Slow Victories: five new recipes for your slow cooker

Swap butter chicken for butter chickpeas.
Swap butter chicken for butter chickpeas. Photo: Katrina Meynink

If you say the words "slow cooker" does your mind go straight to a pot of nondescript brown gloop? Think again. Good Food's star contributor Katrina Meynink's new book will broaden your slow-cooker recipe repertoire. Her modern, mostly veg-forward dishes freshened up with herbs, citrus and pizazz prove there's no need to wait 'til the cooler months to dust off the winter workhorse. Plug it in and let it do its thing.

Butter chickpeas

If you are feeling virtuous, feel free to substitute coconut milk for the coconut cream – it will just have a thinner consistency. But, honestly, if we are going for those takeaway-style vibes, just add the coconut cream. Life is short. And it tastes amazing.

Slow Victories by Katrina Meynink.
Slow Victories by Katrina Meynink. Photo: Hardie Grant Books

INGREDIENTS

  • ½ tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 large red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 heaped tbsp grated ginger
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 tsp each of sweet and smoked paprika 
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp ground fenugreek
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • 225g dried chickpeas*
  • 400g can crushed tomatoes
  • 400ml can coconut cream
  • 125ml (½ cup) vegetable stock
  • 100g butter
  • 1 tsp brown sugar (if needed)

To serve

  • saffron rice
  • coriander leaves, chopped naan or pappadums
  • yoghurt
  • pickles (optional)
  • lime cheeks
  • curry leaves (optional)

METHOD

  1. Set the slow cooker to the saute function and add the coconut oil. Once hot, add the onion, ginger, garlic and spices. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon to prevent the spices from catching. Once fragrant, add the chickpeas, crushed tomatoes, coconut cream, stock and butter. Close the lid and cook on high for 4 hours.
  2. Season with salt. The bitterness of canned tomatoes can vary considerably, so taste and add the brown sugar if the sauce tastes slightly bitter. Keep tasting and seasoning until you feel you have the right balance of flavours.
  3. Serve with rice, coriander and all the good stuff: naan, pappadums, yoghurt, pickles and fresh lime. I love to flash-fry a few fresh curry leaves and stir these through the rice, but if you don't have the time or inclination, feel free to omit.
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Serves 4-6

*Note: I haven't soaked the chickpeas overnight, instead I let the slow cooker do the breaking down for me. Most of the newer generation of appliances run at higher temperatures, eliminating the risk of lectin food poisoning. But to be safe, you can boil the dried legumes for 10 minutes before proceeding with this recipe.

Lasagne soup

This is a bit of a win for the workdays. Pop it on in the morning; it doesn't matter if it cooks for 6 hours or 10. When you get home, you simply add the lasagne sheets and cook for 20-30 minutes and dinner is done. It has a place at the table on any old Wednesday night as much as it does on the nights you have friends over for dinner. It is a feat of comfort and culinary genius all in one. Looking at those lasagne sheets bobbing happily in the soupy, cheesy sauce is a feast for the eyes as well as the belly.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped oregano leaves
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped basil leaves
  • 500g beef mince
  • 185ml (¾ cup) full-cream milk
  • 2 × 400g cans chopped tomatoes
  • 500ml (2 cups) chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 100g (1 cup) grated parmesan
  • 200g fresh lasagne sheets, roughly torn
  • 1 ball buffalo mozzarella, roughly torn
  • basil leaves, to serve

METHOD

  1. Set the slow cooker to the saute function and allow to warm up. Add the oil and, once hot, add the onion. Cook for 1-2 minutes, then add the garlic, celery and carrot. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring regularly to prevent them catching. Add the herbs and cook for another 30 seconds before adding the beef. Cook until lightly browned, then season with salt and pepper.
  2. Stir in the milk and cook for another 5 minutes, or until it looks like the milk has been absorbed into the meat and none of the meat is clumping together. Add the tomatoes, stock and tomato paste, then close the lid and cook on low for 6-8 hours.
  3. Lift the lid and add half of the parmesan to season. Once melted into the sauce, gently push in the lasagne sheets. Close the lid and cook for 30 minutes.
  4. Turn off the heat. Add the mozzarella and give it a minute to melt into the sauce. Gently spoon into serving bowls. Season again with the remaining parmesan, salt and pepper and add the fresh basil leaves just before serving.

Serves 6

Quinoa lemongrass larb gai

This is the ultimate hot summer night dinner. It's light, fresh and full of punchy flavours. I would pick this vegetarian version over the traditional meat-based dish every single time.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tsp rice bran oil
  • 2 shallots, finely sliced
  • 1 tbsp finely grated lemongrass
  • 5cm piece ginger, finely sliced
  • 200g (1 cup) white quinoa
  • 250ml (1 cup) master stock
  • 250ml (1 cup) vegetable stock

Dressing

  • 3 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp mirin
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped (use to taste)

Dipping sauce (optional)

  • 80ml (⅓ cup) fresh orange juice
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tsp sesame oil

Herb stir-through

  • ½ small bunch coriander, chopped
  • small handful Thai basil leaves, chopped
  • ½ small bunch mint leaves, roughly chopped
  • small handful Vietnamese mint leaves, chopped
  • 2 makrut lime leaves, very finely sliced
  • 125g (1 cup) snake beans, cut into bite-sized pieces

