I’m not a great cook. We have a kitchen about the size of one on a boat. It just about fits a sink and drainer on one side, and a washing machine and dryer on the other. No room for a fridge, that’s currently living in what used to be a cupboard. We don’t have a working oven as if you use it, the power trips out for the house.
I’m also hampered by my aspergers and my suspected fibromyalgia. I can’t plan meals so that things are ready at the same time, it hurts to be stood around while preparing and juggling different things at different times and the range of ‘sensory issues’ in this house make it a nightmare from the outset.
Take a nice simple spaghetti bolognese. First fry the meat. Then remove half of the meat. Now add onions. Now separate the with onions and without onions into two. Add tomatoes to one with and one without. Now you have one meat (no tomatoes, no onions), one meat (with tomatoes, no onions), one meat and onions (no tomatoes) and one meat with onions and tomatoes. It’s just exhausting.
So I bought a slow cooker a while back and it fell out of favour, but this week I made an effort to make sure my husband bought ingredients for it.
I started by using the MySupermarket app. It allows me to build a shopping list, compare it instantly with other supermarkets, and then export it as a list. Lists are essential with an ADHD husband, they stop the hours of standing in the middle of the shop trying to remember what it was that was meant to be bought, and also limits the ‘I see it so I’ll buy it’ tendency.
I did a search for some sensory friendly meals, and decided that it appears to be meat joints or bust.
What’s great about the crockpot is it’s not an exact science. You don’t have to follow every step of a recipe.
Even though my family are anti-carrot, they make a great base in the crockpot to stop the meat resting on the bottom of the pan. Quartered potatoes are also good.
If you are using a beef or pork joint, you can buy cheap, after cooking in the pot for 6-8 hours on low even the toughest joint is tender. It’s worth searing it in a pan first on all sides if possible.
You can cook baked potatoes at the same time, by wrapping with foil and tucking around the sides of the joint.
The most successful one so far (although so far everyone’s eaten everything!) is the chicken.
Chop up potatoes and/or carrots (and even onions) for the base of the pot. You need at least one root vegetable to ensure the meat is kept up when the veg cooks.
Unwrap the whole chicken (and remove any of the elastic straps), and make sure the giblets are removed. If you like these parts, they can go in the bottom of the pot too to help make a chicken stock for another meal. Stuff the cavity with a pierced lemon (stab an unpeeled lemon with a paring knife several times), or whole onion (peeled and with the top and tail removed). Add peeled garlic cloves if you want, I tend to put a couple inside the chicken, and some more tucked under the skin in places like the leg joints.
You can even put chunks of garlic butter under the skin.
Tuck the wings back (kinda make them into a triangle so they stay in place) and put the whole chicken on the veg bed with the breast DOWN. This makes the white meat even more tender.
I tend to like putting a blend of herbs on, paprika seems to be making it into every recipe at the moment, along with garlic salt, and flaked sea salt. Oregano is also good. But basically add what you want, or what you have got.
Run the spice mix on, add the wrapped baked potatoes and set on low for about 6-8 hours.
With most recipes I tend to count two hours on low as one hour on high, so if times short, you can cook on high for an hour or two and then the remainder of the time on low.
Now leave, don’t fiddle. Opening the lid will slow the cooking down a lot. You can check the temperature with a meat thermometer before serving, or go with the ‘poke with a skewer and check the juices run clear’ method. Not had too much luck with that though, as the juices drain through the meat while cooking. My usual method of testing the chickens done is: Attempt to pick chicken up by leg. If leg comes off in your hand, burning your fingers and splashing juice around inside the slow cooker, it’s probably done.
There should be enough meat after burning your fingers ‘carving’ it (don’t expect slow cooker meat to be cuttable, it tends to fall apart too easily) to last two days. Please refrigerate responsibly.