Posts tagged slow cooker

A new slow cooker favourite

Have you ever played that game with your kids where you say a word and then they say the next word that pops into their little minds? It’s good for a laugh on a long car trip. Astonishing how often a word can be followed on by the word ‘fart’ (unless you have lovely daughters, whose vocabularies are possibly a little larger).

It makes you realise how many words really do belong together. I’ll play it with myself to demonstrate.

“Bert?” “Ernie”.
“Posh?” “Becks”.
“War?” “Peace”.
“Kylie?” “Botox”, “Jason”.

Likewise, there’s a long list of flavours that just belong together.

“Bacon?” “Eggs”.
“Macaroni?” “Cheese”.
“Fish?” “Chips”.

During the winter you could come over and I could offer you a warming bowl of lamb soup, but really it sounds pretty dull, doesn’t it? Lamb & barley soup however is a classic food combination that gets people seriously excited and for good reason. It’s fan-tas-ma-gorically good, especially when combined with a heap of vegies and chucked into the slow cooker for 8 hours. This recipe is one of those golden moments of family food since it’s easy to make (no browning anything, just chuck it all in), envelops your house in a day-long saliva-inducing fragrance and results in a dinner that requires diddly-squat effort throughout the afternoon.

Even better, this pulps up beautifully into baby food and toddlers can have this as more of a stew with some of the liquid drained off.

Really it’s one of those blissful kitchen moments. Enjoy.

lamb and barley slow cooker soup

I promise your family will devour this with glee!


Slow cooker lamb & barley soup


I would urge you to make this according to the recipe without leaving anything out. All the ingredients meld to make a truly fantastic winter dish.

1 onion, finely chopped
1 fennel, finely chopped (please don’t leave this out – it is the KEY ingredient – if you truly think you hate it, then just use half)
2 carrots, peeled, diced
2 sticks celery, finely diced
1 cup peeled, diced sweet potato
2 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed (I give them a good thump with the side of my knife)
1 litre salt-reduced beef stock
400g can crushed tomatoes
1 fresh rosemary spring
1 fresh bay leaf (invest in a bay tree in a pot – hugely handy & the leaves are MUCH tastier than dried)
1/2 cup pearl barley, rinsed, drained
2 lamb shanks

Put all the vegies into the cooker bowl. Toss to mix them thoroughly. Pour over the stock & tomatoes. Add in the herbs and barley. Push in the shanks.

Cover and set to low for 8 hours.

Just before serving, remove the shanks to a bowl, use forks to shred the meat. Discard the bones and mix the meat back through the soup. Discard the bay leaf.

Serve with a smattering of parsley & crusty bread.

Serves 2 adults & 3 kids

If you love your slow cooker, don’t miss my new cookbook that has a bunch of recipes with 3 sets of instructions – perfect for your slow cooker, pressure cooker or regular stove-top.

new-book-on-sale

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Slow cooker chicken noodle soup

Things have been a bit crazy here lately. What with parties, activities, homework, pesky jobs, large mortgages, endless chores and stressed husbands, there’s barely been time for a glass of bubbles (well, ok, maybe there’s been one or two of them, too).

Possibly your lives are just the same as mine, so you may want to note down this slow cooker chicken noodle soup recipe. It’s as easy as they come and delicious, too.

Just what I need to get through a busy week.

Just what I need to get through a busy week.

Slow cooker chicken noodle soup

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, roughly diced
250g bacon, rind and fat removed, roughly diced
1.5kg whole chicken (organic if you can afford it), washed, dried
3 mushrooms, thickly sliced
6 garlic cloves, peeled, crushed
1.5 litres of chicken stock
1 tsp ground pepper, plus extra to serve
2 bay leaves, ½ bunch parsley (flat or curly), ½ bunch thyme (use kitchen string to tie all the herbs together so you can remove them easily at the end)
2 carrots, sliced
2 sticks celery, sliced
125g can corn, drained (or 1 corn cob)
¾ cup frozen peas
75g packet 2-minute noodles (discard the flavour sachet)
sliced spring onions, to serve

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. When hot, toss in the onion and bacon. Sauté, stirring frequently, for 7-8 minutes or until the bacon is cooked and the onions are soft. Tip into the slow cooker.

Pop the chicken into the pan, wing-side down. After 5 minutes, turn over and brown the other side. Toss in the mushrooms and garlic for another minute or so. Tip this into the cooker.

Also add in the stock, pepper, herbs, carrots and celery. Cook for 7 hours on low. Remove and shred the chicken (discard skin & bones) and return to the pot with the corn, peas and noodles for 30 minutes more.

Serves 2 adults & 2-3 kids

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When mummy reaches Exorcist point…

Despicable behaviour, all around.

Despicable behaviour, all around.

After a slow and insidious build over the last month, this morning I stopped coping, my head started spinning and I started to yell.

