Boozy Beef (slow cooker)

Boozy beef - a pot full of yum.

Ladies and Gents I present to you a simple recipe that does NOT contain turkey!

 Yayyyyy!

This recipe started its life as Boeuf à la Flamande or Flemish beef, known in this particular household as Beef in Beer.

I got the recipe from a book called The Rustic Table and I adapted it for use in my trusty slow cooker – because why not? It does use a frying pan at the very beginning, but not for long and you can skip that step if you really want.

It’s incredibly simple and my meal of choice for small dinner parties, especially during winter.  A good dollop of this, served on a bed of creamy mashed potatoes, makes it much easier to brave the cold.

It’s just as good in the Australian summer – because beer.

Now beer is not a staple in this household, but The Boy went to great lengths to find just the right one for this dish. I actually can’t tell you which one he ended up getting, but it worked…

That’s not particularly helpful is it? Go with something dark, but not black, maybe – and this is a stab in the dark – something Belgian, and you should be fine. Having said that though, I have made this with apple cider and it was delicious, so don’t stress.

You’ll also want to get a few other ingredients, like beef and stuff.

Sorry. I’ll behave.

Ahem.

This is a recipe that can quite easily be made gluten-free for any coeliacs on your guest list. Simply use cornflour or cornstarch in place of the plain flour and you’ll be golden.

[edit: I’ve been reminded that beer is not gluten-free. I’m an idiot. Please ensure you use a brew that doesn’t contain malts or other anti-coeliac nasties. Cider should be fine.]

You’ll need one and a half kilos of boneless chuck steak that has been trimmed of its fat and cut into 2 cm cubes. If you don’t like handling meat simply ask the butcher to do this for you. Then place a good cup or so of your flour of choice into a large plastic bag and season it well with salt and pepper. This mix is used to coat your beef cubes. The flour will help to thicken your sauce once the liquid is added, so don’t skip the coating stage.

Basically, take a few of your cubes, add them to the bag of flour, pinch the top closed and shake it until they are covered in flour.

Coat your beef in seasoned flour.

Coat your beef in seasoned flour.

Or you could do the whole lot at once if you are short of time or patience. Like I did. (see above)

The end result.

The end result.

In your frying pan, melt a little butter and add some oil – the oil is there to stop the butter from burning. Now you want to gently fry your cubes of beef just long enough to brown them all over, but not cook them through.

This part can be skipped, but the caramelization that happens here will add a depth of flavour to your stew that makes it well worth doing.

Shake off each piece of beef as you remove it from the bag and place it gently into the pan. Only brown off a few cubes at a time as this will help to keep the temperature of the pan stable and help the meat to brown rather than steam.

Brown your meat.

Brown your meat.

When they are suitably tanned, remove them to a piece of paper towel to drain and continue the process until all of the beef is done.

The browned beef, resting.

The browned beef, resting.

I admit to putting the drained beef into the slow cooker pretty much as each batch is done, but I’m an experienced cook who knows what they’re about. Once I’ve got an assembly line happening, it’s all systems go. You may need to take it slower. Nevertheless, when your beef is all seared and sealed, dump it into your slow cooker. Mine was a 5 litre or 4 quart size. Turn the slow cooker to LOW and put the lid on while you do the next steps.

Make sure your frying pan is off the heat, but keep it handy. You’ll be using it again soon.

The next step is cutting up quite a few onions; 5 to be precise. You’ll want nice medium-sized ones – something you can hold easily in the palm of your hand. Peel them and cut in half, then slice into wedges so that they look like crescent moons.

Wear sun glasses or swimming goggles if your eyes are sensitive.

Wear sun glasses or swimming goggles if your eyes are sensitive. Not joking.

Get your pan back on the heat and, when it is warm enough, add your onions, stirring gently for five minutes or so. You want them to be just starting to soften and browning on the edges.

These are just starting to brown on the cut surfaces.

These are just starting to brown on the cut surfaces.

Using a slotted spoon remove them to the slow cooker too, leaving the juices in the pan. Place the lid back on the slow cooker and the pan back on the heat.

Add the herbs to the frying pan, along with some brown sugar, a touch of red wine vinegar and about 2 cups of beer. Stir, scraping the bottom of the frying pan to deglaze it.

You want to get all the crispy bits left from the browning process as they will add even more flavour to your stew.

Bring the liquid to a simmer.

It will smell amazing.

It will smell amazing.

Turn off the heat. Remove the lid from your slow cooker and pour the entire contents of the pan into it.

Your work here is done.

