Saturday, 3 September 2011

New relationships can be difficult...

Our kitchen is pretty Spartan.  *Long pause………………………………….*  

Sorry, went off into a reverie about the real Sparta then…just pretty beautiful really.  Right. Back to the kitchen. We have a cooker and a fridge and a kettle (my mother’s old one, bogstandard white, mind of its own, boils itself up every so often just for the hell of it) and that’s it.  No really, it really is.
‘But, but, but….don’t you have appliances…’ stuttered someone on Twitter.  And the answer is, simply, no.
We did have a toaster but it blew up.  Okay, it didn’t blow up (I must stop exaggerating) – it just sort of went sulky and wouldn’t play.  Alright, let’s cut to the chase, it turned all coy virgin on us and wouldn’t open up its flaps to allow the bread in (and that may well be the first and last sexual metaphor for a toaster you’ll come across in your lifetime – and thank feck for that, you’re probably thinking).  We also had a popcorn maker which lasted all of a month before making a nasty smell and dying.  Umm, no, let’s not go there eh?

Maybe, I pondered, this is why I don’t really like cooking.  I simply don’t have the *stuff*.  But nah. I just don’t like cooking because, fundamentally, I can’t be arsed. At the risk of shocking a fair few of you foodie types, food is fuel, pretty much (apart from anything coffee-flavoured for which I make a lip-smacking exception). But generally I’d rather gaze into space than baste and stir and get my knickers in a twist over timing all for something that vanishes in under five minutes. And recipes are so bossy, so regimented.  Anyhow, I keep a perfectly good cook in the house and you don’t keep a cook and baste yourself, do you? ;)  
Would I be any different if I had a KitchenAid mixer or a Dualit toaster?  Highly unlikely - but, hey, if anyone cares to send me them I’m more than willing to give 'em a go. And Adrian is mad keen to get a posh coffee machine (hmm, coffee)....*sigh*
Therefore, when the nice PR asked if I’d like a crock-pot, my first reaction was to laugh.  And my second reaction was to snort.  ‘Nooo; they’re great,’ he said (I made up the nooo bit cos it improves the flow of the speech and, if I'm being very honest, he didn’t use a semi-colon either). ‘You just shove everything in and let it do its thing.’  Hmm.  Freeform. Laissez-faire. This sounded more like my idea of cooking.  ‘Oh, go on then,’ I said. Or rather, typed.  ‘Send it on over.’

Well. A few days later, I undid the parcel (having totally forgotten it was coming) and got it out.  I looked at it and it looked at me and we both had to hide our disappointment in one another. Isn’t the dream so often better than the reality? 
‘Shit, I’ve got the crap cook,’ I could hear it thinking.
‘Shit, you’re one ugly bastard,’ I thought to myself (not wanting to hurt its feelings by saying it out loud). 
But, honestly, it was; it is.  Really.  White. Plastic. Functional. Reminiscent of the 70s.  This, I thought, is why I don’t like gadgets.  They are just soooo fecking ugly and take up soooo much space.  So it sat on the kitchen table for several days, looking both mournful and accusatory.  Yeah, I've got a passive aggressive crock-pot.  We ate and tapped on our laptops around it, ignoring it, collectively hoping someone would take responsibility and do something with it. 

Outside the temperature was diving and it crossed my mind that, if nothing else, it might make a good chamber pot.  I tell ya, if ever an inanimate white plastic object could look hurt, that one did. ‘Okay, I’m sorry, alright. It was a crap (sorry again) idea.’
Then Adrian went off again (Brussels this time: yes, the man is single-handedly drinking his way around the world) and I figured that – this time – my child really shouldn’t live off pizza and the chippy.  Aha, I thought, winking suggestively at the crockpot. You. Me. Kitchen. Now. Hot date.  It looked wistfully hopeful. 

‘Vegetable chilli,’ Sessha had said firmly on Twitter when I asked what a vegetarian could cook in an implement designed for simmering meaty stews.  And I had vegetables aplenty thanks to Sarah Diggle’s organic veg box.  I checked the recipe.  Okay, so basically chop everything up and toss it in.  Yeah, even I could manage that and not lose too much staring time.
So I chopped and tossed.  Added chocolate (the only cooking tip you'll ever get from me).  And then I went off and forgot all about it until, around four hours later, instead of going ‘OH SHIT!’ as the smell of thrice-burned carbon gagged me, went 'Eh what the hell?' as something fragrantly and - um – distinctly edible – wafted up the stairs.  Who’da thought?  There it sat, smug and proud as anything, simmering its little white plastic heart out. 

