Jul 6, 2012

Comfort food

By Leah Ashton 

Chicken and Leek Pie (and yes, I was a dork with excess pastry)
I really like to cook, but I'm terribly inefficient about it. I don't really pre-plan what I'm going to cook, and I'm forever hitting my local supermarket as I've never been organised enough to weekly shop.

To add to this, I tend to be drawn to cooking things that take forever, and require me to be standing at the oven stirring things, or chopping vegetables for infinite periods of time, or using about five different pots.

For this reason, Sunday tends to be a really good day in my household - that's when I make yummy things like this Chicken and Leek pie or Slow-cooked beef stew with dumplings. Yummo!

But during the week, my after work efforts extend to cheese on toast (if husband is working) or terribly lazy things like store bought ravioli and a jar of pasta sauce. As I've been brought up on home cooked meals, this has started to bother me!

Slow cooked beef and dumplings
Last weekend I unearthed my underused slow cooker/crock pot. This, I decided, could be my saviour! Amongst working full time and writing, an appliance that means I don't have to try to do both at once (I generally write after work) is super, super appealing.

So I was wondering - does anyone have any tried and tested slow cooker recipes they can recommend? I tried one from this site last weekend, but it was a little bland. I tend to prefer recipes with a bit of a kick to then, or at least some strong flavours.

Or, just how about other quick and easy dinner ideas? My husband and I eat just about anything, but hearty, comfort food (particularly this time of year!) would be perfect!

My plan is to write up a shopping list, order our groceries on line, and then next week will be my "cook everyday" challenge. I reckon I can do it!

Thanks so much for your help!

Leah (the inefficient cook)


  1. Hi, Leah!
    How about quick and easy chili? Basically, it's lean ground beef, chopped red and green peppers, and ketchup, all mixed up and topped with shredded cheese. Takes less than 15 minutes.
    Details: I cook 1 or 2 pounds of lean ground beef at a time in a large pot on the stovetop (and obviously drain the grease from the meat - I actually run hot water over it all in a sieve). Add as many chopped red and green peppers as you can handle (we tend to cut up an entire red and an entire green pepper per 2 lbs of meat). (I also keep my peppers pre-chopped in my freezer, so I thaw them out in the microwave before adding to the pot.) Add "enough" ketchup (we prefer Heinz) to make a sauce consistent with how YOU like your chili sauce. No spices are needed, as the ketchup is "spicy enough" (at least for my family) with the peppers. Mix till hot. Serve with shredded (cheddar) cheese and/or buns.
    Bon appetit!

  2. Oh! How about "quick and easy meatloaf" too?
    Normally "quick" is not a word used to describe making meatloaf, as most recipes call for it to be cooked in the oven for over an hour and a half. Not this one.
    Take ANY of your meatloaf recipes and mix as written. Instead of putting into a loaf pan, though, spread the mixture into muffin trays. One pound of lean ground beef makes 10-12 "muffins" (or, as they call them in our household, "hockey pucks"). Top each "muffin" with a cube of cheddar cheese. Cook for 20 or more minutes in a 350-425 degree oven. (I make something else at the same time in the oven, and whatever temperature is required for that item is that temperature I use for the meatloaf. If I'm in a hurry, the tray goes on the bottom shelf for 15-20 minutes. If I'm cooking something for a long time, the tray goes on the middle shelf for 20-30 minutes. It is extremely flexible/forgiving.) I think we like it a lot because each "muffin" takes like a cheeseburger. I like it best because it doesn't heat my house for hours on end.

  3. Leah, I LOVE my slow cooker/crock pot! I'm away from home at the moment and don't have it with me so it's a bit hard for me to really share recipes but, seriously, pretty much ANY good basic casserole recipe that you like can be made in your crock pot.

    I generally try to make the gravy a bit thicker to put in at the start of the cooking cycle. Or you can reduce the fluid a bit.

    A good basic tasty dish (and easy - I like easy in the kitchen!) is cubes of lamb, cubes of potato, chopped onions, chopped bacon. A thickened stock over the top, then pretty much close the lid and open hours and hours later when you're ready to eat. I'm a sad food-problem person so I actually use vegemite as my stock "cube" when I'm making a casserole.

    Mmmm, I might try this recipe while we're camping... maybe in the Cobb cooker... not as easy as the crockpot but hopefully it will still work.

    I'm looking forward to seeing more of the easy recipes your commenters write in with! Easy in the kitchen is GOOD!