Your work here is done.

Place the lid back on and turn the dial to HIGH and cook for 3-4 hours, or leave it on LOW and cook for 4-6 hours. Do all your washing up and walk away until you need to prepare your side dishes.

The sauce will thicken as it cooks.

Boozy beef - a pot full of yum.

Boozy beef – a pot full of yum.

Remove the Bay leaves and serve over mashed potatoes or with a creamy polenta. Some steamed asparagus spears or Bok Choy will provide an ideal splash of green.

This will keep quite nicely in the refrigerator for up to 5 days once cooked.

Boozy Beef (slow cooker)

  • Servings: 6 -8
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

Ingredients

1.5 kg boneless chuck or shoulder roast, well-trimmed of fat and cut into 1 inch cubes

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 cup Plain flour (or corn flour if gluten intolerant)

¼ cup unsalted butter

¼ cup olive oil

5 medium onions, cut into thick wedges

3 garlic cloves, sliced (or 3 teaspoons garlic from a jar)

2 bay leaves

¼ tsp dried thyme

2 tbsps brown sugar

2 tbsps red wine vinegar

2 cups Belgian ale or dark beer (or coeliac friendly cider)

Method

Place the flour into a large plastic bag and season well with salt and pepper. Add the beef to the flour a few cubes at a time and toss to coat well.  Remove from the bag, shaking off the excess flour.

In a heavy-based, fairly deep frying-pan, heat the oil and melt the butter over medium-heat.

Brown the beef cubes a few at a time to avoid crowding, turning to colour them on all sides. Each batch will take about 5 mins. Remove with tongs or a slotted spoon to drain off excess fat on paper towel.

Remove the pan from the heat and place the beef into a large (3-5 litre) slow cooker set to LOW.

Place the pan back on the heat and add the onions, tossing until they are beginning to soften and brown on the edges. This will take around 5 minutes, add more butter or oil if necessary.

Add the onions to the beef in the slow cooker.

To the frying pan add the garlic, bay leaves, thyme, brown sugar, beer and vinegar. Bring to a simmer while stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan to deglaze it.

Once it has started to simmer, remove from the heat and pour it over the onions and beef in the slow cooker.

Replace the lid and cook on HIGH for 3-4 hours, or leave it on LOW and cook for 4-6 hours.

Sauce will thicken in the pot.

Remove bay leaves just prior to serving. Spoon over mashed potatoes or polenta for a simple, filling meal.

Keep in an air tight container in the refrigerator for 5 days once cooked.

 

 

 

 

Hello my lovelies.

I’m sorry I wasn’t on yesterday.

I went off to our plot at the Ballarat Community Garden and didn’t get back for 3 and a bit hours.

Before

Before

After all that weeding and mulching I was ever so tired and typing and internetting wasn’t really something I felt up to.

After.

After.

Thankfully, I had put a corned beef on to cook in the slow cooker before I left, so there really was nothing left to do for dinner.

That is, beyond mashing some spuds and cooking the Pak Choi I had just plucked from the aforementioned plot.

I had been followed home by a massive rainstorm, so it was doubly nice to tuck in to my meal knowing that (a) I had missed a drenching and (b) I didn’t have to do anything else that evening.

Dinner.

Sunday Dinner.

Today, I finally finished the shopping and hit the green grocery – so I’ll be publishing lists tomorrow. I also managed to make some Lemon Butter with my friend Althea’s eggs, and my friend Stephen’s lemons.

Little jars of sunshine to start the spring

Little jars of sunshine to start the spring

Then I started an experiment. There is a recipe for ginger beer in my mother’s collection and I have been meaning to try it for some time. This is that time. I’ll tell you in a few days if I was successful, but this is how it looks right now.

Ginger beer?

Ginger beer?

Tonight we shopped the fridge and I had vegetarian bean curry and the boy had honey teriyaki chicken; both over rice.

Tomorrow we will be starting the day with a celebratory breakfast. I have some brie in the refrigerator and some croissants in the freezer. These two shall be combined.

🙂

We have finance, Peeps. Life is good.

 

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The Accidental Cat wants chicken

Today I managed to get dressed a few hours after the rest of the country had lunch.

Thankfully, last night I had retrieved a packet of Asian flavoured beef  from my freezer, so I popped that in my baby slow cooker on low.

And the after" pic.

Dinner

Then I washed several loads of laundry and got them hung up on various contraptions around the house.

