Slow Cooker Recipes and the Truth about Slow Cooking

Slow cookers are as cheap as chips, economical to use and you're always going to use fresh ingredients with them. They offer a healthier, lower fat cooking method and they require little effort. If you don't use one already, why not start?
It's great coming home to the smell of home cooked food in the crock pot (or slow cooker).  Every Monday and Tuesday, I religiously cook dinner using my slow cooker.  They always turn out to be hearty winter dishes which are a smash hit for the family. You can thicken the sauces, and the meat comes out tender and soft.  Delightful!
Check out these blog articles with a slow cooker recipe:- 

Duck a l'orange and also chicken a l'orange in one hit

Chicken and Coconut Curry Recipe

Here I take you through some great positives to using a slow cooker:

1. Save time later and prevent stressful mealtimes


While there will nearly always be pre-preparation in general, it's normally just a case of throwing all the ingredients into your crock pot.  You can even prepare everything you need for your slow-cooker meal the night before, put it into the slow-cooker, cover it and store the pot in the fridge overnight. You can take it out of the fridge when you wake up in the morning, leave it for 20 minutes to reach room temperature, then just bang it on! 


An example of a recipe where this can be done, is my chicken with mushrooms in mushroom sauce recipe:-

Ingredients:
3 small organic red onions, 500g of mushrooms, 1 carrot, 4x large chicken breasts, 1 can of mushroom soup, basil, salt and pepper.  Served with a side helping of new potatoes, soya beans and petit pois.
2. Low fat cooking
I never add oil to my slow cooker recipes. The ingredients won't catch as long as there's enough moisture in the pot. You don't need fatty meat either, in fact, it's best to trim the fat off. The dish is still tasty but lighter than if you had used another cooking method.
Here is an example of a very low fat slow cooker dish with no oil or additives:-


Ingredients
4 x chicken breast, new potatoes cut small, 2 sticks of celery, one carrot, 2 onions (1 red, 1 brown), 2 cloves of garlic, chicken stock, salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme.

3. Economic cookery

Slow cookers are fantabulous for cooking cheaper cuts like drumsticks and thighs, onglet steak, pork belly, liver and kidney etc. during the cooking process, a meaty, top quality flavour permeates the dish, meaning you won't realise it's low quality meat.

Here is a slow cooker dish using chicken thighs and drumsticks; chicken in honey and mustard sauce:-
Ingredients:
  • 8x chicken drumsticks and thighs,
  • whole pot of honey (400-500g)
  • 4 tablespoons of coarse grain mustard
  • 200-300ml of white wine
  • salt and pepper to season
Method:
Lightly brown the chicken pieces in a frying pan with no oil or fats.
Add chicken pieces to the slow cooker.
In a saucepan, add the honey, mustard, white wine and seasoning.
Gently bring to the boil.  Just before it reaches boiling point, add the sauce to the slow cooker. 
Leave on 'high' for four hours, or on 'low' for 6 to 8 hours.

4. Thickening the sauce
The liquid neither reduces nor thickens in your slow cooker. I sometimes separate the liquid to thicken it with flour in a separate saucepan at the end, just before serving it up. 

Here is my lamb stew in red wine sauce where I separated the sauce from the meat and veg at the end to thicken it:-
Ingredients:
Half a leg of lamb, or lamb diced up already, 2 organic red onions, 1 celery, 1 carrot, 100g of button mushrooms, 1 tbsp dark muscovado sugar, salt, pepper, 1 whole bottle of any quality red wine, 1 tbsp of tomato puree, 1 beef oxo cube, 1 or 2 bay leaves, flour to thicken. Serve with petit pois and light mashed potato.
5. Let it be
Slow cooking is designed to get on with it by themselves so it's important not to lift the lid. It is also unnecessary to check the ingredients as no stirring is needed. Everytime you remove the lid, it releases heat, increasing the cooking time.

 Ingredients
  • Chicken Breasts x 5
  • 2 red onions
  • 1 pepper
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 5 tablespoons of dessicated coconut
  • 4 tablespoons of tomato paste/puree
  • 1 can of coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons garam massala
  • 2 tablespoons mild curry powder
  • one teaspoon of sea salt
  • one teaspoon of chili flakes
  • Optional cornflour to thicken the sauce

6. The slower the better 

I always try and use the lowest heat setting, if I have enough time. This is because a longer, gentler heat brings out the best flavours. Also, it means I can have a full 8-9 hours away from home, if need be.


Ingredients
  • 6 pieces of skinned chicken breasts
  • 7 oranges
  • 8 generous tablespoons of honey
  • chicken stock
  • A pinch of sea salt
  • A dab of pepper
  • Sieved flour to thicken the sauce
7. Slow cooking times
If a dish usually takes: 

  • 15 - 30 mins, cook it for 1 - 2 hours on High or 4 - 6 hours on Low
  • 30 mins - 1 hour, cook it for 2 - 3 hours on High or 5 - 7 hours on Low
  • 1 - 2 hours, cook it for 3 - 4 hours on High or 6 - 8 hours on Low
  • 2 - 4 hours, cook it for 4 - 6 hours on High or 8 - 12 hours on Low

Potatoes and root vegetables take longer than meat and lighter veg, so put them at the bottom, near the source of the heat.
Here is an example where the potatoes and veg are at the bottom of the pot in my Chicken in Almond Sauce Recipe:-

Ingredients
2 carrots, 3 medium sized potatoes, 1 clove of garlic, 2 red onions, around 5 spring onions, peas, around 10 pieces of chicken thighs and drumsticks, salt, pepper, paprika, thyme and basil. 1 chicken oxo cube, 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon of coarse grain mustard, 2 tablespoons of chopped almonds, flour to thicken. Plus a sprinkling of almonds on the final dish.

Happy slow cooking!

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