Sunday, 22 February 2015


Beef Goulash
February has been a cold month here. We had a fairly mild Christmas, but the cold came in January and has continued throughout February. We've had no snow worth talking about, but the cold and damp just creeps into your bones. At work, we have a visitor from Pennsylvania, where the temperatures are much lower than Galway; but she says she has never felt so cold before.

So, having a recipe for a delicious, warming dish, such as this Goulash, is a real bonus. There's nothing quite like coming home from the cold, wind and rain/sleet/hail to find an amazing pot of warmth and goodness just waiting for you.

Once again, this is based on a recipe from Miss South's Slow Cooked - a veritable treasure trove of recipes. I had to make some changes because I didn't have quite the right ingredients, but I'm putting that right for the next time.


Cut about 500g stewing beef (I used round steak) into cubes and toss it is 1tbsp flour. Put this in the crock pot with 1 onion, chopped, and 2 garlic cloves, cut up small. I used 75g peppers from a jar, mixed with a tin of tomatoes, blended in a food blender with 2tbsp paprika and 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper. Add this paste to the meat in the crock pot and mix well. The recipe calls for smoked paprika and alway 1tsp caraway seeds - which I didn't have.

Add another tin of tomatoes (I used tinned cherry tomatoes, but the recipe calls for plum) and a beef stock cube. Make sure the meat is covered and add some hot water if necessary (I didn't).

I did all this the evening before cooking, and left the pot in the fridge overnight. Next morning I took it out, and left it cooking on LOW for the day, about 10 hours. When I came home, I cooked up a pot of  potatoes for mashing.

The Outcome

This dish was just what we needed on a cold, wet Friday evening. The beef was cooked perfectly, meltingly tender. The tomato-based sauce was rich and thick. The flavour wasn't as full as I expected, but I suspect that the inclusion of smoked paprika and caraway seeds would have made all the difference. I've since purchased both and will make the dish again very soon - the forecast for March doesn't indicate that the weather will improve anytime soon. The cayenne pepper added a nice bite, warming the dish without making it spicey.

The Verdict

We all enjoyed this meal. The kids picked out the obvious whole cherry tomatoes, but otherwise ate up all the rich tomato sauce, oblivious to the presence of peppers. Pure comfort food.

Perfect Mince

Here's an interesting little recipe, very simple, but tasty. It's perfect for the sort of day when you just have no time. It certainly has an echo of childhood dinners. You can see from the photo that it's not in the least bit fancy, but sometimes that's just what you need. I could see this as a great meal for somebody who has been ill and just needs a bit of building up. We served it with rice, but actually mince and potatoes would be ideal comfort food.

Again, it's based on a recipe from my new favourite book, Slow Cooked by Miss South.


This takes almost no time to prepare, it just requires boiling the kettle and could easily be done in the morning before heading out to work. I usually make myself a cup of tea first thing, so just make sure there's enough in the kettle to make up 200ml beef stock as well.

Put about 500g beef mince in the crock pot and sprinkle over 2tbsp flour, giving it a quick mix with a fork to break up lumps and coat the meat. Make up the 200ml of beef stock and stir in 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce, 1 tsp tomato purée and 1/2 tsp soy sauce, or adjust quantities to taste. We quite like Worcestershire sauce in our house, so I probably added a bit more than 1 tsp. Also, if you're really in a rush and can't be bothered to get out the measuring spoons, I wouldn't worry too much about measuring these at all.

Pour the stock mixture over the mince and stir again. Leave it cooking on LOW for 8 hours.

The Outcome

There's very little added to the mince in this recipe, nothing to bulk it out. The mince is beautifully cooked and has a great flavour, but I'd really recommend serving with some vegetables. I think it's just calling out for peas, which could be mixed in just before serving, or a side portion of carrots or brocolli. A side salad would go well either. Our serving, with just rice, was a little sparse. Ms Fussy Eater wasn't with us the evening we had this (her first disco - the excitement!) and we had just enough for 3 adults, with no leftovers.

The Verdict

Mr Teenager, of course, was delighted with the absence of vegetables! His portion disappeared in about 2 minutes, with absolutely nothing left on the plate. Hubby and I both enjoyed the simplicity of the meal, and especially the lack of any fuss.

Pulled Pork

Pork is certainly something that works extremely well in the crock pot. We often return to the recipe for Mexican Pull-Apart Pork, with some variations, and serve it with rice, mashed potato or flour tortillas. It is delicious, and doesn't require too much preparation. But this recipe for Pulled Pork from Miss South's Slow Cooked is even easier. Despite the very simple ingredients, the flavour is delicious. I've made it twice already in the last month. For some reason, though, I haven't managed to take a picture yet. Maybe because it gets eaten so quickly.


