I recently mentioned that on our recent glamping holiday, my slow cooker came with us. Now while I admit that this marks a new development in my relationship with my slow cooker, from one of love to one of obsession, it turned out to be a great idea. Seriously: if you have room in the car boot or in the suitcase, do it!
One reason why I am so attached to my slow cooker is that it makes life so much easier, as well as cheaper. I can throw a few ingredients and leftovers into the pot before I head out to work, then return home in the evening to a readymade dinner. It turns out that when you are camping – or indeed, on any type of self-catering holiday – the same principle applies.
Going self-catering and cooking your own meals can save some serious dough, but do you really want to spend valuable holiday time slaving over a hot kitchenette / camping stove ring? I don’t think so. For the same reason, I found the recipes that worked best were the simplest ones.
If you holiday with your slow cooker, there are a couple of things to bear in mind. Namely, that if you are camping and leaving your slow cooker outside or under canvas, food will take longer to cook. So use your judgement. If the weather takes a turn for the worst, you’ll need to turn the slow cooker heat up a notch, or add a few more hours’ cooking time. Our campsite had a communal kitchen area, which had a roof for shelter but was otherwise open to the elements. The second night was cold and rainy – and the jacket potatoes I bunged in the slow cooker just before going to bed, intended for lunch the next day, weren’t ready until mid-afternoon.
These recipes all feed four.
2 mugs of porridge oats
4 mugs of milk
1-2 mugs of water
Oh, I love this one! Throw the ingredients into the slow cooker and give them a stir just before you go to bed. In the morning: wake up to a pot filled with hot, hearty porridge. Ladle it into bowls, sweeten or add toppings to taste – and there is your breakfast. Bish bash bosh.
I make this with budget-brand porridge oats: for less than £1, you can get what seems like a small sack. If you are being truly frugal and/or Scottish, you may prefer to make your porridge with water. I am a lily-livered southerner and make it with milk, but for the slow cooker version I chuck in some water too. You’ll note that slow cooker porridge needs more liquid than hob porridge, presumably because more of the liquid evaporates during the cooking time. The ratio above is what works for me or rather, what works for my slow cooker.
Whichever your preference, when you make porridge in the slow cooker, you will need to add more liquid than you do when you make it quickly, over the hob. When I make it over the hob, I add two cups of milk for every cup of oats. When I make it in the slow cooker, I add 2 cups of milk and at least 1 cup of water for every cup of oats.
MISS THRIFTY’S CHOWDER
1 fennel bulb
1 vegetable stock cube
2 salmon fillets or white fish fillets
½ pint milk
½ small carton of double cream
Fresh parsley or chives
Bread, to serve
This is the second most expensive of the slow cooker recipes I have included here (unless you use a REALLY cheap bottle of wine with which to make the mulled wine), but it still works out pleasantly cheap: the most expensive ingredient is the fish. I buy those bags of frozen salmon fillets: at Morrisons, a bag of five salmon fillets costs £3, so the fish works out at £1.20. A fennel bulb costs 99p at most supermarkets.. As for the cream: it does make a difference, but you can always leave it out if the budget doesn’t stretch that far. The rest of the pot can go in your slow cooker porridge.
I use value stock cubes and bread costing 9p – 15p a loaf (depending on whether I buy it from the discounted section at the supermarket just before closing and freeze it, or make it myself at home) and snip my own herbs from the garden. So for me, this recipe comes in at around the £4 mark – which is relatively lavish by my tightwad standards, but working out at around £1 per person, who can complain?
Unless you have refrigeration facilities at your campsite, you’ll want to make this dish fairly quickly. And a word to the wise: whenever I’ve made this dish using value range potatoes, they have NEVER cooked in time. I have no idea why this would be. Other potatoes have been fine. But do taste your potatoes before you serve.
Slice the fennel, reserving the green herby tops. Peel and quarter the potatoes. Add to the slow cooker, along with 1 pint of vegetable stock and half a pint of water. Stir, then leave to cook on high for five hours.
Half an hour to an hour before you are ready to eat, add the milk and the fish fillets to the pot.
Twenty minutes before you are ready to eat, remove the cooked fish from the pot and flake the fillets. I do this with a fork. Return the flaked fish to the pot.
Add the butter and squeeze the juice from the lemon into the slow cooker. Don’t worry: it doesn’t curdle the milk. We had a lemon squeezer on-site (well, it was a glampsite!) but if you don’t, juice your lemon the old school way: warm it then spend a minute rolling it around on the worktop, squishing it slightly with the ball of your hand, before squeezing by hand into the pot.
Season and, just before you are ready to dish it out, stir in the cream, the chopped fennel tops and some chopped parsley or chives. Serve with crusty bread and additional herbs to garnish.
Really, this couldn’t be easier. Wrap each potato in tin foil, then bung it in the slow cooker. Cook on the low setting for 12 hours. Have your toppings ready and… bingo.
If you haven’t made jacket potatoes in the slow cooker before, you do need to note that – in my slow cooking experience, anyway – potatoes cooked in this way aren’t quite the same as jacket potatoes baked in the oven. That isn’t to say they aren’t any nicer. They are just… different. The potato flesh isn’t soft, white and fluffy. Instead, it is slightly harder and yellower, with a more nutty flavour. I like it. It does mean that the potatoes may be cooked, when to prod them, it feels like they are too hard and still have some way to go.
When I made these, I put them on before we went to bed, with the idea that they would be ready for lunch the following day. However the night was cold and rainy; in the morning the tatties were still rock solid, so I turned the heat up to high. They were eventually ready after 2pm.
Bigger potatoes will take longer to cook. Also bear in mind that unless you have one of those vat-sized slow cookers, you will struggle to fit in more than a couple of supersized potatoes. I’d recommend going for potatoes the size of a lady’s fist. I managed to squeeze a few of those in.
1 bottle red wine
2 cinnamon sticks
A few whole cloves
A little nutmeg, to grate
1 small orange
2 tbsp sugar
I made this on the last night. Even summer nights can be cool! This mulled wine clearly hit the spot: it disappeared in minutes.
Mulled wine is another blissfully simple slow cooker recipe: bung the whole lot in, give it a stir and leave it until it is ready.
Mulled wine in the slow cooker can be ready in a couple of hours, on the high setting, but if you can I would give it longer, to give the spices more time to infuse. Also, you don’t need to splash out on the plonk: go for the cheapest one you would be prepared to drink neat from the bottle.
Any questions about any of these recipes, or the logistics of holiday avec one’s slow cooker, just fire away. Also, I am very much going to be holidaying with my slow cooker in the future, so if you have any good cheap and simple recipe beauts, please share them!
P.S. My slow cooker is the best part of 40 years old and still going strong, but if you are in the market for a shiny new one, I have rounded up some of my favourite slow cookers here. The Argos slow cooker featured there has just been reduced from £12.99 to £10.99 to £6.99.
P.P.S. Savvy Annie has just posted an amazing slow cooker recipe for Mint Aero cake here.