At this time of year there's always lots of press extolling the virtues of slow cookers. Occasionally I wonder about getting one, then I remember that we have a giant slow cooker tucked into the corner of the kitchen. It's called an oven. O-V-E-N. Set low, it also conveniently heats the room. Bet your benchtop slow cooker can't do that...
Big Red Braised Beef
I've just taught the Boy Wonder how to make this, which is good, except I'm going to have to teach him something else really quickly lest we end up eating it all winter. It takes about 15 minutes prep on the stovetop, then you can put it in the oven and forget about it for a few hours. Quantities here are approximate - you can always stretch a smaller amount of meat with more vegetables and/or cooked beans.
2Tbsp olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
3 sticks celery, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
500-750g beef suitable for stewing (shin is my favourite), cut into 2cm cubes
2tsp smoked paprika and/or 1tsp dried chilli (less if you don't like it hot)
125ml red wine
2 tins tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1 sprig thyme
salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 150C. Take a large, lidded, ovenproof, stoveproof pot (like a Le Creuset) and put it over medium heat. Add the olive oil, then the onions, carrots, garlic and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about five minutes, until soft but not coloured. Add the spices and fry for a minute or two, then add the beef and flour Turn up the heat and fry for another couple of minutes, stirring to try to brown it as much as possible. Add the wine and let it bubble up, then add the tomatoes. Stir well. Add enough water to barely cover the meat (you may not need any) and bring to the boil. Clamp the lid on and stick the pot in the oven. Cook for at least 1 1/2 - 2 hours, until the meat is so tender it falls apart when prodded. Taste for seasoning. If the sauce is too thin, let it cook with the lid off on the stovetop for 10 minutes to reduce. Eat then and there with crusty bread or mash and some sort of greens, or let cool and refrigerate/freeze.