It’s ages since I shouted at the kids and for weeks I’ve resisted, instead using all the positive parenting tools in the book. But I have been feeling increasingly as though I am getting nowhere with them. Finally it all got too much, I cracked the shits, did a bit of screaming and actually got their attention.

Do you ever have those moments where parenting is just too hard and you are totally sick of it?

And what has been the growing problem? It’s all been over the kid’s refusal to take their school responsibilities seriously. There’s a long and tedious list of tasks they’ve not done or done poorly and without any effort. My philosophy with schoolwork is that I’ll be informed about what they’re supposed to be doing at home and offer lots of support, but I won’t do any of it myself. I’d rather they hand in an absolutely rubbish assignment of their own doing rather than a bit of my handiwork.

But it’s frustrating, watching them be so half-hearted. This morning once I calmed down, we walked to school and discussed the serious nature of responsibility and I asked for their reasoning and thoughts on how we could make improvements.

Mr M&P declared that he prefers not to do schoolwork, because it is simply too boring.

Miss F decided that she’d cooperate much better if instead of earning stars (for our star chart), she just earned money. For instance, 20 cents for putting on her school uniform each morning.

In the spirit of respect I listened attentively and thanked them for their contributions. I explained calmly to Mr M&P that sometimes life is boring and he should get fucking used to it and develop a better attitude. Then to Miss F, I calmly explained that she didn’t have a hope it hell getting paid to getting dressed really is just an expected fact of life.

Sigh. Parenting. It’s hard yakka, isn’t it?

In the spirit of trying to make things easier, here’s our latest slow cooker favourite.

Saucy! Great for dipping into with bread.

Saucy! Great for dipping into with bread.

Slow cooker lamb chop casserole

1 tbsp olive oil
1kg lamb chops – I use forequarter or loin chops (chump chops need to have the fatty tail removed). For a bone free version, cube a 1kg mini lamb roast
1 onion, diced
2 stalks celery, thickly sliced
3 cloves garlic
2 tbsp plain flour
1½ cups vegetable stock
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
800g diced tomatoes
Pepper
1 tsp sumac (don’t leave this out – it’s the essential ingredient)
1 fresh bayleaf (or 2 dried)
1 large turnip, peeled, diced
2 large carrots, peeled, sliced
1 cup peas

Heat the oil in a large stovetop to oven dish. Brown the chops on either side for 3 minutes or so. Remove and place into your cooker.

Reheat the pan and add the onions and celery, stirring often until softened (about 5 minutes). Add in the garlic for a minute until fragrant, then sprinkle over the flour. Cook it out, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. After a minute it will start to smell sweeter and you can slowly add in the warm stock, Worcestshire sauce and tomatoes. Stir well, season with pepper. Add the sumac and the bay leaf. Tip this into the slow cooker, then toss in the vegies (except the peas). Mix well.

Cover and set to low for 6 hours. (Or on high for 3 hours should work too, although I’ve not tested this method).

Remove, check that the meat is cooked and the vegies are tender. Mix in the peas, re-cover and leave to sit for 15 minutes more.

Serve with bread or over pasta or mash.

Serves 2 adults and 4 kids.

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Ummm, but isn’t that a bit obvious?

Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

Stuck in a doctor’s waiting room this morning I was assaulted with the thrilling spectacle that is morning television. Luckily for me I arrived just as they presented a segment on ‘eat your way to looking younger’. Perfect timing since last week my daughter said, “Mummy, I’m just going to call you a lady, because you’re not a young lady but you’re not quite an old lady either.” Ahhhh. Another moment of kid truth that DOESN’T FEEL AT ALL OUCHY.

Anyways, I tuned in to the TV, all ears and was shocked to discover that…. I need to eat more fruit and vegetables. No shit. I mean, really? Does anyone think as they scoff a lolly or cinnamon doughnut that they are doing themselves a favour?

Regardless of the ailment, I seem to hear this same message repeated by health professionals over and over again. Eat less processed foods. Eat more fruit and vegetables.

Don’t we KNOW this by now? Am I overestimating the food education of our society? I think this is basic, boring drivel. Which is why I never bother to give that part of the message here – it’s a given, isn’t it? I’m more interested in giving inspiration for what to do with all that gorgeous fresh produce so that your kids will love it, too.

And my kids do love this vegie stew/soup. Clean bowls every time (when assisted with some fresh baguette slices). Originally I posted this as a pressure cooker recipe, but I’m happy to report that I made it in the slow cooker last night and can confirm that it needs 4 hours on high (which should translate to 8 hours on low). And chop your sweet potato and cauliflower into little pieces so that they can break down and be gorgeous.

See the original recipe here

Soup + winter = cosy.

There’s still enough winter left to enjoy this.

