Tuesday, 18 January 2011

In a stew; a slow cooker is your friend

Ok, this isn't quite a recipe, more a guideline.  That's the joy with savoury food, especially with slow cookers, accurate measuring is pretty much pointless unless it's pastry and you can adapt things to what you have in the fridge.

This winter my slow cooker has been working harder than ever.  The joy with slow cooking is you can put things on to cook when your baby is napping and like magic it's ready once you're ready to eat and generally things don't spoil (if the meat overcooks it just falls apart a bit but tastes great still.)

So this is a stew which my baby regularly has a bit from blended up and we have later on when he's in bed (with adaptions.)

Stewing beef (or lamb, venison, mixed game etc)  Note that stewing meat should look sinewy but that melts down into  a lovely sauce so don't fear.
Unsalted butter
Root veg of your choice (carrots are good but you could use parsnips, swede, sweet potato or a mix)
Low salt stock cube (e.g. Kallo very low salt or Heinz baby low salt) or home made beef stock made without salt
mushrooms if desired

Fry the meat in some oil until brown.  Nothing to do with "sealing" the meat but it causes a "Maillard reaction" which makes all of those lovely brown tasty meaty flavours.   Put in the slow cooker.  Soften the veg (chopped of course) in the butter, stick it in the slow cooker.  Make up the stock to 2x strength (although this will increase the salt a little remember slow cookers have very little evaporation) pour into the cooker but don't cover the ingredients, the veg will cook down.  Add in some herbs chopped or tied into a bouquet garni.  Parsley, bay and thyme are good for beef.

Cook for around 6-8 hours on low.  Mushrooms can be browned in more butter and added 30 mins before the end of cooking.  Puree for babies with some freshly cooked green veg if liked.  Add a further normal stock cube and a tbsp of grain mustard for adults.  Thicken the gravy by turning the slow cooker to high until it's bubbling and mixing a dsp cornflour with 2 dsp water until smooth then mixing in to the sauce stirring a couple of times.

This is a good recipe for both babies and mums, both of whom tend to have low iron levels.  It freezes well and leftovers can easily be made into a tasty pie.

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