Thursday, December 23, 2010

Slow cooker red cabbage recipe

Maybe it's the colour but I can't help thinking of red cabbage as being extremely festive. Beside which, it goes so well with ham and, now I've seen the light (and the ease of cooking it in the slow cooker), we'll have a lot of that around this Christmas!

It's very easy in the slow cooker once you have a decent recipe and this seemed to hit the spot for us, even if it has some slightly unusual ingredients. It's another cadge from Nigella - I'm obviously in a Nigella phase - and is supposed to be Viennese style. I'm happy to believe her.

Ingredients for 6:

1 large red cabbage, shredded not too finely
1 large onion, sliced
2tbsp brown sugar
2 eating apples (Nigella uses 1 large cooking apple)
3 tbsp red wine or cider vinegar
200 ml beef stock (made with a cube is fine)


Directions:

Yup. Dump it all in. Walk away. This is why we love our slow cookers. Cook on Low for 6-8 hours or High for 4-6.

Verdict:

Really, really good. It had that nice sweet/sour thing going on without it being too tart (my apples were quite sweet) and without losing the flavour of the cabbage. I'm sure it would be fine with vegetable stock if the beef seemed odd to you but I liked it; I thought it added depth. If you like the idea, Nigella suggest stirring in some crème fraiche or sour cream at the end but I just didn't see it somehow.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Slow cooker kedgeree recipe



No, don't worry. You've not got a bad link. This great recipe is moments away, right here

I'm gradually transferring all my Blighty recipes to a new blog called The Errant Sock. As well as slow cooker recipes, you'll get lots of other conventional recipes with lots designed to avoid common allergens, plus crafts, reviews, parenting and home hacks, all with the same dash of realism and humour that you get here. So do take a look around and let me know what you think!

Hope to see you in a few seconds over on the Sock!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Slow cooker baked sweet potatoes recipe

So, so easy. Best of all, I combined this with the Overnight sausages recipe and it totally, totally worked. I just set up the sausages as per the recipe and plonked the foil-wrapped sweet potatoes on top. Genius. Sausages and baked sweet potatoes being the perfect partners, it was a happy day in the Eccentric household.


Ingredients:

Sweet potatoes. Predictable, but true.

Directions:

Wrap as many clean but unpeeled sweet potatoes in tin foil as you wish to eat. Put them in your slow cooker. Cook on High for 4 Hours or on Low for 8. Done. We eat these with chilli butter, simply mashing a few dried chilli flakes into about a tbsp of butter per potato. It's a great addition.

Verdict:

This was a perfect meal. Easy, good contrasts, colourful, filling but not stodgy. I could happily eat this once a week. It's just there are so many recipes I want to try....

Monday, December 20, 2010

Slow cooker festive ham recipe




Slow cooker festive ham recipe


Don't worry! You're not in the wrong place! You're mere seconds away from this recipe. It's right here.


The recipes on Slow Cooked in Blighty are gradually being moved to my new blog The Errant Sock which will have all the slow cooker recipes you love, plus a host of other goodies like other recipes, many for those with food intolerances, book reviews, product recommendations, craft ideas and more.

So do come join us over there and make yourself at home. See you in a couple of seconds over on Sock.

Slow cooker spiced mulled apple recipe - yum!

This is so easy it can't really be called a recipe; more a discovery. It's the perfect festive drink for kids, for drivers, for those who've had enough already this week or for days when you feel like a treat but are still in charge of a toddler for the next two hours. Sigh!

Ingredients for 4:

1L / 4 cups apple juice - the cheap, clear stuff with no bits
1 sachet mulled wine spices - the kind that looks like a tea bag

Directions:

Put ALL the ingredients (it's confusingly complex) in the slow cooker. Cook on High for 2 hours.

Verdict:

I'm making this every other day now. It hasn't been this cold in Britain in my life time and we need drinks like this to cheer us up. Although great for a festive party, this will also work for the whole winter. I believe.. I intend to test this theory heavily.

PS You can make this on the hob too. Simmer ingredients in a pan for 15 minutes.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Easy slow cooker Christmas pudding recipe

Don't worry! You're mere seconds away from this recipe. It's right here.

The recipes on Slow Cooked in Blighty are gradually being moved to my new blog The Errant Sock which will have all the slow cooker recipes you love, plus a host of other goodies like other recipes, many for those with food intolerances, book reviews, product recommendations, craft ideas and many more.

So do come join us over there and make yourself at home. See you in a couple of seconds over on Sock.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Nigella's Venetian Roast chicken recipe - the slow cooker way!

No, don't worry. You've not got a bad link. This great recipe is moments away, right here

I'm gradually transferring all my Blighty recipes to a new blog called The Errant Sock. As well as slow cooker recipes, you'll get lots of other conventional recipes with lots designed to avoid common allergens, plus crafts, reviews, parenting and home hacks, all with the same dash of realism and humour that you get here. So do take a look around and let me know what you think!

Hope to see you in a few seconds over on the Sock!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Slow cooker split pea soup recipe

It's Sunday night which means it's soup night! Here's a brilliant winter soup, full of flavour with ideas for flavours cadged from many different recipes. I love it when you pull the best from several different recipes and it all works.

Ingredients for 6:


1 horseshoe shaped smoked sausage - about 1lb or 400-500g  (I use Mattheson's low fat for this and the shape is actually immaterial!) OR a ham hock - see verdict for instructions
500g/16 oz pack yellow split peas
1/2 onion, diced
2 medium carrots, sliced thickly
1.25 L or 5 cups vegetable broth (I used 2 cubes of Marigold bouillon)
1 stick celery, sliced
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp mace
2 bay leaves


Directions:

Add everything to your pot and cook on Low for 8-10 hours (or on High for 4-6). You may wish to semi-blend at the end using a stick blender but we found it unnecessary.

Verdict:

Fab.U.Lous. Easy, comforting, filling food, just right after time outside on a cold winter's day. The mace really makes this but don't overdo it; it's a powerful, bossy flavour and can take over. The split peas after 10 hours were really silky and needed no blending and I like to have some texture to my soup so left the veggies in their chunks.

You could make this with a ham hock, in which case you'd want to take it out at the end and scrape the meat back into the soup, discarding the bone.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Slow cooker plum and ginger compote recipe

This was so easy and so delicious! Autumn in a bowl.Yes, it is photographed on the floor. No, there wasn't a counter clean at that precise moment. That's what happens when you cook 8 slow cooker recipes in 4 days. (Festive ham, red cabbage and Christmas pudding coming up amongst others, if you're interested!)


Ingredients for 2 (Double or triple this up. You'll want more):

1lb/500g plums, halved and stoned, slightly under-ripe ones are fine
1/2" root ginger, grated
2 tbsp honey (more  if your plums are slightly under-ripe)

Directions:

Place ingredients in slow cooker. Cook on High for 2-3 hours or Low for 4-6. Serve with thick natural yoghurt or vanilla ice cream.