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50 shades of appliances (and a July giveaway)

Last winter I had a short and intense love affair with my slow cooker. At first I was a novice and a bit nervous, but I overcame my slight hesitation once I experienced some food thrills. I swooned as I discovered that I could make beef stews, fabulous dumpling topped casseroles and even chicken satay and it ONLY TOOK 8 HOURS. Sigh.

Perhaps it’s flighty, but this winter, slightly bolder, I was looking for something new. After a taste of appliance life I was wanting more and I find now that I’ve been seduced away by something much more hardcore. Like a red room of pain that holds such threat and the promise of such pleasure I’ve been lured into the world of PRESSURE COOKING, where I can make all the same stuff BUT IN 20 MINUTES.

Admittedly there’s a time and place and both. Each has nuances to offer. I can’t imagine dumplings being so great in the pressure cooker and I can’t get my slow cooker to simmer away thickening a sauce in the way my pressure cooker does.

But why limit yourself to just one when you can swing and have the best of both worlds, right? Which is why this month’s giveaway prize is so totally exciting. It’s the Kambrook Pressure Express Digital Pressure Cooker, valued at $120 and it has all the joys of a pressure cooker PLUS a slow cook function. YOU CAN HAVE IT ALL.

I have the exact same model and it’s awesome. To get you inspired, here’s a recipe that originates in the Woman’s Weekly slow cooker book. It’s a great combination of flavours and works really well tweaked as a pressure cooker recipe.

Joy in 8 hours, or 20 minutes? Whatever takes your fancy.

8 hours, or 20 minutes? Whatever you can handle.



Pressure cooker Italian Beef Stew

1 cup red wine
1/2 cup tomato paste
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp Italian herbs
2 tbsp olive oil
8 pickling onions, peeled but left whole
250g bacon
12 button mushrooms
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 bay leaf
Pepper
1 kg chuck steak, cubed
1 bulb fennel, diced
2 large carrots, peeled, thickly sliced
1/2 cup grated pumpkin

Combine the wine, paste, vinegar and herbs in a bowl or jug and set aside.

Heat a large frying pan over a medium/high heat. Add the oil then brown the onions and bacon. Toss in the mushrooms and cook for several minutes, turning often-ish. You want to get nice browned spots on your onions and the bacon to be cooked through.

Toss over the garlic and stir for 30 seconds before adding in the tomato mixture. Bring it all to a strong simmer, then tip it into the pressure cooker along with the bay leaf, meat, fennel, carrots and pumpkin.

Following the safety instructions, seal the lid, bring to pressure and cook for 20 minutes.

Release the pressure. Serve over mash or pasta, topped with parsley.

Serves 2 adults and 6 kids.
_________________________________

HOW TO WIN?

I’m thinking you need a challenge in order to win this fabulous prize. How about comment below with a rhyme or limerick or some clever sentence about how much you like to COOK. (see, it’ll be very easy for you to get the sponsor’s name in there – which might just make them happy enough to donate more prizes in the future). Other conditions? You must be living in Australia – you must be a Vegie Smugglers subscriber and I would strongly urge you to check out the Kambrook Facebook page and also check out their Perfect Pantry blog – which is no hardship considering it’s packed with great recipes.

Entries close next Thursday July 18 at 8pm AEST. **CONGRATULATIONS TO MELANIE WHO WON THE COOKER WITH HER LOVELY RHYMES….

Comments (33) »

The current slow cooker favourite

Did you see ‘The Croods’? Delightful flick, following a cavemen clan as they explored the world and discovered new horizons. Great animation, likeable characters, interesting themes and pacey enough to keep me as interested as the kids.

Best yet, the female lead character had chunky arms, frizzy hair and unkempt eyebrows. Considering how I long for more diverse female ‘types’ in the media, it was a bit confronting to realise that I was watching, distracted by how ‘not pretty’ she was. Don’t get me wrong – I loved it, but I’m so programmed for all the animated women to be so effortlessly large-eyed, curvaceous and feminine that I kept waiting for her ‘big reveal’. Surely, I thought, the movie will end with her inadvertently falling into some magic dew that transforms her into a more conventional (ie, gorgeous) heroine.

But it never happened. She stayed grubby, squat and determined. And I was glad for my daughter to see that strength is more important than pretty and that ‘sexy’ doesn’t have to be part of a kid’s movie at all.

Snuggling into winter, today’s recipe does have a ‘big reveal’. You chuck all the ingredients into the slow cooker, go pick up the kids, take them to sport, piano, dancing etc etc then come home three hours later and find the most astonishingly welcome transformation has occurred.

Ta da!

Ta da!



Slow cooker chicken satay

This is based on a recipe from Sally Wise’s ‘Slow Cooker’ cookbook, but I’ve altered it quite a bit.

