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The slow cooker
We bought a slow cooker as had heard some brilliant reviews on them and Mrs B was desperate to try anything which made healthy, home-cooking easier and less time-consuming since Baby B came along. At first we were both dubious about leaving on an electric cooker all day whilst we went off to work or Mrs B took Baby B out to various baby groups, we had images of a huge electricity bill or a burnt out kitchen or maybe even both but this hasn't happened! Instead, we come home to beautifully cooked food which has taken minimal effort.
The idea of a slow cooker is to reduce time of cooking, so you just throw your veg in, cover it in stock and add whatever else you need, leave it on a low heat all day and then it's ready! It always tastes so much better too as it's been cooked for a long time enabling all the flavours to come out.
The cook book
We bought this book as we decided we wanted to get the most out of our new appliance and we are so glad we did! This book really enables us to see how the slow cooker can be used. Before we were just using it for stews but this recipe book has some really novel ideas including using it to make steam puddings and even pates and terrines which we would never have thought of before!
The beginning of the book tells the reader about the history of the slow cooker which is a nice introduction. It then goes on to offer advice which novices like myself need concerning the preparation of food, useful equipment and the differences between cuts of meat.
The recipe section is then very clearly laid out. Before each section there is information about the different kinds of meats, poultry, pulses which is really nicely illustrated with some brilliant colour photographs which always make me very hungry!
Each recipe is carefully laid out with a picture of the finished product. The ingredients are (usually) easy to come about and the step by step instructions are easy to follow. For each recipe there is also a section including the calories, carbs etc of each dish which is very useful especially for those on diets. There is also information containing how long the cooker should be on for- if it says 4 hours on high then this equates to 8 hours on low so you can adapt it to whatever suits you. The measurements are in imperial, metric and American so it's very versatile!
There are some really good soup recipes in here which I have found to be really easy to make and useful. I can see these being used frequently now that it's getting into winter.
There are varying levels of difficulty for each dish from the dishes which are 'no fuss' which take less time to those which require more preparation. I find this really useful as some days I do quite like spending some time on my cooking even if I am using a slow cooker.
What I do find a little frustrating about this book is that the majority of the recipes do take quite a bit of preparation so it does kind of take away the main point of a slow cooker. I think usually I would spend less time with preparation than i do when following a recipe from this book so I tend to only really use it when I do have that extra time so I don't rely on it every time.
There are about 200 recipes in this book and they are all very varied including the wholesome traidtional meals and more modern twists on recipes. There are also very interesting ways to use this machine so you can make terrines and pates too so there are lots of recipes to choose from.
I think that this book is great. I think if you're quite established at cooking you may find it pointless and just a lot of faffing around but for me it's great as it gives me the chance to explore new ideas which I may never have thought of before. I like the fact that it suggests new ways to use the machine= like using it as a bain-marie, something which I hadn't thought of doing at all.
The recipes are illustrated really well which make the book really appealing and i think it would make quite a nice present to someone.
All of the recipes which I've tried from this book have been a success. I haven't come across anything that hasn't worked or was too awkward and fiddly to make. If i end up late home from work nothing goes wrong with the recipes either! It just cooks for longer and still tastes fine!
It cost me £16 which I think was well worth it as I really have learnt a lot from it and feel as though I am getting the most out of my slow cooker now. I reallly do recommend it.
At the moment Amazon are offering this book at £14.44 for a limited time only.
Purchased for £4.99 from the Bookpeople, this is a really good bargain for anyone with a slow cooker, or a desire to make food that can be left for hours to stew and cook building up flavour and tone.
The book was released in 2008 by Catherine Atkinson and is an A4 sized soft hardback book with 256 pages and numerous photographs.
The book has 7 seperate sections which are fairly easy to guess at, beginning with soups and appetizers the book then moves onto main courses of fish and shellfish, poultry and game, meat dishes, vegetarian and side dishes, desserts and cakes and finally preserves and drinks.
As a whole the book is a really interesting read as it offers some recipes more exotic than you would presume from the title, using interesting ingredients to develop flavour. I particularly like the slow cooking recipes for beef stew and the Lancashire Hotpot, part of me is keen to try slow cooked desserts, but as much as I have enjoyed looking at this book, it does take the edge off knowing how long the dishes take to cook.
The book requires patience or one of those special slow cookers, as I have neither, i've made a couple of recipes but haven't really ventures into doing much more at this stage.