Verdict:

Why didn't I know about this before? Stewed fruits in the slow cooker are almost always brilliant (apples, pears etc.) but the ginger and honey totally made this. Yum! Mellow, unctuous, the slight ginger fieriness against the cool yoghurt. Ravishing.



Monday, December 6, 2010

Timmy's slow cooked pork shoulder recipe

This was the joint pre-roasting. It appears
the final meal was not photographed. I was probably
distracted by hunger! 
I'd been meaning to cook this recipe for about ten years now. I had it written on a scrap of paper in my recipe file and was just looking for the right occasion. My brother Timmy is a great cook and I knew anything he liked would be awesome. The recipe, it turned out on asking, was taken from Jamie Oliver's book "Cooking with Jamie". Finally, I had my chance....a pork shoulder with Timmy's name on it, just waiting to be cooked. It wasn't the dinosaur-proportioned 11-15 lb shoulder that Mr Oliver suggests cooking over a full 18 hours, but I thought the method for cooking a joint that size should work on a smaller 3lb shoulder over about 8 hours.  And we were hungry...

Ingredients for 4:

1 tablespoons fennel seeds
1/2 tablespoon sea or rock salt
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and roughly chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
2 smallish onions peeled and roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic,  roughly smashed
Small bunch of fresh thyme
1 2-4 lb piece of pork shoulder on the bone, preferably free-range or organic, skin scored
Olive oil
100 ml bottle of white wine
200 ml pint chicken or vegetable stock

Directions:

Crush the fennel seeds with the salt in a pestle and mortar until fine. Put the roughly chopped vegetables, garlic, and thyme sprigs into the slow cooker. Pat the pork shoulder with olive oil and sit it on top of the vegetables. Now massage all the smashed fennel seeds into the skin of the pork, making sure you push them right into all the scores to maximize the flavour. Add the wine and stock to the bottom of the slow cooker.
Cook the pork on low for 8 to 12 hours, until the meat is soft and fork tender. Remove the pork to a warm place and mash the veggies into the pan juices to create a lovely gravy.

Lovely served with roast potatoes and other roasted root veg. 

Verdict:

You know what? This was perfectly acceptable but, for all people had raved wildly about it, I expected more "wow factor" and it simply didn't grab me that much. The texture was tender and moist - what the slow cooker is best at -  and the taste was fine but not exactly knock 'em dead.

In the end, I went back to the original recipe and found out that the roast was given an initial burst of very high heat before roasting slowly overnight. So, if you want to try this, a good browning in a large frying pan before putting the pork into the slow cooker might be a good idea to maximise the flavour or you could even start the pork off in a very high oven, just till it browns and then transfer it to a waiting bed of vegetables. I think personally I may look for other pork pot roast recipes rather than try and make this work better. 

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Slow cooker herby roast chicken recipe

slowcookerroastchicken

You're just one click away from this recipe - it's here! - and its new home at The Errant Sock where you will also find many non-slow cooker recipes, allergen-avoiding recipes and cooking tips, book reviews, easy craft ideas and parenting hacks.

I hope you'll come and look around. If you like Blighty, you'll love The Errant Sock!

See you in a second or two!

Jennie

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Slow cooker vegetarian lasagne recipe

Crikey, this is out of focus. Many apologies.
It tasted better than it looks here!
I'm posting this with some sadness because I wanted to post a fabulous chicken wings recipe today and I have mislaid the self-created recipe, probably scribbled on the back of some ill-fated envelope somewhere at Cambridge recycling centre. Of course, if you're actually vegetarian, you're in luck because the following will be much more appealing. But I'm sad. I hope it doesn't show. This made a lovely dinner.


Ingredients for 6:

2 large onions, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lb / 250 g mushrooms, sliced
3 large yellow or red peppers, cut into short slices
2 cans chopped tomatoes
1/4 cup / a large sprig fresh Italian parsley, minced
2 tsp salt
lasagne noodles - to make 3 layers in your slow cooker
   (make sure you get the kind that need no pre-cooking)
650 g / 2 cups cottage cheese
125 g/ 1 cup mozzarella, grated
1 egg, beaten
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
50 g/ 1/4 cup cheddar, grated

Directions:

Fry the onions off in a large frying pan/ skillet until soft and golden. Add the mushrooms and salt and cook until the mushrooms throw off their liquid - about 5 minutes. Add the peppers and cook for a further 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, parsley and ground pepper to the pan and simmer for 5  more minutes. Check the mixture for seasoning. You may want to add some more herbs or salt - you can be fairly heavy-handed on the seasoning with a slow cooker.

In a bowl, mix the mozzarella, the egg, the cottage cheese and the nutmeg.

Having greased your slow cooker pot, put a thin layer of the vegetable mixture into the slow cooker. Then cover with a layer of lasagne noodles. Use a third of the cheese mixture to create the next layer, half the remaining veggies and add another layer of lasagne noodles. Repeat. Finish with a final cheese mixture layer and scatter with grated cheddar.

Cook on Low for 4-6 hours or High for 2 1/2 - 5.

Verdict:

This worked well, like every other lasagne I've tried in the slow cooker. It had a good, fresh flavour and you could go for lots of different herby options - oregano and rosemary would both work well here. It would be perfect if you wanted a lasagne for the middle of summer. We ate it in November though and I would have liked a little more heft. If I was making this again in winter, I'd add some red wine to the veggie mix - just a splash - and I'd probably use a lot more mushrooms. Given the rest of my family don't really go for mushrooms though, I think this will be parked until next summer. As cold weather food, it didn't quite hit the spot for us. If you want a better vegetarian option for winter, do try this potato, mushroom, spinach and gruyere bake which absolutely rocked and was eaten up by my father-in-law who doesn't like veggie food, my mother-in-law who doesn't like potatoes and my husband who doesn't like mushrooms. Given they had copious seconds, I don't think they were just being polite!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Slow cooker Louisiana beef stew recipe

If I have to eat stew, I want an interesting one and this stew proved that interesting doesn't have to mean spicy. It has some odd sounding ingredients but go with me - it's sweet, yes, but subtly so. It could take some spice if you wanted to add it.

Ingredients for 5 people:

1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1- 2lbs stewing beef, cut into 2 cm/ 3/4 " chunks (I used 1 lb meat for 5 people - it would stretch to 6-7 people with 2 lbs
1 can chopped tomatoes - 400g/14 oz
300 ml/ 1 and 1/4 cups beef stock (go ahead and use a cube - I won't tell!)
1 tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
450 g / 1lb pumpkin or half a butternut squash, cut into similar sized cubes to the meat
4 potatoes, cut the same way - I left peel on for fibre
100g/ 4 oz frozen sweetcorn or baby sweetcorn
1 can peaches - 400g/14 oz - drained
salt an pepper to taste

Directions:

Just dump everything in and cook on Low for 8-10 hours or High for 4-6.We had this with rice. It would also be lovely with buttered baked potatoes.

