Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Sunday Slow-Cooking recipe #1

Anyone who owns a slow-cooker will understand how I feel about mine. There's a love and a reverence I feel for anything that will work through the day (or overnight even) to come up with a tasty meal and all I have to do is sling stuff into the pot.

Massive respect.

My slow-cooker hibernates through the summer but in winter it appears, sloughs off its coating of under-the-cupboard dust and gets back into the cooking of soups, stews, ragouts or chowders that the colder weather and my family demand.

My preferred approach to slow-cooking is that there should be as little preparation as possible. The use of cans, cubes, packets and any other pre-prepared ingredients may be a no-no to some, but for me it is the quintessence of the slow-cooking philosophy. Working mothers will understand that on the weekend, you need family-time and down-time and not 'six hours in the kitchen time'. Pre-prepared is good and is your friend.

So, what's currently simmering in the kitchen (and I mean that literally, I can smell it wafting into the study where I am currently typing) is a roasted red-pepper and tomato soup.  I am not sure how recipe-oriented this blog will turn out to be, but let's give it a go. 


A jar of roast red peppers, two tubs of tomato puree and two cans of tinned tomatoes.

I have no preference for my brand of puree or tinned toms. There just happened to be Ardmona on the shelves. I like to get the chopped tomatoes with added herbs, saves me having to dig around in the spice rack or spend $$$ on out-of-season herbs.

About 3 cups of chicken stock and half a bottle of white wine.

Sometimes I use vegetable stock (when I am cooking for vegetarian friends) but generally I think chicken is more flavoursome and it means that I don't have to add too much extra salt as the stock does it all for me. The wine is a cheapy from the local bottle-o. I went in and declared "I need white wine to cook with" and this is what the nice man gave me (it cost $10 and is perfectly okay for the cook to quaff while tossing ingredients into the slow-cooker). 

One onion, a lemon and three sticks of celery.

The onion will be chopped and fried, the lemon will be juiced and have the zest taken off and the celery simply chopped.

A handful of chopped coriander.

I am a recent convert to coriander. Previously, I felt it was too soapy and alkaline for my tastes but I am getting used to it slowly. If you are feeling more trad, you can use basil, fresh is best.

First up, you need to chop and fry the onion. This is the only pre-cooking that I do. I get the onion on the stove to sweat while I put the other ingredients into the pot, then when I am nearly done, I turn up the heat and let the onion get really dark and sweet. If I am feeling indulgent, I will put some sugar in to help the caramelisation process along.

I drain the peppers in the sink:
The chopped tomatoes and celery go in the pot with the drained peppers.

After that, the tomato puree and the coriander.

Then I get the juice out of and the zest off the lemon.

The onion is usually ready by now so it goes into the pan with the lemon zest. I add my 3 cups of chicken stock and my half-bottle of vino bianco.

Then I add the secret ingredient (not so secret as of now):

One of my favourite spices to cook with.

You can't go past the smokey, earthy aroma of powdered smoked paprika. For me, if a soup or casserole dish comes out a bit on the thin side, then this will save it every time. 

I like to put the slow-cooker on a low heat for 6 hours, but if you are pressed for time, high for 3 hours will also work out fine.

To whizz or not to whizz? A bit of a whizz in the blender - up to you whether you want yours very smooth, quite textured, or, as I did, somewhere in between. Once this is done, I decide how much sugar to add. You need the sugar to balance out the acidity from the tomatoes and the lemon (and this came out super lemony!).Some people like to add their sugar when they cook up the tomato paste, but I prefer to taste and add at the end.

Then into bowls with a dollop of creme fraiche and some more coriander.

And the end result!

A word on the bread. I am lucky enough to live within walking distance of one of Lawley's bakeries. Originally located in Mount Lawley, there are now enough branches around Perth to make it possible to get hold of nice bread very easily.

As it says on the bag, they also operate a pretty good cafe on their premises.
I chose a rosemary flat bread. There were sprigs of toasted rosemary scattered across the top of the loaf. It was nice and moist with lots of olive oil which soaked into the paper of the bag.

Can you see the paper glistening?

The best thing about this soup? Well, beyond being smokey, peppery, lemony and sweet, there was heaps of it left. It served 5 of us with generously-filled bowls on Sunday evening, plus I will be able to have some for work for three days this week. The only drawback about having it at work - I can't have a glass of wine on the side...

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