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Culture: Food with Casa del Mar's Maria Broadbent - Slowly does it




Slow cookers can be life-savers if you have a busy lifestyle
Slow cookers can be life-savers if you have a busy lifestyle

Casa del Mar’s Maria Broadbent gives us a heads up on making life a little easier

Hands up who had a slow cooker for Christmas? Do you have one lurking in a cupboard? Before you sling it into the box for a charity shop – read on.

Should you not be the proud owner of a slow cooker they can be bought new from as little £19.99

Why use one?

They save a huge amount of time and effort – if you are out at work all day you can come home to a delicious aroma of dinner. With the added plus of only one pot to clean.

Saves money – as you can use the cheaper cuts of meat ,which will also give lots of flavour. Equally it’s a great way to cook pulses for vegetarians/vegans.

No recipe needed – once you know your flavours. The great thing about cooking this way is the flexibility to use up bits and pieces.

How to use one

Prep all your ingredients the night before, personally I would trim any excess fat off the meat and brown it in a pan first. I also recommend browning the onions. It is perfectly acceptable though to just sling in all the raw ingredients. Keep any fresh herbs to add just before serving.

Cover and stick it in the fridge overnight.

In the morning, add the liquid. Do not add too much liquid as this method of cooking keeps the juices in the pot. Remember also that this means the sauce will not thicken by reducing. You can thicken using the traditional method of rolling meat in flour. My preference would be to use potatoes, pearl barley or pulses to thicken. Pop it on a low heat and leave it to do its thing.

Come home from work – chuck in a few fresh herbs and serve.

Easy serving accompaniments:

Rice – cook your own or use the pre-cooked bags/tubs. If using your own you can cook extra and freeze in portions. Great for a slow cooked curry.

Mashed potato – supermarkets sell pure frozen mashed potato, you can simply microwave with a knob of butter and a grinding of black pepper. Lovely if you are making a sausage casserole.

Couscous – couldn’t be simpler as you just need to pour boiling water over it and fluff it up. A must have to go with a tagine, see recipe on this page.

And finally…don’t fancy cooking? A slow cooker is the perfect vessel for making mulled wine!

CHICKEN TAGINE with PRESERVED LEMON

400g chicken -– cut into chunks (breast or boned thighs)

½ preserved lemon

½ red onion

1 tablespoon of fresh parsley

1 tablespoon of fresh coriander

1 clove of garlic

Pinch of saffron

½ teaspoon of black pepper (coarsely or finely ground)

½ teaspoon ginger powder

1 heaped teaspoon of ground turmeric

10 olives

2 teaspoons of olive oil

Method

Cut preserved lemon in half and separate out the flesh from peel. Put the flesh and all other ingredients except for the chicken in a blender and zuzz. If you don’t have a blender the original recipe says chop herbs, garlic and onion finely then add oil and spices.

Put the paste along with 4 tablespoons of water into the slow cooker with a lid then chuck in the chicken and give it a good stir with a metal spoon (the saffron will stain plastic and wood). Pop in the fridge overnight – this will marinade and make the flavours more intense. Cook for a minimum of 6 hours if cooking on low.

You can also add dried apricots, green olives or even carrots. Feel free to experiment!

GENERAL GUIDANCE ON COOKING TIMES

If a dish usually takes:

15-30 mins, cook it for 1-2 hours on High or 4-6 hours on Low

30 mins-1 hour, cook it for 2-3 hours on High or 5-7 hours on Low

1-2 hours, cook it for 3-4 hours on High or 6-8 hours on Low

2-4 hours, cook it for 4-6 hours on High or 8-12 hours on Low

Maria Broadbent is owner of Mediterranean restaurant Casa del Mar in Risbygate Street, Bury St Edmunds. Tel 01284 701313.



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