‘What’s this?’ said James, looking suspiciously into his bowl and prodding.
‘Chilli,’ said I. 
‘Did you cook it?’ he said, furrowing his brow.

I paused. Pondered the right answer.  And then decided it was only fair.  Credit where credit’s due and all that.
‘Nope. The crockpot did.’
‘Oh, that’s alright then.’  And he stuck in his spoon and tucked in.

I raised an eyebrow at the crockpot as if to say ‘Pax?’ 
In return it made a noise that sounded suspiciously like a triumphant fart. 

Okay, seriously now.  I think CP and I may have some kind of future, I really do. Like all relationships, we just need to work at it and appearances can be deceptive, can't they?  But you foodie types will fall blindly in love, you really will.   Check out the website here.
And, get this, if you can come up with a seriously good slow cooker recipe you could win up to £3,500 of prizes. All you do is load up your recipe (plus pic) onto the Crock-Pot Facebook page here (before October 21) – and hope people *like* your recipe.  Relax, I won’t enter CP’s chilli – it wouldn’t be fair on the rest of you. 

What?  You want recipes?  Is there no end to your needs?  Sigh.  These are the ones CP really wants to cook.  We’re at a stand-off right now.

Beef Bourguignon (serves 6-8)
3 tablespoons flour
Sea salt and pepper
3 pounds beef chuck (bleugh, sorry, that sounds disgusting) – cut into 1-inch cubes
3 large carrots (peeled and sliced)
1 medium onion (sliced)
6 strips of cooked bacon (cut into pieces)
284ml beef stock
475ml red wine
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 crushed garlic cloves
3 springs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
450g mushrooms, sliced
2 large potatoes (cut into chunks)

Coat beef in flour seasoned with salt and pepper.  If you like, you can sear the beef on a skillet2.      Place meat in Crock-Pot® slow cooker and add remaining ingredients.
Cover and cook on Low for 8-10 hours or High for 5-7 hours, or until meat is tender.

Lemon Herb Roasted Chicken (serves 4-6)
1.8-2.7kg roasting chicken
1 onion
1-2 tablespoons butter
Juice of one lemon
½ teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons fresh parsley
½ teaspoon dried thyme (hmm why dried, when fresh is nicer?)
1 teaspoon paprika

Place the onion in the cavity of the chicken and rub the skin with butter. Place chicken in Crock-Pot® slow cooker.
Squeeze lemon juice over chicken and sprinkle with remaining seasonings. Cover and cook on Low 8-10 hours or High 4-5 hours.


Sessha Batto said...

Beef Bourguignon, huh - Lurch made that once without a crockpot . . . it took about 8 hours that way, too ;) See, I told you it was easy, I'm good at the lazy butt lifestyle!

Frances said...

Jane, I don't have any fancy appliances either, just the stove, fridge and a very basic toaster.

When cool weather comes, it's a fine time to make those sorts slow cooking casserole-ish meals. I just use my now vintage enamel-covered cast iron covered casserole pot. Yes, I might have to remove the lid and give the slowly cooking stuff a stir every hour or so, but ... it's easy. Always turns out delicious.

Best wishes to you and CP for a great future together. xo

Maggie Christie said...

Crockpots are fab until you (well, me) drop the berludy pot. I now have an oven with an S setting (stands for simmer not smug apparently) which does a similar thing. I used to make a big tomatoey sauce in mine which could then multi-task as anything from pizza topping to veggie stew to soup. I quite miss my Crack(ed)pot.

Lesley said...

Welcome to the world of the slow cooker. I don't know what i'd do without ours I'm not a 'gadget' lady, but chilli, bolognaise. coq au vin. You can't beat it. But my absolute triumph was steak and kidney pudding.! Even when i've steamed this in the way following my Mum's and Grandmums' recipe, it has never turnded out the way the slow cooker did. Can't describe the difference, but no soggy crust. Also, steamed puddings. #####################i don't eat them but appently they'delicious

Viv said...

I've been given all sorts of appliances as presents over the years. I use some, but some have seldom ever been touched.
My dad bought me a sewing machine when my daughter was a baby as my mum made most of my clothes when I was small. needless to say, it's hardly ever been used.
However, I am a good cook. I learned the hard way, with very basic stuff, and with a 2 ring baby belling cooker/oven. I made cakes and even soufles in that.
I'm not a foodie at all. I cook to eat and stay alive. I ought to be thin but I do like food, fills more than a mere physical void in me.
Enjoy the CP.

