Why You Should Be Cooking in the Slow Lane
Essential Guide to Slow Cooking
It is believed that the first slow cooker was invented around 1936, by Irving Naxon. Supposedly inspired by the times when his mother would make Cholent — a traditional Jewish stew, which requires slow and careful cooking in a crock (an earthenware pot). Irving came up with an invention that could alleviate all the stress of watching over a stew and provide long, slow, even cooking. Hence, the slow cooker was born. Little did Naxon know that this honest, simple cooking appliance would become a staple element of kitchens in the forties, fifties, sixties and beyond. As all trends do, the slow cooker suffered a lull in popularity, but has come biting back, with quirky retro designs, numerous new recipe books on the topic and exciting ways improve your plantbased cooking.
Quick and Easy: Extraordinarily simple to use, slow cookers can make cooking complex-flavoured dishes a breeze. Especially useful for recipes such as stews and curries, you can quite literally throw all your ingredients — from vegetables to stock and spices — into the cooker, give it a mix and then leave on a low setting until everything is beautifully tender.
Flavour in a flash: Thanks to its low, slow and consistent heat, any dish you make in your slow cooker is certain to be packed full of flavour. Whether you’re focusing on lighter, fruitier flavours, or richer, deeper and more aromatic tones, by allowing your dish to stew over several hours, the flavours inside will intensify and eventuate in a pungent and perfectly cooked meal that will be certain to impress family or friends.
Nutrition ninja: As well as cleverly masking the amount of vegetables or fruit in a dish, through the mingling of intense flavours, some studies have suggested that slow cooked meals could be especially good for you. This is because the effect the heat has on some fruits and vegetables makes their nutrients easier to digest or be absorbed in the body — this is often known as increasing the
nutrient’s bioavailability. Tomatoes are a great example of this, as some research has suggested that the naturally-occurring lycopene in tomatoes could be more easily absorbed by the body when the tomatoes are heated. Though more research is needed to certify this, a slow-cooked tomato ratatouille is delicious, so there’s no reason not to give it a try!
A Little Inspiration
Vegan chilli: Warm the cockles with a well-spiced, slow-cooked vegan chilli. With this dish it’s all about beans, and the wider variety of them, the better. Along with these, throw in a diced red onion, some fresh garlic, a chopped pepper or two, tinned tomatoes, and a little chopped, deseeded chilli, alongside a generous seasoning of spices and a swig of olive oil. Stir to combine and leave to cook for a good few hours (the longer the better, as flavours will intensify over time). Serve in deep bowls, paired with some crusty bread and a dollop of dairy-free yoghurt.
Mushroom risotto: Slow cooking a risotto can eliminate the usual stress of this tricky dish. Start by placing a little dairy-free butter, onion and garlic in a warm slow cooker and leave to soften for a moment. Then add the risotto rice and plenty of vegetable stock, alongside some of the mushrooms, and season well with salt, black pepper and herbs. Leave this on a low setting in the slow cooker until the rice has absorbed almost all of the stock, before adding some more mushrooms just before the cooking time is up. Serve with a glass of crisp, white wine, if you’re feeling truly indulgent.
Fudgy chocolate pudding: Start by making a simple chocolate sponge base, with flour, sugar, plenty of cocoa powder, a little baking powder, plant-based milk, vegetable oil, a swig of vanilla extract and lashings of dairyfree choc chips. Mix the ingredients together until thoroughly combined and pour the batter into the slow cooker. Then, using just sugar, cocoa powder and hot water, mix together a fudgy, chocolate sauce. Pour the sauce over the batter, but do not mix. Leave to bake in the slow cooker for 1-2 hours and enjoy the sumptuous chocolate surprise that awaits you
5 Top Tips for Slow Cooker Perfection
GO EASY ON THE LIQUID
During the slow cooking process, the fruit, veg and other ingredients in your dish will likely release a large amount of moisture themselves, so avoid adding too much stock, water or sauce pre-cooking, as this can lead to a sloppy mess after the natural waters are released too.
PREPARE YOUR DISH THE NIGHT BEFORE
One of the true beauties of slow cooking is that you can prepare everything you need for your dish the night before, throw it all in the pot and simply flick a switch on in the morning — saving you time, energy and eliminating stress.
HAVE TRUST IN YOUR COOKER
Slow cookers are designed to do all the work for you, so there’s no need to continually take off the lid to check the contents. In fact, releasing this build-up of steam could actually have a negative result on the final dish.
DON’T FORGET PUDDINGS!
Many people often associate slow cooking with savoury dishes, such as stews, soups and curries, but there’s loads of readily-available recipes for slow-cooked puddings, which are just as easy to make and will save you bundles of time.
REMEMBER TO THICKEN
For many slow cooker dishes, such as those with a tomato base, you may not want to thicken the sauce or juices, but for those which do require a thick, rich sauce, consider rolling some of your ingredients in flour beforehand, or adding a little cornflour at the end of the cooking time, as slow cookers will not naturally thicken the liquid inside them.
Find lots of information on ingredients in our glossary.
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