing in the way to divert it.

So, I sautéd a finely chopped onion in olive oil, dumped the ham shank in the slow cooker with 500g of dried split peas, added the onions, a couple of teaspoons of Marigold bouillon stock, and enough water to cover the lot, switched it on, and went out.

And came home seven hours later, after a cold and rainy afternoon, to a glorious smell. Fished out the hock, and let it cool, then stripped the meat off it, We ate the meat separately (not all of it in one sitting!), accompanied by the soup and some ciabatta. Just wonderful. We shall be doing that again.

a bit of brisket

Every now and again, when I’m in Morrisons, I peruse their butchery section, which is surprisingly good, and if there’s a special offer, and I have room in the freezer (hollow laugh) I buy it. Having been quite unwell this week with a flu-ey thing, I fancied something both easy and nice today, so  last night I fetched out a piece of rolled brisket that I bought last June, so it could defrost overnight.

If I’m doing a pot roast, I like to put lots of veg in – you get lovely gravy and veg then, which can go in the soup pot, or go to make stovies, which will be featuring on a plate near here later in the week.

So I cut four carrots into batons, and peeled about nine shallots, and chopped up some garlic cloves (I think it was about six, but you might like to tone that down a bit – we like garlic).

I dug out my ancient and beloved Le Creuset cast iron casserole, heated some olive oil, and browned the brisket. Transferred the meat to the slow cooker, then tipped the veg and garlic in and cooked them off a bit. I added a slug of Cointreau at this stage – I generally put something sweet in with the veg to caramelise them a bit, and we have stacks of liqueurs here that I used to love, and now find far too sweet (and indeed can’t drink because of diabetes).

The  veg were then transferred to the slow cooker, and I built up a sauce/gravy with a couple of teaspoons of grain mustard, a glass of red wine, some cornflour, peppercorns, juniper berries, sea salt, chopped sage and thyme. Brought that to the boil, and added it to the slow cooker, and switched it on (at about 11.30).

After three hours, I put a piece of foil over the top, to stop the sauce evaporating further, and now we’re supposed to wait until 7 to eat it, with roast potatoes and sprouts. [eyes clock] Not much chance of that …