Books & Literature

Cookbook Review: The Slow Cook, by Justine Schofield

COOKBOOK: Nothing beats slow cooking when it comes to convenience. With minimal preparation, simple ingredients and just one pot, you can set and forget, then enjoy hearty, wholesome meals every night of the week.

Discover new inspiration for convenient, creative comfort food in The Slow Cook’s collection of set-and-forget recipes.
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Many former MasterChef Australia contestants have attempted to build follow-up food media careers, with varying degrees of success. Justine Schofield has excelled, with a long-running TV cooking program (Everyday Gourmet) and three bestseller cookbooks (Dinner with JustineSimple Every Day and The Weeknight Cookbook). In her latest publication, The Slow Cook, Schofield has assembled a collection of recipes certain to appeal to home cooks who want no-fuss food and minimal washing up—all you need is time. 

The 199-page book contains 80 recipes for meals designed to be put on the back burner to do their thing while you get on with doing something else. The selections are diverse (examples include miso and marmalade carrots, za’atar lamb shoulder, and Japanese chicken curry) and are ideal for batch cooking. Prepare a big pot of something delicious on a Sunday afternoon, sample it for dinner then freeze the rest in meal-sized serves for those nights when there’s not enough time to start from scratch. 

The Slow Cook features a double-page spread with a large photo and brief introduction for each recipe in a clear and easy-to-follow layout. Ingredients are listed alongside numbered step-by-step cooking instructions, including options for slow cooker, oven, and stove top. Most of the dishes are designed to serve four to six people but could easily be scaled up to cater for a crowd.

One of the main benefits of slow cooking is the ability to use cheaper cuts of meat. In fact, these cuts give a superior result as texture is improved by the action of low heat over an extended period. In addition to sections on pork, beef, and lamb, the book covers vegetables, poultry, and dessert. There are several pages of tips for getting the best results, whether you’re using a purpose-built slow cooker or more traditional techniques. A handy page lists conversion charts for lengths, liquids, and dry measures as well as oven temperatures, and there’s also an index that enables a search via recipe name or key ingredient.

If you’re lacking enthusiasm for the coming winter comfort-food season, The Slow Cook will inspire you to get back into the kitchen.

I tested three recipes. Each was simple to follow and used readily available ingredients. 

FENNEL POLPETTE, Veggies (PAGE 36)

*I used the cast-iron pot and baking tray method.

These ‘meatless meatballs’ are designed to be eaten with slices of toasted sourdough bread, but I went with the alternative suggestion and served them as part of a larger meal with pasta. There are two main processes involved: constructing the polpette and making the sauce. Neither step is difficult but they do take time and are a bit fiddly. It’s also crucial to note that the fennel and onion (key ingredients in the polpette) must be roasted beforehand. When cooking the balls, don’t be tempted to go against the recipe’s advice. Baking, not frying, is the way to go as the delicate texture (the balls are held together with ricotta and breadcrumbs) responds best to minimal movement when cooking. The end result was satisfying—a light, tasty, vegetarian alternative to traditional meatballs.

SPICED GINGER BEER HAM HOCKS, Pork (PAGE 118)

*I used the cast-iron pot and baking dish method.

Despite not being a huge fan of ham hocks, I opted to try this dish as the flavour profile was a departure from the norm for recipes for this cut of meat. It uses orange zest, Chinese five spice and ginger beer—a great combination for creating a sticky, glazed end result. This is a true slow cook. You’ll need to set aside at least three hours to ensure you build the desired depth and complexity of flavour via the simmering and marinating processes. The first stage involves immersing the ham hocks (find a big pot!) in water along with the ginger beer, zest and some dark soy sauce and then simmering for several hours. While waiting, keep busy by making the glaze you’ll need for the roasting phase. The reward for the extended cooking time is ham that’s perfect for eating in a simple sandwich or with vegetables or salad as part of a larger meal.

LEMON DELICIOUS, Dessert (PAGE 187)

*I used a slow cooker.

This sweet, eggy, lemon-flavoured dessert is a cross between a pudding and a soufflé—extremely light and fluffy, rising impressively towards the end of its three-hour cooking time before deflating at the first touch of a spoon. We ate it with a splash of pouring cream and really enjoyed its delicate taste and texture. The best part? Once the initial batter is prepared, there’s nothing else to do except to put the timer on and forget about it. Access to an electric mixer makes the initial beating of egg whites and blending of butter and sugar much easier and quicker than hand-beating, but it’s not essential. This recipe could be adapted to feature different flavours. We’re going to try passionfruit next time.

Reviewed by Jo Vabolis
Twitter: @JoVabolis

Distributed by: Pan Macmillan
Released: 30 March 2021
RRP: $39.99

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