Think your slow cooker is for chilly nights in the depths of winter? Think again! You can use a slow cooker all year round - even in summer
There are days when you really can’t be bothered to turn the oven on; that’s when you can turn to the slow cooker for inspiration. Low and slow means no hot kitchen (ideal for the summer months) and no stress dinners…Throw everything into the machine first thing in the morning, or overnight on low.
Try these ideas-None of these recipes have exact measurements- just chuck in the ingredients and use them for inspiration
Aubergine and tomatoes are at their best in summer, so take advantage of the glut and make this classic Italian dish. Layer up aubergine slices and they’ll turn meltingly soft in the slow cooker. Chunky tomatoes slices, mozzarella slices, a drizzle of olive oil, basil leaves and some seasoning make for a delicious recipe. Scatter with grated parmesan and cook for six hours on low.
Huge pieces of meat don’t need to be saved for a roast. Pulled pork is a great idea for a crowd, and with no knives and forks needed it works great for a garden party, too.
Pop a skinless shoulder of pork in the slow cooker- add garlic, 2 tins of tomatoes, a chopped onion and a good glug of Worchester sauce Cook the meat for eight hours on low.
Serve shredded with Flour tortilla and loads of green salad
Fresh tomato (marinara) sauce
Batch cooking pasta and pizza sauce is a great way to use up any tomatoes that look like they’ve seen better days – plus if you grow them, they can ripen quicker than you can use them up.
Add about 1.5kg blanched and chopped tomatoes, a bunch of basil, bay leaf, a good glug of olive oil, some seasoning and a few crushed garlic cloves in the slow cooker and cook for 6-8 hours until the tomatoes have completely broken down. You can use a stick blender to make a smoother sauce.
If your tomatoes are super ripe, you don’t need to add sugar or vinegar to make a piquant sauce; but taste and add a sprinkle of each if it needs it. Add a spoon of crème fraiche for richness post-cooking, if you like.
Slow cooker oats
Minutes are valuable in the morning, so save another 15 for something useful – make your porridge in a slow cooker overnight. Use the keep warm function so it’s ready straight away in the morning.
Use your usual porridge recipe (reducing the milk a little, to account for no evaporation) and you’ll wake up to warm porridge. Porridge isn’t just a winter warmer: top with summer berries, a dollop of yoghurt, a few sunflower seeds and a drizzle of maple syrup for a summery version.
Diet Coke ribs
Ribs tend to be slow cooked in water or stock (or in this case, Diet Coke!) before they’re roasted or barbecued to make the meat super juicy.
Get ahead and cook the ribs the day before in the slow cooker for four hours on high or six hours on low covered in diet coke. The coke will reduce and make a lovely glaze
To finish them off, drizzle with the glaze and chuck on the barbecue for sticky, charred, fall-apart ribs.
Slow cooked peppers make a great pizza topping, pasta sauce, sandwich filler. Fry peppers and red onions in a drizzle of olive oil, then slow cook for 2-4 hours with chopped tomatoes, chilli and red wine vinegar. This will keep well in the fridge for a couple of days, so make double.
Summery chickpea and vegtagine
Tagine just means the pot it’s cooked in, and that’s not stopping us making a summery veg-packed stew in the slow cooker. Use lots of summery veg such as red onion red peppers, Courgettes, aubergines, vine tomatoes to make the most of in-season produce. Add a tin of chickpeas, rinsed and drained top with vegetable stock, use harrisa paste cinnamon garlic and nutmeg to create that authentic Moroccan taste and serve with couscous
Cacciatore is such a versatile dish. Serve with pasta, potatoes in the winter or a side salad, orzo or some steamed veg in the summer. Cacciatore means ‘hunter’ in Italian and refers to the sauce, made with onions, herbs, mostly tomatoes and sometimes peppers.
Quinoa and Kidney bean chilli
Quick and easy midweek meals don’t have to be salads in summer. Try a quinoa chilli: it’s healthy, high in protein,
Make your favourite chilli recipe but substitute the mince for Quinoa and don’t forget the kidney beans! – rinse and drain about 200gram and just throw in with the rest of the ingredients- just keep an eye on the liquid levels
For an easy dessert, with minimal preparation, try cooking peeled pears slowly. Poach them in cider with a cinnamon stick for 4-6 hours on low until tender. Serve with vanilla ice cream and flaked almonds.