About four years ago my Mum convinced me I needed a slow cooker in my life and so I began the search for a little crock pot suitable for a couple. I was tremendously excited when it arrived. So excited it remained on a shelf for many years gathering dust. You see I had completely misled myself. I had convinced myself you throw the ingredients in the pot, stick it on low and then come home from work to a delicious and hearty meal.

This is obviously the point of a slow cooker but I had completely missed you need to cook some of the ingredients first. Who wants to fry off their onions while they’re putting their face on in the morning?! I also discovered most concoctions needed around six hours to cook which didn’t suit my usual working patterns.

However, at the start of this year I decided to give the slow cooking malarky another whirl. My cooker is very old school with just a high and low setting. I don’t have a timer or any other fancy wizardry which is a shame as I would probably use it a lot more if I had the ability to set it to come on six hours before I was expecting to return home. My version doesn’t seem to be available anymore but it’s very similar to this VonShef slow cooker; 1.5 litre capacity which has a removable dish to take straight to the table if you so wish.

Clearly I’m a complete novice and I need all the advice you lovely lot can throw at me. So far I’ve only tried three recipes and I have to say they’re not bad. Each of them needs some refining but our Thai Red Lentil Curry, Butternut Squash and Blue Cheese Risotto and Cauliflower Dahl have all had the thumbs up. The last two dishes are from a Sainsbury’s book where all the recipes need five or less ingredients as well as a few store cupboard essentials.

So far I’ve learned a few things

  • A slow cooker doesn’t really save much time but it does help to use your time more effectively. For example it’s much more convenient for me to prepare Sunday night’s dinner in the morning. And you feel extra smug knowing you’ve already got the dinner covered.
  • You can throw in onions without cooking them first, though they do remain a little ‘firm’. I’ve been cooking mine the night before and then sticking them in the fridge.
  • I was under the impression you’d need loads of stock or liquid if something was bubbling away for hours on end. Turns out it’s like a vacuum in the crock pot and so liquid doesn’t really reduce. I’ve been filling mine to about two thirds full so it doesn’t leak.
  • Apparently having a good neb of your dish increases cooking time by about 20 minutes as the heat escapes, so resist the urge to lift the lid and take a peek inside.
  • All my meals have been veggie so far but I’ve read to put root vegetables near the bottom and meat near the top. Ingredients such as rice, pasta and herbs don’t need to cook for the full time and can be added part way through.
  • As I said I really am a beginner at this lark so would love it if you would drop your comments, tips and tricks for using a slow cooker. What are you favourite recipes and how do you use yours?

    Oh and apologies for the ever so slightly random image. I thought a pic of my slow cooker on its own wasn’t particularly inspiring so instead you can see where I store mine. I say ‘see’ but it’s hiding behind the leg of my trolley. Well it’s kitchen related at least….