/ Food & Drink

What’s your favourite slow cooker recipe?

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.

Comments
Member

Sometimes I think Which? Conversations are there to worry us to death about major issues and others that are perhaps a little less important. It’s nice to have a break from the doom and gloom.

I cannot contribute anything, having not used my slow cooker for at least 15 years, but I will dig it out of the back of the cupboard if someone comes up with an appealing recipe.

Member

We try to mix it up…

As for me, the last time I used a slow cooker was for a steak and ale pie. Leaving the steak to slowly cook makes it all the more tender and the sauce all the more rich and creamy. Then pop on a pastry top – and wallah! Best steak & ale pie you’ve ever had.

Member

Mmm, I haven’t got a slow cooker, but this post is definitely making me want one! First item on my Christmas list! (hint, hint!)

Member
Bill Kenyon says:
2 September 2011

I was made up big time when recently I purchased a book dedicated to Slow Cook Pot recipes. The book with 500 plus pages offers 400 easy to prepare step by step recipes each with numerous photos of easy to understand recipes. Written by Catherine Atkinson and Jenni Fleetwood the “Best Ever Slow Cooker One-Pot & Casserole cookbook” is my recommend.

Member

What is the nicest meal you’ve tried from that book? I’m looking for inspiration!

Member

I would love to find a book /some recipes which do not require browning /frying meat and vegetables before use. I found I couldn’t stand doing that first thing in the morning and going to work smelling of meat or fried onions!
I have tried preparing everything the night before and keeping it in the fridge and then chucking everything in and it seems to work without the frying.
The slow cooker makes wonderful rice pudding!

Member
david king says:
2 September 2011

Oxtail is great, if no longer inexpensive. Cover the base of the slow cooker with various vegetables cut into bite-sized peices, leaving enough room to completely pack a top layer of oxtail segments. Cover all with hot stock. Bingo! Any excess liquid after your meal becomes oxtail soup.

Member

I would love to try Victoria’s Segovian lamb in a slow cooker, but I couldn’t follow the recipe. A pan of potatoes inside the slow cooker along with the lamb shanks resting on a cake cooler, and a layer of water at the bottom of the slow cooker? I can’t see how it all fits in.

Member

I think the trick is that my slow cooker is quite big and my cake rack is quite small – although admittedly it is a squeeze! I suppose the other way to do it would be to put a layer of water on the bottom, then a small pot of water to act as a reservoir in the middle of the cooker. Layer up the potatoes and then put the lamb shanks on top of the potatoes – I haven’t tried it so I don’t know for sure it would work – but I am all for experimentation!
My recipe is an improvisation, based on internet research, based on a meal I had on holiday – you could probably say that I belong to the serendipity school of cookery!

Member

On the off chance that it just won’t fit in your slow cooker, try this instead in your normal oven –
Rub your leg or shanks of lamb with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place them on a rack above a pan of thinly sliced potato slices in the middle of your oven. Put a dish of hot water on the bottom of the oven – replenish whenever it runs low.
Cook at low-medium heat for as long as it takes to produce succulent lamb cooked to your taste – my recipe is based on this one:
http://eng.corderodesegovia.com/the-recipe-of-the-roast-lamb-of-segovia/
As you can see it is rather lacking in detail so I have experimented over time to get it working well for me – it is normally cooked in a clay oven which is not something that I have access to!
I really hope that if you try the recipe you will also find that it is worth giving it more than one go until you get it perfect!

Member
Anita Soley says:
3 September 2011

I haven’t got a slow cooker, but I’ve got a Remoska and do similar things. It’s not good for crisping up or proper roasting because it retains a lot of steam, but it’s good for lamb shanks done as described, and is easy to clean. My problem is, you can’t set the temperature, so I don’t know if it acts like a slow cooker or not.

Member
PaulG says:
4 September 2011

I wondered the same, and concluded it was impossible, with my 2L Crockpot anyway. But because the recipe sounded so good (and I lived in Lanzarote until last year – so I read it with a tinge of nostalgia) I am at this moment about to cook a half-leg in the main oven, as an experiment – with 2 type of potatoes, red onion and sweet potato too. https://picasaweb.google.com/115477199393954984362/CambodiaFood#5648523745942836498

Stand by.

