Nice and slow

I never used to see the point in slow cookers. Occasionally someone would offer me one they didn’t want anymore, but I figured I’d rarely, if ever, remember to set it going in the morning. However, when I  was buying my super fancy all singing & dancing ice-cream machine it was on special offer; buy it and get a  nice shiny slow cooker for free! Not a bad bargain really.

It turns out that a slow cooker is great for those days when you know you’ll be too tired or busy to cook later, and is the best way for cooking cheaper cuts of meat to tender perfection.

I rarely, if ever, remember to put it on early enough.

GoodFood Slow Cooker Favourites Edited by Sarah Cook. BBC  Books, 2011.

A collection of recipes first published in the BBC Good Food magazine, most of which seem to have been adapted for a slow cooker, rather than having been written for one.

Why did you buy it?

Because I had a brand new, shiny slow cooker. I also trust BBC Good Food recipes because they are thoroughly tested, unlike many other recipe books.

Do you use it?

Yes. A few of the recipes are family favourites, though to be fair I saw them in the magazine first.

Judge a book by its cover…

Meh, it’s fine.

So, what did you make?

I tried to do something from each section, starting with breakfast:

Honey crunch granola. Nice enough, but not wildly exciting. Certainly not worth the hassle of making in a slow cooker when it would have taken a fraction of the time done the usual way. It was taking forever to crisp up; eventually I got bored and finished it off in the oven.

Apple spice tea loaf. I like a nice tea loaf, spread with butter, yummy. You were supposed to put the loaf tin INSIDE the cooker. Nope, didn’t fit. Who has a slow cooker that big anyway? Decided to cook it in the main ‘bowl’ (?). To cut a long story short, it was not a tea loaf, it was a pudding. We ate it with custard.

Duck and pineapple red curry was very good, well suited to slow cooking, as was the sticky spiced lamb.

The easy kedgeree was horribly stodgy; that, and the haddock with chorizo (which was nice but not cooked properly) would both have been better off being cooked in a pan.

For dessert we had hot chocolate mousse and banana rice pudding. Rice pudding is fine done in the slow cooker, but you can’t walk off and leave it; there’s a very fine line between al dente and overcooked, you need to be there to support it during it’s transition.

Is it worth buying?

There are several excellent recipes in this book, but they tend to be the ones that cook slowly in the first place, rather than those that have been adapted. There are certainly worse books on the market.

Is it still in print?

It’s still available second hand or via kindle, though I believe the books were rebranded a while back so might be available under a different name.

Clotted Cream Cake

Buttered Crumbs has not had a holiday for years. O, to be in Cornwall, land of clotted cream, having a proper cream tea.

Or a big slice of clotted cream cake. Using clotted cream instead of butter, and the seeds from a vanilla pod, it tastes just like ice cream in cake form, what’s not to love? Serve with more cream and some strawberries (quartered, sprinkled with a little sugar and left for half an hour to develop some syrupy juice) for an extra special treat.

Clotted Cream Cake (from a recipe in The Great British Book of Bakes)

  • 2 eggs
  • 225g caster sugar
  • a vanilla pod
  • pinch of salt
  • a tub of clotted cream (around 225g usually)
  • 200g self raising flour

Pre-heat the oven to 170°c/150 fan. Grease and line a loose bottomed/springform cake tin.

Whisk the eggs and sugar together until thick and mousse like. Stir the cream until it becomes runny. Scrape the seeds out of the vanilla pod and add them to the eggs.

Add the cream and salt to the eggs and whisk until only just combined.

Fold in the flour with a metal spoon until just combined. Transfer the mixture to the cake tin and bake for 30 to 40 minutes. If the top gets brown before the cake is cooked, cover with a sheet of baking paper (not foil). Cool on a wire rack.

It’s jam first in Cornwall, cream first in Devon

Garden Party Ice-Cream

Many people have a romantic view of the past; there is a word for it, which for the life of me I can’t remember, meaning a yearning for a past time, a golden age, which perhaps never really existed.

For me it’s the inter-war period – the twenties and thirties – which I tend to view through rose tinted glasses, mainly because all of my knowledge has been gleaned through British novels of the time, 90% of which are dectective stories from the likes of Agatha Christie and Margery Allingham. There may be a body in the library, but there are garden parties, house guests, afternoon teas and the feeling of an endless English summer, populated by independant young women and handsome heroes making eyes at each other in a secluded area of the vicarge garden.

Who needs reality anyway? Forget your troubles for an hour or two with a classic novel and a big bowl of homemade ice cream that tastes like a dream of summertime; layered with strawberry sauce, studded with shortcake and meringue, drizzled with a cheeky lemon syrup, and no cyanide, sparkling or otherwise.

First published July 2019

Garden Party Ice Cream

For the ice cream:

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 300ml milk
  • 80g sugar
  • 300ml double cream
  • 1 tsp cornflour
  • 1/2 tin of condensed milk
  • 6 shortbread biscuits
  • meringue – either made using the left over egg whites or a couple of bought meringue nests.
  • 500g fresh strawberries
  • 1tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp sugar

First chop the strawberries and put them in a saucepan with the lemon juice. Heat gently until the berries are soft, mash them a little, then stir in the sugar. Allow to cool then pop in the fridge.

Break the biscuits and meringue into chunks (if you made your own using the left over egg whites, you will need about 1/4 of it. The rest can be used as a garnish later). Chill the chunks in the freezer.

Put the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour in a bowl and whisk to combine. Heat the milk to boiling point.

Pour the milk onto the egg yolks, whisking the whole time. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and heat gently, stirring the whole time with a wooden spoon or spatula (the whisk won’t make enough contact with the bottom of the pan, risking a burnt and lumpy custard) until the custard has thickened to the consistency of cream and remove from the heat.

Pour into a large jug and add the double cream and condensed milk. Cool in the fridge.

Make the ice cream following the instruction for your machine. If you don’t have an ice cream machine you can pour the custard into  a 1.5 litre tupperware container and put it in the freezer. Every couple of hours, stir with a fork to break up large ice crystals. When it is fairly thick but still stirable, add the ripple as below.

When the ice cream is ready and working quickly, spoon half of the mixture into a tupperware type container, spread with spoonfuls of strawberry sauce and sprinkle over half of the chunks. Repeat for a second layer. Using a palette knife or simliar, ripple the two mixtures together. Don’t overdo it or it will lose the ripple effect!

Freeze for a few hours or overnight.

Meanwhile make the optional lemon syrup.

Lemon Syrup

  • 400g golden caster sugar
  • zest and juice of 6 lemons, preferably unwaxed.
  • 200ml water

Sterilise a large glass jar or bottle and keep it hot. This can be done in the oven at around 120 degrees, in the dishwasher if you have one, or by heating in boiling water. Wear rubber gloves to avoid burns.

Put the sugar and water into a saucepan and heat very gently until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 mins

Add the juice and zest and simmer for another 5 mins.

Very carefully pour into the hot bottle. It has to be hot, otherwise the heat of the syrup will cause it to crack. Remember boiling sugar is INCREDIBLY HOT, please be careful and keep pets and children out of the way.

Allow to cool, then keep in the fridge. As well as a dessert topping you can add soda water to the syrup for a refreshing drink.

Strawberries aren’t actually berries but “accessory fruits”.