The book looks good, is really good value for the number of recipes and the quality of the recipes, but for me, it just needs more patience and time than i have so it has gone to the back of my book shelf. The fact I don't like it is my own fault, I bought it based on price and an ill thought out belief that I would have time to use it, unfortunately, I should have appreciated the books title and realised it wasn't going to work out before buying it. Overall its an interesting and thoughtful book, I like reading it, I just don't have the time to really use it much, apart from on the odd lazy weekend.
The 'Slow Cooker Recipe Book' is a book which I picked up for £4.99 from discount bookshop The Works.
The book is quite large in height and contains over 220 recipes over approx 250 pages. It is paperback with a glossy paper cover and glossy pages inside.
There is an introduction which tells 'the story of slow cooking' through the years and then moves onto some slow-cooker basics which describes how to select a slow cooker and look after it as well as some indicative cooking times. This is followed by a short section on useful equipment including dishes. Next up there are sections on different types of meat where it lists different joints and how to look for a good cut, this includes fish.
This is then followed by descriptions of vegetables and fruits and herbs and spices. There is a particularly useful section on how to use grains, pasta and beans in a slow cooker as this can be quite tricky if you do not have the right know-how. Then we come to some very detailed information on how to make stock, soups, marinades and stews and casseroles, toppings. Other techniques which are detailed include poaching, braising and how to use the slow cooker as a bain-marie ie for making pates and terrines.
Next up is a section on making steam puddings and desserts (which I have found very easy to use and indeed useful.), cakes and savoury sauces and sweet sauces.
Then there are detailed section on making fondues (which I had not considered previously), preserves (including how to make cordial).
Then there is an extremely useful section on how to use a slow cooker safely both when it comes to the machine and when it comes to food safety.
Then we get to the recipes. Each one takes up a page and typically contains a number of photographs of both the finished dish and the techniques. They also contain nutritional information.
The first section is called soups and appetizers and includes recipes for: French onion soup with cheese croutons, tomato and fresh basil soup, spicy pumpkin soup, potage of lentils, spiced carrot dip, red lentil and goat's cheese pate.
Following this is the fish and shellfish section which includes: salmon risotto with cucumber, special fish pie, basque-style tuna, green fish curry.
Next is the poultry and game section which includes: turkey and tomato hot pot, chicken fricassee, a really delicious tarragon chicken in cider, chicken with chipotle sauce, drunken chicken (with tequila!), spicy chicken jambalaya.
Next up come meat dishes. These include: steak and kidney pie with mustard gravy, a great provencal beef stew, spiced beef, boston baked beans, pork and potato hotpot, Italian pork sausage stew, potato and sausage casserole, a fantastic cider glazed gammon
Next are the vegetarian and side dishes. Recipes include: savoury nut loaf, root vegetable casserole with caraway dumplings, vegetable kashmiri, rosemary risotto with borlotti beans, potato,onion and garlic gratin.
Next are the desserts and cakes. Recipes include: coconut custard, poached pears in red wine, baked stuffed apples, Vermont baked maple custard, chocolate chip and bana pudding, fresh fruit bread and butter pudding, rich chocolate cake, light fruit cake, moist golden ginger cake.
The final section is on preserves and drinks and includes: mango chutney, sweet and hot dried-fruit chutney, Christmas mincemeat, lemon curt, spiced wine, Mexican hot chocolate and cranberry and apple punch.
This is a really excellent slow-cooking book. As a relatively recent convert to using a slow cooker I have found this book to be incredibly useful. The introduction sections in particular are fantastic and have given me so much information about just how versatile my slow cooker can be. There are so many techniques that I never even considered using it for which I now can and am looking forward to truly exercising its flexibility - not bad for a piece of kitchen equipment that cost me £15 from Tesco (I have reviewed this previously.)
For a cheap book, this information is put together really well and very comprehensive. The photography is no-frills but incredibly useful at showing techniques in particular.
The recipes themselves are very good and I have used a lot of them and I anticipate that I will use even more as the winter draws in. Perhaps one improvement I would make is that it would be clear as part of the introduction to the recipe how long and at which setting the meal would need to be cooked at . This is what I have found useful in other slow cooking books as I often put a meal on at the start of the day before I go to work and when there are a lot of recipes to choose from this makes this decision more difficult.
I like the fact that it also includes different ideas than I have seen in other books such as terrines and pates so that you do not need to use any valuable hobs if preparing a meal for a party.
The recipes are well explained and in my experience have always turned out well.
In conclusion, I would really recommend this book to anyone who is keen on slow cooking and even to beginners as it gives some key information and ideas that I really wish that I had had when I first started with the technique.