Cooking shows, cooking blogs, celebrity chefs and unfettered access to every single ingredient ever discovered means that ‘putting a meal on the table’ is no longer a matter of meat and three veg. It is the culinary equivalent of extreme rogaining, requiring you to dash from point to point gathering ingredients, rare cooking utensils and mastering precision techniques along the way in order to complete the meal. Clever detours and short-cuts inevitably end in disaster and a whole new breed of mother-guilt.
But fear not. Amongst the celebrity inventions of our exisitence, the wheel, fire, sliced bread, some good has come. It is probably one of the greatest innovations to ever hit the domestic scene and has unchained cooks from the stirring spoon forever. It is the slow cooker. The concept itself goes back thousands of years to the tagine of North Africa. Made of heavy clay, a tagine consists of a deep dish base and a conical lid. They are designed to sit on hot coals and slowly stew the ingredients over the course of a few hours – UNAIDED. The conical lid creates a condensation cycle to keep the stew moist and flavours developing. Cast iron camp ovens, casserole pots and electric slow cookers all work on the same basis.
The beauty of being able to throw everything into a pot and forget about it until you are ready to eat should not be underestimated. The fact that it is extraordinarily difficult to get it wrong just adds to the overall euphoria of it all. It’s almost as though someone else cooked for you!
Kimberly Magain from melbournemum.com has kindly shared her slow-cooker recipe so we can all have a night off from cooking;
Moroccan Chicken casserole (serves 4):
1.5 kg skinless chicken thighs (For the love of a crockpot, don’t use chicken breasts—they don’t mix well with slow cookers).
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp turmeric
1 tin crushed tomatoes
1 cup chicken stock
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tbsp sweet wine (muscat, port etc.)
1 cup roughly chopped spinach
1 tin chickpeas (optional)
2 tbsp flaked toasted almonds (optional)
Brown chicken with a tablespoon of oil. Place chicken in slow cooker.
Using the same pan, cook the onion until soft. Add garlic, cinnamon, ginger, cumin, cardamom and turmeric. Cook for 1–2 minutes until fragrant.
Add the tin of diced tomatoes. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes.
Add the stock and bring to a boil.
Poor tomato spice mixture over chicken and cook for 3 hours on high.
Add the honey, orange juice, lemon juice, wine and spinach (and chickpeas if you are using them) and return to heat for another 30 minutes.
Serve with toasted flaked almonds and couscous (recipe below).
For the Couscous + Herb Pest0
1 cup dry Couscous
1 tbsp fresh mint
1 tbsp fresh coriander
1 tbsp pine nuts
1/2 clove garlic
Few grinds of salt (to taste)
2 tbsp olive oil
Make up couscous according to packet.
In a mortar and pestle (or small food processor) grind mint, coriander, pine nuts and garlic until you have a chunky paste.
Add oil and mix. Salt to taste.
Add pesto mix to the couscous and mix thoroughly.
Kimberley Magain is a Melbourne-based mum to 2 female firecrackers. She is a writer of speculative fiction, intrepid shutterbug and ex-theatre actress. Occasional F-bomb dropper. Pop/geek culture obsessive who’s not above a spot of “Supernatural”, “Sherlock” and “The Walking Dead” fandom. She’s on a mission to make her life slightly less ordinary (and much more comedic). Kimberley blogs at http://melbournemum.com and http://kimberleymagain.com .
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