Tomorrow is supposed to be shopping day – although I sincerely doubt that is going to happen – so I did a bit of a freezer stocktake. We have quite a bit of frozen mince, some chicken tenderloins and a butterflied chicken roast in there, so we’re at no risk of protein deficiency any time soon. However, I have a hankering for some corned beef and might hunt some out while shopping.

Speaking of which, I may have to recruit The Boy to help me out with it this time. This can be a fraught situation. ASD and supermarkets are not natural bedfellows; the fluorescent lights, piped music and all the other audio and visual stimuli can very easily overload an Aspergian brain with data. Softly, softly…

Anyway, I decided to deprive the BBQ chook in the refrigerator of its remaining flesh, bag it all up and freeze; the meat for quick meals later and the carcass for stock when I’m running low.

Chicken on ice

Chicken on ice

Of course, this is what suddenly appeared at my feet as I opened the bag of chicken…

The Accidental Cat wants chicken

The Accidental Cat wants chicken

I thinks she likes chicken. It’s only a hunch, mind you, but she seems quite keen.

I have cooked some rice and am about to eat my beef before heading off to a book club meeting without having read the book, because eyes don’t work.

I have my lunch group tomorrow and I have no idea what I’m going to take. All suggestions welcome.

ttfn

I made a yummy.

Before I forget, yesterday I left out the $11 BBQ Chicken I had bought a few days before. It has been picked clean with the meat frozen in portions, and the carcass used in stock.

The amount I have left in my food budget is therefore $11.52. So I can still get eggs if I need them…

Anyway, today I managed to not get killed in a sudden hailstorm. This made me very happy.

I was even happier when I got home and then got warm.

The decision was made to make an apple crumble using some of the Apple and Quince pie filling I made a few months ago.

Apple and Quince Crumble

Apple and Quince Crumble.

Then I decided that I would use those beautiful pork sausages you saw me freeze a few weeks back. I had started making a hot pot with them, and had just added some fennel seeds, when I remembered that fennel bulb from the vegetable shopping.

So, I made a WONDERFUL cassoulet-like dish with pork sausages, fresh fennel and cannellini beans.

I made a yummy.

I made a yummy.

My goodness it was good. And I served it on a bed of mashed, slow-cooked sweet potato. Because I could.

I’ve documented all the steps, so I shall be able to post a recipe for you soon-ish.

It made enough for four, so we got a meal’s worth of leftovers from it – for this I am grateful.

I didn’t make biscuits. That can wait until tomorrow.

That’s it for tonight, Lovelies. Speak tomorrow.

 

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Chilli con Carne (Budget Bounty style)

Dinner is served.

First off, let me get one thing clear: Chilli con Carne means Chilli with meat.

There is no such thing as Vegetarian Chilli con Carne.

There. I feel better now.

This is a dish I have adapted from one of Jamie Oliver’s recipes out of his book, Happy Days with the Naked Chef. I pretty much follow his recipe but get rid of a lot of fiddling around.

I’m sure he’d approve.

I also tend to cook it in a slow cooker, but I’m guessing that this surprises precisely no-one.

My step-father is a fiend for chilli. When I lived in Canberra, and knew he was driving up from Melbourne to see me, I would get this dish to the long simmer stage the night before and pop it in the fridge overnight. I’d put it in the slow cooker on low just before I went to work in the morning and it would be gorgeous by the time I got home to find him waiting for me.

Nowadays, I find it perfect for cold to just-bordering-on-utterly-miserable days. Put it on early and leave it to do its thing until you’re ready to eat. In the meantime, your home smells gorgeous.

Leftovers are not to be scoffed at.

Leftovers are not to be scoffed at.

You can cook this on the stove top, in the oven or in the slow cooker (3 litre size for this recipe). Whatever works for you.

It makes a whole heap, so you can feed a crowd, make a ton of leftovers to eat during the week for a singleton or individual frozen meals for future famines of inspiration.

Start with a chopping board, a knife and some vegies. If you intend to cook this on the stove or in the oven, you’ll want a Dutch oven style pot with a tight-fitting lid. Get your slow cooker set up if that’s what you’d prefer to use. In this case I also put the cooker on low and empty the tins of tomatoes into it – just to get it warmed up and going.

Get your slow cooker on-line.

Get your slow cooker on-line.

Now, dice up an onion, a stick of celery and a carrot as finely as you like (or are able).

Start by sauteeing the trinity.

Start by sauteeing the trinity.

Heat your pan over a medium heat with a little olive oil. (Use a frying pan for this stage if you intend to slow cook.)

Add your chopped vegetables and a teaspoon of crushed garlic. I don’t mind if this comes from a jar. Cook gently until the onion softens and becomes translucent.