Alison Cross said...

I haz a kitchenaid whatzit and it is fire engine red. It has not miraculously made my baking any better, but it has made it more fun. So far, my baking maths for the purchase of said kitchenaid mixer works out at £200 per cake. Not brilliant, I think we'll all agree.

*decides to bake a cake per week*

A crock pot, on the other hand, sounds VERY useful. But I am not good with recipes and it will have to remain unwon by me ;-)


Tattieweasle said...

Need CP NOW have 30 for lunch tomorrow its meant to be a BBQ but it's going to rain. Thinkl I will hide in downstairs booze cupboard until they all go away!

Rob-bear said...

Slow cookers are so easy that even a Bear can use them. And a male Bear at that.
Just put in whatever — stew, baked beans, chilli — turn it on, and let it work. At the appointed time, your meal's ready to eat.
I already have a good stew recipe, but I'll check mine to yours. The chicken plan looks delightful; must try it soon.
Somehow, I think you're more domesticated than you let on.

K.C. Woolf said...

You've got to love appliances with a mind of their own. Or is your kitchen haunted?

I've never used a crockpot. It sounds like something you need to be patient for, which I'm not - yet!

(just a quick note to let you know I've passed you the 7x7 link award). Feel free to ignore it. :-)

Thinking said...


Beabarb said...

Funny I used mine today, first time in ages, just shoved a pork fillet in with stock & an onion, went out for hours & when I got home I added a sliced apple, a pack of some sort of pork casserole mix, by the time I'd shredded beans & mashed some spuds it was all done, only trouble is it looks like we will be eating it all week as it doesn't seem to have shrunk!!
Just add whatever to an appropriate amount (be mean, it doesnt evaporate!) of an appropriate liquid, stick the lid on - when you can smell it, it's probably done.

susie @newdaynewlesson said...

I make chulent in mine. :-0

the veg artist said...

Re chilli - only use tinned red kidney beans in the crockpot, unless you soak and RAPID BOIL FOR REQUIRED TIME the dried ones! Just saying - if you don't cook much, you may not know!

trisha said...

That nade me laugh! My rayburn serves as my crockpot, I could not live without it, bestest meals ever and warms my backside when I come in wet and cold. Our other most used appliance a nespresso machine, amazing coffee and looks pretty cool too x

Irene said...

If I didn't live on my own and had a very small appetite, I would invest in a slow cooker immediately. It sounds like the most savory way to cook and like you I'm a vegetarian and it would jazz up my meals. I like the fact that you can put all the ingredients in one pot and forget about it for hours.My mouth is watering just writing this.

Expat mum said...

Good grief woman. Get a hold of yourself. You're posting recipes do you realise? Actually, a friend of mine bought me a crock pot recipe BOOK recently and I don't have a CP. I'm now thinking I shouldn't have given mine away all those years ago.

Posie said...

So enjoyed catching up with your blog,your take on appliances is hilarious and in a like minded fashion our slow cooker (wedding present) is still in its packaging up in the loft....

DD's Diary said...

If you and CP fall out, I think I could welcome him with open arms at Divorce Towers. Strong, silent, does the cooking, what's not to like? Apart from the farts, of course .... xx

Baby Monitors Online said...

I've never tried using a slow cooker before, but I love how it's so simple to use.

Your post may have sold one to me!! I could do with a simple way to cook healthy meals, even if the appliance does the occasional fart! I guess I could put up with that ;)

Unknown said...

I have one sitting in storage in LA. Now you've made me miss it, what with the rain and all. I'll send you some of my veggie recipes when I get it.

You're a brilliant writer, if I haven't mentioned it lately.

Will said...

I've told you a million times not to exaggerate Jane.

Just commenting to help the statistics and keep the Twitter moaning down a bit ;-)

Veg Chilli sounds OK, I wonder if Guinea Pig chilli would work?

Piglet33 said...

I'm not cooking anythng that tells me to place an onion n a chicken's cavity. Sick, depraved crock-bot.But hope you will be very happy together. :)

More 4 Mums said...

I do love my slow cooker until I put the lid on the gas cooker ring and it shattered - oops ! Must think about a new one for the winter - stews, sauces and chicken all turn out fab. The best bit is you can leave them all day and not have burnt pans.