I did think it was an odd brief…

The worst thing about winter meals is the lack of salads.

Oops. Sorry. Typo.

The best thing about winter meals is the lack of salads.

I love my comfort food. I want everything on my plate to be cooked. I want hot potatoes and hot gravy and hot meat and hot greens, and that satisfying feeling of warmth spreading out from behind my belly button with every mouthful, like a deliciously tasty hug.

Slow Cookers are a bit of a wonder. They take longer to cook a meal while requiring less effort. If you don’t slow cook the occasional meal you are literally missing out on the best way to get some of your life back.

I’m not here to give you recipes or suggest flavour combinations (although just quietly Beef Stroganoff rocks this family’s collective socks). I’ve been asked to go back to basics – what hardware do you need to get started?

If I’m honest, I struggled answering this. Primarily because slow cooked meals aren’t only the easiest way to feed a family, they also require less washing up afterwards than a traditional meat and three veg.

So let’s get started, and knock the most obvious answer out the way early. You will need:

  1. Slow CookerIt is extremely difficult to pull a slow cooked meal off without one of these. That said, there are a number of different models out there – different sizes and quality etc – so spend ten minutes doing a bit of Google research before you buy. We once bought a matching set of slow and rice cookers. Looked great on the counter. Combined they only fed four of the seven of us at any given meal.
  2. Smartphone. These perform double duty. Firstly, for finding the recipe you’re going to want to try. And secondly, to play music on while you piece this bad boy together.
  3. Cutting BoardMy wife informs me that only single men, or married men who might shortly be single, don’t require one of these: They can just use the kitchen bench. I always use a cutting board for chopping up the vegetables and meat. When Tracey is around.
  4. Peeler. Only necessary if you want to take the skin off your carrots, pumpkin, potatoes and sweet potato, or whatever vegetables your smartphone says you need to throw in.
  5. Knife. For cutting up the meat and vegetables. Unless you want to go full cave man and tear them into smaller pieces with your bare hands. Note: don’t do this because you’ll scare the kids. But also, don’t think you have to cut things up too small because one of the joys of eating a slow cooked meal is digging into the softest potato you’ve ever had in your life.
  6. Wooden SpoonTo stir everything together and then annoy your wife by leaving it unwashed in the sink. Interestingly, the cutting board is a relationship ender, but this she’ll stick around for.
  7. A Reason To Leave The House. A job is handy at this point. This meal is literally going to smell amazing ALL DAY and will drive you nuts if you hang around. We always used to put something in the slow cooker on work days but, alternatively, a good book and a chair in the garden.
  8. Serving BowlsOr plates. Or large soup mugs. It doesn’t matter, so long as you can balance it on your lap while you watch Young Sheldon.
  9. Serving SpoonVery important. You could use a normal spoon but it will take you ages to fill your bowl and ain’t nobody got time for dat.
  10. Cutlery. You remember that scene in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves where Severus Snape yells at the The Bodyguard, “I’m gonna cut your heart out with a spoon.” He must have been planning to slow cook it because a spoon is quite literally all you’ll need – the meat is that tender.

Slow cooked meals are the cherry bomb. They can make you look like a better cook than you are because the machine does all the work – while you aren’t there, no less. There are tens and hundreds and maybe even thousands of recipes online and they pretty much all taste like you know what you’re doing.

My final point is to just remember to turn your cooker on before you leave the house, and don’t ask me why I know to bring this up.

Walking the kids to Umina Beach library today.

Library full of books but they BYO’d. Except Miss6 who, justing by this photo, appears to have shot ahead a few reading levels since last week

Raising a family on little more than laughs

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