Now add your minced beef. You’ll want about half a kilo or a pound of meat to serve four. Continue to fry, stirring gently to brown the meat almost all the way through. I like to push the vegetables aside at first, but do what works for you.

Once it is browned sufficiently, you can add a mix of ground cumin, chilli powder and fresh chilli OR you can use whatever commercial chilli blend you prefer. Make it as hot or as mild as you wish, but add the spices at this stage to fully release the aromatic oils that they contain.

Add your meat and spices.

Add your meat and spices.

Mix it all together as thoroughly as you can, just to get those flavours a little more melded.

Looking good.

Looking good.

If you are using the slow cooker, then transfer your mixture into it now. Add the contents of 2 x 400 g tins of diced tomatoes and a small jar of sun-ripened tomato pesto.

I get the latter from Aldi. It only costs $2 and is quite affordable for the punch of flavour it gives. You may wish to drain off some of the oil from the top of the jar, but this isn’t necessary. It’s a matter of taste.

Sun-ripened tomato pesto.

Sun-ripened tomato pesto.

Mix together well, add a half glass of water and a stick of cinnamon (yes, really) and season to taste. (Leave out the water if slow cooking.)

Stick of cinnamon.

Stick of cinnamon.

Bring the mixture to the boil and place a piece of greaseproof paper between the pot and the lid. Turn the heat down to simmer on the stove for 1-1½ hours. Alternatively, transfer to the oven for the same amount of time.

Add the tinned kidneys beans about 30 minutes before serving to allow them to warm through.

I forgot to strain the oil off the pesto - can you tell?

I forgot to strain the oil off the pesto – can you tell?

Serve with crusty bread, on plain steamed rice, on boiled pasta as a meat sauce, on mashed potatoes, over corn chips, topped with a cornbread cobbler (recipe coming soon) or in tacos or burritos. Have your way with it.  Goodness, you could even top it with mashed spud and call it Shepherd’s Pie if you want.

It’s a really versatile dish.  Enjoy.

Chilli con Carne (stove and oven)

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

Ingredients

2 medium onions, diced

1 stick celery, diced

1 carrot, diced

1 clove garlic, crushed

olive oil

2 level tsps chilli powder

1 fresh red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

500 g minced beef (err toward the leaner cuts)

I x 190 g jar sundried tomato pesto, excess oil drained from top and discarded.

2 x 400 g tins diced tomatoes

2 x 400 g tins kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 stick cinnamon

Method

Preheat oven to 150°C/ 300° F, if using.

In a metal pan or casserole with a tight-fitting lid, heat olive oil gently.

Add diced vegetables and garlic until onions are softened and translucent.

Add the minced beef and sauté gently until browned through. Add the spices or substitute any low-salt tex-mex style blend you prefer.

Add the contents of the jar of pesto and the two tins of diced tomatoes with a small glass of water. Stir well and add cinnamon stick.

Bring to a boil, cover with a sheet of greaseproof paper and the lid and reduce heat to a simmer.

Cook for 1½ hours on the stove top or transfer to the oven for 1½ hours.

At the 1 hour point, add the kidneys beans and stir thoroughly to warm through.

Variation:

Slow cooker:

Prepare a 3 – 4 litre (quart) slow cooker.

Follow directions as above to the using a medium sized frying pan.

Transfer contents of pan to slow-cooker and add the contents of the jar of pesto and the two tins of diced tomatoes.

Stir well and add cinnamon stick.

Bring to a boil on High, then reduce heat to LOW.

Cook for 3-6 hours, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.

30 minutes before serving, add the kidney beans to heat through.

If the mixture is too wet, sauce may be thickened using cornflour, or soaked up using a cobbler topping.

Hungry yet?

Hungry yet?

Store cupboard curry

Hiya,

I spent most of the day elsewhere. First I made a couple of pizzas with this guy.

Masterchef Kai

Masterchef Kai.

We were at my weekly lunch with the Intercultural Womens Network of Ballarat (free plug!) and they were my contribution. He was the only three-year old there and scatters toppings really well. 😉

Then it was off to replace my blood glucose monitor – which I appear to have left in the car from the driving assessment yesterday.

Dinner was never going to be complicated. Ever.

I hadn’t got anything out of the freezer and I couldn’t be bothered doing so when I got home. I just opened the pantry and pretended I was a teenager doing a survey of the refrigerator – you know exactly what I mean, don’t you?

