Tag Archives: slow cooker

Recipe: Ham Hock Macaroni Cheese

Now that the leaves have started falling from the trees, my slow cooker (or crockpot if you’re reading this in America) is really earning its keep. I love a slow cooker recipe, being able to throw something together in the morning  and come home to something hearty and warming in the evening is an autumn/winter life saver! This week I made a Ham Hock Macaroni Cheese using a ham hock I’d bought for just £3.50. I cooked it in the slow cooker, stirred it through some macaroni cheese, baked it in the oven and made my family very happy indeed.

Recipe: Recipe: Ham Hock Macaroni Cheese

A ham hock comes into its own when you cook it for hours. You know its done when it falls off the bone. It’s insanely cheap and it often used to make ham and pea soup with. Just because it’s cheap doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with it, it’s just needs long, slow cooking. I’m a bit obsessed with ham hocks these days, they seem like such good value and the boys seem to really like anything I make with them, like this Sticky Rosé Braised Ham Hock.

This Ham Hock Macaroni Cheese is the kind of thing you’d find being sold for £15 a portion in a hipster dive bar in a fashionably shabby part of town. It’s the kind of made ahead meal you could make for friends and family for a weekend feast. It’s hearty, it’s warming and it’s delicious. My family adored me when I put this in front of them.

Recipe: Ham Hock Macaroni Cheese

Ham Hock Macaroni Cheese

This recipe makes enough for four people.

Ingredients:
Coke or diet coke, about a litre
Ham hock, uncooked
200g dried macaroni pasta
50g unsalted butter
50g plain flour
Approx one pint of milk, maybe more, maybe less
100g mature cheddar cheese
50g Parmesan cheese, finely grated
Salt and pepper
30g breadcrumbs

How to make Ham Hock Macaroni Cheese:
Put your ham hock in your slow cooker and pour over your coke or diet coke until it’s just about covered. Turn the slow cooker on high and cook for at least 5 hours, until the meat is falling off the bone.

Once your ham hock is cooked, take the meat and cap of fat off it and shred the meat with two forks. Discard the bones and fat, or give them to your grateful dog.

You will have probably enough meat to eke out two portions of this dish, but if you’re feeling generous like I was, then use all the meat in the one dish. If you want to be less generous (and the next time I make this, I’m going to be less generous), set aside half of the ham hock, dribble over a little bit of the cooking juices and freeze, ready to be defrosted next time you want to make this.

To make the macaroni cheese, melt the butter in a saucepan, once melted, tip in the flour and mix well with a wooden spoon. Mix until it’s a paste and then cook the flour out for a minute. Add a splash of milk and stir until it turns into a paste again. Keep adding milk in splashes and mixing until it starts to turn into a silky sauce. The amount of milk will vary, but I’d say you need at least a pint of milk.

Leave your sauce to bubble gently on the hob while you add 200g to another saucepan of boiling water. Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet.

While your pasta cooks, grate your cheese and add it to your sauce. Set aside 20g of the Parmesan to top your bake with. Stir, stir, stir your sauce and season with salt and pepper. I also like to add ground chilli flakes for a bit of a gentle kick, but you can leave that out if you prefer. Taste the sauce to check the seasoning; if it’s not cheesy enough for you, now is a good time to add more cheese. Now would be a good time to pre-heat your oven to 220°.

Once your pasta is cooked, drain it really well and tip it into your cheese sauce; stir that through and add your shredded chunks of ham hock. Stir that through and pour into a baking dish. Level the top with the back of a spoon.

Sprinkle over the breadcrumbs and the remaining Parmesan cheese; pop it into the oven for 25 minutes, or until it’s brown and bubbly on top. Take it out of the oven and put to one side for five minutes. Serve with a big salad and crusty bread.

Recipe: Ham Hock Macaroni Cheese

If you want to feed your friends and family something that’s like a big plate of hugs, this ham hock macaroni cheese is the dish for you. It’s a delicious, economical, hearty hug of a meal.

