As one half of beloved ABC Kids television program Giggle and Hoot, James Rees, 27, is used to the spotlight. But it turns out his slow-cooked lamb shoulder may be even more popular. The Mornington Peninsula local and new father (his wife Tori gave birth to their son Lenny just a few months ago) is a big fan of the method and remembers posting before-and-after pictures of his lamb dish to his 13,000 Facebook followers (he now has 16,000).
Among them happened to be Queensland slow-cooking enthusiast Paulene Christie, who reposted the pictures to her Slow Cooker Central followers. "It went gangbusters," says Rees, who estimates more than 300,000 people from around the world checked out his effort in the kitchen. "It's opened my eyes to the world of slow-cooking. It's a real community."
James and Tori met working together at the Canadian Bay Hotel in Mount Eliza, where James was manager. He also picked up a few culinary tips while working as a waiter for chef Rob Licciardo's eponymous Mount Eliza restaurant. They live with their baby son and two cavalier-pug-cross dogs, Barney and Lexi, in Mount Martha, Victoria.
My pantry: Tori and I both cook at home but I probably enjoy it more and I'm into trying new things. There are always cans of tomatoes (my mum used to always buy extra tins when she went shopping but now I understand why – I go through heaps), garlic salt, and pasta, of course.
My fridge: We've been doing a lot of Mexican recently and we love this Byron Bay Chilli Co green jalapeno chilli sauce (medium hot), as well as other sauces, mustards, olives, sundried tomatoes, eggs and zucchinis. We like to be healthy so we have spinach, either wilted with poached eggs or in a smoothie (I've found if you add enough banana you can't taste the greens). And in the freezer there's always frozen fruits, which we either put in smoothies or whip up into a dessert.
A box of four Connoisseur gourmet ice-creams (Cuban mocha, perhaps) never lasts long here but what I really like are my chocolate Twix. We're both chocaholics but the best thing about these is that Tori doesn't like them.
Last night's dinner
Mexican-style beef. I slow-cooked it in the Thermomix with paprika and other spices, beef stock, some dates and an onion. It churned away in there and then I shredded it with the blades and served it on corn tortillas with avocado and coleslaw. We had it with our favourite salsa: Mission brand black bean & chipotle.
I'm a beer drinker but lately I've been bringing out my inner bogan and just not caring what I have. At the moment I've got VB, some Asahi, some Kirin but I don't know, maybe there's too many craft beers to choose from these days. Having said that, the Mornington Peninsula Brewery down here has a nice pale ale, which you'd find in my fridge quite often. Otherwise, I like light red wines like pinots (and once again, I'm showing my inner bogan) but I'm partial to a rum and coke or lemonade, perhaps a Sailor Jerry Spiced Caribbean Rum.
There's my Betty Bossi vegetable twister for making zoodles (zucchini noodles), my Homemaker slow-cooker (from Kmart) is great – you can prepare the meal the night before, stick it in the fridge, then set it going and not worry if you're a couple of hours late coming home. We recently bought a new set of Anolon knives, which have a nice weight to them and we've had our Thermomix for about two years now.
Instagram and Facebook are great (see facebook.com/slowcookercentral) for recipes and I like watching cooking shows, too. Last season on River Cottage Australia Paul West cooked a standing rib-eye roast and we're going to try that tonight – it just looked sensational.
Most unforgettable meal
For our honeymoon we went to Likuliku, an island resort in Fiji. We stayed in over-water bures and the food was outstanding, particularly the seafood. I had mud crabs and oysters and prawns and there was a traditional Fijian night with barbecues. That whole experience was amazing.
A quick-and-easy bolognese. I get some mince, either pork or beef or both, brown it, chuck it in the Thermomix with a couple of cans of tomatoes, some garlic and seasoning and one can of pasta sauce for flavour; then I add some fresh basil and other herbs and spices. It can be ready in 10 minutes but I try to keep it on for as long as possible so it bubbles away and reduces. Then we just have it with some zoodles - it's so easy.
Zoodles. Instead of spaghetti I use my Betty Bossi vegetable twister to make noodle shapes out fresh zucchini, which I then pan-fry quickly with some olive oil. It's really tasty, healthy and a much lighter alternative to pasta.