I spotted a jar of Tikka Masala simmer sauce and thought, “Well, that’s a start.” That was emptied it into the baby slow cooker and followed with a tin of lite coconut cream.

Tikka Masala simmer sauce.

Tikka Masala simmer sauce.

I chopped up half a red capsicum, then peeled and chopped up the seed end of half a butternut pumpkin and stirred that through. The crock was getting a little full, and I’d realised that I’d left my run a little late for using the slow cooker, so I transferred it to a Dutch oven on the stove top, where I added a tin of drained and rinsed cannellini beans.

I realised I'd made a strategic error and transferred it to the stove top at this point.

I realised I’d made a strategic error and transferred it to the stove top at this point.

It really only needed to simmer long enough to cook the pumpkin through so, while it did that, I put some rice on to steam and added some millet to the pot for something different. That came out looking like this.

Jasmine rice and millet.

Jasmine rice and millet.

The curry was looking a little ‘samey’ so the freezer was raided and a bag of mixed frozen vegies was used to add some more texture and colour to the curry.

Frozen vegies make life easier.

Frozen vegies make life easier.

When they were heated through, the curry was spooned over the rice and served.

Store cupboard curry

Store cupboard curry.

A meatless dinner with minimal effort and plenty of leftovers. That last point is important because we’ve got a long day in Geelong tomorrow, starting at stupid o’clock, and it was likely to end with takeaway if we weren’t careful.  Now that’s not so likely.

Chocolate soft serve ice-cream.

I spent yesterday in various parts of Melbourne, so there was very little done in the Budget Bounty kitchen. Although I did pop into one company to price containers for some food-based products I’m thinking of selling in the future. Maybe. Perhaps.

Anyway, leftovers were the order of the day when we got home and we were very happy to have those porcupine meatballs to warm up and serve with a quick mashed potato. This is a picture from the night before, when we dished them up onto a bed of sweet potato that we had cooked in the slow cooker.

Porcupine meatballs, cooked in the pressure cooker.

Porcupine meatballs, cooked in the pressure cooker.

Both times they were yummy!

Today I kept myself a little busier. I have been given more lemons, so more lemon butter was made (natch!).

Lemon butter anyone?

Lemon butter, anyone?

I made a double batch, because I wanted to give some away and I wanted to make these. Hidden Treasure Muffins, but made using the lemon butter instead of Dulce de Leche this time. The Boy was keen to take some into the office tomorrow.

I wanted something low fuss for dinner, so I filled my small crock pot with my Lentil and Barley Hot Pot.

That’s smelling luscious and I’m looking forward to tucking in soonish. I also decided to do something with a bag of frozen, over-ripe bananas that are taking up space in my freezer and annoying me.

And don't they look attractive?

And don’t they look attractive?

So I turned them into chocolate ice-cream. The Boy came in as I was finishing and decided it was his duty as The Man of The House to lick the bowl.

Chocolate soft serve ice-cream.

Chocolate soft serve ice-cream.

He declared it to be “good.”

Yes. I will be posting instructions for this very soon. I’m going to have my dinner first though.

See you all soon!

Low-Fuss Macaroni and Cheese (Slow Cooker)

I think I mentioned some time ago that I lived in Texas for a bit and that, when I was there, I cooked mostly with a little 1.5 litre (1 Quart) slow cooker.

Many wonderful things emerged from that device (and were eaten with gusto), but one that I still continue to make is Mac and Cheese.

Now, during my residency of San Antonio, I discovered that Americans have a plethora of magazines devoted to slow cookers and slow cooking – it was quite startling just how many there were when I’ve yet to see one such thing here in Oz. No doubt we will soon catch up given that Diabetes specific magazines are appearing here now too and they had oodles of those.

Remember the Alamo.

Remember the Alamo.

Anyway, I bought one or two and was off. It was in one of them that I discovered that Macaroni and Cheese could be prepared all-in-one-pot and cooked slow. Unfortunately, I didn’t bring my copies of the magazines back with me (excess luggage dontchaknow) so I can’t attribute this with an original source. However, I have fiddled with it and made it often enough now that I can honestly say that I don’t think it actually resembles the original all that closely.

The original held something called Velveeta – which didn’t agree with me at all, and several cheeses containing the word “Jack” in their names. This is another American phenomenon that has yet to reach our supermarkets (along with the orange food colouring in cheeses!)

So, here is my low fuss version of Mac and Cheese à la Slow Cooker. The recipe I will give you to print at the bottom of the post will contain specific instructions for making it in a 5 litre slow cooker and will make enough to serve a very hungry family. Probably with leftovers.

