As we find ourselves in deepest darkest January with the parties and fun of Christmas and New Year a distant memory it may seem there’s not much to get excited about. However, one thing I do look forward to in the depths of winter is cracking out my beloved slow cooker and whipping up my favourite winter warmers.
When you crave some comfort food, the slow cooker is there for you, like receiving a warm hug from a beloved family member. Not to mention how easy it is after a long day to bung all the ingredients in one pot and leave it simmering until its sweet smells waft out from the kitchen to let you know its ready to eat.
It can also help prevent food waste. If I have a few loose tomatoes or a sad looking leek at the back of my fridge I will chuck it in with everything else to give me a boost of both flavour and nutrition and avoid throwing away another vegetable just because it looks a bit past its prime. With that in mind here are some of my favourite things to do with my slow cooker this season.
1. White Bean Chicken Chilli
This is a family dish that was originally requested from a local restaurant by my late grandmother, so it holds a special place in my heart, as well as my stomach. Swap the typical kidney beans for cannellini beans accompanied by pulled chicken, green chillies and a blend of spices. I like to top mine with sour cream, cheddar cheese and a generous squeeze of lime. I also like to use tortilla chips as a spoon… (although frankly, who doesn’t?)
2. Super Stew
It’s a slow cooker classic but rightly so. There is nothing like a hearty stew on a cold and rainy day. Typically, I go for beef, alongside the usual accoutrements however, sometimes I like to mix it up and switch it up with lamb or add some chickpeas and harissa for a more tagine style Moroccan flavour. Literally anything can go into a stew which what makes it ideal for a lazy slow cooker meal.
3. Seasonal Soup
Soup is so cheap to make, and it can be batch-cooked and easily frozen. I like to go for seasonal orange vegetables for the soup base. I think it’s the bright colours in contrast to the not so bright weather that serves as an extra boost. My favourites are sweet potato, squash or pumpkin. Sometimes I will even mix and match! Slow cooking helps to get as much flavour out of the veggies as possible. Finish it off with a dollop of crème fraiche and plenty of black pepper. Guaranteed to help cure any ailment flu season throws at you.
4. Mulled Cider/Wine
Using a slow cooker has become one of my favourite ways to make mulled wine or cider in the winter. Simply take your chosen drink and throw in your aromatics. I like a cinnamon stick, a couple of star anise, a few cloves and the zest of a lemon or orange. Keep checking on it until you get to your desired spice level and its instantly ready to serve.
5. Slow Cookie
Baking in a slow cooker might sound a little mad but the slow cookie is an easy recipe that kids love! I usually go for the classic chocolate chip, but you can sprinkle in anything you would like, give it a mix and forget about it! Make sure you grease the inside well or alternatively line the pot with baking paper to ensure you can get your cookie out in one piece. I’ve found that an additional fun activity for little ones is decorating the oversized cookie with a selection of colourful writing icing after its cooled, like having a Millie’s Cookies in your very own kitchen!