Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Slow cooking made better - a Morphy Richards Innovators review

As you may have noticed from reading this blog, I do like my slow cooker. I bought one two or three years ago when I needed to cut back on the food budget. Over time, I've used it many times, all year around, and got to understand how to get the best out of it.

When I became a Morphy Richards Innovator earlier this year, however, I was hoping to get to try a better slow cooker because there was one thing that I didn't like about it. The pot. Most slow cookers, you see, have a ceramic pot so you can't put it on the hob if you want to brown any meat first - which isn't necessary but I do find it helpful and anyway, lots of recipes suggest. So, instead of your lovely simple one pot cooking, you have to get another pan and use that. It sounds a small thing, but really, the easier you can make slow cooking, the better.

When the email arrived offering me the chance to review one of their Sear and Stew slow cookers, I couldn't reply fast enough to say "Yes!". This slow cooker has a removable pot that is metal, and non stick, so it will go on your hob for the browning bit, then you can pop the pan straight into the slow cooker and leave it to do its magic.

What was even nicer was the cooker comes in different colours, and as I'm having a phase of choosing red things in a kind of retro 80s way, I went for that model.

My first impression when it arrived was how light it is. That is another benefit of having a metal pot - for the same strength, you can have a lighter and thinner pot. This means that it also takes a lot less space in my cupboard for a similar capacity pot - 3.5l if you're interested, which is about right for a family of four people.

I've used it a few times now and I love it! Obviously, being covered in non-stick stuff (that is a technical term), you have to use only plastic utensils, although you can easily buy spare pots if you scratch it to death. The only downside is the pot has no handles attached to it so you have to remember to pick it up with oven gloves and be careful with positioning on the ring. But it is pretty stable and it's a minor issue, plus I can't see how you'd get round it.

Its only other difference to my old cooker is that it has 3 heat settings - low, medium and high which I like as sometimes the high setting can cook a little bit too fast, especially if like me, you don't put your slow cooker on until after 9am and want it to cook for less time but not be overdone by tea time.

Apart from that, it's similar to my other slow cooker. What I have found when using it is that things stick to the sides less (of course, it's non-stick) and cooks quite fast compared to the directions in the recipe.

Talking of recipes, I have a little one for you. It's an adaptation of a family favourite recipe that I used to cook in the oven so I adapted it for use in my slow cooker and made it with chicken. This takes minutes in the morning although I guess you could get the first part done the night before and then just put it in the slow cooker in the morning. You have to add rice near the end but you could have it ready weighed out, tip it in as soon as you get home, and leave it to finish off. This goes well with some ready made poppadums and maybe some mango chutney. Feel free to add in nuts, raisins or other sambal ingredients before serving. You can use fresh mango if you like, but for complete ease, I buy those tubs of fresh mango in juice so there is no peeling and chopping. Do as you feel best - neither is right or wrong. Buy different heats of curry powder or chilli to make it as hot as you wish. As the children eat this (and love it!), I go for mild.

One word on rice. Don't overcook it or it goes to mush. A tip I can pass on is to use brown rice as it holds its shape a lot better. It might be a bit firm but it cooks as quickly.

I've made this with chicken pieces as chopped chicken breast can go a bit dry in the slow cooker.

Slow cooker chicken, coconut and mango pilau
Serves 6

6 chicken pieces, with or without skin
2 onions, halved and sliced
2 gloves garlic, crushed (or equivalent amount of frozen or lazy garlic)
3 tbsp curry powder, any strength you like
1 tsp mild chilli powder, or 1 fresh red chilli, sliced and deseeded
400ml can coconut milk, full or reduced fat
400ml chicken stock
400g brown basmati or easy cook rice
1 pot of fresh mango slices or 1 medium mango, peeled, stoned and sliced
Coriander (optional)
Flaked or chopped nuts (optional, to serve)

1. Heat your pot (or separate pan) on a high heat and add the chicken pieces. You won't need any oil unless you are using skinless pieces, in which case, add 1tbsp oil. Brown for about 5 minutes on both sides, turning a couple of times. Lift out the pieces and place on a plate.

2. Add the onions to the pan, and fry in the fat rendered from the chicken for about 5 minutes, until it softens and starts to colour around the edges. Add the garlic, curry and chilli powder to the pan and cook for a further minute to release the aromas of the spices.

3. Tip the chicken back into the pan and stir to coat them with spices for a minute or two. Pour in the coconut milk, stir, then add in the chicken stock (you can make it from a cube or you can use fresh). Bring the pan to the boil, then transfer to the slow cooker. If your pot is not suitable for hob use, then pour the contents into  the pot in the slow cooker at this stage. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours, or high for about 4 hours.

4. An hour before you want to eat, add the rice to the pan and stir to combine. Turn your cooker up to high if it's not already and leave until the rice is done. When it is done, turn the cooker off and leave it to stand for 10 minutes. Chop the coriander, if using, and stir in this, the mango and any other ingredients you want to add just before serving. Serve, with poppadoms if you like.

If you fancy buying one of these fabulous Sear and Stew Slow Cookers from, the good news is I have a code SC0123BLOG that will get you 30% off any of models 48701, 48702 and 48703 - that's over £10 off, making it even better value. Two of the models are out of stock at the moment, they are selling that well. However, you can sign up for an email alert when it comes back into stock, if you must have the red version like me, for example.

If you're interested, I have a few more slow cooker recipes on my blog that you can find on my Recipes page . The sausages in onion gravy post is the second most read post on this blog!
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