I never had a slow cooker until last Autumn when I was trying to trim some pennies from the family budget and wanted to have a way to make nice food that didn't involve me doing lots of work or jars of sauce. I never use them, for the record. I am the woman that makes makes nearly everything from scratch without jars, packet mixes or the like. I make an exception for pesto though I do make that occasionally too.
In my local Asda, I found a bargain. A full size slow cooker for £7. I snapped it up. Since then, I've been experimenting with it and have had some hits and misses. One thing is for sure, I still need to get the liquid side of things right. I have ended up adding what feels like half a packet of cornflour just to thicken recipes to an acceptable levels as I hate really thin sauces. It's not helped that the one thing the slow cooker didn't come with is a recipe book so largely, I am feeling my way. The internet has been a great source but I do like my recipe books.
For Easter, I got a slow cooker recipe book. Yes I know, but I don't really do chocolate, me and anyway, I'm trying to be good. It's called "200 slow cooker recipes" by Hamlyn. Now, I dont think my quest for the perfect slow cooker book is out there but it does contain some nice things. I've already made Baked Ham in Cola from the book which was a big success, but another that caught my eye was Sausages in Onion Gravy. Now, I'm normally a grill them or casserole them kinda girl so I thought this would be nice as a change, particularly as I don't really do gravy well; at least, I don't think so.
The thing I have definitely learned from this book is that if you add liquid to a recipe, it must be hot. Now I know why many's a time I've had to turn it up to High at lunchtime to ensure it cooks properly in time for our evening meal. But no recipe I'd seen until now actually mentioned it so perhaps it fell into the category of "Unwritten Rules Of Slow Cookers That Nobody Talks About Because Everyone Knows Them. " Or not, or perhaps just me. Still, it's made a difference. I do have to remember that I'm cooking in the morning but the feeling that it's all under control and sorted when you get to the end of the day, particularly if the children are being, erm, challenging.
Here is the recipe. It suggests "gourmet" flavoured sausages but I just used a pack of decent quality sausages that were in my freezer. By decent quality, I mean ones that didn't shrink down to half the size and fill the pan with grease when I browned them. In fact, the ones I've used barely rendered any fat at all so you do need to add the oil to get some colour on the sausages.
Sausages in Onion Gravy
1 tbsp sunflower oil
8 sausages such as Toulouse or Sicilian
2 red onions, halved and thinly sliced
2 tsp light muscovado sugar
2 tbsp plain flour
450 ml / 3/4 pint beef stock
1 tbsp tomato puree - plain or sundried if you're fancy
1 bay leaf
Preheat the slow cooker if the instructions tell you to. Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the sausages, and fry over a high heat for 5 minutes, turning until browned but not cooked. Transfer the sausages to the cooking pot.
Add the onions to the frying pan and cook over a medium heat for about 5 minutes until softened. Add the sugar and fry, stirring, for 5 more minutes until the onion slices are caramelised around the edges. Stir in the flour, then gradually add the stock. Add the tomato puree, bay leaf and some seasoning and bring to the boil, still stirring. Pour over the sausages, cover and cook for 6 to 8 hours or until the sausages are tender.
The recipe says serve with sausages spooned into large Yorkshire puddings with steamed carrots and broccoli or mash. We had the mash option as the Yorkshires weren't an option for us due to husband's wheat avoidance. So mash it is. It's actually skinny mash so the potatoes still have skins on them, which of course is better for everyone - nothing to do with me being to lazy to peel the spuds, oh no. ;-)
This was delicious. I had a quick taste as the gravy went into the pot, and thought it might turn out too sweet. Over the cooking time, however, the juices from the sausages ran out into the gravy and added enough savoury flavouring to soften the sweetness. The sausages were really tender - easy enough for a 3 year old to cut easily with a plastic spoon - and nicely flavoured by the onion gravy. They looked like the gravy had seeped into the sausages if that makes sense.
My only criticism was there wasn't enough gravy but that's probably because I made it with 12 sausages, not 8. The gravy was just right in terms of thickness, a nice coating consistency but not so thick that it came out of the pot in dollops.
Given how little effort this was, I will definitely make it again. Sausages being a kids' favourite, I expected it would get a good response. They didn't let me down. Monkey and Missy Woo ate it all without question or complaint, always a bonus.
I think we can consider it a hit. Simple food, made simply, tasting really good. What else do you need?