Songs of praise for slow cooking

The perfect lamb and lentil stew for Sunday dinner in winter.

1. About midday*: get out of bed. Yes, I know it’s cosy in there. It will be worth it.

2. Take your stewing lamb and chop into rough cubes if it hasn’t been done already. Heat oil in pan. Brown the lamb, turn down slightly and add sliced onion. Add spices to suit tastes: coriander, cumin, cinnamon, paprika and chilli/cayenne does it for me. Stir so the meat gets coated and the spices nicely toasted. Transfer them to the waiting slow cooker pot (don’t forget to turn the thing on). Now deglaze the pan with red wine/water and add that to the pot as well, so you don’t lose any of the flavours. Then top up the pot with some tinned tomato juice (or passata) and stock. Optional extra: some chopped dried apricots. Adds some extra fruitiness. Put the lid on the cooker and leave it. (You may wish to put the cooker on high for the first half hour or so to get it started, but after that it should be on low.)

Now you have about five hours to kill: you may choose to go back to bed, get some work done, go out for a walk, etc.

3. So, when you come back to it, add some handfuls of lentils. At this point you can also add some chunkily chopped carrots or other root vegetables that you fancy. Leave for at least another three hours. Serve with your favoured form of starchy accompaniment (with these flavours I prefer rice or cous cous, with some bread if needed for mopping up). You should be able to eat it with a spoon, pretty much.

An alternative would be beans rather than, or as well as, lentils.

This seems to me a remarkably simple route to pleasure. There’s about 20 minutes of activity, and the rest of the time is just letting it get on with it. No elaborate measuring, and none of the timings are critical. It doesn’t even make much of a dent on your wallet; slow cooking and cheap cuts of meat go hand in hand.

* or about 8 to 9 hours before you plan to eat.

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