Monday, 29 December 2014

Spiced beef

According to wikipedia Spiced beef is a cured and salted joint of rump or silverside beef, which is traditionally served at Christmas or the New Year in Ireland.

I remember eating spiced beef as a child, it was always a Christmas special, though not usually eaten on Christmas day. Downey's butchers in Terenure, near where I grew up, was known for its spiced beef, and it was a favourite of my father's. In the last few years, I have usually cooked a spiced beef in the run up to Christmas, and it is a special dinner. This year I bought it from James Whelan butchers, planning to cook it on the 23rd December, when the family (including my mother) would be together to enjoy it.

It was my mum who suggested I try cooking it in the slow cooker. I was afraid that it might get a little overdone, but since I was at work on the 23rd, and I didn't want her to have to cook it, I decided to give it a try - and I'm glad I did. This is definitely how I'll cook it in future.


This took almost no preparation at all. I chopped up two onions and put them at the bottom of the crock pot, and set the spiced beef on top. I then poured over a 500ml can of Guinness. I put the lid on the cooker, set it to cook on low and left it for 8 hours.

Shortly before eating, we prepared some mashed potato and some peas - because we were too lazy to prepare any other vegetables.

The Outcome

The spiced beef was absolutely as it should be, and certainly not overcooked. It was tender and full of flavour - not at all dried out. The mashed potato was a perfect pairing.

The Verdict

If you can get your hands on a good piece of spiced beef, this is absolutely the way to cook it. Between the 5 of us, we finished off every piece. Ms Fussy Eater cut off all of the delicious spices, of course, but that's her choice. The Teenager had no such qualms and ate his dinner heartily.

No pictures, I'm afraid.

Beef curry II

A couple of weeks back, in mid-December, it was getting cold and dreary, with short days and not a lot of light even during daylight hours. I had a wanting for a decent beef curry and thought I'd see what I could do with the slow cooker. I looked up a few recipes, but couldn't find exactly what I wanted. I did consider the beef curry from back in September, but I wanted something different - good as that was.

In the Australian Women's Weekly easy slow cooking I found a recipe for massaman beef curry which looks great in the accompanying photo, but it uses peanut oil and includes roasted peanuts in the ingredients. With two nut allergy sufferers in the house, it just isn't suitable. But I liked the idea of using coconut milk and I always have a selection of curry paste in the house. So, I decided to make my own version.

Beef curry served with rice

I sliced up two onions and fried them until brown in a small amount of (olive) oil. They then went into the bottom of the crock pot. I then browned about 600g round steak, cubed, in the large frying pan and added 2 tbsp rogan josh curry paste. This I stirred for about 1 minute until the beef was well coated with paste. I added the beef to the crock pot along with 1 can of low-fat coconut milk, a chicken stock cube, a cinnamon stick and two bay leaves. Finally, I cut 3 medium potatoes into cubes and mixed them in.

The crock pot was left to cook on low for about 8 hours. After that time, the cinamon stick was discarded and I added 1 tbsp light brown sugar and 1 tbsp fish sauce. We served the curry, as in the picture, with some brown rice.

The Result

This was a really good curry. The meat and the potato both held their shape and texture, while the sauce was spicey with a good kick. The coconut milk gave a good balance without being sweet in any way. Eating it with the rice was probably a little bit carb-heavy, but given the miserable, wet, cold, dreary weather, I think we could do with a little more carbs.

The Verdict

Hubby and Mr Teenager really enjoyed this meal and both went back for more. Ms Fussy Eater was pleased to discover that the obvious chunks of vegetables were actually potato and not anything more sinister (such as squash or parsnip). The sauce was smooth without being creamy, so she was happy enough to mix it into her rice. We all appreciated the extra warmth of the sauce.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Chicken Burrito Bowls

I'm not a big Pinterest user. I created an account a couple of years ago, but have never found a real use for it. It seems quite useful as a bookmark tool, for interesting websites, but only if the site of interest has an image associated with it. More recently though, I've found a good use for it in collecting recipes of interest. I've created a board just for Slow Cooker Recipes, and whenever I come across an interesting recipe I pin it to the board. Then, when I'm planning meals for the week, I have a growing collection of recipes to try.

This recipe for Chicken Burrito Bowls I came across some weeks ago and have been meaning to try. The recipe is pinned from Slow Cooker from Scratch, but the full recipe is from the kitchn. The recipe involves two stages, with the rice being added later in the process. Normally I wouldn't be able to do this, so I noted that the version on the kitchn recommends cooking the rice separately if necessary.

On Wednesday, hubby and I took the day off to go Christmas shopping, so it was an ideal opportunity to try this out. The preparation was dead easy, no pre-cooking or browning, simply throw everything in. When we got in, later that day, I decided to just add the rice to the crock-pot and turn it to high for about an hour. This approach worked a treat.


On Wednesday morning, I put all the ingredients, apart from the rice, into the crock pot. These were: about 5 chicken breasts, a tin of chopped tomatoes, a chicken stock cube, 2tsp hot chilli power, 1tsp each salt and cumin, a tin of black beans, a handful each of frozen corn and frozen peas. I gave it all a bit of a stir and left the crock pot to cook on low for about 7 hours.

When we came home, I considered cooking the rice separately, but I could see a lot of juice in the crock pot and thought it would be much nicer to cook the rice in that. So, I added about 240g brown rice, again stirred it up, then switched the crock pot to high. Less than an hour later it was ready.

The Outcome

As expected, the chicken was well cooked and could be easily broken up into chunks and shreds in the pot. The rice had absorbed all the juice, and so we ended up with something quite substantial. The beans, corn and peas added some colour and texture to the dish. The flavour was good and I think we were all quite suprised at how tasty it all was.

The Verdict

Three of us really like the dish: simple, easy and tasty as it was. We covered our rice mixture with grated cheese, and hubby and I added a little quacamole and sour cream. Hubby declared it all to be delicious, and just what was needed after a day's Christmas shopping in the cold and rain. Mr Teenager didn't utter a word as he finished off a large bowl and went back for more. He didn't seem to notice the black beans and corn, which he would ordinarily have turned up his nose at. Only Ms Fussy Eater lived up to her name. She had a cold coming on and was probably not feeling too hungry anyway. She picked a little at her chicken but wouldn't eat anything else.

Unfortunately I didn't get a photo this time, but do take a look at the pin.