Thursday, 27 February 2014

Slow Cooking Magic

Our kitchen is filled with delights from the 80s. My parents kept all their old things from when they first played house together and now they have been passed down to us. 

We have an assortment of gravy boats, serving dishes and stacks upon stacks of plates. We laughed when we unpacked it all but it has all actually been fairly handy as it turns out. 

One of the little treasures we have inherited has been a slow cooker. 

A slow cooker is great as you can throw everything into it and then just flick a switch. 6 hours later, you have a big pot of loveliness. 

They can also be left alone and use minimal electricity. Perfect as a no hassle dinner. Obviously you have to plan ahead due to the whole 6 hour thing, but you can leave it on over night or even whilst you are at work all day! 

This is particularly simple pot. 

We had some stout left over in our fridge, y'know, as a house of girls does, so I decided to throw some things together and see what happened. This is good for a pot of 3 with some leftovers.

You will need: 
500ml of stout
75g of pearl barley 
1 pack of braising steak which was about 500g
1 beef stock cube
3 bay leaves
1 good bunch of thyme 
A squeeze of tomato puree
Vegetables of your choice (try to use root vegetables. We had carrots, swede, red onion and turnips) 

As you can see we brought a pack of frozen 'winter veg'. You get a good mixture relatively cheaply and they just sit in your freezer. Kind of perfect for this type of thing.

I started by defrosting the vegetables, which is much the same as defrosting peas. I wasn't trying to cook them, just making sure they weren't super cold going into a warm pot! As soon as the water has come to the boil, drain them.

Now, as always, brown your meat. The brown bits are where all the flavour is, so get it good and crispy. The slow cooking will soften it all up beautifully later. Sprinkle a bit of flour over the meat to thicken up the juices. You can leave this out to keep it gluten-free.

Turn off the heat and pour in your stout. The heat of the pan and beef will start to warm the liquid through.  

Now add the pearl barley... 

and drop in your stock cube and give it all a good stir.

Time to put everything in the pot. Add the veg and the meaty liquid. Squeeze in some tomato puree. Pop in the bay leaves and the thyme. 
It may seem like a lot of herbs for a small amount but we had such a strong stout that I wanted to make sure the flavours came through. I also added some small shallots whole and sprinkled some sugar over the top. 

There is not right or wrong for a stew! 

Don't forget to season!

Thats it. Pop the lid on, sit back and let the cooker work its magic. It really does need a while though, I put this on at about 2 to eat for 8ish. I think it got eaten at about 7 but for the best results leave it as long as possible. Like I said above minimum 6 hours but keep checking it, if your happy then go ahead and munch. 

Sadly, I didn't get to taste the stew until this morning as I went out before dinner. I got full confirmation texts from Maddie and Arione that it was a good supper indeed. Talk about throwing things together and hoping for the best!

This is all that was left this morning. 

The stout had turned almost treacly and the pearl barley had almost created a sort of risotto. Both girls ate it without anything else, not even mash. 

How about that for a one pot wonder! 


  1. Great post! I love your photography, what camera do you use?
    Beth x

    1. Hi Bethan! Glad you liked the post!! It's actually just my iPhone 5!

      Katie x

  2. I love slow cooks...especially when you pop out and return to the best smell ever!

    Jenna ||

    1. Like I said, just like magic!!! A big pot of goodness :)

      Katie x