Simply throw in a few great ingredients and let time work its magic. Warm up to these tried and tested soothing slow cooker recipes by London’s top chefs.
Time is a wonderful thing. With lots of it – and a little heat – dense and sinewy muscle converts into rich and forgiving temptations. Gelatinous fats render down into flavour-rich pools, transforming meat into a delicious confit. Otherwise useless cuts like pig’s trotter and ox tail emerge as dishes with intense depth, character, and in the colder months, unadulterated comfort.
Autumn means it’s time to give some time to the food offering that comfort. Time to dust off that slow cooker that’s been sitting in the corner of the cupboard, companioned by the waffle maker and the forgotten bottles of red wine all summer.
The following recipes, as devised by chefs at the top of their game, can be adapted to suit your slow cooker – the piece of magic, the witch’s cauldron which brings everything together, that it is.
Adam Handling’s Ox Cheek with Charred Spring Onions, Mashed Potato, and Onion Rings
Chef Adam Handling is one of London’s bright young talents. Something you’ll likely pick up on if you venture along to his first restaurant, The Frog, in Shoreditch is that the Scot has a fondness for comfort food – doughnuts, mac ‘n’ cheese, fishfinger sandwiches, n’ all. No different with this recipe, which has ox cheek at the centre, for all the flavour potential this cut holds when cooked low and slow.
For the ox cheek
3 ox cheeks
4 bay leaves
5 cloves garlic
Small bunch of thyme
1 litre chicken stock
1 bottle red wine
50ml soy sauce
Salt and pepper to season
Trim the ox cheeks by removing excess sinew. Then peel and roughly chop the vegetables.
Pan-fry ox cheeks in a large ovenproof pan, when golden brown remove from heat and put the vegetables in to fry until golden brown. Add the cheeks back into pan, deglaze the pan with the red wine and reduce by half.
Add the chicken stock and herbs, season with salt and pepper, and cover the pan with tin foil and cook in the oven for 3-4 hours at 130°C. Once cooked, remove from heat and add soy sauce.
Allow meat to rest in dish then when cold, remove the ox cheeks from saucepan. Pass the sauce through a sieve to remove vegetables and season to taste.
Reduce sauce by half and add cheeks back to saucepan then place in oven to reheat.
For the spring onion
Small bunch of spring onions
Salt and pepper
Remove outside layer from spring onions. In a smoking hot pan, scorch the spring onions, then finish with a little butter. Season with salt and pepper.
For the onion rings
100g plain flour
200ml ice-cold sparking water
50g plain flour, for dusting
Oil for deep frying
Salt for seasoning
Thinly slice the onion, keeping the rings intact. Add to the milk. In a bowl, whisk the cornflour and plain flour with the sparking water.
Remove the onions from the milk, then dust in 50g of plain flour. Dip each ring in the batter individually. Deep fry until golden brown. Remove and season with salt.
For the mashed potatoes
500g of red skin potatoes, peeled
Knob of butter
Splash of milk
Salt and pepper to season
Add the potatoes to a saucepan of salted water, simmering for 20-25 minutes until cooked. Remove from water and pass through fine sieve, and add potatoes back to pan and add knob of butter and splash of milk. Season to taste.
Richard Turner’s British Army Beef Curry
You might not hear Mr Turner’s name thrown around too often. But, given his role in supplying the likes of Hawksmoor and Pitt Cue, as well as his prolific cheffing (not forgetting his involvement with the carnivore-friendly fest Meatopia), London’s food scene would be very different without him. Included in Richard’s latest cookbook (PRIME: The Beef Cookbook, Octopus), he revisits his time spent in the British Army to jazz up a dish traditionally served in troop canteens and mess halls.
50g (1¾oz) unsalted butter
1kg (2lb 4oz) chuck steak, cut into 4cm (1½ inch) cubes
2 onions, sliced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
50g (1¾oz) Madras curry powder
600ml (1 pint) Basic Beef Broth
50g (1¾oz) desiccated coconut
100g (3½oz) sultanas
2 ripe tomatoes, peeled, deseeded and chopped
Maldon sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
Melt the butter in a large, sturdy pan over a medium heat. Season the beef and fry for a few minutes until browned all over, then add the onions and garlic and fry for 5 minutes, or until softened and golden brown. Stir in the curry powder and cook for 1 minute.
