The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Slow, gentle cooking with a slow cooker

slow cooker“Oh I mustn’t forget to go into the garage!” Angela turned the internal key and disappeared into the darkness.
“Fiona, do you happen to know where the light switch is?”

I could find it blind. The first few days when I was working in their empty house the fuses tripped regularly and I was in darkness. Fine if I was near the garage, not so fun if I was upstairs.

Within seconds she was carrying a large cardboard box into the hall.
“It’s a slow cooker. If it works, I’ll take it to France.”
Back in the seventies I had toyed with the idea of buying a slow cooker but decided against it. Who would want to be frying onions and meat before breakfast?
Angela sensed this and added almost apologetically, “I just want it for Steak and Kidney.”

Magical words.
Centre stage, she gently put the box down and turned to me.
“With a slow cooker you don’t even need to fry the meat. Just roll it in seasoned flour, cover it with enough boiling water not to dry out and eight hours later you have steak and kidney to die for.” Her smile was radiant.

I was impressed and astonished that anyone still cooked with these things. So surprised that I was incapable of even thinking of a sensible response. So I just nodded and smiled.

The next day I was propelling my trolley past a large discounted display in Tesco. There was a slow cooker (half the original Tesco price) I immediately thought of Angela’s Steak and Kidney. I could be tossing the meat in seasoned flour at dawn and returning exhausted to the heart of a wonderful meal nine hours later. I grabbed a box and tried it for size in my trolley – there was plenty of room as I had only just started shopping. Then I thought of the palaver of explaining why I had a slow cooker in the boot of the car to D and quickly returned the box to the shelves.

On the drive back home I had plenty of time to reconsider the purchase in depth. Our slow cooker could be the work horse to make our overnight stocks and soup. Surely a 290 watt slow cooker couldn’t use the same energy as a tempramental Zanussi fan assisted oven over the same length of time. It would be using the pwer of three lightbulbs comapered to an energy sucking beauty with heat, light and noisy fan. The slow cooker could silently make casseroles and even pot roasts. Danny didn’t need all these reasons if I whispered “Easy Steak and Kidney” through the gap around the front door he would be pushing a blank cheque though the same slim but draughty slit within seconds. Note must get a bale of draught excluder.

We tried Amelee Issa’s recipe for split peas and ham in the slow cooker today (her excellent recipe appears as a comment on our Ham and Parsley Sauce recipe). A virgin run of our new Slow Cooker and Amalee’s Recipe had every living being in the kitchen happy and expectant for 6 hours. Thanks Amalee it was superb and the dogs finally let rip and bayed until we gave them some too.

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  1. Minamoo

    I just bought a slow cooker cooker myself when I went out sales shopping with my fiance (we got engaged just before Christmas! 🙂 ) It’s quite funny but where other people were lugging round new shoes/clothes/handbags we were dragging around a tefal rice cooker/steamer and slow cooker in one combo thing to replace my old tefal rice cooker that Peter killed, a proper steam iron, and a bunch of little things from Lakeland! I had started to panic a bit as to what I could make in it and then I read your post and I realised I could finally make stock your way! We can’t really afford the energy bills that would result from overnight cooking of stock in our oven as we’re trying to save up to buy a house and only Peter is working as I’m doing my PhD but now I can do them in the slow cooker! Yay!

  2. Kay Sexton

    Well done you! I use ours a couple of times a week – today it’s making a soup from root vegetables (half-price ones from the supermarket) and some of October’s pumpkin puree that I’d frozen. It’ll become one portion frozen soup for my other half to take to work. We make loads of stuff in it, including chutney.

    Funnily enough I just blogged about freezer/allotment relationships at the allotment blog, but hadn’t got around to mentioning the slow cooker.

  3. magic cochin

    Hi Barbara – Cavalo Nero, Black Tuscan Kale, Nero di Toscana – search on any of these and you’ll find lots of information.
    For seed try it’s listed under Kale.

    I have attempted to grow it after seeing rows of it growing along the edge of vinyards in Tuscany. It wasn’t a success in our garden, but do give it a try. In Tuscany it’s used in bean soups, added towards the end of cooking. Tastes like curly kale, maybe slightly stronger, and the texture is smoother.

  4. Mildred

    Hi Barbara, the only comment I can make about Calvero Nero is that our Guinea piggies love it! I keep buying some with the good intention of using it for our supper . . . but somehow it always ends up in the piggy department – it must be good 😉

    Fi, I can smell your steak and kidney slowly simmering from here! yum!

  5. Barbara Earl

    Can anybody through any light on Calvero Nero, such as, What does it taste like ? and where can I buy seeds ? I have done a web search on it and got nowhere.

  6. The butcher in the next village used to have one, tempting everyone with fantastic smells of oxtail stew, or steak and kidney, or whatever. Very clever marketing – but I think it was just that he was fond of his food, and lived on the premises 😉

    BTW, what DID Danny say?


  7. I think you’ll have years of great meals from it.

    I was given an old slow cooker a few years back but I thought it looked dangerous (electricity scares me) so threw it away. Now of course wish I’d kept it.

  8. magic cochin

    Yes we have one too – it doesn’t get used as much now I work at home, but when we both commuted it was so useful. I always use it at Christmas to heat the Christmas pudding – just put the pudding in the slow pot when we prepare breakfast and forget it. Saves space on the hob for all the veg/gravy/sauces/etc. Also fantastic if your having a party – chilli con carne or lamb tangine in the slow pot plus rice, jacket potatoes or cous cous and a green salad – what could be easier?


  9. Very odd Fiona, as I was thinking this very morning what I could put in the slow cooker for supper tonight. It is well worth the money and I am glad you gave in to temptation there. Look forward to some recipes for it. I think ours is at least 20 years old and is still going strong.

  10. We love our slow cooker – it gets brought out for chicken casserole mostly!

    They can be a little distracting if you work from home. The house gets filled with delicious smells hours and hours before dinner time….

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