The photographs, however, will be of my current (Australian-wired) 1.5 litre slow cooker being used to make a smaller amount. The process is the same, as are the results, but the two of us do NOT need several weeks worth of leftovers!

Also, what you see will not have been measured precisely. I tend to do this using the patent-pending Sharon’s Handfuls method of measuring, other wise known as a handful of this and a handful of that.

Let us begin.

To the bottom of your crock add your uncooked pasta. This may be elbows, it may be spirals or it may even be tiny tubes – think macaroni rather than spaghetti and you’ll be fine.

Place your uncooked macaroni in the crock

Place your uncooked macaroni in the crock

Next, add your cheese. This may be one type of cheese or a mix of several. This is a dish that lends itself well to using up the odds and ends of cheeses that may be lurking in the corners of your refrigerator. In the past I have used mixes including cheddar, fetta, parmesan, edam, gouda, brie, camembert, mozzarella and once I included a smidgen of a blue cheese. (Which doesn’t mean that I used all of these at once!)

I would limit your choice of cheese to one strong-tasting one among other milder flavours or you may find yourself with something that smells too confusing to eat.

You have been warned.

Plain old cheddar works fine, so don’t panic if that’s all you’ve got. The recipe calls for grated and cubed, I had pre-shredded cheeses in my fridge so that’s what I used – along with a good twist or two of black pepper and a sprinkling of paprika.

Add your cheese and seasonings

Add your cheese and seasonings.

Now, cover your mixture with milk. This may be cow’s milk, goat’s milk, soy milk, almond milk – get my drift? Pasta cooks in liquid and it doesn’t much care what that liquid is. In my baby slow cooker I tend to use a tin of evaporated milk and then add enough of whatever milk is in the refrigerator to cover the pasta.

That’s the important bit. You want your pasta to be completely submerged.

Cover with milk.

Cover with milk.

Now cover it and cook it on low for 2 to 3 hours. It doesn’t take that long in a tiny slow cooker, so keep an eye on it.

After 30 mins or so, you’ll notice your cheeses melting.

Melting cheeses...

Melting cheeses…

This is good and eminently desirable. Keep up the good work. If you feel the need to stir, then do so. This dish is quite forgiving and will let you remove the lid once or twice without slowing things down immensely.

When your pasta is cooked to your liking, serve it up.

All done.

I, however, like to fiddle. I also am very much of the meal-in-a-bowl school of catering. So I always add stuff to my mac and cheese.

This is not mandatory.

If you have them, frozen peas can add a change of texture as well as a burst of both flavour and colour – as can frozen corn. The heat of the dish will thaw them so there is no need to cook separately first. Use whatever vegetables you have to hand.

Asparagus has just come into season here, so I cut two stalks up and stirred them through my pot. Asparagus is best cooked lightly and here it steamed in the heat of the pasta.

asparagus

A stalk or two of asparagus adds a touch of colour and a burst of flavour.

I also had two lonely continental frankfurters sitting in my fridge and – as they, too, just need reheating and not cooking – sliced them up and popped them in.

Some sliced frankfurters

Some sliced frankfurters

I prefer to use fewer of these more expensive frankfurters, instead of more of a cheaper hot dog, as I like the taste and texture better. The flavour is head and shoulders above that of a hot dog and the filling doesn’t have that ‘mushy’ texture you often get in hot dogs. It’s one of those cases where it is absolutely worth spending more to buy less – but you’ll be so much more satisfied with the finished dish.

Feel free to use whatever you have to hand to add flavour and nutrition to your dish. For a vegetarian option, try adding half a tin of drained chickpeas.

Anyway, mixed through and plated up, our meal looked like this, and it was glorious. Given that it was put together at the last minute on what had turned into a very cold and gloomy day, it was ‘perfick’.

Slow cooker mac and cheese with extra added flavour and colour.

Slow cooker mac and cheese with extra added flavour and colour.

This is very filling. Trust me. Serving sizes do not need to be large.

Should there be any left in your slow cooker after plating your meals, then remove it immediately into a storage container for refrigeration. Then fill your crock with hot water and a squirt of dishwashing liquid before you sit down to eat. The slight delay will save you a world of frustration.

If you let the macaroni cool in the pot, it will set solid as melted cheese tends to do. This makes it a little more difficult to divide into … lunch containers for work the next day, just say…

Also, cheese can be difficult to clean off pots. By soaking it you will be getting a head start on the washing up and making the process a lot easier when you get to it.