Member

Wow, the picture looks brilliant – but the big question is – how did it taste?

Member
PaulG says:
5 September 2011

“but the big question is – how did it taste?”
Not bad, but the meat lost moisture in the fan oven – even with a big tray of water on the bottom + a crockpot lid balanced the meat. Too much air movement I reckon. Still tender and full of flavour, esp potatoes. Well worth a 2nd try at maybe only 100C 3hrs, part covered.

Member
mama5405 says:
4 September 2011

I don’t have a slow cooker but now that my pressure cooker has broken I am considering bying one.
I would use it to make this pick me up soup which is supposed to be the best thing to eat if you are run down.
Boil: chicken, oganic with bones, break the bones before boiling ( I use a pair of secateurs), because the marrow inside the bones has a lot of goodness in it, carrot, celery, leek, salt, pepper. Boil about 3 hours on normal heat, don’t know about slow cooker.

Member
Malcolm Fryer says:
5 September 2011

Slow Cooker Lamb Fillet with Rosemary & Redcurrant Gravy

Serves 3-4

2 lamb fillets each, cut in half & seasoned with salt & pepper & coated with flour

I large onion-sliced I tbsp plain flour

I tbsp redcurrant jelly Sprigs of fresh rosemary

Oil

l50-300ml (lf4-Y2 pt) beef stock Salt & pepper

Marmite

Pre-heat a slow cooker on high. Heat some oil in a heavy based frying pan. Seal the lamb quickly on all sides and remove from the pan. Place in a slow cooker. Add a little more oil to the pan and gently fry the onions until softened and slightly brown. Stir in the flour and cook for I min. Add the stock, redcurrant jelly and marmite. Season to taste.

Pour over the lamb fillets. Top with sprigs of rosemary and cook in a slow cooker for 3-4 hours on high heat.

Serve with a green vegetable, creamy mashed potatoes and mint sauce.

Remember that the gravy left is an extra treat especially if you dunk some bread in it.!

Sharon Fryer

Member

Patrick will approve of this recipe because it contains Marmite.

Member

Yum!

Member

I love the sound of this one too – any recipe that includes marmite can’t go wrong!

Member
Gordon in Blackpool says:
25 March 2013

I did this over the weekend but used crab-apple jelly(homemade) as I didn’t have any redcurrant jelly. I also added some Aunt Bessies dumplings after 3 hours and turned down to low.It was magnificent and the gravy was out of this world.

Member

Don’t forget about stock – you can make amazing stock in a slow cooker.

I buy a whole chicken, portion it myself and then use the carcass to make stock in my slow cooker, with some water and vegetables (celery, onions, carrots) and some seasoning. You can also make this using the leftover carcass from a roast chicken, too.

My slow cooker also makes a mean ratatouille (tinned toms, aubergine, courgette, onions and peppers, seasoning and herbs) and also a lovely chicken risotto (but I can’t remember the recipe, sorry!).

Not all meat has to be browned before going into a slow cookers, but I think it’s meant to make meat taste and look better. 🙂

Member

Oh I had forgotten about stock!

I always wonder about browning meat first before putting it in the slow cooker – I think it also helps prevent getting those stringy bits of what I assume is congealed blood that pork seems to be especially good at producing when it is cooked slowly (although I usually just mix those in rapidly!)

Perhaps we should do a taste test of the same recipe using browned and non-browned meat for our next slow cookers test?

Member
PaulG says:
6 September 2011

Re browning meat taste test –

I cook a mean beef with Guiness stew in the Crockpot and never brown the meat. It is the best way. Trust me – or if not maybe this carries more weight?

“Even though this goes against all my training, I experimented with two batches of meat – I browned one and put the other straight into the pot. The latter turned out to be the sweeter and cleaner-tasting, so I’ve stopped browning the meat for most of my stews these days.”
– Jamie Oliver.

