Lamb and Vegetable Soup in a Slow Cooker

Lamb shanks lr

Serves 4 as a main course

This is a hearty and filling main course soup, and thanks to the spicing, works well in summer or winter. Lamb shanks are quite bulky so this is where my large 6.5 litre slow cooker comes into its own. If you have a smaller slow cooker you will need to reduce the portions.

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 lamb shanks
3 medium onions, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tsp chopped garlic
Spice mix made with 2 tsp ground coriander, 2 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1 tsp ground black pepper and a pinch of salt
1 litre beef stock (I make it with 2 Oxo cubes)
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
5 celery sticks, trimmed and cut into bite sized pieces
2 large sweet peppers, deseeded and cut into bite sized pieces
2 large red chillies, deseeded and finely diced
2 bulbs of fennel, trimmed and finely sliced

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and brown the lamb shanks all over, removing them to the bowl of your slow cooker once done. You will need to brown the shanks in two batches to avoid over-crowding the pan.

Add the onions to the pan and sauté until softened, approx. 10 minutes. Add the garlic and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the spice mix and stir-fry for another minute, adding a splash of stock if it starts to catch.

Pour in the stock and tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Add all of the vegetables and return to a simmer. Pour the mixture over the lamb shanks in the slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 9 hours.

When the time is up remove the lamb shanks and strip the meat from the bones, shredding it with two forks and removing any fat or gristle. Return the meat to the slow cooker. Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning as necessary.

Cook for another hour on low then, before serving, skim any excess oil that has risen to the surface.

Beef, Mushroom and Guinness Casserole

guiness-draught-beer-440ml-can-lr

Serves 3 to 4

This recipe continues the theme that you don’t have to get complicated to get outstanding results.

Although this is a casserole, don’t be tempted to cook it in a slow cooker because you will be left with a boozy taste.

It is best made the day before to give the flavours time to develop.

I like to turn this dish into a pie by serving it with a puff pastry “lid” which I cook separately in the oven while the casserole is reheating on the hob.

2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
150g white button mushrooms quartered
1kg braising steak (knuckle or shin) cubed
2 heaped tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 x 440ml can of Guinness
300ml beef stock (made with an Oxo cube)
Salt
Ground black pepper

Melt the butter in a large oven-proof pan and soften the onion for 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and continue to cook for a further 5 minutes until they are well coloured. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Toss the meat in the flour.

Heat the oil in the pan and brown the beef in batches. Return the onions and mushrooms to the pan with the beef, stir in any excess flour, then add the Guinness and stock. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a gentle simmer.

Cover and braise in the oven for 2 hours. Stir the mixture a couple of times during cooking and add a splash or two of boiling water if the gravy looks too thick.

Beef Casserole in a Slow Cooker

beef-cubed-lr

Serves 4

This is an excellent and simple beef casserole. It doesn’t need anything to go with it because of the large amounts of vegetables in it. However, it throws off a lot of sauce so if mashed potatoes are your thing, go for it!

8 carrots, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
8 celery sticks, cut into bite sized pieces
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1kg stewing beef (shin beef, braising steak, knuckle etc.) cubed
2 onions, peeled and roughly chopped
3 to 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 tablespoons flour
250ml red wine
500ml beef stock (I use an Oxo cube)
400g tin chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato puree
A generous pinch of chilli flakes
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tsp Marmite
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Several sprigs fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried thyme)

Place the carrots and celery in the bowl of your slow cooker.

Heat the butter and oil in a large pan and brown the beef in batches, removing each batch to a bowl once browned. Next sauté the onions until soft and starting to colour. Add the garlic and stir-fry for 1 minute.

Sprinkle in the flour and continue to cook, stirring. If it starts to catch, add a splash of stock. Continue to stir adding the wine splash by splash, then pour in the stock and cook uncovered until the mixture has thickened and reduced. This is important to get rid of the alcohol.

Add all of the remaining ingredients and the beef, bring the mixture to a simmer, then pour it over the carrots and celery in the slow cooker bowl. Give everything a good stir, cover and cook on low for 9 to 10 hours.

Simple Pork Vindaloo

Pork Vindaloo lr

Serves a hungry 4

In my last post I talked about all things slow cooker. So, as you might expect, here is another slow cooker recipe.

This is possibly the easiest recipe I have ever published. It shows that you don’t need to slave in the kitchen to serve up fabulously tasty food.

I recently published a recipe for a simple pork curry cooked in a slow cooker. This is a very similar dish, but even easier! It really does show that with the right basic techniques you can make a fantastic curry very simply using shop bought ingredients. This is where a slow cooker shows its mettle. The results are delicious.

I use Patak’s vindaloo spice paste, simply because that is the brand that my local supermarket stocks but I’m sure other brands may work just as well.