Verdict:

The meat was beautifully tender and the peaches and corn brought out the sweetness of the meat without it tasting like a beef dessert! I could see this being quite child-friendly and a good way of getting some veggies AND fruit into them. It was also dead easy.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Slow cooker pork chalupas recipe



If you like Mexican food but want a bit of a change from fajitas, fajitas, fajitas, then this is really worth a try. It's also very easy so a good week night option. This one will happily sit all day and doesn't take long to prep before work. 

Ingredients for 6:

  • 1 pork shoulder roast (mine was boneless) - 1 1/2 lbs
  • 250 g / 1/2 lb pinto beans
  • 8 rings pickled jalapeno chillies
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 12 flour tortillas

Directions:

Put the roast into your slow cooker. Mix all the other ingredients in a bowl, then tip into the slow cooker, around and over the pork. Fill the slow cooker with cold water until  the beans are under the water by at least an inch. It doesn't matter if the roast is submerged or not. Cook on Low for  8-9 hours. If you do notice the beans getting dry (they might if your cooker is particularly fierce), then add a little more water, always keeping the beans submerged.

When the roast is fork tender and the beans are cooked, take it out, using two forks, and put into a bowl. Take out any bone, remove any excess fat and shred the meat with the forks. 

Using a ladle pushed down into the beans, drain most of the cooking liquid away and stir the meat back in. Check for seasoning and warm through for 15 minutes.

Serve with wheat tortillas and your favourite Tex-Mex garnishes - we like sour cream (isn't all Mexican food just a big excuse to eat sour cream?), avocado slices or guacamole, a splash of lime juice and some iceberg lettuce for some crunch. Grated cheddar might also be nice but we thought it was a bit rich to add yet more protein.

Verdict:

The effort to scrumminess ratio was very high on this! It was really, really good and I liked the pork and beans mix more than just one or the other on their own. It was lovely trying something new in the whole Tex-Mex range of food without having to go to any complicated lengths to do so. This was not super-spicy but did have some kick so you could ramp up the spiciness to your tastes. I suspect they have it a lot hotter in Mexico.  


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Slow cooker stuffing recipe

If, like us, you only have a single oven, cooking stuffing in the slow cooker on Thanksgiving or Christmas is a great idea! I think most stuffings could be adapted to work like hti and I'll be experimenting again in a month but, for now, here's a variation on our "house" stuffing", adapted for the slow cooker.

Ingredients for 10:

50 g butter
2 chopped onions (about 1 cup)
2 sticks celery, chopped
6 oz/ 150 g mushrooms, chopped
6 cups dried bread - I used an entire French baguette for this and made cubes about 1 1/2 cm or 1/2 inch wide
1 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp dried marjoram
1 tsp salt (I used celery salt)
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
250 - 500 ml/1-2 cups chicken broth or stock - made from cubes is fine
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup / 100 g ready-to-eat dried apricots, chopped

Directions:

Melt the butter in a frying pan/skillet and fry off the veggies until slightly coloured but not too soft.In a very large bowl, mix everything from the bread to the pepper thoroughly. Add the vegetables and mix in. Add the egg and distribute well. Finally add the broth until the bread is moistened but not sodden.

Put the whole mixture into your slow cooker and cook on Low for 5-8 hours.

Verdict:

The flavours in this were good  I liked the herby, fruity combination and the main flavours stayed distinct which was nice . The texture was nice and moist. However, this recipe was a lot breadier than I'm used to. I usually make it with about half this amount of bread and might try reducing it next time. It was perfectly acceptable like this and might exactly match your own favourite variation on stuffing but you know what it's like when you get to holiday food - some things just don't quite work unless they're your way!

Talking of which, I think you could really mix up the herbs, the spices, maybe add some dried cranberries or figs, try using cornbread etc

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Slow cooker mashed potatoes recipe (with roasted garlic version!)

This is sooooo easy! If you've ever tried wrangling a pot of boiling water big enough to cook potatoes for this number of people then you are going to love this.

This is also a huge amount of food so do scale down if you have anything less than a 6 litre/quart slow cooker. Or if there are only two of you eating. Such as the time I cooked this when I was heavily pregnant and was overcome with that hormonal nesting instinct you get in the last few days....but that's a story for another time.

We had this for our Thanksgiving dinner last night (given we're British anyway, celebrating Thanksgiving a few days early doesn't really bother us too much). I've written over on my other blog why on earth a British family with no obvious American connections should celebrate Thanksgiving. But may I say this is a great way to destress your Thanksgiving cooking. I may not be American, but this is about the10th Thanksgiving dinner I've hosted and it was definitely the easiest, mainly down to this dish. (I'll also post the delectable slow cooker stuffing this week - Brits take note for Christmas!).

Ingredients for 12-16, depending on how many other dishes are being served:

2.5 KG or 5 lbs potatoes. I used Maris Piper
220 g or 1 cup butter (don't faint - there's a lot of potato here), cubed
240 ml or 1 cup water
salt and pepper to taste
half a head of garlic (optional)

Directions:

Cube the potatoes, without peeling (seriously, the skins just melt away somehow cooked this way). The cubes don't need to be too exact - mine where about 2 cm or just over half an inch at maximum thickness.

Put the potatoes in the slow cooker with the butter, water and salt and pepper. Mix gently with your hands so the butter and seasoning disperse nicely.  If you are making the roasted garlic version, which I totally recommend if it balances with your meal, then wrap the garlic, unpeeled, in a small piece of tin foil so that it's nice and sealed in but has a little air around it. Pop this little package on top of the potatoes and put the lid on. Cook on High for 4 hours.

After 4 Hours, open the little garlic parcel, if using, and squidge (that's a technical term) the gooey garlic innards right on top of the potatoes, ready to be mashed in. You probably won't even need to snip the ends off the garlic cloves to do this. Then mash the potatoes to your desired and traditional-to-your-family level of lumpiness or smoothness.

The potatoes will happily sit like this on Low for at least 2-3 hours more so you can really work this around your day well. However, if they're to be left a lot longer, you may need to mash in a little warmed milk at the end before serving. Ours were perfect without after an hour on Low. I also really like my plain mash with some grated nutmeg but not if they're garlicky.

Verdict:

Great taste, super-convenient and made a TON of food! I will always make large-scale mashed potato this way from now on. We often cater for the masses so this was a great find. Use leftovers to top shepherd's pie or fish pie, make potato soup with, thinned down with some stock or you can add it to muffin mix (although NOT with garlic in! to make really moist muffins. Replace up to a cup of flour with the mash.