Member

Oh good spot PaulG!

Member

I’ve never used a ‘bought’ slow cooker, but have cooked many meals in the past in a hay box.
I was introduced to this idea many years ago at a guide camp, when the evening meal for 20 people was put into the hay box before we went out for the day and there it was, a meal cooked and ready when we we returned in the evening. I agree that there will be a limit as to the recipes that can be cooked in this way, but it is excellent for stews of all kinds and the meat is always wonderfully tender.

Member
James says:
23 November 2011

Sounds great Liz, but surely such a tasty way of cooking would most certainly be devoured by our furry friends from the animal kingdom, long before you got back to camp to enjoy the fruits of your labour?

Member

End dish tastes better if meat browned first in my experience…. a favourite from impecunious student days of long ago has got to be stewed beef (steak) in garlic/soy sauce with savoy cabbage, (a sprinkling of) rock sugar, cinnamon, star anise, Chinese 5-spice powder and I would now add a more affordable generous dollop of ShaoShing rice wine towards the end of the cooking process…. served with Thai fragrant jasmine rice.

Like it with home-made chilli sauce made from fresh chillis using heavy-duty pestle and mortar rather than FP that doesn’t do the job quite as well…. commercial bottled preparation I find not good enough for use as a dipping sauce.

Try it, bet you’ll like it unless, of course, you’ve an inherent dislike of oriental or Chinese food.

Member

argonautoftheseas – that sounds delicious, and contains a lot of my favourite flavours. Do you just use soy and garlic for the sauce, or do you use some stock as well?

Member

Hi Lisa, haven’t replicated this dish yet but when I do I’ll probably do something along these
lines:

1. Brown cubed steak of about an inch in size or a bit smaller or larger having velveted in egg white or cornflour, tbsp of light soy sauce and 2 tbsp of ShaoShing rice wine. Remove and set aside.

2. Fry pureed or minced/chopped garlic and thinly-sliced shallots and return meat to saucepan and stew the lot for between 60-80 minutes on stovetop on a low setting, or until meat is tender, in chicken or beef stock having also added a quantity of both light and dark soy sauce, crystalline rock / palm sugar or brown sugar in lieu and all of the ingredients I’d listed previously…but a little easy on the 5-spice.

3. I would add a generous splash of said rice wine about 20-30 minutes or so before end of cooking process AND quite likely a tbsp or two of LKK premium oyster sauce that is available in Waitrose but it’s much cheaper at Chinese supermarkets. Shortly thereafter, I would add savoy cabbage OR any Chinese leafy green veg such as mustard green, choy sum, kai lan or bok choy and cook until tender but not overly so. (Veg maybe fried beforehand prior to
adding but it’s not strictly necessary).

4. Thicken sauce with dissolved cornflour at end of cooking process and sprinkle with toasted pure sesame oil and ground white pepper (both applications thereof optional) before serving.

The above is only a guide and you can, of course, add/adjust ingredients and seasonings in
accordance with your own personal taste and preferences. If said rice wine is unobtainable,
use dry sherry instead.

bon appetit

Member

Had stewed lower cheaper part of leg of pork on a low stovetop setting many a time for hours on end and even without salt…. each time meat got no tenderer… it even disintegrated but whatever resulted,
muscles or fibres got stringy and rather chewy… even Delia has alluded to this fact and to circumvent that has recommended mincing it up …not sure if browning would help to tenderise.

Member

Sounds fab, thank you! 🙂

Member
Jenny Iosson says:
20 January 2012

Have had a Crockpot for a couple of years and it is great. So far we have always browned the meat, then fried/sauted onions and any other veg., added some flour and stock etc to create the sauce, brought to the boil and transferred to the pre-heated slow cooker for 6 hours or so on low. However we find that more often than not some meat or veg has caught on the sides of the pot (in the region of the internal elements). Any thoughts or ideas on this other than thickening about an hour before the end of cooking. Anyone else have this problem? Whatever we have cooked has tasted great. Steamed puddings are also excellent including Xmas pud.