Recipe: Ham Hock Macaroni Cheese

Recipe: Slow Cooker Vegetarian French Onion Soup

One of the things I miss as a vegetarian is the rich beefiness of French Onion Soup. It is in my opinion the king of soups and perfect for cold days when you’re craving a rich broth. I once lamented my French Onion Soup regrets to a wonderful chef who used to work at Greens, Simon Rimmer’s vegetarian restaurant in West Didsbury. The next day she’d whipped me up a batch of French Onion Soup which was entirely vegetarian. I was in awe.

She gave me a few top tips for making my own French Onion Soup at home, but she sadly passed away before I could share with her my triumphs. So my version of this recipe is for Shona, my old friend who I miss terribly.

Recipe: Slow Cooker Vegetarian French Onion Soup

This is vegetarian, but you could easily make it vegan by swapping the butter for a vegan spread or oil.

Slow Cooker Vegetarian French Onion Soup

Ingredients:
30g of butter
4 or 5 large white onions
3 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons of plain flour
3 tablespoons of sherry
1 litre of vegetable stock made with Essential Cuisine liquid concentrate
2 tablespoons of mushroom ketchup
1 tablespoon of sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon of sugar
Half a tablespoon of tomato puree
2 bay leaves, fresh or dried
Salt & pepper
1 baguette
A handful of grated cheese, Gruyere is preferable but Cheddar is also fine.

Method:
Switch your slow cooker onto high and peel and slice your onions into rings. Add the butter and onions to the slow cooker and leave them to soften for an hour or so. You might prefer to do this stage in a frying pan, softening the onions gently. This would speed up the process if you can.

Once the onions are soft, add the crushed garlic and stir. Then add the plain flour, stir again and then add your sherry. Pour in a litre of vegetable stock and then add the mushroom ketchup, sherry vinegar, sugar, tomato puree, bay leaves and some salt and pepper. Cook on high for an hour or so, stirring occasionally.

Taste your soup and add more seasoning and sugar if it needs it. Turn your slow cooker down to low and it can happily sit for several hours. The longer you cook it, the richer and deeper the flavour.

When you’re ready to serve, slice your baguette up into rounds and grill on one side to your liking. Flip your sliced over and top with cheese, grill until it’s melted and bubbling. Ladle your soup into bowls and then float your cheesy baguette slice on top and enjoy.

Recipe: Slow Cooker Vegetarian French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup is such a delicious treat, rich and warming and all the better for being made with a good quality stock. For this recipe I used Essential Cuisine stock.

There are four concentrated liquid stocks in the range – vegetable, beef, lamb and chicken. They’re bursting with flavour and just the thing for this soup which relies upon a good quality stock to bring it to life.

Recipe: Slow Cooker Vegetarian French Onion Soup

In collaboration with Essential Cuisine.

Five Delicious Vegetarian Comfort Food Dishes

I turned vegetarian when I was 13 and there’s not a lot I miss, but on a cold winter night I do sometimes hanker after the slow cooked, deep flavoured chilli my Nan used to make. Thankfully after lots of practice I’ve finally nailed the recipe and managed to make it vegetarian too.

Most of the warming comfort food dishes from my childhood were meat based – family roast dinners, my Nan’s amazing beef chilli, corned beef hash, shepherd’s pie and bubbling stews cooked so long the meat almost melted in your mouth.

There’s something about cooking up some comfort food which makes you feel like you’re showing your family some extra love. I enjoy throwing a few things in the slow cooker and knowing that by tea time there will be a delicious meal ready for my family.

Vegetarian comfort food can feel a bit hard to come by, so I’ve created and shared some of our favourite family recipes on my blog, here are five of my favourite vegetarian comfort food recipes – 

Vegetarian Galletes

vegetarian comfort food

These are a recent addition to my comfort food repertoire. They’re really easy to make, utterly delicious and once you get the hang of it you can fill them however you want. I made a Goats Cheese, Caramelised Onion and Quince Galette and a Feta, Red Pesto & Tomato Galette. Both were absolutely bang on and real crowd pleasers.