If you're looking for further Thanksgiving inspiration, try the Ultimate Recipe Swap over at Life As Mom

Slow cooker "Smitten" Pheasant recipe

The original recipe for this dish was called Pheasant "Smitane" and came from the New York Times Cook Book (a very old copy thereof), but we rechristened it "smitten" pheasant as we fell in love with the gorgeous sauce which involves white wine, sour cream or crème fraiche and, in this case, bacon.

I was inspired to try it when I noted that Scott over at Real Epicurean was running a blog carnival highlighting posts involving game. I already had a pheasant in my freezer begging for my attention so this was just the kind of challenge I needed.

So here's my easy-to-achieve recipe for Smitten Pheasant in the slow cooker. (And yes, for those of you who know me well, of course I bought it on special!)

Ingredients for 2:

One pheasant - ours was 500g or about a pound
Sprig of thyme
1 clove of garlic, crushed
2 rashers of smoked bacon
1 small onion, diced
100 ml dry white wine
2 tsp butter
200 ml crème fraiche or sour cream


Directions:

Put the pheasant into your slow cooker. I used a 4 litre/quart cooker for this but more birds would require a bigger pot. Into the cavity put half  the sprig of thyme and the garlic clove. Drape the bacon length ways over the breast of the pheasant. Add the onion, white wine and butter to the pot. Cook on High for 3 hours. Check that the juices are running clear and that your pheasant is fully cooked.

Leaving the pheasant in the pot to keep warm, put the bacon into a frying pan/skillet and fry for a few minutes until stiff but not crispy. Remove the bacon to a warm plate and chop up (I use scissors) into small strips, ready to add to the sauce. Briefly put the pheasant onto a warm plate while you drain the cooking juices from the slow cooker into the same pan you cooked the bacon in. Return the pheasant to the pot to stay warm and reduce the pan juices by a third or so. Stir the crème fraiche into the pan juices, add the bacon and tip the whole lot over the pheasant.

Serve with rice and a green vegetable, such as broccoli or spinach.

Verdict:

The sauce was heavenly and the slight sourness of the crème fraiche highlighted rather than distracted from the gamey taste of the meat. The bacon could have overpowered the pheasant (you wouldn't want too salty a batch of bacon) but instead complemented it. The meat had stayed moist and tender as I had hoped as pheasant can be a dry bird. I had thought the slow cooker might be the ideal way of getting around this and it seems to have worked.

On a purely personal note however I think we'll wait until the kids have left home before cooking pheasant again. For the two tired parents of an energetic toddler enjoying a peaceful Friday night, the number of bones was exhausting to deal with! I think cooking a larger bird would have helped as we could have just eaten the easy bits like the breast but this dish was, although delicious, a pleasure hard won! I do like game birds and they don't have to be hard to cook but I may let someone else do it for me for the time being!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Slow cooker cabbage with apple, sausage and caraway

I love this, LOVE  this! We cook this several times each winter and it is heaven to come home to after a cold walk in the woods or an afternoon working in the garden. It tastes quite Germanic to me although I can't remember eating this specific dish in my three years living there. You really should try this, ideally with a mountain of buttery mashed potatoes. Yum!



Ingredients for 4:

1 medium head cabbage, coarsely shredded. I like this with Savoy or white cabbage.
1 cooked, smoked pork sausage (e.g. Mathesons), chopped into 'pennies'
or 6 Bratwurst, pre-browned in a frying pan/skillet
or 6 good-quality British-style pork sausages, ideally containing apple
1 large onion, sliced
1 tbsp grainy mustard
1 tbsp honey
50-60 ml/ 1/4 cup apple juice or apple sauce
1-2 tsp caraway seed
1/2 tsp salt, ideally celery salt
salt and pepper to taste.

Directions:

Combine all ingredients and cook on Low for 8-10 hours.

Verdict:

Autumn bliss on a plate. The sweetness of the apple juice counters the slightly sulphuric cabbage and everything turns out beautifully. If you use the Savoy, the cabbage retains some texture. There's quite a lot of juice usually which soaks into the mashed potatoes. Also handy to know that the vitamin C in the cabbage has nowhere to go as very little evaporates so this is fairly healthy.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Slow cooker lentil and ham soup recipe

This is a classic wintery soup, choc full of vegetables and flavour. It was the latest to be tried in our newish Sunday Night Soup tradition.  It reminded me of wandering around Christmas markets in Germany...oh, those were the days!

  

Ingredients for 6:

200g / 1 cup lentils - brown, green or Le Puy
2 sticks celery, chopped
3 medium carrots, chopped roughly
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
150g / 1 cup diced ham
1/2 tsp herbes de provence or mixed herbs
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 litre water
2 chicken stock cubes
1 tin (14 ox/ 400g) chopped tomatoes

Directions:

Throw everything into the pot and simmer on Low for 8-12 hours. 

Verdict:

A very tasty, warming soup with good and well-balanced flavour from the vegetables. You may want to add a little salt at the end. The one issue we had was that the ham we used (which was good quality) got quite stringy which I didn't like. I might use a smoked cooked pork sausage next time like the Mathesons ones which come in a horseshoe shape. I don't usually like using anything that processed but it would withstand the cooking well here. Alternatively, you could use pancetta or lardons or  replace one of the chicken cubes with a ham stock cube which would also cut the cost of this economical dish even further. Totally cheating but it would solve the issue without losing much flavour. 





Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Slow Cooker Vietnamese Pho recipe

I don't cook many Far Eastern dishes, not because I don't like the flavours, but because I'm unfamiliar with cooking with so many and such unfamiliar (to me) ingredients. This soup persuaded me that it didn't have to be too scary and we really enjoyed it. We had it on Halloween (I cook faster than I write!). We'd failed a little on the pumpkin front so my husband made a little lantern out of an orange which you might be able to see in the background - kind of Halloween Lite!

By the way, my all-knowing friend SkyRider (seriously, there is not a topic this guy doesn't know about, possibly in the entire world!) tells me that Pho is pronounce "Po".

Ingredients for 4:

6 cups/ 1.5 litres beef broth or stock
1 tsp chopped ginger (I use lazy ginger from a jar)
1/2 tsp 5 spice or ground star anise
1 cinnamon stick
2 chopped spring (green) onions
400g/1lb flank steak/ thin sliced stir-fry beef
1 tsp fish sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 garlic clove, chopped
6 cloves

1 pack glass noodles (check serving size recommendations on different packs)

To serve:
lime wedges
bean sprouts
leaf coriander/cilantro

Directions:

Put all the ingredients up to the cloves into your slow cooker and cook on Low for 8-12 hours. Check the beef is cooked before serving. The main issue here is that amount of liquid takes forever to heat up so try using the Auto setting which gives it an hour on High before going to Low for the rest of cooking time.  15 minutes before serving, chuck in the glass noodles which will cook very quickly.