Low Fuss Macaroni and Cheese (Slow Cooker)

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

2 cups (250 g) uncooked elbow macaroni

250 g light cheddar cheese, cubed

250 g tasty cheddar cheese, grated

500ml milk

salt and pepper to taste

Method:

In a 5 litre slow cooker, combine macaroni, cheeses and seasoning.

Cover with the milk.

Put the lid on the pot and cook on LOW for 2 to 3 hours, stirring after 20 minutes.

 

 

Slow cooker beef with Asian flavours (from scratch)

Asian-flavoured slow-cooked beef

Okay, so some of you may have clicked over from here. You may find some repetition in this post, so bear with me. Please?

This little concoction is my answer to the “I don’t know what to cook, but I’ll probably be hungry later —and tired—, so this will do” situation.

I’m sure you know what I mean.

Asian-flavoured slow-cooked beef

Asian-flavoured slow-cooked beef

This is something I can get into the slow cooker in minutes and serve a few hours later – filling my home with gorgeous smells in the intervening period.

I own several slow cookers but the one I use the most has got to be my smallest one. It’s a 1.5 litre or 1 quart sized appliance and it’s perfect for meals for two. All the photos in this post have been taken with this device.

Feel free to double or triple what I do here and then cook it in a larger slow-cooker. It will take longer than the few hours a small one would use to cook the smaller portion, but not much longer.

Start with half a kilo or a pound of chuck steak and cut into large cubes.

Cut into large cubes.

Cut into large cubes.

Add your spices to the meat on the cutting board. You can measure them carefully if you wish, I just tend to give each a good shake until I think the meat looks covered enough. I’ve had readers *demand* I give an actual measurement though, so start with a teaspoon of each and then decide if future versions need more or less. It’s completely up to you.

I used these spices:

This is a nice blend of flavours

This is a nice blend of flavours

I find ground cumin, ground coriander and ground ginger combine really well as an accompaniment to beef. It’s a combination that you’ll find often on these pages, but that doesn’t mean you have to use them. If you don’t like ginger, leave it out, it’s your meal after all.

On the other hand, if you are new to this cooking lark, give it a shot and see how you go. You never know, it may win you over.

I add a smattering of chilli flakes just to add a little heat without taking over the dish. I find it easier to control how much I dispense by shaking when I use flakes, chilli powder can be disastrous …

Spice your meat

Spice your meat

Now, I prepare some vegetables for the pot. It’s a very simple, very traditional combination of an onion, a carrot and a little celery.

Cut your onion into crescents.

Little crescent moons of onions

Little crescent moons of onions

Add to the base of the slow cooker.

Dice your carrots and celery and add them as well.

Add carrots and celery.

Add carrots and celery.

Again, you can use whatever combination you like. However, I find that these are three that I always have to hand and they form a very good base for most main meal dishes. It’s a mix that is often referred to as the ‘Holy Trinity’ of cooking, so let’s just go with the flow…

Now place your spiced meat into the pot, on top of the vegetables. Don’t stir yet!

I always keep these guys in my refrigerator, add a good teaspoonful of each to the pot.

Refrigerator staples.

Refrigerator staples.

Up the flavour with some fresh ginger and garlic.

Up the flavour with some fresh ginger and garlic.

Now add a good glug of the sauces you’d like to use.  On this occasion, I had these in my refrigerator door: Soy & Honey sauce, Hoi Sin and some sesame oil.

*A ‘glug’ may be translated as a tablespoon or so. You’re just adding flavours, not creating a cooking medium.

Choose your sauces

Choose your sauces

Add some glugs to the pot

Add a few glugs of whatever sauces you wish to the pot.

You may wish to use plain soy sauce, black bean, teriyaki, sweet chilli, oyster sauce, kecap manis…the list goes on. You don’t have to use a mix, you may use just one if you prefer (or if that is all you have).

Now stir.

Stir it all together.

Stir it all together.

As you can see from the picture above, the meat and other ingredients are only lightly coated by the sauces and spices.

Using a slow cooker is a very ‘wet’ method of cooking. As the ingredients release their own juices, they are captured via condensation on the lid and then drip down into the pot to further aid cooking. Think of it as your very own little Greenhouse Effect…

Place your pot on either low or high, depending on how quickly you wish to eat. This took my small slow cooker only 2.5 hours on low. If you are making a larger amount of this in a larger slow cooker, it will take longer – possibly 4 -6 hours on low.

Several hours later...

Several hours later…

As you can see, there is quite a bit of liquid in the bowl. This can be left as it is, or thickened with some cornflour. Instructions on how to do this can be found here.

