New toy – slow cooker

I had been thinking for a while that I would like to get a slow cooker again. I had one before that I eventually put onto freecycle because there were too many annoying things about it. It was a sealed unit, which meant washing it without getting its electrics wet was a pain. It was pretty small. And there had also started to be a taste that came through everything I cooked it that was annoying me.

So we’ve gone many years without one, but recently I started to think it might be a nice thing to have again, when low and behold, there were suddenly half-price ones in the supermarket and so one came home with me.

In its first three weeks here we’ve put it to use two or three times a week – most obviously for casserole type things. We’ve had a lamb tagine, a chicken chasseur and a strange thing that I don’t think I shall make again, with chicken breasts in pineapple juice.

I used it almost entirely successfully to roast a chicken and then to make stock from the bones. The soup I then made with the leftovers was not a success, however. I have still yet to make a nice soup out of chicken bones.

In addition to that, it’s done sterling service preparing fresh homemade soups to take to school for a low calorie lunch most days of the week. Leek and potato soup was a success, if slightly potatoey. I’ve also been saving parmesan rinds for probably two years now, just for adding to leek and potato soup as per Julie / Julia. And then when I made it, I forgot!

At the moment we are cooking a French onion soup. The slow cooker was brilliant for caramelizing onions in the first place – chopped onions with a bit of butter or olive oil, seasoning, and sherry vinegar, just left in the machine on low overnight and with the door shut (so the delicious smell doesn’t invade the house.) In the morning add enough beef stock to cover the onions and then plenty more and leave it to cook all day.

It’s been busy over the weekend as in addition to Saturday night and Sunday making soup, it spent all of Saturday cooking baked potatoes. 8 hours on low with foil wrapped baked potatoes inside, plus an additional foil parcel with chopped leeks. Then scoop the centres of the potatoes out and combine the leeks and potato flesh with cream cheese and seasoning, stuff into the skins and microwave a little to compensate for the chill from the cheese cooling it down. Unfortunately this way the potatoes are not very crisp on the outside.

The slow cooker helps with meal plans – rather than choose all of my week’s food from all of the nice things I’ve ever made, I mentally think we need one veggie, one fish and then the rest of the meals. Now I know we need one veggie, one fish, one slow cooker and then the rest – and very often the rest can include a frozen meal from a previous week’s slow cooked batch.

The one slight niggle is this machine has a timer. The maximum amount of time it will cook for is 10 hours, then it switches to warm. We are almost always out of the house for far longer than 10, which means things cooking all day for far longer than is really ideal. If I set it going at 7am, leave for work, don’t come home till 6.30, and don’t want to eat till 8pm.

Ideally I would like to cook one night and prepare the slow cooker meal at the same time. But with the slow cooker you have to put things in it warm, so this has meant preparing tomorrow’s meal, putting it in the fridge, and then reheating it on hob over breakfast (porridge in one pan, chicken chasseur on another, whatever you do, don’t mix up the wooden spoons…) and then setting it going.

What should I make in the coming weeks?

Advertisements

Pudding club: Lancashire hotpot II

I’ve tried this once before – this one worked out better, I think.

Lancashire hotpot for last pudding club of the hols.

I didn’t really read my recipe from last time, just had a quick glance at Delia’s version and the BBC Good Food for quantities. Yes, I did need to buy two supermarket blister packs of lamb chunks at more than a fiver each. (A main course that works out at around £2 each is not unreasonable, really, though is it?) No, I wasn’t going to include kidneys (I wouldn’t mind but P would and I’m guessing two small boys wouldn’t be keen.) Basic stew, chop up some potatoes for the top, uncover halfway through cooking, brush potatoes with butter and brown off.

I liked Delia’s factoid:

This has acquired its name from the time when it was baked at home, then wrapped in blankets to keep hot and provide lunch for a day at the races.

Hotpot then is super appropriate for taking to a friend’s house.

I also liked Delia’s potato topping – more like chips or roasted potatoes than the food processor slices I did last time. I was going for that, but completely failed!

It wasn’t quick, by the time you have browned the meat a fair bit, then given the onions a good long time to almost caramelise on their own, in the juices, then add and soften the celery and carrots. After all that, a further two hours in the oven, which it can almost do on its own apart from the uncovering / browning stage when I felt the need to keep checking that it wasn’t actually burning.

Anyway, pudding club with friends, followed by watching #GBBO as part of a crowd, was an awesome way to end the holidays and not give too much thought to the first day of school tomorrow…