Slow Cookers Make Great Comfort Food for Busy Gourmets

Want a hot meal on the table when you get home from work? Slow cookers could be your saviour.

Slow-cooked lamb shank with green beans, spring carrots and cauliflower mash…? Yes, please


The slow cooker is a wonderful low-stress, minimal-effort method of preparing meals for the family. It is also the perfect way to prepare tougher cuts of meat, as the long cooking time allows connective tissue to soften, without toughening the muscle.


Through the winter, Christi and I have eaten half a deer by slowly cooking bits of it in a combination of red wine and venison, beef or chicken stock.


Slow cooker versus oven

Most dishes that are prepared in a slow cooker can also be cooked in the oven (although some fiddling with the recipe may be required).


Advantages of using a slow cooker




Leaving the oven on all day consumes a lot of energy. Much of that energy escapes and heats the house (not always a bad thing but very inefficient).





Slow cookers tend to be hermetically sealed, which keeps juices and flavours in and prevents excessive evaporation; oven dishes don’t have such tight seals.





Though you may need to add liquid to your slow cooker from time to time, the low heat won’t allow your foods to burn.




Slow cookers are designed to be left to fend for themselves. So you can return home to a lovely hot meal rather than smouldering hot ruins.


Advantages of using an oven


You don’t have to buy a slow cooker.



Slow cookers are great for meat, but that’s not all they’re about. Here are some less common uses for slow cookers as well as one of my meaty favourites.


> Steel cut oatmeal in a slow cooker

> Make yogurt using a slow cooker

> Fondue in a slow cooker

> Lamb shanks in a slow cooker


Steel Cut Oatmeal

1 cup steel cut oats

4 cups water

2 cups milk

Salt to taste


Combine all the ingredients in a slow cooker, and set to low heat. Cover and let cook while you sleep (I’m presuming that you sleep for 8 to 9 hours). I find it best to add the salt at the end. You can also add dried fruit, etc. at the beginning if you wish.

N.B. You may have to fiddle a little with the liquid quantities depending on your slow cooker.



8 cups milk

1/2 cup plain yogurt

(you’ll also need a cooking thermometer)

Pour the milk into the slow cooker on low heat. Allow the milk to heat up to between 100 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit. If it is more than 110, turn the slow cooker off and check the temperature every 15 minutes until it has dropped. Turn the slow cooker back on to the warm setting. Remove one cup of the milk and stir it into the yogurt. Return the yogurt/milk mixture to the slow cooker and stir through the rest of the milk. Leave for 4–6 hours. Remove yogurt and refrigerate until set.



1/2 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 tsp flour
Pinch garlic salt
Pinch white pepper


Heat wine in the slow cooker on high. When near boiling, add the remaining ingredients and whisk to combine. When melted, keep warm over low heat. Serve with day-old bread.


Lamb shanks

When I was cheffing in Monaco, one of my favourite meals to have on hand was lamb shanks. It’s a cheap cut of meat but it comes out so tender, falling off the bone, in an unctuous sauce. Once cooked, it can be left for a few days and the flavours develop and improve with age. Re-heat when needed.


6 lamb shanks (trimmed of fat)

1 large onion

4 garlic cloves

3 cups beef stock

1 cup red wine

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 cup flour

1 teaspoon fresh coarse ground black pepper

4 bay leaves

salt and pepper to taste


Combine the flour and pepper in large plastic bag and dredge the lamb shanks in flour. Heat the oil in large frying pan and fry the shanks until golden brown on each side. Place the shanks in your slow cooker. Add minced garlic and bay leaves to the shanks. Add onion slices to the frying pan and stir occasionally until onion is soft. Add red wine to frying pan, stirring occasionally until slightly syrupy (approx. 5 minutes). Pour the onion mixture over shanks. Pour the beef stock into pot. Leave for about 3 hours on high.


Anyone have any fantastic slow cooker recipes? Vegetarian chili? Pulled pork?