Slow-cooked pork chops, leg of lamb… even lasagne is possible in a slow cooker – and it seems like the boundaries are being pushed to create ever-more creative dishes in this humble pot. What’s your best creation?
As the rain pours down the windows of Which? HQ, I’ve just about given up hope that the summer’s ever going to get going.
Instead I’ve turned my attention to the products we’re testing this autumn. First on my list is a test of slow cookers, which have seen a resurgence in popularity with the trend towards frugal meals and cooking from scratch.
Make a frugal feast
I first came across slow cookers as a student. As the grant cheques ran out, we’d pool all our remaining pennies into the cheapest cuts of meat and unloved vegetables from the supermarket’s reduced section, throw them all in the slow cooker and produce experimental but tasty food for a student family of five.
It’s amazing how, with a bit of judicious browning and seasoning, even the most unprepossessing ingredients can be conjured into a tasty stew. Pork chops slow-cooked in cider, with onions and cooking apples was my piece-de-resistance in those days.
But I was surprised the other day when a Facebook friend announced that they were experimenting with slow cooker lasagne. Apparently it was a great success; after all, it’s just a question of layering the ingredients, cooking until the pasta has softened and popping it under the grill to finish the cheese off.
But that inspires me to wonder what other daring creations people can conjure up with a slow cooker?
Get creative with the slow cooker
I’m proudest of my Segovian lamb, improvised from one of the best meals I’ve ever had at a restaurant in Lanzarote. It’s basically a leg of lamb, basted in olive oil, salt and pepper, and then cooked for a long time, over low heat, in high humidity over a pan of potato slices.
Over the hours the humidity (created by adding a tray of water to the oven) causes the fat and juice from the lamb to dribble out over the potatoes, creating a soggy, crunchy and caramelised potato-based heaven. The lamb is so tender it falls from the bone in juicy chunks.
For the slow cooker version I use lamb shanks suspended on a small cake cooling rack over the pan of potatoes and keep a layer of water in the bottom of the slow cooker. The main advantage is that the hot steamy meat juices are contained in the slow cooker, which is a lot easier to clean than my normal oven.
So, am I the only one pushing the frontiers of slow cookery? Or do you have a secret recipe that delights the family with your ingenuity and its taste? Please do share and help us move the image of the slow cooker on from solid stews to inspiring surprises.