The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

I made two litres of dog food by mistake

slow cooker, dog bowl and coventional dog food

slow cooker, dog bowl and coventional dog food

On Monday I decided to test out the theory that cottage pie is best made with pieces of beef rather than minced beef. Danny made encouraging noises and disappeared upstairs.

“This should be a doddle.” I thought as I quickly piled the ingredients in the slow cooker/crock pot. And that’s where I fell down. I was busy with other things and in a rush. For me distraction has spelt disaster on the slow cooking front several times in the past.

Our slow cooker has an auto setting – this means that it will bring the contents to the correct heat before automatically turning the temperature down to low. This is very handy for the first couple of hours of cooking but of course, however intelligent your slow cooker might be, it cannot know when the food is cooked.

The gorgeous aromas swirled around the kitchen. When I checked it after three hours it tasted great but the beef just needed another hour or so to cook. I was delighted.

I served supper and then relaxed in front of the fire.

About two hours later I remembered the slow cooker, rushed to the kitchen and was hit by a nasty school dinners stink. The beef had transformed into meat without texture and flavour. It was vile.

Courageously Danny said that it didn’t matter and he would eat it. However after gingerly sampling a mouthful he deftly retracted his statement and announced
“The Min Pins would love this. We’ll freeze it in small portions for an occasional doggy treat.”

That night I lay in bed mulling over the problem. Although the Min Pins now think that they’re dining at The Ritz, I hate wasting food. When I’m distracted I lose all sense of time, whether at home, in the garden and particularly on the allotment. What I needed was a timer on a string that I could hang around my neck and would beep me at hourly intervals. I’ve tried using conventional kitchen timers before and either lose them behind the cooker or leave them behind when I buzz off to do something else.

I spent ages looking for timers on Amazon and eBay. They were all a bit pricey and only counted minutes. If I was going to invest in a timer, counting seconds is very handy for cooking. I was also concerned that I might accidentally turn off the timer when I was bobbing about.

Then my brain clicked into action – why not a sports timer? These would be designed for people moving at speed. I discovered that sports timers are generally much cheaper than kitchen timers and could time up to over 23 hours. The sports timer that I chosecost just £3.99* including p&p and also comes with a whistle – very handy for alerting Danny to bring my morning tea! And of course I’ll be able to time his progress from kettle to bedside.

* Overnight the prise has shot up to £4.99 but I still think that it’s good value.


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  1. Sarah Garth

    I use an automatic plug timer when in doubt of my return to the slow cooker! Or to switch it on when we are away in the caravan so we come back to supper waiting! 🙂

  2. Have you tried using a timer on the slow cooker. I have a Tesco slow cooker which is good a burning foods if left on low all day, so I use a timer, the sort of thing the you plug light’s into. That way you just set it for 8 hours or so and there is no worry if you forget as it will have turned it self off.

  3. What is it about the smell of school dinners that stays with you for.. well, forever really?

  4. Bridget

    No wonder danny was cooking last night!

    Had a giggle at the thought of you walking around with your sports timer…..good luck.

    I made some sourdough croutons at the weekend…one minute they were fine, the next they were cremated! will use my mobile phone next time!

  5. Marion.

    Did the price go up after your blog was published or was £3.99 a typo?
    Great idea by the way.

  6. Pamela

    I was thinking the same as Magic Cochin but then like you I don’t have my phone attached by an umbilical cord wherever I go. Why do people seem so surprised when you don’t see their texts when you were home all day?

  7. Magic Cochin

    Doesn’t your mobile phone have an alarm setting?
    C x

    • Fiona Nevile

      Good point but I don’t tend to take it about with me everywhere 🙂

    • Tanya @ Lovely Greens

      I was going to say the same thing…and I suppose that if there were something in the crockpot then I’d just keep the phone in my pocket. That way I wouldn’t have to spend money on an additional gadget.

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