I felt that I’d like a few more vegetables in this, so I stirred through a handful each of frozen peas and frozen corn and popped the lid back on the pot for 30 minutes while I steamed some jasmine rice.

And this is the final result:

The final result

The final dish served with rice.

If you wish for a more tender version (although this is fab!) follow the instructions here and leave it overnight in the refrigerator before cooking.

Enjoy!

Making Chicken Stock in a slow cooker

So, don’t you hate those people who get all snobby about stock powders that come in cubes and cans and stuff?

You know, the ones who make their own stock and simply can’t understand anyone who doesn’t?

chicken stock (2)

Yeah.

I’ve become one of them. Sorry.

I used to be the person who would reach for the Massel or the Vegeta if stock was necessary, but since I moved at the start of the year I’ve been making my own actual liquid stock and it is soooooo much better than anything I’ve ever bought – even in one of those tetra pack doovers.

The hardest part is storing it. However, since I had to buy a new refrigerator when I moved, I got a wider one with these lovely drawers in the freezer. I lovingly ladle the stock into mason jars, place them in the freezer and forget about them until I need stock for risotto, gravy or soup…

I make my chicken stock in the crock pot or slow cooker overnight.

It’s terribly uncomplicated. Every now and then The Boy and I buy a BBQ Chook* from the local supermarket for one reason or another. After we’ve picked as much of the flesh as we can off it, I use it for stock. Now, if the freezer is already well stocked with…um… stock, we simply freeze the carcass until we need to restock the … stock. Follow? Good.

Leftover BBQ Chook

Leftover BBQ Chook

Making the stock goes like this:

Pop your chicken carcass into a slow cooker or crock pot. You can do this with an uncooked chicken, but a cooked one will give you far more flavour. Make sure to remove any stuffing from the cavity and dispose of it. You don’t want that in your liquid.

To the slow cooker add a roughly chopped onion, a couple of carrots and some celery. There is no need to add salt or any other seasonings. You want your stock to be as versatile as possible, add other flavours to the final dishes not here.

Roughly chopped vegetables

Roughly chopped vegetables

It honestly doesn’t matter how your vegetables look either. They’re all going to be thrown away at the end of the process — after every skerrick of flavour has been cooked out of them. Basically, you just want to be able to fit them in the pot with the chicken.

Cover the contents with water – you can boil the water first if you wish.

Add water to your stock pot

Add water to your stock pot

Turn the slow cooker on to low and then ignore it for 8 or so hours. Better yet, get this all done after dinner and leave it to cook overnight while you sleep. You’ll wake up to a delicious smelling house and a slow cooker full of something that looks like this…

Cooked chicken stock

Cooked Chicken Stock

And doesn’t that look terribly unattractive? Don’t worry, it’s not the finished product.

Turn your slow cooker off, let the contents cool for a bit, and set a large sieve inside a large bowl. Line the sieve with some cheesecloth or a new kitchen wipe like this:

Line your sieve with a fresh cloth

Line your sieve with a fresh cloth

Then upend the contents of your slow cooker into it. It will look horrendous.

Strain the broth from the solids

Strain the broth from the solids

Walk away from the sink. Shower, dress, have a nice cup of something warm and caffeinated.

Leave it alone.

Then, after an hour or so, remove the sieve and discard the contents. Bin them, bury them, place them in your compost or Bokashi bin; you will no longer need them in your kitchen. What you will want is this, this liquid gold. <cue heavenly choir>

Pure chicken stock

Pure chicken stock

Don’t worry about the fine layer of fat you can see in the sheen on the surface. That is pure flavour and, when chilled, will give the stock a gelatinous texture.

Now, all you need to do is bottle it. Place it in some sterilised mason jars and freeze it as I do.

Mason jar of chicken stock

Mason jar of chicken stock

You could also place it into ziploc bags for freezing.

Alternatively, you can put it in a large saucepan and boil it until it is so reduced that you can freeze it in ice-cube trays as an über concentrate that you add water to when defrosted.

My 3 litre slow cooker made 2 ½ litres of stock. Isn’t it purdy?

A whole batch of chicken stock

A whole batch of chicken stock

Give it a shot, you’ll love the results. I promise. It will also make you feel all chef-y and virtuous (for not throwing food away) at the same time.

Let me know how you go.

*Side note:  Try going into an American supermarket and asking for a BBQ Chook. I dare you. If you happen to be an American reading this, it can be translated as ‘Rotisserie Chicken.”  You’re welcome.