Food

Winter warmers with your trusty slow cooker – it’s time to slow down

May 04, 2018 By Southpoint Tuggeranong

What is more welcoming than coming home from a long, dreary, cold Canberra work day to the smell of a slow cooked unctuous beef dish, with the aroma wafting through the house? Not a lot, I can tell you. It’s definitely time to get the trusty slow cooker out of the bottom of the pantry and start thinking of all the wonderful winter warmers that fill our houses with fabulous aromas, and our bellies with delicious foods. Did you know you can use your slow cooker for bothy savoury and sweet dishes? And, your slow cooker doesn’t have to mean dishes heavy in fat, cream or carb loaded meals. I’ve got two recipes that will challenge your traditional slow cooker ways and produce two meals that the kids will be asking for over and over again.

Sticky Asian Beef Ribs
  • 1.5 cups beef stock (I used a Chinese Master stock that I ad in the fridge from last weeks homemade pho, really very easy to make and store in the fridge to add depth and flavour to many other dishes)
  • 1kg beef ribs – on the bone from Bruce the Butcher at $16.99 p/k (if you want a more budget friendly meal, you can absolutely swap the ribs over for beef cheeks or even chuck steak)
  • 2 TB oyster sauce
  • 10 Szechuan peppercorns (if you don’t have Szechuan pepper, add half a tsp of chilli powder or a fresh birds eye chilli. You’re after a little zing, not a punch in the face chilli hit. Unless that’s actually what you like!)
  • 2 star anise (these are readily available at any supermarket or Asian grocer)
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (fell free to lesson the sugar if you want, my kids do like a sweeter dish)
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 5 garlic cloves, chopped roughly
  • 5 cm knob of ginger, sliced in matchsticks
  • the juice of one lime (you may need more if you like things a little tangier)
First step is to brown the beef ribs. My slow cooker used to go on my stove top, which was perfect, until I installed an induction cooktop. Now I fry. So, if you’re in the market for a new slow cooker, make sure you buy one that can be used on all cooktops for the ease of one pan browning and cooking. If you don’t have a slow cooker that can be used for browning, either brown the meat in a fry pan on the stove (takes 5 minutes and really makes a huge difference to the end result), or don’t bother. There are many people out there who are time poor and don’t bother with the browning of the meat before it goes in the SC, it comes down to personal preference and time. I’m a browner.

Once the meat is browned, or not, throw it and the remaining ingredients, except the lime juice, into your slow cooker. Plonk the lid on and cook on low for 6 hours. The cooking time is totally dependant on the thickness of your ribs, the amount of fat on them or whether you’ve chosen another cut of meat. My ribs were relatively lean so they didn’t take as long as I thought. I turned my ribs a few times, until they’d exuded enough liquid to mostly cover themselves. Don’t be concerned about the lack of liquid to begin with, slow cookers always leech the water out of your protein and it’ll fill up in no time. Too much water at the start of a slow cooker recipe means too much juice at the end of the cooking process.

If you have time, once your ribs are cooked, cool them down and refrigerate until you’re ready for dinner. You can remove any extra fat if you do this, and then heat them up in the microwave on low. If you’re eating them straight out of the slow cooker, strain the juices and add the lime juice to taste and either serve as is over rice with copious amounts of coriander and a little fresh chilli, or reduce the juices by a third on the stove top until they’re nice and sticky. Again, the little tweaks to the recipe are based on personal tastes and whether or not you can be bothered.

I would choose a Jeir Creek Shiraz Viognier for this dish. The spicy red blend can keep up with the chilli hit and the beefiness of the ribs, while the jamminess and hint of anise will match beautifully with the distinctive Asian notes of the dish. Dessert in a slow cooker is a thing. I joined a Slow Cooker group on Facebook that started out with 200 members, which ended up with over 30k group members. It had to become a closed group as the drama that went on was outrageous! Who knew slow cooking recipes would be so contentious. Anyway, one of the best things I learnt from this group was the fact that cakes, desserts, and puddings can all be cooked in the slow cooker. With half a fruit loaf from Bakers Delight languishing in the bread bin and an over supply of eggs from the chooks, my kids learnt what bread and butter pudding was. And they liked it.

  • 6 thick slices of fruit loaf (or whatever bread you’re needing to use up that’s a little bit on the stale side)
  • 4 eggs at room temp
  • 1/2 cup double cream (or use normal cream, I was using the last of a container)
  • 3 TB of cherry liqueur (liqueur is not imperative, but adds depth of flavour to the custard. Orange liqueur, brandy, port or even Kahlua would work just as well)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 Tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar (or castor sugar)
Cut your bread into triangles and butter each side. Lay the triangles cut side down, crust pointing up. Beat the eggs until combined and then mix together all the other ingredients and pour straight over the bread in your slow cooker. Swirl the custard around the bowl until it’s soaked into the bread. Leave to soak for 5 minutes or so, this ensures that each bread piece has a good soaking of custard before it starts to cook and set and there should be no dry spots. Turn your slow cooker on low and cook for around 2 to 3 hours. The custard will set, don’t be alarmed if there is a considerable amount of set custard around the bowl, and it looks a little curdled, it will still taste divine. The way to check the doneness is to peel apart the middle two pieces of bread to ensure there is no eggy liquid left. A trick I saw Nigella do to her bread pudding, was to sprinkle sugar over the crust points and it gets all caramelised and crunchy while baking in the oven. You can do this too, by sprinkling some sugar over the top once it’s all cooked and popping it under the griller for a couple of minutes. Otherwise, spoon it, steaming hot, straight out of the slow cooker into a bowl and eat with a liberal pouring of cream. Delicious. Happy cooking!

The Food and Wine Marshall