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.

  Leave a reply


  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Kate(uk)

    Good point about kidney beans. We were wondering if you have to soak beans before putting them in the slow cooker. I haven’t bothered for split peas and lentils but am going to soak beans of any type.

    I’ve never knowingly tried calvero nero!

  2. Kate(uk)

    Make sure your slow cooker gets hot enough for red kidney beans to be cooked properly so they don’t make you ill!
    I find calvero nero a tad on the strong side- never forget you have some as it really reeks when a bit ancient-but it is rather lovely with ginger ( like most things).

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Amalee

    I love rice pudding! Haven’t had it for years. I must try making it in the slow cooker with Arborio rice – sounds delicious. Any other tips?

    We loved the split pea and ham recipe. Danny had the left overs for lunch for a few days and didn’t get that 4 o’clock slump.

  4. amalee issa

    What a lovely thing to say, Fiona! Thank you. I swapped a bread tin and packet of rye bread mix from Ikea for my best friend’s slow cooker. We had just returned from Prague, and rye bread was on her mind. I love my slow cooker, I wouldn’t make rice pudding (actually with arborio rice) any other way.


  5. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Kay

    Paid for blogging! How does that work eactly?

    You have a lovely garden you must be very proud.

  6. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Mildred

    That’s a great price! Thanks so much for dropping by and leaving the tip.

    Happy steaming!

  7. Mildred

    Fi, we have just found an electric steamer on the John Lewis website at £14.95 inc delivery! We saw it in their store earlier today and decided it would be very useful, it has 2 deep steamer sections which we hope will be good for Christmas puds! I am pleased we waited until we got home to order as it was cheaper online 🙂

  8. Kay Sexton

    Oh yes, it’s one of my paying gigs – – and I have a paying gig gardening blog too at – that’s my real live garden in the picture … only on a remarkably good day!

  9. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Pat

    I feel embarrassed – everyone except us has twigged that a slow cooker is a good idea – for years! I suppose we have to start somewhere and we are loving it.

    Hi Emma

    Danny loves the smells. Bought up in a traditional Irish home with his mother reigning in the kitchen he is at his happiest when the cottage is permeated with wafts from the kitchen.

    We are excited with the prospect of using this gadget to its fullest potential. Any chance of sharing your chicken casserole recipe?

    Hi Magic Cochin

    I sense that you are an excellent chef. Danny is nudging me for slow cooking ideas. I am going to try the soup mixes bought from Daily Bread and a few casseroles but I’d love some new recipes to inspire my OH into getting up early and chopping himself…

    Christmas pud. I made ours and forgot to put it on 2 days running so it™s now hunched in the larder waiting for the possibility of Easter.

    Hi Amanda

    The old slow cookers might not be so efficient. The new one are not very expensive “ ours was £17.50 and research tells me that I could have bought it for £13.00!

    Hi Joanna

    I didn™t buy it before asking D. Easier in the long run.

    But all I had to do was mention S&K and he was pushing me out of the house to buy one…

    Hi Barbara

    I think that you have already got the definitive answer to your question!

    Hi Minamoo

    I™m so pleased that you are engaged and very happy for you both. Exciting times. Good luck with your PhD, I do hope that it is going well.

    We don™t have an electric steamer but I™ll think of you every time that I lift the lid of the slow cooker and (hopefully) cook something good.

    Hi Kay

    Chutney!? Now that™s something to get me fired up. I am beginning to fall in love with SC.

    I didn™t know that you had an allotment blog, I must investigate.

  10. Mildred

    Congratulations to you both Minamoo! Collecting your cooking items sounds great fun too!!

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