food magic

slow cooking

Winter is a time for starting a potjie or firing up the slow cooker early on Saturday morning, letting it cook all day, and settling in with a lovely, warm bowl of stew for dinner to get your body warmed up from the inside out. The meat is fall-apart tender, rich with flavour from the spices and the sauce, and utterly delicious scooped up with some fresh, crusty bread.

 

There are hundreds of ways to prepare and cook your beef, from roasting to frying, grilling  to braaing, and each method has its own unique influence on the flavour profile of your beef. But what is it about slow cooking that makes it so very special? What makes slow cooking change our meat from a solid slab into delicate filaments of deliciousness?

the science of slow

Interesting things happen to meat at various different temperatures. For example, at high temperatures, the proteins coagulate quickly, giving us that distinctive crust you get on a hot-fried steak.

When you drop the temperature, however, something totally different happens. The proteins coagulate more slowly, while at the same time, the connective tissue - collagen - starts to melt and give way. That’s how we end up with meat that falls apart into strands of protein, rather than maintaining its shape like that steak, or your rare roast.

The flavour of slow

Similar things happen to herbs and spices when they cook for a long time. When they are cooked quickly, they render just a percentage of their oils and flavours, while long cooking releases more of the oils. Those extra oils and flavours bring a different flavour to the dish - a richer, more developed flavour.

And of course, it’s not just the meat and the spices. Tomato - a favourite ingredient in stews, soups and potjies - becomes sweeter, potatoes absorb the flavour surrounding them and thicken the sauce, and all the various ingredients contribute a little of their own flavour to everything  else, and give us a rounded, full-bodied taste.

Slow cooking is all about time and temperature - lots of the first, less of the second! As always we encourage you to experiment, try out new things. If your slow cooker is just standing there gathering dust, now is the time to get it down and give it a try. You won’t regret it!