Slice 2 onions thinly and place these in the bottom of the crock pot with 4 cloves of garlic - peeled, but no need to chop or crush. Mix 4 tbsp tomato purée with a little water and rub the paste all over the pork. I used a simple pork fillet, trimmed of any excess fat. Put the pork on top of the onions in the crock pot and then pour over a tin of chopped tomatoes. Finally, sit a little star anise on the top.

Cook the pork on LOW for about 8 - 10 hours - this is a perfect meal if you're out at work for the full day. Lift the pork out of the pot and shred it using two forks - this will be really easy. Then put it back into the sauce, star anise removed, and stir to get the meat covered. Serve with whatever you like - rice, potato or flour tortillas.

The Result

This is so easy and so delicious. The pork is tender and melt-in-the-mouth. It's real comfort food. We had it with plenty of mashed potato and both children really enjoyed it. There was plenty for a family of 4 hungry people, with a little bit leftover for hubby to take for lunch during the week.

The Verdict

Absolutely no complaints from anybody. Mr Teenager left behind a few of the more obvious lumps of tomato, but otherwise we had 4 clean plates.

Chickpeas and Beetroot Hummus

Miss South's book Slow Cooked (as mentioned in my last post) is rapidly becoming a favourite in my house. I really like the no fuss approach to using the slow cooker and there has been very little preparation for the dishes so far.

I was intrigued to find out that I could cook chick peas in the crockpot. I've done it twice now. It's incredibly easy and could be done overnight or on a day when you're just not using the slow cooker. Basically, put 200g of dried chickpeas in the pot, add 500ml of boiling water, and leave it cooking on HIGH for 8 hours.

The chickpeas are not coming out as plump as I was expecting, but they have a lovely firm texture, unlike the slightly mushy ones that come in a tin. In the last hour, they do tend to start sticking to the side of the pot, but are not exactly burnt - more caramelised.

They make a wonderful hummus! I've made the hummus from Miss South's book and it is deliciously chunky, lemony and garlicky. I tried taking it to work for lunch but I completely stunk out my office and couldn't talk to anyone for the whole afternoon. So, probably safer to share with a loved one in the privacy of your own home.

I cooked another batch yesterday and intend to make a Beetroot Hummus with it - suitable for a packed lunch at work. The ingredients aren't exact - basically blend up the cooked beetroot and chickpeas in a blender, add some lemon juice and fresh coriander or mint. Spice up with some fresh chilli. You can thin it out with a little plain yoghurt, if you like. This keeps perfectly well in the fridge for a couple of days.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Balsamic beetroot

I haven't posted recently, but that's not because we haven't been using the slow cooker! On the contrary, we have used it probably at least twice a week since New Year. We've just been revisiting some recipes. The Best Whole Chicken has now been declared Ms Fussy Eater's favourite meal - to the extent that she requested it (with chips) for her birthday meal recently. We also return frequently to the chilli recipe, as well as Mexican Pork and also Pork and Pepper ragu.

But it's time to start experimenting again. On Sunday I was browsing in Eason and I came across a new recipe book called Slow Cooked by Miss South (who also has a food blog). I leafed through it, wondering whether to purchase or not. But then I came across this idea for cooking beetroot - and I was sold. 

I adore beetroot, it's definitely one of my favourite vegetables - but not the doused-in-vinegar kind. One of my favourite restaurants in Galway, Ard Bia, often has beetroot on the menu, and I will always go for it. I recently started making a beetroot hummus, which is healthy and tasty. This week, while grocery shopping, I found some fresh, uncooked beetroot, and bought it. I thought I might try roasting it, until I found the new cookery book. Cooking beetroot in the crock pot is a no-brainer. It's perfect for that long, slow cooking, which brings out the sweet flavour of the beetroot. 

Balsamic Beetroot

I used about 500g of uncooked beetroot, stalks removed. It was already well-cleaned and didn't require any scrubbing. I cut the raw beetroot into quarters, with the biggest one cut into 8. This went into the crockpot, and mixed up with 1tsp vegetable oil, 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar and a good shake of dried thyme. 

While hubby and I went out to the cinema, I left the crockpot cooking on HIGH for about 4 hours. 

The Outcome 

When we got back from the cinema, there was a fabulous smell in the kitchen. I had forgotten about the beetroot, so it was lovely to be welcomed back to such an aroma. The beetroot was a beautiful deep red colour and it looked just gorgeous sitting at the bottom of the crockpot. I scooped the chunks out of the pot and let it cool a little before putting it in the fridge in a Tupperware container. Of course, I had to try a chunk, and it was just perfect. 

The Verdict

To be honest, I am really the only person in the house who appreciates this. Hubby could take it or leave it, while Ms Fussy Eater and Mr Teenager will actively avoid beetroot. All the more for me!

I took some slices today, with some homemade oat bread, for my lunch at work. What a treat! I might use some to make hummus, before the end of the week, but then again it might not last that long.