Last week we started off with some setting ourselves up. Finding dishes, racks etc. that fit your crock pots is an ongoing thing. And even with my list I forgot some things! Why oh why manufacturers don't make the fittings I have no idea but as far as I know none do. Maybe I need to design my own!
This week I'm going to cover the things I made since last post as they are useful things.
Firstly I made Chicken Stock. My large crock pot makes 5 liters of soup or stock. It doesn't matter what size you have though. Stock is great because you can save all kinds of left overs and use up things. I pop things in the freezer all the time towards the next stock. You can use any recipe or make any kind you want. The long slow cooking will extract the maximum flavor and goodness from your ingredients.
My basic chicken stock recipe is....
A chicken carcass raw or cooked OR chicken pieces on the bone or some raw chicken... ideally stock should include bones as a lot of goodness comes from the bones. But this week I just used a few bits uncooked chicken. In lamb or beef broth bones cut through release wonderful bone marrow. When the girls were little this is how I made baby food. It would be bones with a little meat on them and lots of vegies then blended. So healthy. oops back to the recipe...
Some cloves of garlic chopped.
A couple of onions, plus leeks if you have them.
A couple of carrots.
3 bay leaves.
A sprig of rosemary.
A few (sprigs) of parsley.
A few of thyme.
Black pepper or peppercorns.
As much water as will fill your pot.
This is all very flexible. Think flavor, goodness and using up whatever vegies you have. If I have zucchini, pumpkin etc that goes in too. In this case I had chopped parsley and a bag of celery in the freezer. The herbs in the garden. Bay from Mum's tree... I had carrots, garlic on hand. I used raw chicken fillet. Save all the celery tops to go into your stock, nothing adds to stock like celery. Carrot peelings can go in. So many things suddenly are worth saving!
The advantage of the crock pot is it can go all day and it won't boil dry or catch. You can make stock while you sleep. You will end up with a deep flavorsome broth full of nutrients and all natural.
In order to not have to strain all this I use a stainless steel steamer that fits nicely into my crock pot. You could use a colander, steamer.... anything that will fit and the lid with still fit firmly. Mine is from my saucepan set.
I fill the crock pot 3/4 full of water and sit my steamer in the middle. Then I pack that steamer with all my chicken, herbs and vegies.... Once that is packed I might add more water if there is much room left in the crock pot. Always leave some gap at the top so it doesnt overflow when bubbling.
The whole point is then at the end you just lift your steamer up and let it drain and voila you have clear broth and the bones etc are contained and easy to manage. A couple of times during cooking I jiggle this around a bit to ensure water and ingredients are all flowing freely but the slow boil takes care of that pretty well.
I put my mix on and let it go all day. Longer is better than shorter with stock.
At the end it is a really good broth.
So now you have made a beautiful stock mostly from left overs!
I refrigerated a pot of stock and a bowl of my solids as well.
The next day I put some of the stock back in the crock pot. I fill the crock pot to about 1/4 full only. Then I fill it up with chunky pumpkin, onions and sweet potato. A couple of carrots sometimes. Then let that go on low all day or if you are around until it is all tender. If I think there might be too much liquid I remove a couple of cupfuls with a ladle. It is easier to add it back in than reduce it. I like it to be thick! Then I blend with a stick blender until smooth, taste and season if needed. That is it. Now I have about 5 liters of beautiful thick pumpkin soup.
I serve this with a little cream and cheese. It is so nice. Sometimes I take a cup of this and add it to scone mix and then you have pumpkin scones. For children this soup can be used as a pasta sauce with the addition of cheese. It also freezes well. Made even thicker it is baby food.
The other bowl with the saved chicken and vegies... I fished out the bay leaves and thyme stems. Added liquid stock, soup beans, corn, more onion and let that cook slowly all day. You could add chopped carrot, small pasta shells or alphabet noodles, anything you like... then you have chicken soup. This can be served as is or blended to make cream of chicken soup.
So I ended up with about eight liters of beautiful stock and soups. Some stock was frozen.
Making your stock first then your soup gives you wonderful flavor.
