Reviewed by Colin Hewitt
I use our slow cooker very regularly – maybe a couple of times a week during the winter. For me it’s all about convenience. Simply prepare the meal the night before or, if you have time, before going to work – put all the ingredients in the crock pot and then go off for the day in the knowledge that you have a lovely home cooked meal waiting for you in the evening (plus the added benefit of wonderful aromas awaiting your arrival).
Recently however I’ve got into a bit of a routine with our slow cooked meals. The tried and tested chilli con carne and BBQ chicken are always a favourite but were starting to get a bit boring, something different was called for, therefore it was with great interest that I looked at The Healthy Slow Cooker Cookbook written by Sarah Flower and published by How To Books.
The 198 page book is divided into familiar chapters of Soups, Poultry, Pork, Lamb, Beef, Fish, Vegetarian and Desserts; however, in addition it has the more unusual sections of Cheats Dishes (using some pre-prepared ingredients), Two for One (preparing a base dish which can then be used for two different meals) and Preserves, Chutneys and Sauces (something I have never considered using the slow cooker for).
To review this book I chose two recipes. In my opinion the simplest, and from what I could see, the most complex.
The first recipe I tried was Tuscan Tomato and Beans. I didn’t ‘tweak’ it at all. Preparation took about 30 minutes, but because I’m quite fussy when it comes to chopping I’m sure this could be reduced by quite a bit. This truly is a prepare everything – throw it in the slow cooker and forget about it for 8-10 hours. It could not be easier – I served this with some homemade focaccia.
The second recipe was Daube of Beef – preparation for this was longer as it called for overnight marinating, but it was still only about 45 minutes. Again it worked perfectly – however for my personal taste in future I would reduce the amount of red wine (retaining that in a glass as chef’s privileges) and using a smaller orange (I always pen amend recipe books for future reference).
An intriguing chapter is desserts – I’ve never used the slow cook for these but now intend to in the near future – also I’d never considered using the slow cook as a type on Bain-marie, again something to try.
Someone once said that the best cook books are the ones covered in food stains rather than the pristine copies adoring coffee tables (a homage to cookery rather than serving any practical purpose), if that’s the case this slim volume will soon be decorated with all sorts of ingredient stains as I can already sense that it’s going to be used a lot.
This is an ideal book for anyone wanting to learn how to use a slow cooker and anyone who has used one for years and simply wants a bit of inspiration.
It’s hard to say how this book could be improved, and I will be looking out for further recipes and ideas from Sarah Flower in the future.
Available to buy from Sarah Flower here.