The Slow Cooker Secret

The Slow Cooker Secret
By Annette Yates and Norma Miller
Constable & Robinson – £7.99

It’s easy to think of a slow cooker as a one-way ticket to some sort of culinary cul-de-sac, which, to all intents and non-imaginary purposes, it (almost) is. Merely fill said implement with a menagerie of sassy ingredients, press the ‘on’ switch and then piss off down the pub for several hours, only to eventually stagger home with a view to tucking into a trite concoction of bland bravado, only to find that the house has burnt down.

In which case, ones’ nutmeg soufflé is of little consequence.
What could be easier?
Gastronomically negligent?
Benign even?

Well according to The Slow Cooker Secret by Annette Yates and Norma Miller, there really ought to be a whole lotta culinary shakin’ goin’ on at the end of one’s slow cooker rainbow. This is immediately made clear on page 7 of the book’s Introduction: ‘’This economical and versatile machine can be trusted to produce wonderful, traditional and innovative meals, ready just when you want them, while you go out and about doing other things.’’

Almost sounds too good to be true, and perhaps it is.

After all, when one thinks of the slow cooking process, one usually thinks of stews and casseroles, but I have to say, this book really does endeavour to open up a plethora of unthinkable alternatives. Namely such recipes as Warm Figs with Orange, Honey and Walnuts on page 20, Rice and Smoked Haddock on page 22, Chilli Venison with Chocolate (!) on page 30, Spanish Style Rice with Chicken, Mussels and Prawns on page 66, Lamb Chops on Caramelised Squash on page 80, and my own personal favourite, Mustard Chicken with Whiskey and Wild Mushrooms on page 84. Having pursued this particular recipe with a vengeance, I have to confess that the flavours of Scotland did indeed permeate the succulent chicken joints; although this may have had something to do with said joints being smothered in a whiskey and marmalade sauce.

That said, I did find the Weekend Porridge recommendation on page 16 a tad superfluous, especially as porridge only takes a few minutes to make at the best of times. And I wasn’t that convinced about some of the Asian Dishes. For instance, I found myself turning the heat to medium instead of the recommended low midway through cooking the Chicken Dahl (page 132), but this may admittedly be down to my cooker.

All in all though, I found The Slow Cooker Secret more than helpful; especially the Quick Check Recipe Index (whereby all recipes are grouped together according to their cooking times), the Vegetarian Section (Spiced Beetroot, Red Cabbage and Tofu??) and the Clever Extras on page 183. Perhaps it really is as the authors write on the back cover: ‘’You can cook far more than traditional soups and casseroles in your slow cooker. You can enjoy delicious dishes at any time of the day, from lazy breakfasts to cool cakes. Whether you’re feeding the family, entertaining friends or planning a romantic meal for two, there’s a recipe to suit every occasion.’’

David Marx


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