  4. Count me in the slow cooker devotee camp, Leah. Oh, the smell when you get home after being out all day -- mmm!

    Here's something I threw together last week when I was super busy:

    In slow cooker insert place a kilo of chicken thighs (chopped or not, depending on how much time and energy you have), a packet of taco seasoning, a jar of salsa dip and 1/4 cup water. Mix. Cook. Serve with rice.

    Next time I make this I mean to add sliced celery and carrot too...a can of kidney beans wouldn't hurt either. Hmm, pineapple, perhaps?

    :-) Have fun!

  5. Oh, why did I have to read this before dinner? I'm starving. Our quick evening meals are increasingly stir fries. Chop up a few veges, get the meat already cut to size and toss with seasoning - dead easy. Like you, Leah, I often cook on Sunday as there's more time. I find a nice simple soup in this weather is wonderful to provide a few meals through the week or maybe a super sized moussaka . Good luck with next week's challenge.

  6. Oh Laney, they sound awesome! Although I might need your help with some Australian translation :) By Peppers, do you mean what we call Capsicums? (Bell Peppers I think?) Or chilli peppers like this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chili_pepper ?

    I love the idea of the meatloaf in muffin tins, very clever! Will definitely try that one next week.

    Thank you!!

  7. Hi Leah,

    I'm a BIG fan of the slow cooker, too. ESPECIALLY when it only means one pot for the washing up. Here's one recipe that my family LOVE.

    7-8 chicken thigh (skins removed)
    2 Cans Campbell's condensed chicken soup
    Chopped carrots (quite chunky)
    Chopped potatoes (quite chunky)
    Add frozen peas about half an hour before eating.
    Cook on low for 6 hours, high for 4

    This is a lovely, old fashioned chicken casserole with a yummy gravy.

    A WORD OF WARNING...I've given this to lots of my friends and one mistook the condensed soup for condensed milk......she swears it was delicious...


  8. Sharon, I love the sound of the lamb and pototo dish, but I'm going to have to ask a dumb question - how do you add a thickened stock? How do you thicken it? (cornflour?). I'm also intrigued with how you use vegemite as stock! Please explain, I'd love to know!

  9. I made a Beef Curry for dinner tonight. That's very easy, tasty & nutritious. It's one of my one-pot-wonders.

    It's just whatever meat you like cut into small cubes, I remove ALL fat, toss in whatever vegetables you like. Add curry powder & salt to taste.

    I tend to simmer it all day, but you can make it the night before & refrigerate & then re-heat for dinner. The flavours are actually better.

    You can have rice with it or sometimes my daughter requests potato. I just toss cubed potato into the pot.

  10. Michelle, that sounds just like our type of thing! Yum! That's going on the list!

    How long does it need to cook?

  11. Thanks Annie! Any chance you'll share your moussaka recipe?? :)

  12. Barb, that sounds easy and delicious!!! Excellent. I might try that one tomorrow, thank you!

  13. Marybelle, do you need to add any liquid to that mix? What vegetables do you use? (can you tell I'm not a very adventurous cook? I like to follow recipes :) ).

  14. Leah,
    Yes, I meant bell peppers. I never even thought of chili peppers. That would be way too hot for me....

  15. Cool, thanks Laney! It can be confusing converting everything! I even googled to make sure that tomato ketchup is the same as what we call tomato sauce (it is, yay!).

  16. Hmm, how long? Conventional wisdom would probably say 8hrs on high or 4hrs on low. My slow cooker cooks a bit faster than that so I usually work on 6 - 7 hours (though still 4hrs on high).

  17. I Love my slow cooker Leah but I usually just bung whatever I feel like all it. Have learnt a can of tomato soup makes EVERYTHING taste good. REcently roasted beef in there and it was divine. If I recall, I browned the joint in the frying pan first. Chopped carrots, pumpkin, potato and onion (but you can use any veggies) and tossed them all in the bottom of the slow cooker with some beef stock and a packet of French Onion soup mix. Then I dumped the joint on top of all of this and came back eight hours later!! YUMMO!!

  18. Leah, I hope you get this.... Re chili recipe above. I forgot to type the most important ingredient: beans! I just used canned brown beans, but many people like kidney beans. I use 1 or 2 cans (I prefer 2 cans) per 1 lb of beef. I hope I haven't wrecked this for you. I only remembered tonight because I just made 10 lbs of it for a party we're hosting tomorrow. My husband loved it and I realized 2 hours later that there weren't any brown beans in it. YIKES! Thankfully, I can still add the beans tomorrow morning when I heat up the chili, but I am totally embarrassed right now that I led you astray. Many apologies....