I really put the benefits of the slow cooker to the test today. Although I used it to cook a delicious soup last week, I didn’t actually have to get myself to work that day. One of the down sides to emergency teaching is that you just never know whether that phone is going to ring or not in the morning, so when the clock ticked passed 7.45am I knew there was no time pressure and I took a bit more time getting the soup going and the girls ready for childcare. This morning however, I did get the call and so ensued a panicked morning routine. Trying to negotiate with a three year old to eat some breakfast and, god forbid, actually start getting dressed while I browned meat and vegetables and deglazed the frying pan as well as trying to cram down a bit of toast myself was stressful but we did get there. Having said that I will need to get better at this morning thing when I have to do it three times a week every week. I wonder how it would work if I did all the browning of meat etc the night before and just threw it all in the slow cooker first thing in the morning?
When I walked into the house at 4pm this afternoon I was expecting that instant hit of the smell of dinner, I didn’t really get that and was a bit disappointed. I’m not sure if it was because I have a horrible cold so smelling anything is challenging or if this particular dish just didn’t have such a powerful aroma. I was also a bit disappointed with overall taste. Don’t get me wrong, it was fine just didn’t have the depth of flavour I was hoping for and I found it a bit acidic with the tomato paste and the tin of tomatoes. Finally I think I should have thickened the sauce a little more – I tried taking the lid off and turning it up to high for the last 30 minutes, but it was still just a little watery. Next time I’ll try the cornflour option. Again the great thing about this dish was that it was cheap, about $10 for six serves (we ate half tonight and the other half went in the freezer)
As well as it being cheap it is also very easy and uses whatever veggies you have at hand. Start by browning 1kg of chuck steak, coated in seasoned plain flour in a large saucepan with olive oil. You might need to do this in two batches. Add the meat to the slow cooker. Then in the same pan heat a little more oil and cook the vegetables (I used 1 onion, 2 carrots, a couple of stalks of celery and two turnips all roughly chopped, but you could also add swedes, parsnip, potatoes, celeriac or jerusalem artichoke) and three cloves of crushed garlic for a few minutes. Add a tablespoon of tomato paste and cook for a further minute. Take it off the heat, stir in a tin of crushed tomatoes and a cup of beef stock and scrape the bits off the bottom of the pan. Add everything to the slow cooker with a couple of bay leaves and a few sprigs of thyme and cook on low for 8 hours. By the time I was ready to dish up the meat was gorgeous, melt in your mouth kind of texture and it was nice served with some crusty bread rolls I picked up cheap from the bakery on the way home.
If I was going to write a report on this meal it would read something “a fair effort but improvements could be made.” Next time I’m going to try a curry I think.