Kristina’s $5 slow cooker is making a political statement and working itself to the bone.
We often see a flock of goats hanging out at the summit of the hill as we drive from our bay into the next. I know they are pests, but there are moments when I look at them and see them for what they truly are: defiant, strong, noble creatures, strikingly beautiful in their multi-coloured hides, and obviously right at home grazing the regenerating bush around our bay and hillsides.
But then I think of my slow cooker at home and memories of savoury aromas bubble up to the surface of my consciousness. Suddenly the goats look even more beautiful, but in a deliciously carnivorous kind of way.
It’s not only goats that get me thinking about slow cookers. They also remind me of the story called Stone Soup where a hungry traveller arrives in a village with just a pot slung over his shoulder. He sets himself down in the middle of the village square and makes a small fire, putting his pot on to boil. Its contents are one stone and a few litres of water. Soon the curious villagers are coming out to see what he’s up to, and before you know it, they are adding this and that to the soup to improve it because they all know ‘you can’t make soup from a stone’.
One chap goes off to get a bone that the dog has finished chewing and into the pot it goes. Now I’m not going to suggest that for these recipes you go off and try to wrestle with your dog, but if you’ve brought down a goat or a deer, you could definitely use chunks of meat on the bone from that beastie in your slow cooker. You will end up, like the cunning fellow in the story, with a delicious stew made using just a bone and a few veges that could go a long way to making a tempestuous spring night bearable when cows are calving in the pouring rain and ewes are hiding away giving birth to triplets in the top gully under the barbed wire fence in a puddle. Mum had a slow cooker when we were growing up and I think it was probably her favourite electrical appliance in the kitchen. In the winter and spring, it was always full of soup or stew or corned beef. It made the house smell so good and made her day so much easier. Mum was really into using up leftovers too (she called them 'resurrection' ingredients) and these would get thrown into the pot routinely with her 'compost soup' (a pre-made stock created from clean vege scraps) and the result would be an inexpensive meal that could feed up to 15 people if necessary. I read one
funny comment about slow cooked food recently, that you shouldn't expect it to look ‘pretty'. I had never really thought about whether slow cooked food needs to be pretty or not because usually it smells so good and tastes so good that my eyes never get a look in.
Another reason that I love slow cooking is that bones contain loads of excellent nutrients that can only be accessed by cooking them slowly. They've been used for centuries to make bone broth, heralded as a cure-all for a range of maladies, from sore throats to providing vigour to a dying relationship. They contain glycosaminoglycans, including glucosamine which is great for joint health, and gelatin and glycine, both useful for detoxing and healing the gut.
I have been amazed at how our third son has taken to these bone stews. He METHOD Put all ingredients into a slow cooker and turn onto high. Let it cook on high until mid-afternoon or until the slow cooker is simmering merrily, then turn it down and let it sit on a low temperature until dinner time. Turn the joint of meat two or three times during cooking. Resist the temptation to take the meat off the bone too early - only do that just before you serve up so that the meat holds its moisture and shape. loves devouring all the gelatinous bits off the bone. Bear in mind, this is a child who won't eat mushrooms because they are 'slimy'.
The slow food movement has been gathering momentum for the past few years now and I like to view it as a political statement, a sort-of underground revolution that pokes its finger at fast food. I get a great deal of satisfaction from turning my $5 garage sale slow cooker on in the morning, knowing that when I come back in at night there will be hot food ready. It's food that took me just 20 minutes to prepare in the morning, food that falls apart ever so delicately and melts in my mouth due to the subtle combination of acids and alkalines from the wine, vinegar, lemon and tomatoes that I have added to permeate and give flavour to the very fibre of the flesh. A METHOD Put the whole lot into your slow cooker and just cover with boiling water from the jug. Set the cooking temperature to high and let it crank up to simmering point (usually takes about 2-4 hours). Check liquid levels as the lentils and barley will start to soak up it up. Add more if necessary. Keep it thick and stew-like but not sticking to the sides. Excellent served piping hot with a dollop of sour cream or thick Greek yoghurt. meal cooked in a slow cooker is also an entire meal in itself if you add a whole swag of veges. It can be a soup or you can have it over rice or potatoes. Have I sold you on it yet?