To serve

  • iceberg lettuce or butter lettuce
  • fried onion
  • bean sprouts
  • sliced red chilli

METHOD

  1. Turn the slow cooker to the saute function and immediately dump in the oil, shallot, lemongrass and ginger. Cook until just fragrant, turning regularly to prevent the lemongrass from catching and burning. Keep watching: you want just enough heat to release the oils and flavour. Add the remaining ingredients. Give it a good stir to combine, then close the lid. Cook on low for 60-70 minutes, then stir again. Turn off and leave to sit for another 10 minutes.
  2. While the quinoa is cooking, make the dressing. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk until mixed. Set aside.
  3. Make the dipping sauce, if using, by combining all the ingredients in a small serving bowl and stirring gently until mixed. Set aside.
  4. To serve, stir the dressing through the quinoa, followed by the herbs, lime leaves and beans. Serve with the lettuce cups, onion, bean sprouts, chilli and dipping sauce.

Serves 6

Lamb shawarma

I suggest doing this with a small leg of lamb as you get the best results by being able to lay the meat as flat as you can in the base of the slow cooker.

This allows the braising liquid to come up the sides so that the glorious spicy crust can be maintained. Obviously, slow-cooking a lamb leg is a far cry from roasting it on a rotisserie, but the spice preparation is the same and the end result is freaking delicious. I love serving this as part of a spread with flatbreads, pomegranate, bundles of mint and tahini.

This works best if you can prepare it ahead. The day before you want to serve it, rub the spices into the scored meat and rest it in the fridge overnight.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 6 cloves
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 tsp cardamom seeds
  • ½ tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1½ tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • ½ tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp sweet smoked paprika
  • ½ tbsp sumac
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1-1.2 kg lamb leg, bone in
  • 1 litre chicken or vegetable stock, or enough to come three-quarters of the way up the side of the lamb

To serve

  • tahini
  • pomegranate arils
  • finely sliced red onion (optional)
  • flatbreads
  • mint and coriander leaves

METHOD

  1. Add the peppercorns, cloves, star anise and all the seeds to a frying pan and briefly dry-roast over a medium-high heat until the spices pop and become fragrant. You can also do this in your slow cooker if you have it nice and hot. Grind them in a spice grinder or using a mortar and pestle. Add to a bowl with all the remaining ingredients, except the lamb and stock, and stir to combine.
  2. Score the lamb leg in several spots. Rub the spices into the skin and top of the leg, then set aside to marinate for a minimum of 2 hours, but preferably overnight.
  3. Set the slow cooker to low. Add the lamb, then gently pour the stock into the bowl, being careful not to pour it over the top of the lamb; you want to keep as much of the spice mixture on the meat as possible to form a crust. Cover and cook for 10 hours. Remove the lid for the last 30 minutes of cooking.
  4. Let the lamb rest for 10 minutes before serving with tahini, pomegranate arils, red onion, if using, flatbreads and herbs.

Serves 4-6

Espresso martini chocolate buckwheat torta caprese

Death. By. Chocolate. It's a dream: the coffee, the dark chocolate and the pure, luxurious mouthfeel of it all ...

INGREDIENTS

  • 170g unsalted butter, cubed, plus extra for greasing
  • 225g dark chocolate, roughly broken
  • ½ tbsp vanilla bean paste
  • 2 tbsp vodka
  • 2 tbsp strong espresso
  • 170g (¾ cup) caster sugar
  • 115g (½ cup) brown sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 150g (1 cup) buckwheat flour
  • 2 tbsp Dutch cocoa powder, plus extra for dusting

To serve

  • creme fraiche or vanilla ice-cream (optional)
  • dried orange slices (optional)

METHOD

  1. Grease and line a 22cm springform cake tin. Set the slow cooker to low.
  2. Combine the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl and place over a saucepan of gently simmering water. Stir until melted and glossy, then remove from the heat and mix through the vanilla, vodka and espresso. Stir to combine, then set aside.
  3. Add the sugars and eggs to the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat on high until pale, thick and creamy, about 4 minutes. Stir through the buckwheat flour and cocoa powder. Slowly pour in the chocolate mixture and stir to combine, being careful not to overwork the batter.
  4. Gently pour into the prepared tin. Cut a length of baking paper about 30cm x 15cm to act as handles underneath the cake tin. This will help you lower the tin into the cooker and get it out again. Transfer the tin to the slow cooker then cover with a tea towel. This will prevent any moisture from the cooker dripping onto the torta. If your slow cooker has a removable lid, set it slightly ajar. If it is attached and twists closed, merely set it down but do not lock it into position as you want some of the steam to escape.
  5. Cook for 2½ hours, then check its progress. Touch the top: if it feels lightly set and tacky to the touch but firmer around the edges, remove the tea towel and the lid and cook for another hour (if not, check on it again at 10-minute intervals). Turn the cooker off and, gently, using your handy handles, remove the tin from the bowl. This torta is quite delicate, so pop it in the fridge for 30 minutes to set before slicing.
  6. When ready to serve, dust with cocoa powder and slice. Allow to come to room temperature before serving. Top with creme fraiche and dried orange slices, if using.

Serves 8-10

This is an edited extract from Slow Victories by Katrina Meynink, published by Hardie Grant Books $35.00. It is available from March 3 where all good books are sold. Pre-order now.