Slow cooking without a slow cooker.

Winter is here. Time to get out the slow cooker and cook up some warming stews and curries…  Oh, wait a minute, I don’t have a slow cooker. I have meant to get one,  but I don’t really have the space to store one.

If that sounds familiar than you will be happy that after about 30 seconds of research however,  I have discovered I don’t even need one. I have a large cast iron casserole dish, I can just use that (maybe I am a bit slow, but I never really thought of that before). After all a slow cooker is just a mini oven? So as I have learned I can just follow the same recipe and then set the oven on about 200°f or 250°f if the calls for the higher heat setting.

Of course the jury is still out when it comes to the additional cost of leaving my oven on for eight hours. I know it will cost almost three times as much if I had an electric oven but  I have a gas oven and can’t find any comparison… I am sure however, that unless you are going to be using slow cooker recipes every day, it is really going to be that noticeable, so until I can find space for a slow cooker to be stored when not in use I will just use the good old oven method.

Caramelised Cranberry Relish

This is a recipe that I posted a couple of years ago, but I thought I would re-post it, so you can all start getting ahead of the big feast without searching through my archives.

I know Christmas is still weeks away, and I also know that December can fly by faster than Superman on his way to meet Lois Lane when we are busy. It is for this reason that I have decided to get ahead of the Christmas dinner game and prepare my Cranberry Relish now. It only takes ten minutes to make, so I probably could have made it on the day, but why would I want to do that when I could be relaxing with kids?

This recipe will keep well in the fridge for a couple of weeks, but I have chosen not to take any chances. I am making it now and freezing it. Then I can just pop it out a few days in advance (I will be setting a reminder on my phone so I don’t forget) and it will be ready to go with my turkey dinner on the big day.

Carmelised Cranberry Relish

  • Skill level: Easy
  • Preparation time: 5 minutes
  • Cooking time: 10 minutes
  • Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1 red onion, finely diced
  • Knob of butter
  • 1 large orange
  • Thumb sized piece of ginger, finely sliced into matchsticks
  • 100g/4oz caster sugar
  • 500g/1lb cranberries (fresh or frozen)
  • splash of Port (optional)

Method

  1. Use a zester to zest the orange, or use a speed peeler to peel off the zest then finely shred it with a knife and set aside with the ginger.
  2. Halve and juice the orange. Tip the orange juice into a shallow saucepan and boil gently with the sugar until you get a light amber-orange caramel.
  3. Scatter the zest and ginger into the caramel, cook for 1 minute, then tip in the cranberries and port if using. Cook everything on a high heat for 5 minutes until the cranberries are starting to split but still have texture. Leave to cool and serve with the turkey.

This recipe will keep for a few weeks in the refrigerator, or can be frozen for up to a month.

Click here for a printable copy of this recipe

Stress Free Christmas Dinner Plan; Get Ahead

The menu is planned, your shopping is ordered, and timetable is complete, so now is the time to start getting ahead. For every minute you spend getting ahead, it is one more minute you can spend relaxing and enjoying your company on Christmas day.

Many parts of your meal can be prepared beforehand, stuffing can be made and then frozen, or stored in the fridge for a couple of days, your cranberry sauce can be made the week before, or even weeks before and then frozen. This will free up time and oven space on Christmas day, just remember to take everything out of the freezer with enough time to let it thaw.

Over the next few days I will share with you some of the recipes I have used for the last few years which I have successfully prepared in advance.

So what are you waiting for, get those cook books out and start planning.

The Stress Free Christmas Dinner Plan; The Timetable

You’ve completed your menu, made your list, checked it twice and filled your refrigerator, cupboards and freezer to the max. Life is peachy, all you have to do is wait for the big day and cook away… right?

Perhaps if you are a Christmas dinner veteran, very lucky, or super organised you could get away with it. If however, you are like me, than it is better to quickly jot down a timetable, to make sure everything runs to plan. Afterall, the last thing you need is the stress of your little ones asking over and over if dinner is ready on Christmas day, because you forgot to put the roast potatoes in the oven.

Of course I am not saying you have to get out a clipboard and a stopwatch, my timetable is pretty basic, but it works. I simply decide (or am told) what time dinner is to be served and then work backwards. Then I add an extra half hour to cover any mishaps, and I end up with something that looks like this:

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The Stress Free Christmas Dinner Plan; The List

So you’ve made your menu and you’ve booked marked all the recipes.  Now you need to get all those recipes to hand and make the list. Write down every last ingredient you need, and every piece of equipment. Then like Santa Claus go over that list again. Once you are happy, take your list, and put it in your hand bag or coat pocket and start picking up every item you can. Fill your store cupboards, your freezer, your shed or wherever you keep your food until everything is ticked off the list. Then check the list and your stores to ensure it is all present and accounted for; trust me the last thing you need to be doing Christmas Eve is trying to find a turkey.

When your list is done, then you can grab yourself a glass of your favourite beverage and relax, safe in the knowledge that you are almost ready to conquer Christmas dinner stress free.