Cauliflower Cheese Soup

vegetarian comfort food

Now autumn is here my soup making pot is starting to see some serious action. Cauliflowers are cheap and plentiful in the shops, so I recreated my favourite soup, but with a cheesy twist. Try my very delicious Norwegian inspired Cauliflower Cheese Soup.

Spanish Style Bravas Sausage Casserole

vegetarian comfort food

I’d had it in my head to make a big Spanish style bravas sausage casserole in my slow cooker for a while. This summer hadn’t been up to much and I was desperate to start rustling up comfort food dishes, and this was the first one of the season. I made my sausage casserole with Quorn sausages, but you could very easily make them with your favourite meaty sausages if you’d prefer. I made the sauce in the slow cooker and let it bubble away gently to itself for a few hours. The recipe is really simple and it’s now a firm family favourite.

Authentic Armenian style Imam Bayildi 

vegetarian comfort food

Imam Bayildi is basically stuffed, baked aubergines. They’re simple to make, you can prepare them ahead of time and then cook them when you need them and they are melt in the mouth gorgeous. I like to use good quality ingredients in this recipe as every single mouthful zings flavour. Fresh vegetables and herbs are essential, they’re packed full of flavour and these sunshiny aubergines are a little bit of summer on a cold autumn evening.

Easy Microwave Jam Sponge

vegetarian comfort food

No vegetarian comfort food round-up would be complete without a pudding. This incredibly easy to make and very quick to cook microwave jam sponge is just the ticket to warm your cockles on a cold winter evening. All you need are a few store cupboard ingredients, ten minutes of your time and you’ve got a good pud that’ll make your family smile.

Voucherbox.co.uk have a great blog post about the five healthy foods that can actually save you money, and if you want even more money off your online shop they also have plenty of Sainsbury’s vouchers which you can use.

vegetarian comfort food

Recipe: Spanish Style Bravas Sausage Casserole

When I go out for tapas I always order patatas bravas. I love the crispy pieces of potato smothered in the garlicky, tomatoey bravas sauce. I’ve had it in my head to make a big Spanish style bravas sausage casserole in my slow cooker for a while. This summer has not been up to much and the rainy days have had me guiltily rustling up comfort food dishes, instead of summery salads and such like.

I confess I made my sausage casserole with Quorn sausages, but you could very easily make them with your favourite meaty sausages if you’d prefer. Making the sauce in the slow cooker and letting it bubble away gently to itself for a few hours makes it extra delicious.

Bravas Sausage Casserole

I browned the sausages separately and popped them into the sauce for the last hour or so. The great thing about Quorn sausages is that they take on some of the flavour of the sauce.

To serve I roasted some new potatoes in some oil and once they were cooked I spooned over some sausages and bravas sauce and added a dollop of incredibly garlicky aioli.

Spanish Style Bravas Sausage Casserole

Serves 4
A super simple, delicious and fairly frugal family meal.

Ingredients
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 500g cartons of passata
2 tablespoons of tomato purée
1 tablespoon of sweet chilli sauce
2 teaspoons of smoked paprika
1 teaspoon of sugar
2 tablespoons of fresh parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
Salt & Pepper to taste
8 sausages (two per person) I used Quorn sausages

Instructions
In a frying pan gently fry the onion in 1 tablespoon of olive oil until it’s soft but not brown. Add in the garlic towards the end of cooking and cook through.

Tip the fried onion and garlic into your slow cooker, add the passata, tomato purée, smoked paprika, sweet chilli sauce, sugar and oregano and cook on medium for about 3 hours. Taste and adjust seasoning if you feel it needs it.

In the frying pan, fry your sausages until they’re brown, drain and add to the sauce and leave to cook through for an hour. Before serving stir through 1 tablespoon of fresh parsley.

