Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Working Hard, Eating Well: Slow Cooking

My shiny new slow cooker

Rachel, Dublin

I have long admired Aoife’s organisation around her midweek meals and how she manages to prepare healthy dinners despite working long days and having a substantial commute. Organisation like this requires preparation and planning ahead which, before now, has been something I have aspired to but never quite managed.

Chicken Karahi Curry
Starting a course last September has forced me to reconsider things as I simply do not have the time, and certainly not the energy, to cook a dinner from scratch every evening while still retaining any inclination to study.  It was therefore fortuitous that, at Christmas, I received some lovely kitchen equipment as presents including a slow cooker and a food processor.  The Boyfriend got very stressed about more appliances being moved into the apartment but I think he’s coming around to the idea after a couple of tasty dinners.

I have thought for a while that using a slow cooker might help me in my quest to become more organised around mealtimes and, while it’s early days yet, I think I may well be on to something. On the last two Sundays I’ve spent a little over a half hour preparing ingredients, bunged it all into the slow cooker, not thought about it at all for several hours and, hey presto, dinner’s ready!  The real bonus for me though is the leftovers we can have for Monday night’s dinner, leaving me free to procrastinate over get on with college work.  Certainly, there is still a bit of planning that has to go in to your shopping and preparation for using a slow cooker but this is far preferable to the likely alternative of an unhealthy frozen pizza being chucked in the oven.  I am working up to using the slow cooker during  the week as I love the idea of arriving home to the smells of dinner being ready but first, I need to find some recipes which won’t involve me having to get up at the crack of dawn to brown meat!

I do realise that venison chilli sounds a little exotic (although it is definitely worth seeking out, I ordered mine here) but this recipe would work equally well with beef mince instead.  This quantity  is for a 3.5 litre slow cooker and makes 6 generous portions.

Venison Chilli

venison chilli

1kg Venison Mince
1 large or two small onions, finely diced
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tbsps olive oil
1 tbsp ground cumin
1tbsp tomato puree
2 tins of tomatoes
2 tins of kidney beans or a mixture of chickpea / cannellini etc.
2 bay leaves
¼ tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
1 dried chipotle pepper, split in two (optional)
salt and pepper

Heat half the oil in a frying pan, fry the onion on a medium heat until it softens, add the garlic, cumin and tomato puree and fry for one minute more and then transfer to your slow cooker.  Bring the frying pan up to high heat and brown the venison mince in the remaining oil.  You may need to do this in batches depending on the size of your pan.  Transfer the browned mince to the slow cooker.  Add the rest of the ingredients to the slow cooker along with a quarter tin of water.  Season and stir to combine.  Turn the slow cooker on, put the lid on and cook on low for 8 hours or on high for four hours.  If you’re tempted to lift the lid to have a peek or to stir you will need to add twenty minutes to the cooking time each time you do.  When ready, taste to correct the seasoning and serve with brown rice, grated cheddar and chopped coriander or whatever you fancy.

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