I love my slow cookers. I have two, as I find it handy to have the choice between small and a large depending on what I am making. I realise this is pure indulgence and only worth the investment if you use them a great deal, as I do. I end up using them twice a week or more in the colder months.
I can only eat unprocessed food so I cook everything from scratch and find my slow cookers invaluable. With only about 15 minutes of preparation I can end up with any number of different dishes; a stew, casserole, soup or stock, slow roasted joint or even a rice pudding. Ok, so there is a lot of time in between, but you can’t really count that as no intervention on my part is required. I can even go out for the day and leave everything to cook. Sometimes I come home to the most wonderful smells and it takes me a few seconds to remember what it is, as I forget all about it once I go out the door.
I often use mine for pie fillings. Made the day before and put into the fridge overnight, all I have to do the next day is whip up some pastry and assemble. If I make enough, I will have it as a casserole on the first day and then make it into pies the next and either freeze or eat them depending.
So, here is my recipe for a really good steak and mushroom pie filling – allergy friendly of course.
For the Pie Filling:
600g Diced Beef
2 Brown Onions, sliced thickly
2-3 Cloves Garlic, crushed
250g Chestnut mushrooms, cut into chunks
500ml Beef Stock. Fresh or cube.
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce. Gluten free in the UK but check.
50g Rice Flour
Glass of red wine (optional)
For the pastry:
270g Doves Farm White Bread Flour (a mix of rice, potato starch, tapioca starch and xanthan gum)
30g Sweet White Sourghum Flour
75g Hard Margarine
1 large Egg or 2 Small ones
Few Tbsp water
I like to fry my onions first as I find it makes them softer and sweeter but you really don’t have to. If you have the time, you can brown the meat first as well, but this is supposed to be a quick any easy recipe and usually I just throw it in.
So, onions and beef, fried or not..
Into the slow cooker, put the onions, beef and garlic. Sprinkle on the rice flour and give it all a good stir. Add the stock, wine (if using) and Worcestershire sauce and give it all another good stir before popping the bayleaf on top and put the lid on. Turn on the slow cooker and cook for about 4 hours on high or about 8 hours on low.
About half way through add the mushrooms, give it another stir and leave it alone. I add the mushrooms later because I do like mine to have some bite left in them but if you are going to be out or want them really cooked down, put them in at the beginning with all the other ingredients.
You can now go out, sit and knit or drink the rest of the wine!
When the time is up the meat should be very tender and everything should be thick and bubbling away nicely. Have a little taste and add some salt and pepper if you think it needs it. Turn the slow cooker off and lift out the crock pot. I like to do this as it helps to cool everything down faster. When cool, either empty the contents into a container or bowl and put into the fridge until the next day or make into pies straight away.
For the pastry, I like to use the mix above. The quantity given is enough for a large deep filled pie or four individual pies. I find that it rolls without breaking so is easy to handle but is crumbly when cooked – not hard as so many gluten-free ones are. It also holds together when you dish out the pies, either individual or slices. I do sometimes use my flaky pastry recipe but this is one that I developed because it is quick to make if I am in a hurry. I dish this pastry up to all, allergy or not and so far I haven’t had any complaints. I find adding the sorghum flour stops the pastry becoming hard and also gives it a better flavour.
Make the pastry in the usual way by either rubbing the fat into the flour or pop into a mixer or processor until the mix resembles large crumbs (or small peas!). Add the egg and stir or mix until it all starts to come together, you may need to add some water to achieve this. You are looking for a well held together pastry, not too dry.
Roll out using some rice or other flour to stop it sticking to the work surface. If the mixture breaks when you try to roll it out, give it a bit of an knead to help it together and roll it out again. Use the pastry to line the pie dish(es) and fill with the cold filling. Put a lid on top and glaze with some beaten egg.
Bake your pie or pies at 180 deg C for about 40 minutes or until piping hot and golden brown.
You can freeze these, either as just the filling or made up pies. Defrost before use. If re-heating pies put them into an oven at 180 deg C until piping hot.