Put a portion of bean sprouts into each person's bowl and serve the soup over the bean sprouts. I find my spaghetti serving spoon useful for this as it has tines round the edge. Diners can add cilantro and lime juice to taste. I always add loads as I live for contrast in my food but you may keep things one a more even-keel and add a little at a time until it's just perfect.

Verdict:

I loved having the crunchy bean sprouts in the hot, sour soup. The consistency was brothy but the flavour was really rich and the noodles soaked in all that great flavour. My one issue was the five spice. In one of the recipes I was working from (I took the best from two), it asked for 1 tsp which I added. The house smelt like five spice all day and it was an overpowering smell, although the taste wasn't ruined by it - it was just a little out of balance with everything else. I've adjusted it to 1/2 tsp in the recipe for those who don't read reviews but you can crank it back up if you love the taste. Five spice always needs careful handling and these complex dishes are sometimes spoilt by being bossed about by one flavour. Said as if I actually knew something about Vietnamese cuisine!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Slow cooker roasted roots recipe

This was a lovely side dish which we enjoyed with fish (made a bit of a beige meal!) but it would go marvelously with some nice herby sausages or see the verdict for how to turn it into a great vegetarian meal! It's easy peasy. Here's how it goes!


Ingredients for 4:


2 large carrots
3 large parsnips
1 celeriac
2 sweet potatoes
(which I forgot to cook but they'd be a great addition)
1 tbsp grainy mustard
1 tbsp honey or maple syrup

Directions:

Chop the vegetables into fairly even pieces so they cook evenly. The carrots can be cut into thirds, the thicker ends of the parsnips will need quartering but not the thinner ends and the celeriac can be cut into chips. Throw everything into the slow cooker and toss the vegetables to distribute the mustard and honey. Cook on Low for 4 hours or High for 2 1/2. This is done when the carrots are tender.

Verdict:

A really easy sweet-tasting side dish, perfect for autumn and good against pork. After I made this I saw this post on the inspiring "We don't eat anything with a Face). It's a similar idea with the addition of halloumi. I think you could add the halloumi to the slow cooker and the root vegetables but it would be better grilled for 5 minutes at the end or cooked briefly in a ridged grill pan before adding. I think you might also do better replacing most or all of the honey with some robust herbs like rosemary as the sweet/cheese thing doesn't work so well to my mind but the slow cooker method would work well to produce a lovely vegetarian meal. Thanks for the inspiration, Onykahonie!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Slow cooker bread and butter pudding recipe

Classic dessert, hello! I was honestly surprised this worked, but work it did. It was also very easy and quite quick, even if the instructions look complex.



Ingredients for 4:

6 slices of bread (I used wholemeal - sour dough, in fact)
400 ml (1 2/3 cup) milk
2 eggs
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup/a small handful dried fruit, such as raisins
3 tbsp margarine or butter


Directions:

Pre-heat your slow cooker to High while you prepare the dish. Boil a full kettle as well. Find a 2 pt dish and check it will fit into your slow cooker. Grease it with a little margarine. Butter the bread, on both sides if you're feeling swish, and cut each slice in half, ideally diagonally. Mix everything from the milk down to the cinnamon in a bowl. Arrange the bread in your cooking dish in a pleasing manner with each slice sitting roughly vertically and overlapping with the next slice. Sprinkle the raisins in between the slices. Now pour the egg/milk mixture over the bread, making sure you distribute it evenly. Put your cooking dish into the slow cooker dish.

Now take the kettle and carefully pour the close to boiling water in between the inner cooking dish and the slow cooker stoneware until it comes about 2"/ 5 cm up the side of the inner dish. It's really important you pre-heated your slow cooker, otherwise the stoneware will shock and crack at this point.

Put on the lid and cook on High for 2 1/2 - 3 1/2 hours. It's done when the egg custard is set and the top is a little browned but you won't get the crustiness you get in the oven.

Verdict:

About a 4 out of 5. We don't often have puddings so it was quite fun to have one for a change. It tasted fine but, quite honestly, I prefer it done in the oven as you get those nice crusty bits of bread on top. I liked the addition of spices which I hadn't tried before and would like to try a bread pudding where the bread is torn up and soaked in the egg  mixture before cooking as the crusty top issue wouldn't matter so much.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

My personal Top Ten to date!

So, here as promised, are the recipes I thought worked best from the first 50 just in case you missed them the first time around.

In no particular order:

Slow cooked plaice with spinach
Good basic chilli
American Baked Beans
Potato, mushroom, spinach and cheese bake
Sausages in buttery cider and leek sauce
Tex-Mex Soup
Macaroni cheese
Leek and white wine risotto
Apricot Chicken
French bistro style chicken with tarragon cream sauce

Did I miss your favourite?

In the mean time, we've been enjoying some amazing chicken wings, some lovely roasted winter root vegetables, an all veggie lasagne, bread and butter pudding, a Vietnamese soup called Pho and a pumpkin and turkey chilli which is filling the house with glorious smells as we speak. So keep checking back for more great recipes. There's a lot on my plate at the moment (just figuratively, not literally!) but I'm having too much fun to stop!

And a quick hi to my British Mummy Blogger friends on this week's Blogfrog!



Saturday, November 6, 2010

50 recipes!!!!

I hit the magic number today - I have now posted 50 recipes. I feel quite proud of that.

The house may be a little grimier, the waist-line a little more Titianesque and the RSI on my mouse hand a little more pronounced, but these things we can live with. Good meals have been had with not too much last-minute effort and not just chez the Eccentric Family but in many other households world-wide.

I'm intending on posting a top 10 this week to point new readers in the direction of some of the recipes which were particularly scrummy. I keep on hearing very happy things about Apricot Chicken from local friends who are readers and I know which posts are being read the most from the stats page but they're not necessarily the best recipes in my humble opinion, just the ones people typically search for like Bolognese.

Is there something you think should feature that you've enjoyed? Just leave a comment and let me know!

And, while we're about it, is there something you would like to be able to cook in the slow cooker or a recipe you would like me to hunt down and try? I'm always up for a challenge so throw down that culinary gauntlet!

And just wait till I post the most gorgeous Chicken Wings recipe ever....it's been made, I'm just tryign to find the time.

Slow cooker Hoppin' John recipe

Please tell me I'm not the only person who will cook a recipe just for the name? Bubble and Squeak, Toad in the Hole, Succotash, Hush Puppies, Snickerdoodles. Irresistible, aren't they?

Even better is when you find a recipe that becomes a family favourite, an easy (and cheap!) weekday meal or, as with us, an even better breakfast with eggs the morning after. Hoppin' John was one such recipe, a spicy stew made of black-eye peas and bacon, traditional to the Southern states of the USA, served with rice. Read on, faithful friends....



