“ Brand: Lakeland / Power: 150W / Capacity: 1.5L / Dishwasher-safe ceramic pot „
Just over a year ago I finally decided what to buy with some Lakeland vouchers I'd had for a while - a slow cooker. I'm not quite sure how I got the idea, but it got into my head and stuck. I had look on the website, then decided that I didn't want to pay for delivery and set off to my nearest branch (surprisingly far, there's not many in London). I bought a Lakeland Mini Slow Cooker, designed for two people and only £20.
The Mini Slow Cooker is a 1.5litre cooker. I was tempted by the larger ones, and the possibility of making huge batches of food and freezing it, but they were more expensive and it wasn't really necessary. Besides, having never used a slow cooker before it seemed wisest to stick with the cheapest option.
The slow cooker itself is made up of three parts - the outer container which heats up, the "crock" or stoneware pot which holds the food, and the glass lid. There are three settings - high, low and auto. The outside of the cooker is dull stainless steel, and the pot is a glazed black.
Before starting I was very careful to read the instruction booklet. It's not lengthy, but it covers everything you need to know. The slow cooker is very easy to use, and doesn't require much guidance - put your ingredients in the pot, put the pot in the cooker, switch it on and leave it alone, perhaps stirring occasionally. The setting you use depends on what you're cooking and how long you want it to take - high cooks quicker than low, although in some cases a slower cook is desirable. I tend to use high for a couple of hours, and then change to low. I could probably use auto - it cooks on high and then switches to low to simply keep the food warm.
Everyone I've spoken to about slow cookers, and the recipe book I bought, has told me that the beauty is you can put it on in the morning and then the food will be ready when you get home. I know that thousands of people must have done this with no mishap, but frankly I don't feel safe doing that. The slow cooker uses a minimal amount of electricity, but I still can't reconcile leaving a cooking apparatus on while I'm out as being safe. So I've never tried it. There will probably be loads of comments telling me I'm daft, but there you go. I use the slow cooker at weekends when one of us is home. Besides, I like to stir the food every hour or so.
I love using the slow cooker - it takes just a few minutes to prepare the ingredients, and then just leave it alone to cook a tasty meal. I'm vegetarian, but one thing that appealed was being able to cook interesting meat dishes for my partner, so I've made casseroles and stews for him. Some recipes tell you to brown meat before putting it in the slow cooker, but there doesn't seem to be a great deal of benefit to this so I don't bother. I also make vegetable stews and curries in it - these tend to cook quicker than the meat, although root vegetables are supposed to take longer. Generally, the slow cooker cooks faster than I expect it to. I've never used it for more than 4-5 hours, instead of the 6-8 mentioned in some recipes.
The name of the slow cooker is a bit inaccurate - the "Two Portion" part of it anyway. This mini slow cooker might not make enough to feed a family, but it holds enough for both of us, and at least one portion to freeze. As a result I don't regret not going for a larger slow cooker - we'd be eating stew for weeks if I had.
The resulting stews, curries and casseroles from the slow cooker are all perfectly cooked, the meat and vegetables tender and full of flavour from the sauce they have absorbed. I've never burnt anything in the slow cooker, although I'm sure if you left it too long, you'd find the food stuck to the bottom. The sides of the slow cooker get warm, but not dangerously so although you'd still want to keep kids away from it. Rather surprisingly our cats show no interest in it, which means we don't have to be too vigilant. Sometimes the lid rattles a bit if the contents are bubbling, but turning the setting to low soon sorts that out.
The slow cooker is really easy to clean. The pot and lid can be washed with the rest of your dishes, and the base should be kept clean with a cloth.
I don't use my slow cooker terribly often, but for £20 I think it is a great addition to my kitchen. I can make curries without having to stand over the cooker, and I never made stews and casseroles before I had it. I don't use it for soup as that is very quick to do on the hob, but I might try it some time. I would recommend slow cooking in general, and this Lakeland Two Portion Mini Slow Cooker is ideal for couples of those living alone.
As it got closer to winter, I began daydreaming of homemade, nourishing stews, currys and casseroles to warm me up after getting in from work. Sadly, I don't have a personal chef (perhaps Santa will bring me one?!), so my fall back solution was a slow cooker.
I did quite a lot of research before buying one, but in the end I was out Christmas shopping one evening in late November and went into Lakeland on impulse. They helpfully had a display of their different models (both their own brand and premium brand), and this mini slow cooker stood out for me straight away.
Firstly, it's very small and well-made, with a brushed chrome finish and a ceramic black crock pot dish inside which lifts out. It comes with a transparent glass lid so you can see how your food's progressing, and it has a black knob to lift the lid carefully up. One big bonus for me was the range of different settings; there's a dial on the front which allows you to choose 'Low', 'High' and 'Auto' cooking options as well as 'Off'. There's also a small light just above the dial so you can tell whether it's on or off (very useful for ditzy people like me who are prone to chucking stuff in the pot and forgetting to switch it on at the plug!).