Add the broth, followed by the coconut and sultanas. Bring to a simmer, then cover and cook over a low heat, or in an oven preheated to 120°C (250°F), Gas Mark ½ for at least 1½ hours, or until the beef is tender.
Stir in the tomatoes and serve with grated Bombay duck*, apple chutney, chopped onion, mint and coriander, sliced bananas, grated coconut, poppadoms and rice.
*A dried fish that is often grated over curry. If you can’t source it simply leave it out.
Stephen Harris’ Pot-roast Red Cabbage
Better known for running much-loved pub The Sportsman on the Kent coast, Stephen Harris also oversees the menu at Bloomsbury wine bar and restaurant Noble Rot (which some say is currently the best restaurant in London). In Stephen’s new cookbook, The Sportsman by Phaidon, he takes inspiration from René Redzepi, who experimented in cooking vegetables the same way we cook cuts of meat. The result – a pot roast red cabbage – which has become a menu staple at his pub.
1 medium red cabbage, tough outer leaves removed
150 g/5 oz (2⁄3 cup) butter
Apple Balsamic Vinegar (see below), to serve
4 tablespoons cream cheese
1 tablespoon grated red cabbage, to serve
2 Cox apples, unpeeled, cored and diced
100 g/3 ½ oz (½ cup) butter
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons Apple Balsamic Vinegar
4 tablespoons neutral oil
Apple balsamic vinegar
Makes 100 ml/3 fl oz ( cup)
500 ml/17 fl oz (generous 2 cups) Bramley apple juice
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
Combine the apple juice and cider vinegar in a small pan and simmer until reduced to around 100 ml/3 fl oz (scant cup) of liquid. Set aside and leave to cool.
Cut the cabbage in half and put in a heavy, cast-iron pan (I use an oval cocotte) with the butter and a good pinch of salt. Cover the pan and cook over a very low heat for 90 minutes, turning every half hour. Cooking over a low heat will steam the cabbage in the pot; too high a heat will burn the outside. Check with a small knife to see if the core is soft, and when it is ready, remove from the oven and leave to cool with the lid on.
While the cabbage is roasting, put the apples in a small pan with half the butter and cook gently for around 8 minutes, until soft. Stir in the remaining butter and add a pinch of salt.
To make the dressing, mix the mustard with the vinegar and gradually whisk in the oil, as if you were making a mayonnaise. Season to taste.
To serve, make artful squiggles of apple vinegar and mustard dressing on each plate. Put a spoonful of stewed apple in the centre. Slice each piece of still-warm cabbage in half and arrange one on each plate. Season lightly and top with a spoonful of cream cheese and a sprinkle of grated cabbage.
Fergus Henderson’s ‘Recipe For A Healthy Jar of Trotter Gear’
Seeing as Fergus’ St John restaurants fall back on utilising the forgotten cuts of meat, such as tail, innards, and head, it almost goes without saying that sustained low-heat cooking is the name of the game here. Trotter Gear – one of Fergus’ popular concoctions recently made available straight out the packet – has some wonderful potential. Use it as a pie filling, throw it in with a braise, or maybe try adding it to one of these dishes. If you’re having trouble getting ahold of some Gear, fear not – the recipe’s right here.
6 pigs trotters, hair removed (a disposable razor can prove very useful at this moment)
2 onions, peeled
2 carrots, peeled
2 sticks of celery
2 leeks, cleaned and slit in half lengthways
1 head of garlic
a bundle of thyme
a handful of black peppercorns
half a bottle of Sercial Madeira
enough chicken stock to cover the trotters
Place the trotters in a large casserole. Cover with water and bring to the boil. Boil for 5 minutes, then drain. This removes the initial scum given off by the trotters.
Now place the blanched trotters back in the pot with the vegetables, garlic, thyme, peppercorns and Madeira and cover with stock. Cover and place in a gentle oven. Cook for at least 3 hours, until the trotters are totally giving. At this point, strain the cooking liquor and keep. When the trotters have cooled enough to handle (but don’t let them get cold), pick all the flesh, fat and skin off them, tearing the skin to shreds. Add to the cooking liquor, seal in a jar, and refrigerate.
