I'm into experiments at the moment. The latest is a simple beef stew in the slow cooker, which I made up after searching for a good half an hour for a decent recipe. Seriously, what is it with crockpot owners and tinned soup? Any time you google for crockpot or slow cooker recipes, you get a million of them with cream of mushroom soup as a major ingredient. I'm unimpressed.
So I made up my casserole in a minimal and lazy manner, just to see if it would work. I wasn't too worried if not: the materials could be recycled into a chilli or pasta or something if need be. But it turned out fine. We ate it on the first day with small potatoes and spinach from B1's garden.
And today, we ate it with dumplings and broccolini. I made a variant on my usual dumplings with parsley and ricotta - the Perfect Cheese freebie. I also cooked these in the slow cooker, with some trepidation. I had a recipe in a crockpot cookbook which was too large a quantity, but it did give a 30 minute cooking time, unlike the usual 15-20 minutes it takes on the stovetop. This did not work too well, but we did still end up with an edible dinner, so it could have been worse. Recipes follow.
Recipe: Slow cooked beef and red wine stew
1.25kg topside beef
500g button mushrooms
500g small onions
375ml red wine
2 tblsp worcestershire sauce
2 tblsp tomato paste
large bunch of rosemary
sprig of bayleaves
salt to taste
Peel the onions, leaving most of the root end attached. If they are very small, leave them whole, otherwise halve or quarter them. Put them in the crockpot.
Wipe the mushrooms clean, trim if neeeded, and put them in the pot.
Cut the beef into large cubes. Add it to the pot.
Pour over the wine and worcestershire sauce.
Top with the whole bunch of herbs, and cover.
Cook on low for 4 hours.
Remove herbs, stir, and replace herbs on top.
Cook on low, stirring occasionally, for another 4 hours or until meat is tender.
Taste, adjust for salt, and discard herbs.
Notes: I used this layered method because I have read - and noticed - that vegetables seem to take longer than meat, and it's hotter at the bottom of the pot. Also, the herbs sitting on top scenting the steam that drips back in may seem a bit wasteful, but if you have massive garden trimmings, it's not an issue. If you don't have ridiculous amounts of rosemary on hand, I'd recommend a couple of teaspoons of the tube variety, like Garden Gourmet. I have no freebies from them, I just like this as it mixes well without leaving tough spiky leaves everywhere.
Recipe: Slow Cooker Ricotta & Parsley Dumplings
1 1/4 cups self raising flour
1 tablespoon butter
75 ml milk
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 big pot of stew!
Set your slow cooker to high an hour in advance, so that your stew is bubbling gently.
Beat together egg, milk, parsley, ricotta and salt.
Melt butter, and add to egg mix.
Mix all of this though the flour.
Stir to combine well.
Dollop tablespoons of the mix on top of the stew.
Cover and let simmer for 30 minutes. (ORLY? or until done)
Notes: Makes about 8 dumplings. I used the last of the Perfect Italiano low fat ricotta, and of course the beef and red wine casserole above.
Now, importantly, this didn't work quite right. My crockpot's high setting may not be as quick as the one in the recipe book. Or I may not have let it heat up long enough. My dumplings took more like an hour, and even then the innermost ones were still a bit sticky. But we were hungry and didn't want to wait any longer. The flavour and texture of the cooked part was still pretty good, but still I'd prefer the more reliable stovetop method.