Saturday, July 31, 2010

Indian Rice Pudding (or plain version)

Dessert in the slow cooker? Oh NOW you're interested!

120g (3/4 cup) pudding rice
1 L (2 pints) semi-skimmed milk
4 green cardamon pods, bruised
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
pinch of saffron threads
4 tbsp clear honey
Choped pistachios or toasted, flaked almonds (optional garnish)

Dump it all in the slow-cooker except the nuts. Cook on high for 2-4 hours depending on how sloppy you like your rice pudding.
Garnish with pistachios or almonds.

There are some variations on rice pudding in one of Nigel Slater's books which might work well using this method. I'm sure one involved rose water which sounds lovely. Or you could just leave out the spices and have a plain Brit-style rice pudding.

Delicious! I don't have any great expertise on Indian food but I liked the flavours a lot. We had it hot after dinner one night and cold for breakfast the next morning and both were great!

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Let me explain. We use this recipe often, especially when we run out of the 20 cans of cassoulet we always bring back from France. It's based, somewhat ironically, on the "Quick Cassoulet" recipe in Good Housekeeping's Step-by-step Cookbook.

However, before this turns into the "Pork and Beans in Blighty" blog,, I ought to explain that my friend Laura asked for this recipe for her occasionally home-sick French partner and I thought this was the easiest way to share it with her.

I'm now really scared about what a Frenchman will think of my cooking. Gulp! What was I thinking Anyway, here goes nothing! (With apologies to Andre for my chutzpah).

Ingredients for 4:

250 g (1 cup) dried haricot beans. No need to soak.
2 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp mixed herbs or herbes de Provence
Pepper (but no salt till you serve it or your beans won't cook!)
6 sticks of celery, chopped
3 onions, peeled and halved
1 green pepper, chopped
800ml water
1 chicken stock cube
1lb/450g Sainsburys Toulouse sausages (or similar)
1 lb/450g belly pork in 1 inch cubes (optional)
Whatever meaty bits your French family member feels are crucial to cassoulet - it's wildly different depending on the region so this may include duck, goose, etc.

While you dump everything else into the slow cooker, brown off your sausages and any other meaty bits in a frying pan until they have a light golden hue and look a little less raw.

Tip your assorted meaty bits on top of everything else, give a good stir and plug and play. That's it! Cook for 8 hours on Low. If your slow cooker isn't quite as fiercely hot as mine, you may need slightly longer or an hour at the beginning on high - you may need to experiment a little.

Well, we liked it, as ever. I'm just worried to know what Andre thinks!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Barley Risotto with Bacon and Peas (and Mojo)

Oh my, this was good!

Creating this dish was also a relief.

I'd had a slow-coking blog simmering on the back-burner (pardon the pun) for well over a year and, two weeks ago, finally decided to just get on with it. I highlighted the meals on the menu planer that were to be photographed, swore an oath to faithfully write down everything I actually put into dishes rather than cooking from the hip as per usual and got  to work cooking.

The mojo promptly left. We had three dinners in a row this week which I wouldn't have wanted to share with anyone and that's a record around here.

Anyway, I persevered and kept it simple and this one's a good 'un. Toddler friendly, as you'll see from the pics, and pretty darn satisfying for the grown-ups too. I urge you to try this one. The mojo is officially back.

Ingredients to serve 4:
300g (1 1/2 cups) pearl barley
1 mushroom stock cube and one vegetable (or chicken)
(You could use soaked, dried msuhrooms - read the instructions on the pack)
4 rashers smoked bacon
800ml (3 1/2 cups) water
200g frozen peas

Put everything in the slow cooker, except the peas, with the stock cubes crumbled. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8. Stir in the peas about half an hour before serving. My slow cooker is quite fierce on high so you might want to allow a little longer but it was very well cooked after 4 hours.

Toddler approved!
A hit! My daughter had this after 4 hours when it was perfect and we had it after another 1 1/2 hours on low and it was still really good, although not as perfectly toothsome. It has the creaminess of risotto but with a pleasing bite and the flavours were really well-balanced. You could make a lot of variations on this, and I probably will.

This is a great example of cooking one meal for different family members who will eat at different times. The "window of yumminess" (technical term!) is about 1 1/2 to 2 hours with this one, as long as you put it to Low or Warm once it's done.

This is also a great way to cook barley as it takes quite a long time to boil on the stove but is otherwise a great alternative to rice. I haven't yet tried risotto in the slow-cooker but suspect I will keep on using this recipe more than classical rice risotto anyway.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Italian Sausage Stew

One of the best ways of using a slow cooker is for the long simmering which dried beans need. This was the main reason I bought my first slow cooker. As  far as my husband is concerned at least, one of the best partners for beans is pork or some other sort of piggy product. This stew is a very good example and ended up tasting like an Italian version of cassoulet. I used dried beans without soaking them (see notes below) and they cooked really well.

Ingredients to serves 4-5

250 g/1 1/2 cups dried haricot (navy) beans
1 tbsp dried thyme
450g/1lb fresh Italian pork sausages (or normal British sausages of some kind and 1 tbsp fennel seeds)
1 onion, finely chopped
2 sticks celery, finely chopped
300ml/1 1/4 cups dry red or white wine, preferably Italian (I used a Bulgarian cab sauv and it was fine)
1 bay leaf
500ml veg stock (I used Marigold cubes)

400g/14 oz can chopped tomatoes
1/4 head green cabbage, e.g. cavolo nero or Savoy, finely chopped
salt and pepper
Chopped fresh thyme and 2 sprigs fresh rosemary

Here's how I cooked it and then how I might tackle it with tinned beans.

Put everything down to the vegetable stock into the slow cooker except the sausages. Brown the sausages and add to the slow cooker. Cook on low for 7-10  hours then add the rest of the ingredients. Stir well and continue to cook on low for another 2 hours or until the cabbage is tender.

With canned beans, you can put everything in together (tomatoes can stop dried beans cooking because they are acidic) and cook on low for 6 hours. Longer will be fine but your beans will collapse.


This was really good and our dinner guests really rated it. We ate it with rice and it would also be good with polenta. The beans took on so much flavour (and probably a fair amount of fat!) and were really creamy and flavourful, just like in cassoulet. I might even prefer this to Cassoulet which is saying something.  I actually used 850g of sausages as I had a pack that big of British sausages and I thought that was only just enough for 5. They also fell apart so the meatiness of Italian sausage would have been better. The Sicilian sausages at Sainsburys are great in this kind of recipe. I wonder if the herbs would go bitter if you added them early but the original recipe seemed to think they would be fine.

A good recipe for autumn or winter meals with yummy flavours.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Slow-cooked pork with chickpeas and orange

This was an adaptation of a Greek recipe. I love the way the Greeks do comfort food which isn't too heavy and can still be enjoyed in summer so thought I'd give it a go.


2 tins of chickpeas
650g boneless leg of pork cut into large cubes
1 large onion, sliced or roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1 tin (14 oz) tomatoes
grated rind and juice of 1 orange
1 tsp chilli powder
2 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
salt and pepper


Place all the ingredients in a 4L slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours. Ours was still fine after 10 hours.

We really enjoyed this. The orange gave it a summery taste (don't do what I did and just chop in the whole orange as the pith was rather bitter - sometimes I really should follow recipes more closely!) and the chickpeas tasted great. They stopped it being a heavy winter stew. The fresh herbs were a great addition. I thought it might have been nice with some honey stirred in.