Slow Cooker Magic

Many, many years ago, my father in law gave me a Slow Cooker for Christmas. Some would say that this was a chauvinistic and demeaning gift. I, however, did not see it this way. In fact what he’d thoughtfully given me was time. Time not spent in the kitchen prepping and chained to the oven Time not spent washing multiple pots and pans. Time not lost on the what are we having tonight dilemma. Cleaver father in law!

Slow Cooker

That cooker is still going strong almost 17 years on. Yesterday it hosted a Chilli. It’s also packed away a whole leg of lamb, your usual staple of curries and stews and most recently a complete English breakfast – It was fantastic, in case your asking!

But it got me thinking what else can you cook in a slow cooker….here are five interesting dishes all tried and tested in the GMums Kitchen and polished off by our family!

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Slow Cooker Bio Yogurt – only two ingredients needed – milk and live yoghurt, full of friendly probiotics. Makes 2l and keeps for 2 weeks in the fridge. You’ll need 2l of milk and 100ml of any live yoghurt. Plus a thermometer. I used the infrared family one from the medicine cupboard, worked fine for me.

Tip milk into your slow cooker. Cover, then heat on High until the temperature of your milk reaches 82C. This will take a couple of hours. So go and grab a good book to read! Turn off the cooker and allow the temperature to further drop to around 43C for another 2-3 hours. Take a mug of the warm milk and mix it with the live 100mls yoghurt, pouring the mixture back into the cooker, stirring really well. Cover and wrap the slow cooker in a big fluffy towel and then leave undisturbed for 9-12 hours until the mixture has set.

Eat on your cereals, porridge, topped with fresh fruit, in marinades or drink in your smoothies. If you want it thicker, for dips, line a sieve with muslin and drain the yoghurt allowing the whey strain away until you get the right consistency. The longer you leave it, the thicker it gets. Store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

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Slow Cooker Turkish Eggs – Spice up your life and baked eggs and get two or more of your five-a-day with this Turkish-style breakie or brunch. Low-calorie and high in vitamin C. You’ll need.

1 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, finely sliced
1 red pepper, finely sliced
1 small red chilli, finely sliced
8 cherry tomatoes
1 slice sourdough bread, cubed
4 eggs
2 tbsp skimmed milk
small bunch parsley, finely chopped
4 tbsp natural yoghurt, to serve

Oil the inside of your slow cooker and turn on to high Heat the remaining oil in a heavy-based frying pan. Stir in your onions, pepper and chill and cook till they begin to soften. Then tip into the slow cooker and add the cherry tomatoes and bread and stir everything. Season well.

Whisk eggs with the milk and parsley and pour over the top, making sure all your other ingredients are covered. Cook for 5-6 hours. Serve with the yoghurt on the side.

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Slow Cooker Gammon in Cola – Fill your kitchen with the smell of winter with a slow cooked gammon. Cola adds a treacly flavour to balance the saltiness of the ham. You’ll need.

1½-1.8kg unsmoked boneless gammon joint
2l cola (not diet)
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 onion, peeled and quartered
1 stick celery, chopped
1 cinnamon stick
½ tbsp peppercorns
1 bay leaf

For the glaze
150ml maple syrup
2 tbsp wholegrain mustard
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
pinch of ground cloves or five-spice

Set your slow cooker to medium. Pop in the gammon joint in and cover with the cola. Add chopped carrot, quartered onion, chopped celery stick, cinnamon, ½ tbsp peppercorns and the bay leaf. Cook for 5½ hrs on low setting until the gammon is tender but still holding shape, topping up with boiling water or cola if needed to keep the gammon fully covered.

Then carefully pour the liquid away, then let the ham cool a little while you preheat your oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5. Lift the joint into a roasting tin, Score the fat all over in a criss-cross pattern. you may need to remove some of the fat if you have a lot. Mix syrup, mustard, vinegar and ground cloves or your five-spice mix and pour half over the fatty sections, roast for 15 mins, then pour over the rest of the syrup and return to the oven for another 30 – 35 mins.

Remove from your oven and allow to rest for 10 – 15 mins or so, then spoon more of the glaze over the top. This can be roasted on the day or up to two days ahead, served cold.

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Slow Cooker Shepherd’s Pie, and you’ll be rewarded with delicious mince. This recipe is low-fat and low-calorie with three of your five-a-day you’ll need.

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3-4 thyme sprigs or dried
2 carrots, diced
250g lean (10%) mince lamb or beef
1 tbsp plain flour
1 tbsp tomato purée
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

For the topping
650g potatoes, peeled and chunked
250g sweet potatoes, peeled and chunked
2 tbsp half-fat crème fraîche

Heat the slow cooker on high. Heat oil in a large frying pan. Lightly fry the onions and thyme for 2-3 mins. Adding the carrots and cook together, occasionally stirring until the vegetables start to brown. Stir in your mince and fry for a further 2 mins until brown. Stir in the flour and cook for another 2 mins. Stir in the tomato purée and season well with the pepper and Worcestershire sauce, adding a splash of water if the mixture is a bit too dry. Put everything into the slow cooker.

Meanwhile, cook both lots of potatoes in simmering water for 15 minutes or until they are cooked through. Drain well and mash with the crème fraîche.

Spoon on top of the mince mixture and cook on Low for 5 hours – the mix should be bubbling at the sides when it is ready. Crisp up the potato topping under the grill if you like.

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Slow Cooker Red Cabbage – makes the perfect side dish for a festive lunch or winters roast dinner. Youll need.

1kg red cabbage
2 white onions, chopped
4 Granny Smiths apples, peeled, cored and chopped
zest 1 orange or 2 clementines
2 tsp ground mixed spice
100g light brown soft sugar
3 tbsp cider vinegar
200ml dry cider
25g butter

Heat your slow cooker to Low. Peel outer couple of leaves from the cabbage and quarter the rest, removing the tough stem, and thinly slice. Arrange layers of the cabbage on the bottom of your slow cooker, then top with some onions, apples, zest, mixed spice, sugar and some seasoning. Continue the layering process until you have used all your ingredients. Then season well.

Pour over your vinegar and cider mix dot the butter on top. Cover with the cooker lid and heat for 5 hrs until nice and tender. Cabbage will keep well in the fridge, covered, for up to three days or in your freezer for up to two months. Reheat in a warm pan or in the microwave.

Enjoy!