Taking it Slow
Ho Ho Ho, only 2 sleeps to go! I hope that you are all finding the time for a bit of relaxation amongst all of the Christmas madness, not always the easiest thing with excited kids bouncing off the walls but I’ve managed to find time for a massage in an effort to not totally neglect myself in favour of the small people. You can’t pour from an empty cup and all that.
With the idea of making life easy on yourself in mind I thought that it might be a good time to talk about slow cooking, both of the slow cooker and the traditional cooker variety. If there was ever a time of year to bung something in the oven and then leave it to gently stew away while you get on with more fun stuff then this has to be it.
One fantastic idea for this time of year, particularly if you are still entertaining the crowds, is pulled pork. Last weekend I prepped a pork shoulder joint, stuck it in the oven for 5 hours on a low heat then went out with the kids to see Peter Pan at the theatre. When we came home it was ready to go and you can serve with whatever sides you fancy. The recipe I used (see below) also includes a barbecue sauce and suggests serving in brioche buns but I made it easier with gravy and potatoes and there were plenty of leftovers for sandwiches the next day.
This time of year probably also calls for a slow-cooked gammon, so if that’s your thing, try out this recipe for size from Nigella, just make sure you plan ahead!
Serves 10-12 with leftovers
3.5kg joint boneless gammon, rind on
150g black treacle
1 tbsp whole cloves
4 tbsps black treacle
4 tbsps demerara sugar
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- Preheat the oven to 250c and let your gammon come to room temperature
- Line a large roasting tin with a layer of foil and then sit a wire rack on top of the foil. Put a strip of foil over the rack and keep another to place on the ham.
- Sit the gammon on the foil and pour the first lot of black treacle over it, onto the rind. Don’t worry about spreading it too evenly.
- Use the foil underneath and the final strip of foil to create a pocket for the gammon so that it is well sealed. Put in the oven and cook for 30 minutes then turn the oven down to 100c and cook for another 15-24 hours.
- The next day, take the gammon out of the oven, retaining the liquid for later. Increase the oven temperature to 200c and using a sharp knife cut a diamond pattern in the fat layer.
- Stud the centre of each diamond with a clove then mix the black treacle, sugar and mustard in a bowl and spread over the fat of the ham. Put it back in the oven for 20 minutes and then rest for 10-20 minutes before carving into thin slices.
If you haven’t as yet invested in a standalone slow cooker then I would recommend it as a good piece of kit for the winter months and they don’t cost an arm and a leg. I have a cheap Russell Hobbs one that does the job nicely while we’re at work.
Personally I think there are few things nicer than a nice beef stew (particularly if you add dumplings towards the end) but there are also a million other things that you can try in your slow cooker. Did you know, for example, that you can cook some great curries in a slow cooker, how about this cosy looking dhal for a vegetarian day?
And sticking to the vegetarian theme, French onion soup is one of my very favourite things – not something my kids will eat but a good one to get stuck into if they’ve eaten earlier. Try out this recipe from Good Housekeeping:
700g onions, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp plain flour
200ml dry white wine
1l vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
1 small baguette cut into slices
50g gruyere or cheddar
- Melt the butter in a large pan and fry the onion over a very low heat, stirring frequently for around 30 minutes until soft and golden brown. Add the garlic and flour and cook for another minute.
- Pour in the wine, bring to the boil and bubble until reduced by half. Add the stock and tie the herbs together in a bouquet garni, adding to the pan with some seasoning.
- Bring to the boil then add to the slow cooker, cook on low for 3-4 hours until the onions are tender.
- When ready to serve discard the bouquet garni and serve the soup in bowls. Toast the baguette slices in the grill then add to the soup and layering the cheese on top. Stand under the grill for another minute or so until the cheese has melted.
And last but not least, I love the idea of this slow cooker porridge, how nice would it be to wake up to this on Christmas morning (after the chocolate of course)?