One of my pals from work recently became the proud owner of a slow cooker. Cue tales at work of chicken casseroles and other such dishes to make your tastebuds tingle. It reminded me and Mr M that we have neglected our own slow cooker for far too long.
Slow cookers go all the way back to the 1930s when Irving Naxon patented an early version so he could recreate the traditional Jewish stew his mother used to make.
But it was in the 70s that ‘Crock Pots’, one brand of slow cooker, were seriously marketed as the go-to kitchen accessory for busy women. They could put food in it in the morning, go to work, and the family could come home to a ready-made meal.
Nothing much has changed. Except I guess now it could just as easily be a busy man as a busy woman who puts the food in the slow cooker in the morning ready for dinner that night. Who cares, as long as dinner’s done, hey? Especially when you’ve got guests coming and no time to prepare a gourmet meal.
This was exactly the situation that prompted us to rediscover slow cooking. Monday night, a guest coming, and scant time to prepare a feast. Thank god for Mr M. And slow cooking. Oh, and google.
A bit of research and Jamie found this fab slow-cooked ox cheek recipe by chef Tess Ward on the Great British Chefs website. We’ve had ox cheek a few times at my mum’s, again done in the slow cooker. They’re cheap, ram-packed full of flavour, and when slow cooked turn into the most tender tasty treat you could ask for. Think beef stew, but the pimped-up version. Okay, so it didn’t actually call for us to use the slow cooker, but it’s slow cooking all the same, folks.
I won’t include the whole recipe here, as you can get it from the website which probably explains it far better than I can. In short, you seal the ox cheek (the recipe calls for three, which Mr M got from the butcher’s counter at Sainsbury’s), browning them in rendered fat that you’ve trimmed from them.
Add typical stew-style veg like onions, carrots, celery and garlic, sweat them down then mix with some tomato puree. Deglaze the pan with brandy and mix everything with a bucketload of red wine and herbs and spices like cinnamon, bay leaves, star anise etc. Mr M actually left the carrots out and used a fresh red chilli that gave it some lovely warmth, so don’t be afraid to vary the recipe according to your own taste.
And then just cook it for frickin’ ages. Three hours or so. Then let it sit, let all those yummy strong flavours get even more pungent and aromatic.
I came home from work to the most delicious smell and to an abundance of ox cheek that just fell to pieces which you prodded them. Mr M used some handy tools we were given for doing pulled pork to pull it apart, making for a delicate mess of beefy goodness that sat perfectly in the rich, wine-laced sauce.
We served it up with mashed sweet potato and greens. Perfect for a filling dinner on a chilly night after a long day at work. Deep in colour and, more importantly, flavour, including a nice little kick at the back from the chilli. It certainly got the thumbs up from me but, more importantly, from our guest too who declared it ‘superb’.
If we needed any reminder of the beauties of slow cooking, this was it. Meals that require little ‘hands-on’ interference and can be left to do their thing are exactly what you need when you’re rushing around.
Oh, and not to mention the trend of using cheaper cuts that we’re seeing everywhere these days. These are good for the household budget but for the most part require longer cooking, making them perfect slow cooker fodder.
Needless to say, we’ve got lots more plans for some slow cooking and although we didn’t dust the slow cooker off for this one, it’s ready and waiting now for some fabulous creations. Watch this space!