2 carrots, peeled, cut into thick batons
1 small red capsicum, cut into thick slices
3-4 button mushrooms, thickly sliced
2 sticks celery, thickly sliced
1 small onion, finely diced
700g chicken thigh fillets, fat removed, cut into slices
Handful of snow peas
Coriander
Lime wedges

270ml coconut milk
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp peanut butter (smooth if you have it)
4 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
2 tsp brown sugar

2 tbsp corn flour (optional)

Spray the bowl of your slow cooker with oil (not essential, but helpful when cleaning afterwards). Place the vegies in layers in your slow cooker. Pop the chicken on top.

Combine all of the sauce ingredients, pour over, cover and leave on ‘high’ for 3 hours.

If you’d like to thicken the sauce, place the corn flour into a mug or small bowl. Spoon a couple of scoops of the cooking liquid onto the flour and mix to a runny (lumpfree) paste. Stir back into the pot. Pop the snow peas on top, re-cover and leave for 10 minutes or so until the peas are a bright green.

Serve over rice, topped with coriander and lime wedges.

SERVES 2 ADULTS & 4 KIDS.

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“What would my mom do?”

I’ve got a parenting dilemma on my mind, so I’ve been surfing the net and having a think about ethics, decision-making and how to raise ‘morally courageous’ children.

There’s a nice PBS story here (watch the video) about a fella who spends his life teaching people how to make ethical decisions. Not just any old decisions, but life’s tricky and less obvious ones. When a question has two right answers, which one is REALLY right?

He advises taking the ‘stench test’, which is a gut level response to something. How badly does does a particular response smell? And beyond that you can take the ‘mom test’ which is “what would my mom do?” Which is great advice, except when you’re the mom and you don’t know what to do.

Not that my problem is large – it’s just that Miss F has qualified for the next round of her year 2 public speaking competition. Which of course isn’t the problem. The problem is that her speech focuses on what a MEANIE her mum is, and spins an entertaining story of her horrible mum FORCING her to do ballet instead of karate. It’s a thrilling tale, full of arabesques and kung-fu kicks that was a hit with the 7-year-olds. And now in the next round, I can go along to cheer her on.

The problem for me is that the entire speech isn’t true. Not a word. She doesn’t do ballet OR karate. She does netball. And that was her choice. So do I stand in a hall and cheer her on as she slags off her mum in front of 3 classes of kids and their parents? Do I suck it up and clap and cheer for her at the sake of my own humiliation?

The STENCH TEST tells me that I have to. Other ethics articles I read talked about keeping a strong sense of ‘ethical goals’ in mind. Which for me, means that I want to be a supportive parent and regardless of subject matter, I need to be there for my child. The WHAT WOULD MY MOM DO test is tougher. My mum would definitely have been there. But to be fair, I would never have made a fictitious speech out of being mad at her. Tricky.

Your dilemma this week is simpler. Do you make this beef goulash in a pot in the oven or in your slow cooker? It’s another yes/yes decision and whichever you choose, there are instructions below. Best yet, there is no stench test, just a delicious aroma to enjoy.

Finish up winter with this delicious dish.

Beef goulash (two ways)

2 tbsp olive oil
3-4 tbsp plain flour (omit this for slow cooker)
1 kg chuck steak, cut into 2-3cm cubes
2 onions
1 stalk celery, sliced
1 large carrot, peeled, diced
1 parsnip, peeled, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp brown sugar
1 litre beef stock (slow cooker variation: ½ litre)
400g tomatoes
¼ cup tomato paste

You need a stove to oven casserole dish for this version of the recipe.

Preheat the oven to 160C.

1. Heat the oil in your casserole dish over medium/high heat. Toss the steak in the flour to coat. Shake off excess and cook in batches, turning to brown on all sides. Remove and set aside. Repeat until it is all done. (Take your time, it’s worth doing this properly – I always get this bit underway then chop up the rest of the vegies in between turning). Remove and set aside.

2. Add more oil to the pan if needed and sauté the onions, celery and carrot for 3-4 minutes until starting to soften. Add the parsnip then the garlic, stirring constantly.

3. Return the meat to the pan. Sprinkle over the paprika and sugar. Cook for another minute or so before pouring over the stock, tomatoes and tomato paste.

Cover with a lid, transfer to the oven and cook for 2 hours.

Remove, season to taste and serve with pasta, peas and sour cream.

SLOW COOKER VARIATION.

Heat a frying pan over medium/high heat. Add some oil and follow step 2 from the regular recipe. Pour this mix into the base of your 5.5-6 litre slow cooker.

Toss the meat in the paprika & sugar then pop straight into the cooker (yay – no need to brown). Pour over ½ litre stock, 400g tomatoes and ¼ cup tomato paste.

Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.

SERVES 2 ADULTS & 6ish KIDS (or you’ll probably get enough for two family meals – stock the freezer).

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