Serve the Bravas Sausage Casserole with crispy roasted potatoes and aioli. Scatter with the remaining chopped fresh parsley.

Notes
I sometimes finely dice some peppers, cook them off and add them to the sauce to bump up the veg content. This sauce is perfect for hiding secret veg from your children!
This does make lots of sauce. If you have lots left over, it’s delicious warmed up the next day with crusty bread.

The Bravas Sausage Casserole was delicious and something I will be making over and over again. What’s more it’s very simple, pretty quick to throw together and fairly frugal. What’s not to love?

Recipe: Spanish Style Bravas Sausage Casserole

Recipe: Delicious slow cooked Beef in Red Wine

One of the boys favourite winter meals is a hearty beef in red wine stew, it’s something I’ve been cooking for years now, and since I got a slow cooker (or crock-pot) last year it’s been a regular in our weekly menus, something I can pretty quickly throw together the night before, or first thing in the morning and leave to gently bubble away in the slow cooker for the day. There is nothing better than coming home from a hard days work to find a hot and hearty meal ready to be served.

I was sent a bottle of Eisberg Cabernet Sauvignon to try and I thought it’d work really well in my beef in red wine stew. Eisberg is an alcohol free wine, so if you’re worried about using alcohol in your cooking if children will be eating it (even though any alcohol would usually be burned off during the cooking process), if you’re counting calories, or if you’re avoiding alcohol for other reasons, then this alcohol free wine is a good option.

My recipe for beef in red wine is really flexible and pretty quick to put together. I usually use shin of beef or braising steak, these are both good for really long, slow cooking and are very tender once cooked, and so delicious my five year old makes short work of it.

beef in red wine

Slow cooked beef in red wine

Serves 6
A delicious and hearty beef stew, cooked slowly until the beef is tender. A perfect winter warmer!

Ingredients
1 bottle of red wine, I used Eisberg alcohol free wine
1400g Braising steak, in chunks
3 large carrots
3 parsnips
2 sticks of celery
8 shallots
1 stock cube
2 bay leaves
1 dessert spoon of tomato puree
1 teaspoon of sugar
2 tablespoons of plain flour
1 tablespoon of rapeseed oil (or similar)
Salt & pepper

Instructions
Add salt and pepper to the flour and toss the beef chunks in the seasoned flour and fry the beef in the oil (in batches) until browned. Set aside.

While the beef is cooking switch on the slow cooker and put it on high, add the bottle of red wine (less one glass) to the pot.

Chop the carrots, celery and parsnips into bitesize pieces and put into the slow cooker. Peel the shallots and add those to the slow cooker.

Once all the beef is browned put it in the slow cooker with the bay leaves, sugar, tomato puree, stock cube and some more seasoning.

Deglaze the pan with the glass of red wine and add that to the slow cooker too.

Leave the slow cooker on high for two hours, or until you need to leave the house; then turn it down to low. The stew can be eaten after 5 or 6 hours, but if you can cook it for a bit longer then that’s always going to be better.

Towards the end of the cooking I spoon out some of the liquid and mix it with any of the remaining seasoned flour and add that paste back into the pot, this helps to thicken the gravy.
When you’re nearly ready to eat, taste and check the seasoning, adding more if you think it needs it. Serve with buttery mash and vegetables.

Notes
You can easily change what vegetables you use, root vegetables are always lovely in this, it’s great with swede if you have some or even new potatoes. You could use large chunks of onion instead of shallot if you’d like. It’s very forgiving and very flexible.

This recipe forbeef in red wine would work beautifully with my rich and creamy Fennel & Potato Gratin.

beef in red wine

Made with alcohol free Eisberg, this really helps to cut the calories down in this hearty stew. At just 36 calories a (125ml) glass (compared to an average of 158 calories for standard red wine). This wine is a great option for people counting their calories. Eisberg is available from a range of retailers including major supermarkets.

Recipe: Delicious slow cooked Beef in Red Wine

Note: We were sent the Eisberg wine for review purposes. All images and opinions are our own.