The slow-cooker is back in fashion. Neil Rankin of Temper restaurants and author of Low and Slow, gives a lesson in lagging.
“I mentioned slow-cookers in my book because they were basically an example of everything I was trying to do in the book, which is all about keeping temperatures really low. I talked about using ovens at a really low temperature, which is really quite hard to do, compared to using this which is really easy with simple settings.’
The ‘this’ he refers to is the new Crock-Pot model, the DuraCeramic, where he has been cooking some dishes for us to eat later and which he is now using to demo a couple of recipes.
He singes the cut side of half an onion on a dry frying pan until it’s a robust brown in colour then lobs it in the pot. Ditto a lump of ginger. Stalks of Shiitake mushroom go in and some toasted spices - fennel and star anise.
He takes a serious lump of shortrib and and colours it on all sizes, cuts it lengthways into thick slices ‘looks better that way’ and lobs those in as well.
Then a crushed garlic clove and some beef stock, coriander stalks and bashed lemongrass. Finally, the lid is closed and the setting put to Low for six hours.
‘When it’s done,’ he says reaching for the ingredients for the next dish, ‘the meat will be soft to the bite and not breaking up. Bowled up and dressed with some chilli and spring onion, coriander and mint and it’s delicious.’ And, as he points out, with low temperatures timing is not crucial, ‘if you’re running late getting home, then another hour won’t hurt it.’
And it is this element of crock pot cooking that appeals to so many people, the idea of getting home tired and not keen to cook, and finding the house filled with tasty aromas and a dinner ready to eat. All you need to do is cook some spuds perhaps.
And the second recipe Neil shows doesn’t even do that, a true one pot meal of Chicken Congee with XO sauce, ‘I used to love Congee for breakfast when I was in Vietnam, ‘says Neil in his Edinburgh accent unchanged by his years down south.
He browns off two chicken legs in a few moments and adds to the the Crockpot covered in stock with garlic, uncooked rice and a bay leaf. ‘We add the XO, garlic soy and ginger paste just before serving,’ he explains.
From another Crockpot he takes a dish he prepared earlier; the rice has become like a savoury porridge and the meat has been flaked off. It’s delicious and could easily serve six people. I’m convinced, but then I already was.
I took a slow cooker/crockpot to university and the fact it only needed a 13amp socket made it very useful in my rooms and in a succession of appalling ‘digs’. Oh the stories that slow-cooker could tell.
This new version of the classic Crock-Pot has a hinged lid for convenience when serving, and can be used for casseroles, curries and chilli, as well as soups, pot roasts and even desserts.
The bowl can be taken out and used direct for sautéing on all hob types, including induction, so there’s less to wash up. And the bowl is dishwasher safe. It’s available to buy at around £69.98 at www.crockpot.co.uk
Crocktober is a month long celebration of all things slow cooked that encourages you to slow down and spend time with friends and family by using a Crockpot.