My slow cooker is my absolute favourite piece of kitchen equipment. I love it and for those of us without the luxury of an Aga it really is the next best thing. You just bung all your ingredients in, switch it on and when you come home in the evening you are greeted by the most delicious smells and nothing to do but sit down and eat, heaven!
Slow cooking is also very economical as you can use cheaper cuts of meat like lamb shanks, ox tail and feather steak which tend to come from more muscular areas and be a bit tough for regular cooking. You then just add vegetables, herbs, wine, seasoning, whatever you like really. Bulk out your stew with lentils; add cumin, turmeric and garam masala for an Indian flavour or chickpeas and apricots and cinnamon for a Moroccan tagine-style or barley, split peas and old fashioned roots like baby turnips and swede for a good traditional Winter stew. Slow cooking with bony cuts really adds flavour, and with chicken, goodness too. Chicken soup made with the bones which release the marrow really is good for your immune system. However do use organic or at least free range as bones retain the chemicals used in rearing the chickens. Forget wasting money on chicken breasts which are so expensive. Go for a whole chicken, or a mixture of legs and thighs. I always remove the skin first and trim off all the fatty bits with scissors. I don’t even fry off the meat first as it is just so tender after slow cooking.
This is a good simple chicken casserole – I am vague about the measurements as I just am a bit of a ‘throw it all in’ cook! Allow a mix of skinless thighs and legs – depends on how hungry you are and if you want leftovers Trim off excess fat. Put in slow cooker. Add a dollop of red wine – I buy a small bottle of something like Shiraz rather than using really cheap plonk and I hate the alcohol-free cooking wines. Add chicken stock cubes (Kallo do organic), Antony Worrell Thompson does gluten and yeast free. Instead of the wine, if you prefer, Waitrose and Sainsburys make organic chicken stock in pots but I find it is much more flavoursome to use wine and concentrated stock and the alcohol is evaporated off anyway.
Add shallots, thick chunks of carrot and button mushrooms. Throw in some crushed garlic and a few sprigs of thyme. Finally the secret ingredients are a spoon of redcurrant jelly (something good like Tiptree) and a big dollop of Dijon mustard. Season with black pepper and something like Herbamare salt which is really delicious. Mix it all up, put the lid on, switch it to low and either leave it slowly cooking for at least 6 hours. Eat with simple steamed potatoes in their skins and broccoli, or a crisp salad of dark green leaves. My cooker came from Robert Dyas and cost the princely sum of £25. John Lewis and Comet sell similar.