So this alone is a very good, healthy, economical way to make your crock pot work for you. Stock is also wonderful as a glaze over vegies or as a base of a sauce or gravy or in risotto. Rice can be cooked in stock anytime to fill it with nutrition and flavor. Stock can be frozen to be ready for soup making also.
You can make any soup you like, use your own best recipe or try any flavor you think your family will like. Soup is such an easy thing really and so comforting and good. I make soup according to the specials. If cauliflowers are on special then it will be cauliflower cheese or cauliflower soup!
Next I made Creme Caramel.
The reason I do this in the crock pot is then I don't have to deal with a tray of boiling water out of the oven. That always is difficult and I slosh it etc. In the crock pot I can just lift the dish out of the water. Later when that water has cooled I empty it on a plant. It is just so much easier!
Cooking creme caramel, baked custard or baked rice custard in a tray of water is what gives you the smooth velvety texture. It is one of those little miracles.
You can use any recipe for any of these that you might have. I do not bother with the toffee on the bottom so technically this is not a true creme caramel in its entirety. (usually you put toffee over the base of the dish. Then when you flip it and turn it out this becomes the top. Alternatively you can pour toffee over the top) If you want to do the toffee just use a traditional recipe or make a toffee glaze for this.
The one I usually do has the lovely velvet smooth texture and vanilla flavor. But any baked custard, rice custard recipe works in the same way.
1/3 cup castor sugar (fine white sugar)
2 plus 1/3 cups milk,
4 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla. (I use thick vanilla concentrate as I LOVE vanilla)
Blend all this until perfectly smooth.
Pour into a baking dish.
Bake in tray of water (in this instance your crock pot) until set. Mine was 2 hours on high from cold water to set time.
This serves 4.
I put some water into the crock pot. Carefully test out how high to put your water by putting your dish in empty and press it to the bottom or put your dish in and then very carefully add the water around it. You want water 3/4 up the sides. If you put too much water it will end up in your custard. So work this out first. The water must be cold. If you hurry it up with boiling water you don't get the smooth texture. Don't ask me how I found this out....
Then sit your dish of custard in this. You could also do 4 individual dishes which looks lovely to serve. (A bit fancier)
Turn on the crock pot to high. Place a tea towel/kitchen cloth under the lid...
This catches the drips. This is what you do for anything like cakes, bread, custards...
Mine from beginning with cold water to done takes two hours. This is going to depend on the size of your crock pot, dish etc.
It's like anything.... do it once and see how it goes and next time you will have the timing perfect. Two hours is my perfect time. The custard should be set softly. If done and you are not ready to serve it then take the lid off, turn it off... it will stay warm for ages.
I serve this with a strawberry on the side. It is lovely. It is good cold too.
Baked egg custard, creme brulee (this is similar but thicker and richer as made with cream) baked rice custard... all beautiful. All cooked in the crock pot in this same way.
These are simple nutritious and economical things that are delicious and the crock pot does most of the work for you. In the case of stock the long slow cooking works for you. In the case of the custards the slow delicate cooking works perfectly for these.
Coming home or just after a busy day at home, beautiful soup already made is so good. It is winter here so that is why soups are featuring! I usually add cornbread, pumpkin scones or even toasted cheese sandwiches and dinner is done. I will have soup for lunch everyday too if I have it. Also it is good to keep some serves of soup in the freezer for emergencies. We virtually never have take away as if I know it's going to be a busy day, or we will not be home I will have dinner cooking. Otherwise I will have a meal from the freezer.
Next week I will cover stews, casseroles, pies and Shepherds Pies. In this case you get great casseroles and the let overs make the most wonderful tender pies and Shepherds Pies which are a new meal and can be frozen for another night. These are real family fillers and so good!
Thank you to everyone who sent links to tutorials! I have decided to do a post about good tutorials and link to them all. Nanna Chel even made a tutorial especially! Hers is how to make lovely soap with Calendula flowers and with a no caustic soda method which will suit a lot of us. It looks amazing. But she also has recipes for other methods as well. If you ever wanted to make soap this would be perfect to get you going! Thank you Nanna Chel! Nanna Chel's soap tutorial.
Have a wonderful week! Every new skill we learn or skill we get better at is a big help to our household! xxx