Ingredients for 6:

250 g/ 1 1/2 cups dried black-eyed peas
(I don't soak mine but there's a big debate going on about this if you look at the red beans 'n' rice recipe)
3 slices smoked bacon, chopped
6 rings of jalapeno chilli, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1chicken stock cube
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp black pepper, ground
salt, to taste, added at end (or the beans won't cook!)
4 cups/ 1 litre water
Fresh, chopped coriander (cilantro) to serve (optional)


Directions

Dump and go. Cook on Low for 6-9 hours or on High for 4-6 hours till beans are tender.  Serve with rice to soak up the juices (we make ours sloppy for this reason) or you might enjoy the 5-minute microwave cornbread from the  black bean soup recipe.

We usually top it with a fried egg and stir in some chopped coriander. Yummy!

Verdict:

This is real comfort food in our house and a 5-minute no-brainer to put on in the morning. We have a rice cooker so it's a real hands-free meal or the cornbread is a great option. Did you know that the corn/beans combo gives a complete set of plant-based amino acids? Traditional food choices have a lot of sense behind them. It's spicy but not hugely so and the peas have a nice meatiness to them. I never liked black-eyed peas till I tried this recipe but it's the bacon that makes the difference.

So, I'm interested, what recipes have you cooked purely based on the name?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Two easy slow cooker chicken soup recipes

No, don't worry. You've not got a bad link. This great recipe is moments away, right here

I'm gradually transferring all my Blighty recipes to a new blog called The Errant Sock. As well as slow cooker recipes, you'll get lots of other conventional recipes with lots designed to avoid common allergens, plus crafts, reviews, parenting and home hacks, all with the same dash of realism and humour that you get here. So do take a look around and let me know what you think!

Hope to see you in a few seconds over on the Sock!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Slow cooker American Baked Beans recipe

I have to admit I was kind of flying blind with this one.

Served with an amazing warm roast pumpkin, bacon, green bean and goats cheese salad
Until three years ago I had NO idea that Heinz baked beans were not the same on both sides of the Atlantic. I had just assumed that baked beans were an American invention and that what was sold to me by an American company would be the same here too. I was wrong.

Once I looked into this in more detail, I also discovered that many people make their own baked beans in the US and that there are quite a few variations with many families having their "house blend" as it were. I've still never had a can of American baked beans so I I have no idea how authentic the taste of what I concocted is but I combined two or three recipes for home-made beans that looked good and came up with ....oh my goodness... total yumminess! You have to try this!

We're never having Brit-style baked beans again!

PS If you are an American reader and try this, I would love to know your thoughts.

Ingredients for 8 portions: 
(you'll need to reduce everything if you have less than a 6L/quart pot)

24 oz or 700g dried white beans. I used cannellini
4 smoked bacon rashers (or a 1lb ham hock)
1 onion, chopped
1/2 cup/ 100g brown sugar
1.5 litres/6 cups water
1 cup ketchup
2 tbsp grainy mustard
1/4 cup molasses

Directions:

Put everything up to the water into the crock and cook on Low for 8-10 hours or until the beans are soft. Remove 500 ml/2 cups of the water. I did this by pushing my ladle down into the beans and letting the liquid flood into it. Stir in the ketchup, mustard and molasses and cook for another hour. I also saw a recipe with 3 tbsp maple syrup. That sounded really good too! Enjoy with your favourite cowboy.

Verdict:

Did I say total yumminess? We fought over the leftovers! The beans were sweeter than UK beans, but tangy, thanks to the ketchup and the molasses gave them real depth. The bacon was a good addition too. My husband won't touch UK beans but he wanted this again the following week. A keeper. Yes, the beans too!



Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Slow cooked shoulder of lamb with harissa, cumin, spinach and potatoes

I cooked this for my daughter's godmother on her 30th birthday. It came out beautifully. It's a sort of Moroccan version of lamb boulanger .


Ingredients for 4:   

800g/ 1lb 12 oz rolled boneless lamb shoulder
1-2 tsp harissa paste
1 tsp ground cumin
350 g fresh spinach
1kg / 2lbs potatoes, sliced thickly
75 ml/1/3 cup water or lamb or veg stock
salt and pepper

Directions:

Grease your slow cooker. Lay the potatoes into the bottom and season with salt and pepper. Pour over the water. Wash the spinach then let it wilt briefly in a large pan with the lid on - maybe 3-4 minutes. Layer this on top of the potatoes and season again. Unroll the lamb, fatty side down. Spread the harissa over the lamb then sprinkle with the cumin. Put the lamb on top of the spinach. Cook on Low for 4-5 hours. Serve with a dollop of natural yoghurt, maybe with some cumin seeds sprinkled into it.

Verdict:

Heavenly. The potatoes were very flavourful with all the lamby, spinachy juices and kept their shape. The lamb was spicy but not ridiculously so. It had cooked to a tender, melting consistency. Everything was moist and fragrant. We had a happy birthday girl. Which made up for the tragedy which was dessert (a failed lemon surprise pudding. Surprise! It's lemon soup!) and the stomach ache I had overnight after we demolished a box of chocolate mint matchsticks between us as a replacement for dessert.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Slow cooker Overnight Porridge / Oatmeal recipe

I feel a real sense of guilt about this post as I meant to create an overnight porridge for my friend Jessica (Hi Jess!). What I ended up with was totally yummy but I remembered as I ate it that Jess hates cooked fruit. (Sorry Jess). I have it in mind to keep working on this because I love having a cooked breakfast waiting for me when I go downstairs - hey, it's like having staff! - but for now, for those of you who like a fruity breakfast, this may be worth a try. I ought to mention that, for good or for ill, it doesn't taste much like normal porridge. For good or for ill.











Ingredients for 4:

500ml / 2 cups milk
50 g / 1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon 
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 cup/ 75 g rolled oats
3 small apples, roughly chopped
50g / 1/4 cup raisins
50 g/ 1/4 cup dried cranberries (any dried fruit is fine)

Directions:

Dump it all in. Give it a stir. Cook on Low for 8-10 hours.

Verdict:

This is a really satisfying breakfast. My toddler liked it and so did my husband who hates normal porridge. It has a dark golden colour which seems weird at first but I think it's the apples and brown sugar that give it that colour. It was quite sweet and I might tone that down next time but it was also creamy. It was pretty thick as porridges go which I didn't mind but you might like it sloppier. The apple stays in chunks which is nice and the spices are very autumnal. We've made this several times now. 

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Slow cooker potato, spinach, mushroom and gruyere (except it's cheddar) bake.