Michel Roux Jr’s Braised Beef in Burgundian Wine
1 bottle of red Burgundy wine
700g braising beef (chuck is good but cheek is best)
Plain flour, for dusting
1 onion, peeled and sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 bouquet garni, made up of thyme, bay leaf and parsley stalks
400 l beef or veal stock
2 tbsp cold unsalted butter
3 tbsp unsalted butter
12 brown-skinned cocktail or button onions (or small shallots), peeled
12 young carrots, peeled
120g smoked streaky bacon rashers or ventrèrche, cut into thin strips
12 button mushrooms, wiped
Juice of ½ lemon
Pour the wine into a saucepan and boil until reduced by half. Trim the beef and cut it into 3cm cubes, then dust with flour. Heat a frying pan until very hot, add a dash of oil and brown the beef well on all sides. Do this in batches so you don’t overcrowd the pan. Preheat the oven to 160 degree Celsius/ Fan 140 degree Celsius/Gas 3.
Once all the beef has been browned and set aside, discard the oil and add a tablespoon of clean oil, the sliced onion and crushed garlic. Cook until the onion is brown and caramelised, then put the meat back in the pan. Add the brandy, followed by the reduced wine, and summer 2-3 minutes.
Pour everything into a cast-iron casserole dish, then season and add the bouquet garni and stock. Bring to a simmer, skim well to remove any surface scum and cover loosely with a lid or greaseproof paper. Place in the oven and cook until the meat is tender – this should 1 ½ – 2 hours, depending on the cut. Leave to cool, then take the meat out of the dish and set aside. Skim to remove any fat, then pass the liquid through a sieve into a pan. Boil until it thickens to a sauce, then add the meat. Cover and chill until needed.
To prepare the garnish, melt a tablespoon of butter in a saucepan and add the onions, seasoning, 2 tablespoons of the sauce from the beef and 4 tablespoons of water. Braise the onions until they are shiny and cooked through. Put the carrots in a pan with just enough water to cover and most of the rest of the butter. Season and bring to a gentle boil, then cook until almost all the liquid has evaporated and the carrots are tender and shiny with butter. Brown the strips of bacon in a frying pan. Sweat the mushrooms in a little butter until cooked but still firm and add seasoning and lemon juice.
To serve, gently reheat the boeuf bourguignon on the hob while you prepare the garnish. Add a couple of knobs of cold butter to enrich and shine the sauce, then garnish with the onions, carrots, bacon and mushrooms. Take the dish to the table for everyone to admire, then serve in wide bowls.
Tom Aikens’ Seven-hour Braised Shoulder of Lamb
Tom’s Kitchen is a manifestation of Tom Aiken’s transition from haute cuisine to a more everyday offering. With a few sites around London, they’re the sorts of places you can end up relying on for almost anything from a burger and a pint, to foie gras with duck egg and Ventreche bacon. Tom’s braised lamb shoulder is, apparently, a best-seller on the menu in Autumn. Lucky for you, it’s an easy one to make at home, too.
For the lamb:
1 shoulder of lamb, around 2.5kg in weight
150ml olive oil
20g fresh thyme
2 garlic bulbs, peeled cloves
sea salt and black pepper
8 medium onions, peeled
350ml balsamic vinegar
Place a large casserole pot onto a medium gas, adding the oil.
Season the lamb and place the shoulder into the pot once the oil is hot (be careful adding the lamb as it could spit). Colour for 3-4 minutes each side until nicely caramelised and then remove the lamb and put to one side.
Add the onions and colour for 4-5 minutes still on a medium heat, stirring now and again. Add the garlic and thyme then place the lamb back on top.
Place into the oven at 110°c and cover with a lid cooking for 2-2.5 hours, then take out the onions once they are soft. Carry on cooking the lamb for another 2.5-3 hours.
Add the vinegar and carry on cooking without the lid so the vinegar reduces as the lamb cooks, basting the lamb every 30 minutes, being careful not to reduce it too much.
Cook for a total of 6-7 hours until the lamb is nice and tender then add the onions and garlic back at the end and reduce the vinegar to a nice thick consistency. Serve with mash.