Be careful not to add too much salt at the start. Shop-bought spice pastes are quite salty to start with. You can always add more salt later but you can’t take it away!

My slow cooker has three settings – low, medium and high. I find I get the best results if I start it off on medium for one hour and then turn the heat down to low for the rest of the cooking time. If you don’t have a medium setting, just cook it on low from the start.

4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1.5kg pork neck (or shoulder), trimmed and cubed (I get my butcher to do this for me)
3 onions, sliced
2 tsp minced garlic (from a shop bought jar)
2 tsp minced ginger (from a shop bought jar)
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 x 283g jar of Patak’s Vindaloo Spice Paste
1 x 400ml tin coconut milk
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes (I use Mutti pulped tomatoes)
1 chicken stock cube dissolved in a little boiling water
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons (at least) of red wine vinegar

Heat the oil in a wide based pan then brown the pork in batches, using a slotted spoon to remove each batch to a bowl once it is browned. Once all the pork has been browned, add a little more oil to the pan if needs be then slowly soften and brown the onions, approx. 20 minutes. Add the minced garlic and ginger and stir fry for 1 minute. Add the black pepper and vindaloo spice paste and stir fry for another minute, making sure the mixture doesn’t catch.

Add the coconut milk, tomatoes, stock and salt and bring to a simmer. Return the pork to the pan and bring it all up to a gentle simmer.

Transfer the mixture to a slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours. At the end of that time you may find a lot of oil has risen to the surface (the amount will depend on how fatty your pork was). Skim off and discard the oil, then give everything a good stir. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning adding salt if needs be. Stir in the red wine vinegar.

If the sauce is too runny, turn the heat on your slow cooker up to high and continue to cook uncovered until it has reduced sufficiently. I find this generally takes about an hour. Once the sauce is the right consistency, put the lid back on the slow cooker, turn the heat down to low and leave it to continue cooking until you are ready to serve. I typically cook this dish for about 10 hours in all.

Simple Pork Curry

Patak's Korma Spice Paste

Serves 4

Making a curry from scratch can be a labour of love, roasting and grinding whole spices, making and cooking off spice pastes and nursing the dish through the cooking process. This pork curry recipe is simple firstly because it uses shop-bought spice pastes and secondly, you cook it in a slow cooker. It’s packed full of flavour and the meat is as tender as you can imagine.

I use Patak’s spice pastes, simply because that is the brand that my local supermarket stocks but I’m sure other brands may work just as well. I find the mix of 2/3 Korma and 1/3 Madras is ideal.

Be careful not to add too much salt at the start. Shop-bought spice pastes are quite salty to start with. You can always add more salt later but you can’t take it away!

My slow cooker has three settings – low, medium and high. I find I get the best results if I start it off on medium for one hour and then turn the heat down to low for the rest of the cooking time. If you don’t have a medium setting, just cook it on low from the start.

4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1.5kg pork neck (or shoulder), cubed (I get my butcher to do this for me)
3 onions, sliced
4 garlic cloves, peeled and very finely chopped or grated
2 heaped tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 very generous pinch of dried chilli flakes
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 x 165g jar of Patak’s Korma Spice Paste
½ jar (approx. 80g) Patak’s Madras Spice Paste
1 x 400ml tin coconut milk
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes (I use Mutti pulped tomatoes)
1 chicken stock cube dissolved in 100ml of boiling water
Salt to taste
Cayenne chilli powder (optional)

Heat the oil in a wide based pan then brown the pork in batches, using a slotted spoon to remove each batch to a bowl once it is browned. Once all the pork has been browned, add a little more oil to the pan if needs be then slowly soften and brown the onions, approx. 20 minutes. Add the garlic and stir fry for 1 minute. Add the ginger, cinnamon, chilli flakes and black pepper and stir fry for another minute, making sure the spices don’t catch.

Add all of the other ingredients except for the cayenne, return the pork to the pan and bring it all up to a gentle simmer.

Transfer the mixture to a slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours. At the end of that time you may find a lot of oil has risen to the surface (the amount will depend on how fatty your pork was). Skim off and discard the oil, then give everything a good stir. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning adding salt if needs be and adding cayenne pepper if you want to crank up the chilli heat.

If the sauce is too runny, turn the heat on your slow cooker up to high and continue to cook uncovered until it has reduced sufficiently. I find this generally takes about an hour. Once the sauce is the right consistency, put the lid back on the slow cooker, turn the heat down to low and leave it to continue cooking until you are ready to serve. I typically cook this dish for about 10 hours in all.

BBQ Pork Spare Ribs

Baby Pork Ribs

Serves 2

These ribs are meltingly soft with the meat falling off the bones and packed full of flavour.

