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SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - Whether you're on a budget or busy, a new cook book advises that slow is the way to go for preparing the nutritious, largely fuss-free meals many of us crave yet don't have the time to put together.
Sally Wise, author of "Slow Cooker", owns five slow cookers, or crock pots, tools she has been using for over 30 years to cook everything from soups and stews to fish fillets and even cakes.
She believes crock pots are just as relevant today as they were when she was feeding her six now adult children, because they are just so convenient, and economical.
"Crock pots can be bought from anywhere and they allow you to put a meal on, and seven hours later, it's beautifully cooked, using very little energy," Wise, who runs a catering business and also wrote a popular book about pickling, told Reuters from Australia.
"You control what you put into the slow cooker, and it lends itself to using natural produce for a healthy, balanced meal. You can also use cheaper cuts of meat and still get great flavor."
Slow cookers are electric appliances that cook their ingredients by maintaining a relatively low temperature ranging from 94 to 149 Celsius (200-300 Fahrenheit) for many hours. In Asia, for example, they are widely used to make rice.
With the current economic climate driving more people to cook at home, modern hectic lifestyles, and an increase in health consciousness, Wise said she expected the crock pot to see a revival of its 1970s heyday.
"I meet a lot of young mums who are very concerned about good nutrition and who also have to work and don't have much time to prepare meals when they come through the door. These are the people who are most enthusiastic about slow cooking," she said.
"All you have to do is prepare the ingredients the night before, put them in the pot in the morning and the slow cooker does its own thing, quietly, without heating up the kitchen."
After years of experimenting, and by her own admission beating recipes into submission, Wise says slow cookers can be used for everything from roasts to desserts. The only thing she's discovered she can't make in her crock pot is pastry.
"There is nothing more welcoming than coming home to the delicious smell of your dinner. It makes it all so much less stressful," Wise said.
Recipe: Old-Fashioned Beef Curry
800 g lean stewing steak
½ small parsnip
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon chutney
1 tablespoon apricot jam
1-½ cups water or stock
1-½ teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon cornflour (optional)
Trim all visible fat from the meat and dice. Peel and dice the onions. Peel and slice the carrots and parsnip. Place all in the slow cooker with the curry powder, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, chutney, jam, water or stock and salt. Stir well to combine. Place lid on cooker and cook for 4-5 hours on "high" or 8 hours on "low". If necessary, mix the cornflour with approximately 2 tablespoons cold water to a paster and use a little or all of it to thicken the dish. Add salt and pepper to taste. (Editing by Tomasz Janowski)