The whole slow cooker is very well made and looks and feels of a high quality. Most importantly, its small size means it takes up very little space on my worktop - even less than my small cheap toaster - so I can leave it out in my small kitchen without a problem. It's only available in chrome and black, but I think this looks very smart and will suit any kitchen really.
The cooker is listed as having a 1.5L capacity, although the instructions state that you shouldn't fill it past 1.2L to allow for simmering and bubbling. I have to admit that I've been naughty and filled it more than 1.2L on occasion without any adverse effects, although I would recommend keeping an eye on it or reducing the amount of liquid you use a bit if you're taking this option! I have read on the internet that you should fill the pot at least two thirds full before cooking, so I do this and get about two meals (servings) from it.
I was initially concerned about buying a slow cooker as I eat very little meat; however, there are plenty of veggie and vegan recipes around and from experimenting I've found that you can chuck almost anything in there with a good result (mushrooms being the exception, and I've only added cheese at the end stages). I can imagine this being good for both sweet and savoury fondues on a low setting, and there are even recipes around for desserts like sticky toffee pudding, so it's not all about beef stew as I originally thought!
As I'm out for at least nine hours per day during the week, I chuck my ingredients in and set the cooker to 'Auto', which cooks the food for up to 8 hours and then keeps it warm at a lower temperature. The 'High' setting means you can cook your food in about 4-5 hours or less, and 'Low' is another setting I could probably use whilst out of the house all day. I wouldn't use 'Low' if cooking root veg such as carrots or potatoes though; it mentions in the instruction booklet that these can take longer to cook than meat and I've found this to be true. After sneakily raising the lid after five hours the first time I used it, the potatoes hadn't really began cooking, and although they cooked by the end of the eight hours, you're not going to get them a nice golden brown colour without partially cooking them beforehand. Browning food before slow cooking it is generally considered optional; I haven't actually tried this as yet because for me it detracts too much from the convenience of slow cooking!
The slow cooker also comes with an instruction booklet that tells you how to prepare the cooker for first use (simply washing the crockpot and lid in hot soapy water) and guidance on cooking times, how to use it, safety and so on. It also contains a couple of recipes, although these are a token gesture and both contain meat. I'm not marking it down for this though as I wouldn't expect the cooker to come with recipes at all.
One thing that puts a lot of people off about slow cooking is that you're leaving an electrical appliance on all day. I have to say that having housemates in the house whilst I'm out certainly eased this fear, but after using it a couple of times I was happy with its safety and it certainly looks reliable. Another bonus is that it uses only a tiny amount of electricity (the book states that it uses the same amount as a light bulb), so I see it as the same as if I'd left the landing light on at night.
The crockpot is both microwaveable and fridge safe, so after eating one portion of food I can lift the pot out of the cooker and just put it straight in the fridge. For the next evening, I just take it out and put it straight in the microwave for a couple of minutes, which cuts down on the washing up and is extremely convenient. For bigger families, Lakeland does do this cooker in larger capacities, but for me this size is perfect. It would also be suitable for a couple though there wouldn't be any leftovers for the next day! You can also freeze the food you make, and this would be more convenient with a larger cooker to make lots of portions, but as I have little freezer space this doesn't bother me. It's also very easy to clean; you just wait until the crock pot and lid have cooled, and wash as normal - it's just like washing a bowl and a small saucepan lid. I believe these parts are dishwasher safe but I've never tried them as I don't have a dishwasher, so don't quote me on that!
This slow cooker is everything I expected and more. There's nothing better than coming back from work in the cold snow and ice to a nice warm house with a lovely rich smell of dinner coming from the kitchen. As I work 40 hours a week and have various other responsibilities, I'm usually too tired to start cooking from scratch. My housemates often want to use our main cooker at the same time, which means our tiny kitchen gets very crowded and everyone wanting to use the oven and the hob to cook dinner can be a problem. Now I just chop and peel veg in the morning when it's quiet, add some Quorn, beans or lentils to my pot, and cover with sauce or stock, and get home to a lovely fresh meal. Everything ends up extremely tender and full of flavour, there's no need to add any oil, and most of the vitamins and minerals are preserved.
Examples of some of the things I've made include spaghetti Bolognese (any veg and meat/Quorn as you like, then pour a can of chopped tomatoes over and add some herbs), currys (either with premade supermarket sauces or your own made from scratch), soups (just vegetable stock poured over the ingredients of your choice), lasagne/casserole type dishes (with layers of veg and potato) and so on. I'm also going to try out some Chinese dishes such as sweet and sour chicken when I get the chance. There are many, many more possibilities out there so I've found it's best to Google to get some ideas and then just throw stuff in in your own quantities rather than sticking to measurements. It's very difficult to go wrong; even my boyfriend can manage it, and he made a disastrous cake by accidentally using washing up liquid once!
There's just one minor disadvantage I've found with this cooker, which is that a tiny bit of the coating in the rim of the crockpot came off after only a couple of uses. It's not a big deal though and Lakeland offers a good year's guarantee on it so I'm not concerned if it gets any worse. The final thing to mention is the price, which at £19.99 means isn't the cheapest slow cooker around. You can buy bigger slow cookers for around £14.99, but as I'm only cooking for me I'd prefer to have a smaller slow cooker and save on the kitchen space and washing up!
