I recall that I may have promised (over-promised, I think) weekly slow cooker blog posts, during which I'd share my recipes and recommendations and spread the crock pot love. But, I'll be honest with you: I've only used it twice. I know that people have mixed feelings about slow cookers. Like bread machines, some swear by them while others think they are a complete waste of space and money. Well, my slow cooker and I, let's say that we are still getting to know each other. I've used it twice with mixed success and am learning as I go, but I am not giving up. When I have used it I've loved the flexibility of it. Often, on weeknights, the kids eat around 5-6 pm while John and I eat later, when they are in bed. It's often tricky for us to all eat together with after school activities and clubs, and John's shift patterns. So, I love the way things can just simmer away for hours without drying out in a slow cooker, but I'm still working out what it's best for, versus what is better cooked in the oven.
I bought 200 Slow Cooker Recipes a while ago, and you lovely lot recommended Ultimate Slow Cooker by Sara Lewis, The Complete Slow Cooker by Sally Wise and Easy Slow Cooker, and thank you all very much for that. A Year Of Slow Cooking is a great website and I'm sure there are many, many more. So many actually that it all gets a bit overwhelming.
My first experiment was chicken stew. I didn't follow a recipe, but just chucked in the meat with some chopped vegetables (onion, celery, carrots and potatoes by the look of it, and some garlic too I recall) then covered with stock and seasoned it. I was making it up as I went along really.
So far so good.
I did this at midday, and after 4 hours on the low setting it was looking ok. A little watery, but otherwise fine. I learnt my first lesson - you don't need to put much liquid in a slow cooker! In a oven, that would have dried out really fast. But the best thing about it was that I gave the kids some for their tea (they like stews, especially when I mash the veg down so Angus can't protest) about 5 pm then, a few hours later, John and I had some too and it was still fine. But my stews done in my beloved Le Creuset casserole pots in the oven are better.
My second attempt was much, much more successful. I made Coconut, Tomato and Lentil Dahl and this recipe is one where you brown the vegetables and spices on the hob first, then transfer to the slow cooker before adding the liquid ingredients. It smells amazing.
Again, I did this at lunchtime and left it to cook on the slow setting. By 4 pm it looked done, so I just switched in on to the "keep warm" setting until we were reading to eat a few hours later. It was absolutely, completely delicious. I love dahl anyway, but this was the best one I've made so far. John and I ate it (no way the kids are going to eat this) with yogurt, coriander, naan bread and some leftover aloo gobi that was in the freezer. The recipe made enough for 4 adults so we froze the other portion.
I'm definitely making that dahl again.
I am of the opinion that the good thing about slow cookers is the flexibility, and as a household with a busy weeknight schedule I appreciate that. But the other good thing which I had not anticipated is the delicious feeling of smugness. That feeling of knowing that your evening meal is sorted at lunchtime, knowing you've got it all ready to go and it's just cooking itself. Oh, dinner? It's in the slow cooker. I will not be that person shouting "Agh, the pesto's got mould on it!" while looking for the pasta, or groaning because we ran out of fish fingers (how is that even possible?).
At least twice this month I was organised and smug and it felt good.