2 racks of baby pork ribs, cut into separate ribs
6 tablespoons BBQ sauce
6 tablespoons honey
6 tablespoons cider vinegar
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp cayenne
2 ½ tablespoons dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons tomato ketchup

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, add the ribs, cover and simmer for 1 hour. This will render the fat and help to tenderise the ribs.

Mix all of the remaining ingredients together in a bowl. Drain the ribs and add them to the marinade. Stir well to coat them evenly, cover with cling film and marinate for 24 hours in the fridge. During that time stir them from time-to-time to make sure they all get plenty of marinade.

Bake the ribs uncovered in a roasting dish for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the marinade is well reduced and sticky, and all of the ribs are evenly coated.

Chilli Con Carne

Chilli con carne low res

Serves 4

All meat eaters seem to love chilli con carne. It is often one of the first dishes that people learn to cook, not least students. I guess that’s because it is easy to cook and you can get a pretty decent result without slavishly following a recipe.

However, if you get the recipe just right, forget pretty decent – chilli con carne can be divine! The secret is in getting the spice mixture right. The dish should be packed full of flavours that come to you in layers; think 3D rather than 2D. And you need the level of chilli heat to be spot on. Not enough and you just have a glorified beef stew. Too much and the burning masks the flavours.

Oftentimes people make chilli con carne using minced beef. I find you get a quite different and much richer result using cubes of beef rather than mince. It’s more refined too, good dinner party fare.

4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1.2kg beef knuckle or beef shin, trimmed and cubed (your butcher will do this for you, just ask)
2 large onions, roughly chopped
2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
Spice mixture made up with: 1 ½ tsp Pasilla chilli powder, 1 ½ tsp Mulato chilli powder, 1 ½ tsp Ancho chilli powder, 1 tsp Chipotle chilli powder, 1 rounded tablespoon ground cumin, 1 rounded tablespoon dried oregano and ½ tsp finely ground black pepper
2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes (preferably Mutti tomato pulp)
400ml beef stock
4 sundried tomatoes in oil, finely chopped
2 tsp sugar
Salt
2 medium green peppers, stalks removed, deseeded and chopped into bite size pieces
2 x 400g tins red kidney beans, drained
Optional: a ladle or two of real tomato sauce or passata

Heat the oil in an oven proof casserole dish and brown the meat in batches, removing each batch to a bowl as soon as it is browned using a slotted spoon. Once all the meat has been browned add a little more oil to the pan if needs be and sauté the onions until soft and golden, approximately 10 minutes. Add the garlic and stir fry for one minute.   Add the spice mixture and stir constantly for one minute to heat through and mix thoroughly with the onions. If it starts to catch, add a splash of stock.

Add the tomatoes, stock, sundried tomatoes and sugar and season with a generous pinch of salt. Bring the mixture to a simmer, return the beef to the pan and bring it to a simmer again. Cover and braise in the oven at 160° for two hours. Stir every 20 minutes or so, making sure the sauce isn’t sticking to the sides of the pan. Add a splash of boiling water if the mixture starts to dry out but make sure the sauce isn’t too runny.

After the two hours is up taste the dish and check the seasoning, adding salt if you think it needs it. If you find the dish too spicy for your palate, stir in a ladle or two of real tomato sauce (you can get the recipe here) or passata.

At this stage the dish can be chilled and stored in the fridge for up to three days or frozen until needed.

To finish the dish, slowly return it to a gentle simmer then add the green peppers and red kidney beans. Stir to mix well, cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

I like to serve this with plain white rice but it is also good with potato wedges, baked potatoes, chips, various breads and even pasta. And of course everyone loves tortilla chips and grated cheddar cheese with chilli con carne!

Hungry Gaucho Beef Rub

Thyme low resThis is one of LW’s top three seasoning blends. She loves to griddle a well-seasoned, juicy rib eye steak, cooking it to just about medium.

First she seasons the steak with my Hungry Gaucho Beef Rub, then allows it to stand out of the fridge to bring it to room temperature. This takes about 20 to 30 minutes. She heats up the griddle pan before placing the steak in it. She cooks the steak for several minutes, turning it occasionally. The idea is to get the steak nicely seared on the outside but still juicy on the inside. Once it is cooked, she takes the pan off the heat and lets the steak rest in it for several minutes. All she needs to go with it is a green salad or some fries.

This spice mix has a mild-to-medium heat and is easy to use. Simply mix the seasoning with a little oil to make a loose paste, rub it onto your beef – a steak, joint or burger, whatever you fancy – then leave it to marinate for up to an hour. Cook it in the usual way – griddle, grill, barbecue or roast. Allow 1 teaspoon of the spice mix per portion.