Overall, this is a great little gadget which has saved me money on lazy takeaways and also means I'm eating much better, healthier food and avoiding the temptation to snack after I get in from work. If you're looking to cook for more than two people then you'll want the bigger version of this, but for one or two I would highly recommend this Lakeland mini slow cooker.
I am a great believer in 'proper' food. Good normal British food, cooked at home so that I know exactly what has gone into it. I hope that I can avoid many of the chemicals getting into the food chain these days. However, as I work full time and have a fairly active social life, it doesn't leave an enormous amount of time for cooking so I tend to be quite inventive to ensure I can have good food, home cooked, without having to spend hours and hours in the kitchen. As a result I have quite a few 'gadgets' to help me achieve that.
I have had a slow cooker for over 20 years, the first one I had was a small one I got free for signing up for a mail order catalogue which has given great service during those 20 years. It was about half the size of the usual ones and ideal for my needs as I am generally cooking for one. I had never replaced it because I hadn't seen similarly sized one in the shops but recently I became aware that Lakeland were selling a two-portion slow cooker so I went to their website to have a look and ended up buying one as my old one was on its last legs.
The Lakeland Two-portion mini slow cooker has a capacity of 1.5 litres (around 3 pints in old money!) which is ample for the small household. It has a stainless steel outer casing, black oval crockpot and handles and a glass lid. It is quite smart and modern looking and has three settings, Low, High and Auto, the latter starting food off at the high setting and then lowering it for the rest of the cooking period. The slow cooker is available for £19.99 and is rated at 150W so is fairly frugal on electricity usage.
The slow cooker is manufactured by Team International and has their logo on the front of it. Very helpfully included in the box is an order form in case you wish to order any spares such a a new crockpot, lid or even a recipe book. The instruction leaflet is just seven pages long but then again there aren't really many instructions needed!
Using the slow cooker
It is recommended that you wash the crockpot before use and then warm it by turning the control to High and filling it with water. Personally I generally like to braise meat before putting it into the slow cooker so it can heat up whilst I do that . If you aren't sure what I mean by braise it is simply coating the meat with seasoned flour and then frying it to seal it before adding it to the pot. I generally add onions as well as I like to 'sweat' them before putting them into the pot so I just pop them into the hot oil before I add the meat. When you have prepared the meat add in some stock and it is ready for putting in the slow cooker.
Once you have prepared the dish you just empty the hot water out of the crockpot and fill it with your desired meal, pop the lid on, choose the heat setting and then do what ever you want for the next few hours while it cooks - and incidentally fills your kitchen with delicious aromas.
This is the first time I have had an adjustable temperatire control on a slow cooker and I must say it is a welcome addition. I love the glass lid as well as I can see what is happening in there without having to lift the lid which is great as removing the lid does tend to slow down the cooking process. The only slight problem I have experienced with this product is that there are a couple of areas of the crockpot where the food tends to stick to the side which I suspect is where the most heat is present. I avoid this by qiving the contents a quick stir once or twice during the cooking period.
The slow cooker is an invaluable item for my kitchen. Because I work I tend to do quite a bit of 'batch cooking' at weekends and it is ideal for that. I tend to shop early on a Saturday morning and, as soon as I get back from the shops I will quite often put in a batch of steak and kidney to slow cook for a few hours to put into pies. Believe me home made steak and kidney cooked in a slow cooker makes the most delicious pies. Once the meat is cooked I ladle it out into ramekins, leave it cool and then roll out pastry tops which I just pop on the top, brush with milk and then freeze some and keep some for that day. They make a perfect 'ready meal' for during the week as all I need to do is lift them out of the freezer in the morning and bake them when I get home, partnered with a baked potato and some veggies and they are a perfect, nutritious and warming meal.
Sometimes I will do a casserole of either chicken and mushrooms or lamb, I will add a little Sainsbury's country vegetable mix during cooking and possibly drop in a few dumplings about half an hour before the end of the cooking time.
The oval shape of this slow cooker makes it ideal to accommodate a small chicken or a reasonable sized joint of meat which also widens the coice of dishes you can cook. Slow cooked lamb shank will fall off the bone after a few hours in here and the gravy will be some of the best you have tasted.
Home made soup can also taste wonderful made in the slow cooker especially if you want to use something like lentils to make a thick and warming Winter Soup. The instruction book provided also gives four recipe suggestions, Chilli, Rice Pudding, Pork Chops with fruit and Spare ribs so they do get you started if you are stuck for ideas yourself.
Would I recommend it?
Yes I would if you are cooking for one or two on a regular basis. It is too small for a family but it doesn't pretend to be anything other than a two portion cooker. A great way to have a tasty meals on a budget because it is frugal on electricity and slow cooking is a perfect way to cook some of the cheaper cuts of meat. Also it is ideal for batch cooking so, if you are too busy to prepare a meal from scratch each night, why not batch cook and freeze individual portions, tastier than many of the shop bought ready meals and much, much easier on the pocket!
This review has also been posted on Ciao by laramax