I spent many years enduring the winters of America and Britain, seeking solace indoors and warming up with the tasty foods of the season. It’s hard to believe it’s Winter here in Australia with the sun still shining out there. Still something beckons for heart-warming food, for slow-cooked shanks, roasts and stews.
While I’ve successfully slow-cooked (in my mind) many times, I wondered if there were other secrets to make this pleasured Winter ritual even better? Was I really getting the best out of my sauces, meats, vegetable selection or pulses?
Our good friend, food editor and recipe stylist Anna Phillips is well acquainted with slow cooking having created and tested many recipes for her own cookbooks and for many of her foodie clients; so we asked her for some top tips and secrets for better slow-cooking:
1.Browning for better flavour: For better slow cooking and improved flavours in your sauce, brown meat or chicken prior to adding remaining ingredients. Browning onion and other vegetables such as onion, carrot, celery will also add extra flavour.
2. Don’t mix salt & beans: When cooking with beans (raw) don’t salt the soup or casserole until cooking is complete. Salt can retard the softening of the beans so season after cooking.
3. Prepare raw Beans first: It’s best to soak beans overnight. If this slipped your mind, a quick tip is to place the raw dried beans in a saucepan cover with water and bring to the boil. Remove from heat allow to stand for 1 hour then drain and use in your dish.
4. Converting stove top recipes to appliances: If you have a favourite slow-cooking stove-top recipe that you want to cook in a slow-cooker appliance then reduce the liquid by about 1 cup. When cooking with a slow cooker, steam is created within the cooker and adds to the moisture level.
5. Cut your meat evenly: Cut pieces of meat or chicken into even sized pieces so that they will cook evenly. Cut off excess fat as this can make your dish too oily too as fat does not cook off when slow-cooking.
6. Solids verses Liquid: The level of food and liquid in the slow cooker should fill about half the slow cooker internal pot as a general guide. Always refer to your cooking instructions when using appliances.
7. Thicken sauces if they are too thin: As liquid doesn’t reduce with slow-cooking sometimes your sauce can look a little thin. If this happens, you can thicken it up once the cooking time is complete. To do this, blend about 2 teaspoons soft butter with 2 teaspoons plain flour to make a paste. Stir this into the dish replace lid and cook about 15 minutes longer. Ideally simmer the dish if there is a setting that will allow you to, as this will cook the flour and create optimum thickening.
8. Don’t leave seafood off the menu: Seafood is delicious to prepare with slow-cooking particularly octopus, squid and cuttlefish. Prawns and other more delicate seafood such as fillets can be added to the finished sauce or recipe once cooking is complete. If the sauce is very hot quite often the seafood will cook in this sauce in 3-5 minutes. Just ensure the fillets are in small pieces and cut prawns too.
Get the free Winter Warmers cookbook choc-a-block full of slow-cooking and other hearty winter recipes you can practice these tips with!
Now that you’re armed with the secrets for Slow-Cooking success, and you’ve practiced with the Winter Warmers book, give these recipes a go!
Split Pea & Smoked Ham Soup with Crispy Kale
For the perfect winter dinner party use your slow cooker to get delicious results in this rustic smoked pea and ham soup.
This traditional cholent recipe is full of flavour and and is a fantastic idea for serving the whole family.
This slow cooked lamb recipe has divine aromatic flavours. You don’t even need a slow cooker for this winter dinner recipe idea.
Get more WINTER WARMING recipe ideas and
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