I'm not going to lie to you and say this dish is quick to put together, because it's not. However, I'm posting it because my in-laws loved it. Given that my F-i-L is usually dismissive of vegetarian food and my M-i-L doesn't like potatoes (yes, I know, what was I thinking?) the fact they both enthusiastically had seconds is a result in itself. It was really delicious.
This is a great example of how the SC doesn't necessarily always save you time but it can shift the cooking time to another more convenient slot, whilst leaving you free to do the hostess (or host) thing. I put the dish together at lunchtime while my toddler napped and I chatted to my mother-in-law and then it chuntered away in the background while we had a happy afternoon relaxing and going for a walk in the woods. 

Here's how to make it:

Ingredients for 6:
(If you don't have a 6L or 6 quart slow cooker, you may need to scale down)

6 large baking potatoes, sliced lengthways
2 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp mixed herbs
salt and pepper to taste
2 medium onions, chopped medium fine
3/4 lb/ 300g mushrooms, chopped
7/8 lb/350g fresh spinach, washed
1 cup/250 g ricotta cheese
250g / 1 cup cheddar or Gruyère, grated

Method:

In a large and deep pan, fry the onion in the olive oil. After 5 minutes, add the garlic. Once fragrant, add the mushrooms. Add a little salt and stir well. Once they are throwing off their juices, add the spinach, cover the pan and wait until wilted - about 5 minutes. Then uncover the pan and wait for the liquid to mostly boil off, stirring occasionally. This is what took the time for me. Take the pan off the heat and add the ricotta.

Now grease your slow cooker crock carefully. First put a third of the potatoes in the bottom of the crock. You'll need a few layers. Add half the ricotta and spinach mixture, season, and sprinkle with a third of the cheddar. Repeat. Finally add the last third of potatoes, topped with a final layer of cheddar. 

Cook on Low for 6 hours or on High for 3. It's ready once the potatoes are tender.

Excellent with a glass of red. 

Verdict:

This will be made again. It was robust and full of flavour and you never missed the meat. No one flavour dominated but it wasn't bland or uninteresting at all, just very well balanced. It was somehow hearty without being stodgy or as overpoweringly cheesy as some vegetarian dishes can be. We all loved it.

And that was how a meal-planning FAIL turned into a surprise culinary hit!



Sunday, October 24, 2010

Slow cooker Friday Night Stuffed Cabbage recipe

Do you have a recipe which just has so many happy memories connected with it that every time you see it in your recipe book you smile? One that always seems to guarantee a happy and cosy evening with friends either old and treasured or maybe new? This is mine.

I've been cooking this since I was a student. It's easy, although I won't lie and say it's super-quick to put together. It's also very economical but makes people feel like they've been made a fuss of because it took a little effort. It's  not run-of-the-mill, at least not in the UK, but none of the flavours are so unusal that they're going to offend. You just can't lose with this one.

Ingredients for4-5

1 large cabbage, ideally Savoy
500g/ 1lb beef mince/ground beef
1 onion, finely minced
2 tsp paprika
1 tbsp raw white rice
1 egg
salt and pepper to taste
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp sugar
2 tsp oregano


Directions:

Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Strip the leaves from the outside of the cabbage until you are pulling off leaves less than about 3 inches high. Wash the leaves then dunk into the boiling water for about 2 minutes. You'll probably have to do this in batches. Drain the cabbage leaves, refresh with cold water and then drain again in a colander.

Chop the remaining centre leaves of the cabbage and pop them into your slow cooker.

Go back to the bigger, outer leaves and cut a 'v' shape out of the base, as shown above. This is to take out the inflexible core which will stop you folding up your cabbage leaf parcels.

Mix the beef, rice, egg, 1 tsp paprika and onion in  a bowl and season with salt and pepper.

Taking about 2 tbsp of mixture at a time (less once you get to smaller leaves), place the meat just above the 'V' cut on a leaf with the 'V' cut closest to you. Bring in the sides of the leaf then roll the cabbage leaf away from you, over the meat, creating a parcel. Place each parcel, seam side down, onto the chopped cabbage in the slow cooker. You can have more than one layer of parcels, no problem.  It will look like the top picture.

Once you have completed your parcels, hopefully running out of mixture and leaves at about the same time, tip the tomatoes over the entire pile of cabbage parcels. Sprinle the second tsp of paprika, the oregano and the sugar over the top of the tomatoes and season again, although go easy on the salt.

Cook on Low for 7-8 Hours or on High for 3-4.  Serve with mashed potatoes, not forgetting to give each person some of the chopped cabbage on the side with their parcels.

Verdict:

I've never cooked this in the slow cooker before and it was heavenly. The parcels are flavoursome, even non-cabbage-lovers seem to like this and you are left with a wonderful soup in the bottom of the slow ooker which you can use for another meal. The meat cooks gently and the cabbage doesn't fall apart as in some other recipes. The parcels look so pretty, especially with a nice green cabbage like Savoy and the house smelt wonderful when we returned from a bracing walk in the woods - real "log cabin food" as we call it! This remains one of my favourite recipes of all time and it always makes me happy to roll up those little parcels knowing I'm going to have a lovely evening and some scrummy leftovers to boot.

Oh, and why is there no finished product photo? I'm really sorry but it smelt so good we got on and ate and totally forgot until the last plate was wiped that we needed a picture!

If you like this recipe and want to find some more cosy recipes for autumn, why not have alook over at Life As Mom where many other talented cooks are sharing their ideas for what makes for a cosy supper.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Slow cooker overnight sausage breakfast recipe

This came so close to working....
(NB Since I first wrote this post, I've got it to work! See the verdict!)

I wanted to find a few more ideas for overnight breakfasts both for weekday mornings and for when we had company. 

We love sausages so I tried to see what would happen if I cooked them overnight. I think this will work with the modifications I suggest in the Verdict so go with me...

Ingredients for 4:

6-8 uncooked pork sausages
2 onions - red would be nice - sliced
6 tomatoes, sliced
2 sprigs thyme

Directions:

In a frying pan/skillet, brown off the sausages until very light golden. Pop the onions into your slow cooker in an even layer. Then do the same with the tomatoes. Add the sprigs of thyme - no need to chop. Place the sausages on top and cook on Low for 8 hours. 

Verdict:

The main issue here was that we cooked these for more like 9 hours. By this time, the edges of the by now gorgeously gooey veggies were charring so there was very little edible veggie goodness to go with each serving, although the uncharred bits were awesome (I'm really selling this here, aren't I?).

The sausages looked a beautiful burnished bronze colour but were disappointingly dry. I think the main problem was simply that I used good quality butcher's sausages which have very little fat in them. On this one occasion, a somewhat cheaper sausage would probably have saved the day (although I'm not going to scrape the barrel on the sausage front).

I might have also done better using the smaller slow cooker on this but it's new and I don't yet trust it. We're working our way into our relationship. 

