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  • Slow Cooking for Fast Lives


    Slow Cooking For Fast LivesIt’s not always easy to put a hot meal on the table. But follow this great time-saving tip from back-to-work mum, Dawn Cromar, and you’ll find slow cooking is ideal when you’re short of time . . .

    Words Dawn Cromar / Image istock

    I love my slow cooker but I will admit to being quite restrictive over what I have tried to cook in it. It always tends to be a steak casserole – I might do different things with the steak, like make it into a hotpot with crispy potatoes on top or a steak pie with a layer of puff pastry sitting on top.

    When a friend recommended cooking a whole chicken in the slow cooker, I was skeptical – but also a little excited! She told me that you don’t really need to add any stock or liquid to the chicken as it produces enough of its own juices while cooking. But since I was heading out to work, I did add a small amount of chicken stock to the slow cooker and set it to ‘low’.

    When I got home about nine hours later (picking up children time included) the aroma in the kitchen was divine. The chicken smelled lovely.

    The real problem began, however, when I tried to lift the chicken out of the slow cooker once I had the rest of my veg and trimmings ready.

    The chicken was so moist and soft, that it was falling off the bones. I pinched a bit to taste it and it was lovely, really tasty. But unfortunately, I ended up losing quite a bit of the meat as it had all fallen to bits.

    I strained the meat and bones through a sieve so that I could collect the stock to make a nice gravy sauce. I did manage to rescue maybe three quarters of the chicken meat itself – even the meat on the chicken and leg had fallen off the bone – but I lost the rest as it was stuck in with the bones and skin.

    I wonder if cooking it for say four hours instead would give it a nicer finish – I would imagine it to still be moist and tender, but it might not fall apart to the same degree. Worth a try I think.

    So my first cooking of a whole chicken in the slow cooker was semi successful – but it was really just as well I was only cooking for the four of us, or else someone may have gone hungry thanks to the wasted chicken collected in the sieve!

    I decided to try a different meat again this week – this time, pork fillet. I did very little to the meat, just trimmed some of the fat but I didn’t chop it up; I just popped it into the slow cooker and added some beef stock (I didn’t have any ham stock in the cupboard!).

    Again, when I returned home from work, I was greeted by a lovely smell. And when I peered into the glass lid, I did like the look of what I saw.

    Again, the meat was quite difficult to pick up and serve as it was falling apart but not to the same extent the chicken had. It was really nice – served with crispy potato slices, oatmeal skirlie (a Scottish favourite), peas and broccoli; a tasty midweek dish that wouldn’t have been out of place on the table on a Sunday.

    Apart from saving you time in the kitchen, slow cooking is also a great money saver as you can use cuts of meat such as stewing steak which are cheaper. And you can also keep your energy bills down by using your slow cooker to cook up one pot meals.

    Simply add your meat and stock, then after three-six hours have gone by (depending on the meat), add your veg. Sturdier veg such as new potatoes, onions, carrots and turnip are best, but never leave them in there for more than a couple of hours or they’ll turn to mush.

    Don’t think that you have to stick to big joints of meat and casseroles – the slow cooker is far more versatile than that and chilli and curries make very tasty slow cooked meals. Just make sure that you reduce the cooking time accordingly.

    So note to self – don’t be afraid to experiment with the slow cooker!

    Note from the Editor: With a fridge full of veg that was dangerously close to the use by date, I decided to throw some radishes and Brussels sprouts into my slow cooker – and they were divine! Especially the sprouts which really soaked up the meat juices.

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