1 tsp dried thyme
¾ tsp ground black pepper
½ tsp cayenne
½ tsp cumin powder
1 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp mustard seed powder
1 ½ tsp paprika
¾ tsp salt

Mix all of the ingredients together and store in a spice jar until needed.

(P.S. Although I created this spice mix to season beef, the mix itself is vegan and vegetarian and can be used to season vegetables for frying, roasting, grilling or barbequing.)

Beef in BBQ Sauce

Beef brisket joint

Serves 8

This is my take on a classic dish of beef slowly cooked in a BBQ sauce. You’ll find versions of this dish in various cookbooks and although they are all quite similar, the difference comes from the mix of BBQ sauces used. You can use any BBQ sauce that you prefer but I have found that mixing the Levi Roots and Jack Daniels sauces gives the perfect balance of sweet, sour and spice.

This is a sweet dish so a favourite with the kids. And it’s easy too. Although the cooking time is long, it can be made ahead of time, stored in the fridge and reheated when needed.

For the Marinade…
1 bottle Levi Roots Reggae Reggae sauce
1 bottle Jack Daniels smoky BBQ sauce
250 ml (1 small bottle) lager
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
3 onions finely chopped
3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 tablespoons soft brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 brisket of beef, rolled and tied, approx. 2kg in weight

Mix all of the marinade ingredients together, add the brisket and make sure it is evenly coated. Cover and marinate in the fridge for 1 to 2 days.

For the finished dish…
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Heat the vegetable oil in a large oven-proof casserole dish. Remove the brisket from the marinade, scrape off any excess marinade and pat it dry with paper towels. Brown in the vegetable oil, turning to make sure the brisket is evenly coloured. Pour over the marinade, bring to a simmer, then cover and bake in a low oven for 3 hours.

Once cooked, allow the brisket to cool slightly, then transfer it to a chopping board. Remove the string then cut the meat into slices and chunks. Cut away and discard any excess skin or fat.

Place the meat into a clean casserole dish and pour over the sauce either as it is or sieved if you like it smooth. Stir to mix evenly, then allow to go cold, cover and store in the fridge overnight.

When ready to serve remove the dish from the fridge and remove any fat that may have solidified on the surface. Bake in the oven uncovered until bubbling and hot. Stir from time to time to make sure the surface doesn’t burn.

 

Nutritional InfoValue per ServingDaily Value
Calories559
Total fat22g34%
Saturated fat7g34%
Cholesterol155mg52%
Sodium758mg33%
Total carbohydrate31g11%
Dietary fibre2g6%
Sugar23g
Protein53g106%
Vitamin A3%
Vitamin C8%
Calcium6%
Iron34%

Beef and Prune Tagine

Prunes low res

Serves 2 to 3

This is a dark and very rich Moroccan dish full of aromatic, body-warming spices. Every time I eat it I am transported back to the spice stalls in the souk in Marrakesh. Pyramids of brightly coloured ground spices draw you in and the air there is redolent with pungent cinnamon, cardamom and cumin. A bit different to the little pots of ground spices we see in our local supermarkets!

This dish is strong on flavour but not too hot. It has become a firm favourite with everyone who has tried it. The sweetness of the prunes is balanced by the sourness of the tamarind. I serve it with plain boiled white rice but it is equally good with flatbreads. As a vegetable accompaniment, I like courgette batons lightly sautéed in vegetable oil.

You’ll notice in this recipe that the meat isn’t browned first. Browning meat is a routine many cooks get into but it isn’t always necessary. In dishes like this where the meat is covered in spices, browning it could easily burn the spices and give the dish a bitter taste.

For the marinade…
½ tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp ground cardamom
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground allspice
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
2 tablespoons olive oil
600g (trimmed weight) beef shin or knuckle, cubed

For the finished dish…
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
15 cherry tomatoes, halved
250g soft stoned prunes, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons runny honey
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch coriander leaves, washed and roughly chopped (about 2 heaped tablespoons)
2 rounded tsp tamarind paste
2 green jalapeno chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
500ml beef stock

Start by marinating the beef 24 hours ahead of time. In a medium bowl, mix all of the spice powders with the olive oil to make a loose paste. Add the beef cubes and stir well to make sure the beef is evenly coated. Cover with cling film and chill in the fridge for 24 hours.

To make the finished dish, heat the olive oil and sauté the onions until softened and starting to colour, approx 10 minutes. Add the garlic and stir fry for 1 minute. Add all of the other ingredients, except for the beef stock and the beef and bring to a gentle simmer. Add the beef, stir well and allow the beef to heat up. Finally, add the stock, bring to a simmer and cook in a low oven for 2 to 3 hours. Add a little boiling water from time to time if the dish starts to dry out but make sure the sauce in the final dish is rich and not too loose.