There is something quite magical about slow cooking.
Coming home to cooked food is always really comforting, particularly in the winter. Sometimes you can even smell food the second you step in the door, which is just an amazing thing to walk into. It feels like the complete opposite of fast food, stuff you just stick in the oven, even though it often only takes a few minutes of preparation in advance. Although we’ve got machines that do the slow cooking for us nowadays, it harks back to a time when people would cook things all day over an open fire.
I only really got into slow cooking when I shot Stella West Harling’s cookbook – she is a great believer in slow cooking with great ingredients, and once I saw how much she used her slow cooker for loads of different recipes I just had to have one. They’re something that don’t have a very glamorous image, but they’re dead cheap and really really good for all kinds of different dishes. I think that they tend to be a lot more popular in America: in England they’re the kind of thing everyone has in the back of their cupboard somewhere. I mostly use mine for stews and casseroles, but you really can cook all sorts of things in them – including chilli, whole chickens and even bread. If you search crock-pot or slow cooker recipes on Google the number of hits is crazy. You can even find pages devoted to slow cooker breakfasts: things like slow cooker French toast and breakfast casseroles.
One of my favorite recipes that Stella cooked was a slow cooked beef and mushroom casserole: it had a really rich flavor and was absolutely beautiful to photograph. She’s kindly given me permission to blog the recipe – if you like it, you can get here book here, it’s full of great recipes and pictures.
Slow Cooked Beef & Mushroom
50g torn dried porcini mushrooms
200g sliced button mushrooms
150g sliced washed carrots
50g butter or lard
1 large onion (diced)
2 chopped garlic cloves
75g plain flour (seasoned)
1kg lean cubed beef (shin or skirt)
175g red wine
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
400ml beef stock
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon chopped parsley for garnish
1 teaspoon dried mixed herbs
1 tablespoon sunflower or vegetable oil
plus 1 more tablespoon of the same oil
Heat over to 120C or turn on the slow cooker
This will cook and be ready in 4-5 hours or it will keep cooking slowly for a further 3 hours.
Step 1 In a large frying pan (I cook everything using the metal dish of my slow cooker) melt the butter and sauté the sliced button mushrooms on a medium heat for 3 minutes until browned but not fully cooked. Turn out into a large bowl and set aside.
Step 2 Using the same pan add the oil and onion. Sauté for 10 minutes or until tender and golden brown. Add garlic and sauté 1 minute. Take out and reserve.
Step 3 Put the seasoned along with the dried mixed herbs into a shallow bowl. Dredge the beef in flour.
Step 4 Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in the pan over a medium high heat. Add the floured beef mixture along with the torn porcini mushrooms, sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon salt. Cook for 5 minutes, browning on all sides.
Step 5 Put the onion mixture and floured beef mix, along with the carrots into either a casserole dish or a crock-pot.
Step 6 Add 1 cup of wine to the pan, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Add thyme, stock, and bay leaf, bring to a boil and pour over the beef and carrots in the crock-pot or casserole dish. Put on the lid and cook for at least 4-5 hours.
Step 7 Stir in the cooked mushrooms and parsley. Discard bay leaf. Garnish with thyme sprigs, if desired and the parsley and serve with Jersey Royal potatoes and green vegetables in season, or oven-roasted root vegetable medley such as butternut squash, sweet potatoes, beetroot, fennel and green vegetables.
Any leftovers that don’t get eaten (not likely!) can be put to good use in a pie.