I will try this again one day but probably on a day when I'm in so I can see how it works up close. The flavours though were spot on so I think it will be worth perfecting this one with the above-mentioned tweaks.

A few weeks later....I tried this again with some lovely Italian Sausages (Sainsburys Taste the Difference, if you must know!). I used the smaller slow cooker and cooked them during the day. I also only lightly browned some of them - literally just adding a tiny bit of colour. At 5 hours, they were only just cooked and I didn't try the ones I'd browned least (if that makes sense!) as you don't give a toddler undercooked sausage for her tea, at leas tnot if you want to sleep that night!). At 7 hours, when we had ours, they were glorious, still moist and the onions were only just cooked; in fact one onion which I'd sliced too thickly was still a bit tough. So do try this but don't use posh butchers sausages - use something with a slightly higher fat content. And enjoy!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Slow cooker coconut roast chicken recipe

Imagine you could cross roast chicken and curry? Does that sound like the ultimate food? Thought so!

Ingredients for 4:
1 2-3 lb roasting chicken
2 tbsp balti curry paste
1 tin of coconut milk
2 tsp lemongrass
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Put the chicken in your slow cooker. Mix the balti paste and the lemon grass with 2 tbsp of the coconut milk. Tip the rest of the coconut milk over the chicken. Rub the curry paste mixture over the chicken and any remaining paste into the chicken's cavity.Cook on High for 3 1/2 hours or on Low for 7. Check that the chicken is cooked thoroughly by seeing if the juices run clear from the thigh.

Verdict:

This was wonderful. We had it with brown rice and a baby spinach salad plus some sweetcorn I see in the picture!). The chickeny juices mixed with the coconut milk were delicious!



Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Slow cooker South Western Pumpkin Soup Recipe

This is my favourite soup of all time and we've started a Sunday Night Soup tradition in our house so I was very keen to see if this would work in the slow cooker the moment I saw pumpkins for sale in Sainsburys. It would be a more than fantastic use for the innards of a carving pumpkin too.

Just a note for my American readers - you will be shocked, nay aghast, to learn that it is almost impossible to buy pumpkin purée in a can in the UK so fresh pumpkin is a seasonal treat. I know! Please rest assured that we do have such modern amenities as running water and even central heating in most buildings....;>)  However, this will explain why the soup is made with fresh pumpkin. You can just use 1 can of purée as my original recipe did.

In case you're wondering how to handle the rest of the pumpkin, I've added instructions at the bottom. We used to grow several every year when we had the space so I'm an old hand.

Ingredients for 6 (it's rich so these are small servings):

3 cups/ 750 ml chicken stock made with 1 cube (see verdict - I'd modify this)
750 g raw pumpkin (or 1 lb 10 oz by weight)
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 cup/250 ml double/heavy cream
3/4 cup/ 100g mature cheddar cheese, grated, for serving
Chopped fresh coriander (cilantro) or use a couple of tbsp minced from a jar

Directions:

Peel then chop the pumpkin you are using. Usually a potato peeler works fine for this. (See below for further pumpkin wrangling tips). Make up the chicken stock and add both the stock and pumpkin to the slow cooker, along with the spices. Cook on Low for 7 hours or High for 3-4.

Using a stick blender, or a goblet blender if that's what you have, blend the soup until smooth. The pumpkin should be tender by now,

Turn the slow cooker to High and add the cream. Allow to cook another 15 minutes then stir in the cilantro and serve, garnished with grated cheese.

Verdict:

Oh, pumpkin soup, how I do love thee! This is still my favourite soup of all time. It's spicy, complex, creamy, comforting, surprising and warming. I really recommend you try it (And soon, you Brits! Pumpkins disappear the moment Halloween is over!)

The only thing I would say is that the water was still a little too high in this and I would reduce it to just over 2 cups or maybe 600ml as the pumpkin gives out a lot of water.

I've also roasted some pumpkin (see below) and will be seeing if it makes a difference to the flavour of the soup which I think it will.


Pumpkin Prep:


Here's how to make pumpkin purée which is handy for pumpkin pies, soups etc. or roast pumpkin for risottos, pasta dishes and so on.


This will only work if you have a pumpkin which isn't needed for carving, although you can still make the soup above with carving pumpkin innards.

Chop the pumpkin in half. Empty the halves of seeds and the stringy flesh around them. I use an ice cream scoop for this and it works well. You can wash the seeds and roast them later for a tasty snack.

Put each half in a roasting tray, flesh side down. Don't use a baking sheet as these babies give out a lot of water when roasted. If you have, let''s say, cut off a chunk from one half to make a yummy pumpkin soup which a friendly blogger recommended you just had to try (it could happen), then cover  that half with foil as the pumpkin flesh needs to steam a bit so needs to be enclosed.

Bake at 400F/ 180C for 45 minutes or so till the pumpkin flesh is fork tender.

Carefully pour away the pumpkin juices then scoop out the flesh with your trusty ice cream scoop into a large colander. If you need the pumpkin in lumps then cool quickly and store in the fridge for a maximum of 48 hours before using. Pumpkin provides a warm, moist, sugar-laden haven for breeding bacteria so you need to be a little careful in cooling and storing it. You don't want to know how we found this out!

Press down hard on the flesh, maybe using an old plate, and try to push as much extra fluid as you can out of the pumpkin flesh. You'll be amazed how much extra comes out.

Use a stick blender or a blender to purée the pumpkin flesh. I suggest freezing the purée in 500 ml or 2 cup portions as this is what is usually called for in recipes.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Slow Cooked Italian Fish Bake

My daughter and I enjoyed this as an easy lunch the other day. It was another adaptation which showed promise but needed a tiny bit more tweaking. Tweaks in the verdict!

Ingredients for 2:

1 tbsp olive oil
1 cod steak
1 tin tomatoes
half an onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp oregano
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 ball mozzarella
black olives - I didn't have any this time but they would be great
capers - ditto, if you like them
salt and pepper

Directions:

Put the olive oil into the slow cooker and pop your fish on top, skin down. Drizzle the lemon juice over the top. In a frying pan/skillet, make a little tomato sauce by frying off the onion for 5 minutes in a little olive oil, adding the garlic and finally the tin of tomatoes and the oregano. Boil off for a moment or two as there'll be no evaporation in the slow cooker. Add the capers at this point if you like them.

Pour the sauce over the fish. Top with the mozzarella, sliced, and the black olives if using.  Cook on low for 2 1/2 - 3 hours, depending on the size of your fish. 

Verdict:

This is a great gentle way to cook fish and the fish itself was perfectly cooked. The sauce though was way too watery. Next time I would drain the tomatoes before creating the sauce and maybe boil the suace for a few minutes more. Or use a small jar of good quality pasta sauce. The flavours were good though and very balanced. 




Too watery c- drain tomatoes