Thursday, April 29, 2010

Slow cooking rules

As the seasons change here in Sydney I’ve been taking a more relaxed and slow approach to cooking.

Not only is slow cooking a great way to transform secondary cuts and even roasts into delicious meals, but the prep time is minimal – it really is set and forget cooking.

I don’t have a slow cooker, however I know these are very popular. I simmer on the top of the stove, braise in the oven or use a pressure cooker.

Whatever you want to call the results of slow cooking – hotpot, casserole, stew or daube – the principle remains the same. It’s all about combining meat, vegetables, liquid and seasonings in a single pot – which also means less washing up! These dishes also freeze well but cool first before placing in the freezer.

Here are my top tips:

1.  Use a secondary, and therefore less expensive cut of meat. These cuts have more flavour but would be tough if cooked quickly. Long slow cooking allows the connective tissue to break down without the meat disintegrating, giving a wonderfully succulent and flavoursome result.

Beef – chuck steak, gravy beef (boneless shin), blade
Veal – osso bucco, breast
Lamb – boneless shoulder, boneless forequarter, shanks, neck chops
Pork – boneless shoulder, neck
Chicken – pieces on the bone are best, doesn’t need such long cooking

2.  For flavour and colour, brown the meat in small batches in the stockpot first. Either toss the meat in flour first, or sprinkle flour over afterwards if you are cooking a lot and be sure to brown for colour and to cook out the floury taste.

3.  Don’t overcrowd the meat when browning or it will stew in its own juices and toughen.

4.  Cut meat and vegetables into similar-sized pieces to ensure even cooking. Add quick cooking ingredients like mushrooms towards the end of cooking.

5.  Choose the right size stockpot or casserole to cook in. Too small and the liquid may overflow, too large and the liquid can evaporate too much. Choose a stockpot or casserole dish which will be about ¾ full at the beginning of the cooking process.

6.  Ensure your pot has a tight fitting lid so that too much liquid doesn’t evaporate. If unsure, tie some baking paper over the top of the pot with string and then put the lid on. Alternatively for very long, slow cooking, you can make a flour and water paste to seal the lid to the pot.

One of my favourite recent recipes is Slow Cooked Beef in Guinness – something magical happens when you combine dark beer and beef, however don’t forget the tomato paste, it is essential to add sweetness and counteract the bitterness of the beer.

Here is a link to the recipe on my main site.


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