These days there seems to be a day or a month for just about everything…but this one caught my eye as it makes seasonal sense. The colder winter months call for warming casseroles and hearty stews and after the excesses of the festive season, slow cooking enables us to use cheaper cuts of meat, bulked out with healthy vegetables and pulses. Slow cookers are one of the most energy efficient cooking appliances, most use much less electricity than a conventional oven as they cook at a very low wattage. I was first introduced to the slow cooker by Mark over 30 years ago. He was working as a stockman in Northumberland and his mother had given him a slow cooker. At breakfast time he would throw chunks of onion, carrots, beef and water at high speed into a slow cooker. The whole process took just minutes. He turned it on and went out on to the farm, returning to find a delicious meal ready and waiting. Top tip here: there’s nothing better than getting supper sorted first thing in the morning, it makes you feel organised all through the day!
More recently a farming friend in Northumberland cooked for her family for two full years in her new home using only a slow cooker and one electric ring whilst she waited for the kitchen of her dreams. We visited one day and were treated to the most delicious and tender slow cooked shoulder of lamb.
I’m also a great fan of batch cooking. Again this is an economical way of producing delicious meals and getting ahead when life and work are busy. Sometimes when we’re busy we may slow cook a big casserole and eat it 3 nights in a row…changing the vegetables or adding pastry/dumplings to add variety…and it’s certainly true that a stew often tastes better once cooled and reheated.
So what cuts suit slow cooking? Today in the farm shop some oxtail caught my eye, I’m going to make a delicious soupy stew with that. Shin of beef, skirt and brisket are the classic slow cooking beef cuts, the more adventurous could try beef cheek and heart or a chuck steak and kidney casserole. There are some great recipes for slow cooked shoulder of pork, and some of our customers buy pigs cheeks and trotters for slow cooking. Lamb shoulder and breast are the slow cooking cuts of choice and why not give mutton a try? Slow cooked mutton stews, tagines and curries are economical and so full of flavour.
Have we inspired you? Let’s get slow cooking… Here’s the Hairy Bikers recipe for mince and dumplings.