Slow Cooker Shenanigans
I’d been toying with the idea of a slow cooker for a while. One of my friends has been using one for years and swears by them: “You can even roast a chicken in a slow cooker!” – she once enthusiastically told me. And late last summer, with energy prices rising rapidly and the cost of living crisis starting to bite, articles espousing the benefits of slow cookers appeared in national newspapers and online. Above all, the main advantage being the cheap running cost: apparently the average cost to run a slow cooker is 3.4 pence an hour compared with 71 pence an hour for an electric oven (as of October 2022).
With the nights drawing in and the thought of warming bowls of soup and hearty casseroles in mind, I decided to do a bit more research into slow cooking. I’d borrowed a slow cooker once before (to make a Christmas pudding) and we had used one at a holiday cottage last summer to make a stew, but I wasn’t entirely sure what else you could use them for. Would a slow cooker just gather dust on our kitchen worktop, taking up valuable space? As most of our meals are vegetarian, would a slow cooker just reduce vegetables to overcooked mush?
So I asked a few questions on a helpful Facebook group and was very much reassured, discovering that you can cook all sorts of things in a slow cooker including bread and cakes! Several people recommended vegetarian slow cooker recipe books, including Vegetarian Low Cooker by Libby Silberman which I have since bought (second hand from World of Books).
I decided it was worth a try and managed to find a nearly-new second hand slow cooker on Facebook marketplace for only £10. That way, if I found I didn’t use it or didn’t like the results (overcooked mush still in the back of my mind), I could just pass on the slow cooker to someone else.
My initial forays into the world of slow cooking saw me sticking rigidly to recipes such as Cowgirl Stew (with vegetarian sausages) and Virtuous Chilli (both from Top Bananas: the best ever family recipes from Mumsnet). This was because cooking in a slow cooker requires less liquid than traditional oven cooking and I wasn’t yet sure on quantities.
The first results seemed to go down well with everyone (including very fussy children) and I was surprised that most vegetables seemed to keep their texture despite up to 8 hours cooking time! It is also incredibly pleasing to have dinner prepped and cooking from first thing, rather than suddenly having to wrack your brain at 5 o’clock in the evening to produce a healthy but still popular meal to suit all tastes!
I have since been getting a bit more adventurous and experimental with my slow cooking shenanigans, not always following recipes to the letter. I’ve successfully used the slow cooker to make apple chutney, dhal, beef stew and dumplings, mushroom bolognese etc. Less successful was a slow cooker risotto, which lost its texture and was a bit gloopy and tasteless.
Overall, I’ve been fairly pleased with the results of my slow cooker shenanigans. It’s a great way to batch cook a large amount at a low cost, and more importantly, my family are enjoying (most of) the meals. If you’re thinking of getting a slow cooker, try looking for one second hand as they are often available in great condition. If you can find one for £10 too, I’d say it’s definitely worth it!