beef stew with chili and chocolate (a slow cooker conversion)

So, as I mentioned in my how-to post, I converted a normal recipe to a slow cooker recipe for the first time this week!

Apart from the fact that I felt the stew was too liquid when it was done, I think it turned out very nice. When it had cooled in the fridge for a few hours the liquid had set a bit more, so it wasn’t as liquid as it was when I first took it off the heat. The flavour was definitely good (though more beefy than winey since I added more stock than wine) but the carrots were a bit too mushy. So I would recommend either adding them halfway through the cooking process or putting them in aluminium foil and laying them on top of the meat, mushrooms and liquid.

As I also said in the how-to post, I not only adapted this recipe from a regular one to a slow cooker one – I also had to adapt the ingredients slightly. My local supermarket doesn’t stock venison, so instead I got what we in Sweden call rostas, which is the inner muscle of the beef rump (basically the inner bit of the roast beef bit), and then I added mushrooms as well. I also didn’t use any coriander or chili powder, and bought tinned tomatoes with garlic rather than plain tinned tomatoes. Either way it turned out really good and served with mashed potatoes it’s great comfort food.


Ingredients (6 portions)

1 kg beef (or venison if you have it at hand)

2 large carrots (ca 200-250g)

250g mushrooms

1 red chili

1 yellow onion

390g tinned tomatoes (with garlic if you wish)

2-300 ml beef stock (I used about 400 ml which felt like way too much)

250 ml red wine

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp thyme

1 cinnamon stick

3 tsp vegetable oil

40g dark chocolate (70%)

water + cornstarch

Chop up your onion and fry until golden in 1 tsp oil. Pour in 2 tsp oil into the slow cooker and add the onion.

Cut your beef into big-ish chunks and add to the slow cooker. If you wish you can sear them before putting them in the slow cooker but this time I didn’t have the energy to and I can’t say I noticed too much of a difference.

Cut up your carrots and mushrooms into similar sized pieces and add to the slow cooker. Alternatively; add the mushrooms to the slow cooker and keep the carrots aside until halfway through, or wrap the carrots in foil and set aside.

Chop up your chili and add to the slow cooker.

Add tomatoes, red wine, beef stock, cumin, thyme, and the cinnamon stick to the slow cooker. (If you have wrapped the carrots in foil, place them on top now.)

Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

If the stew is too liquid, add cornstarch to water until there are no more lumps then add to the stew and cook on high for 30 minutes.

Add chocolate and stir so it mixes in.

Serve with mashed potatoes, or boiled potatoes, or maybe even add potatoes to the stew? BBC also say that it’s really good as pie filling, but then you’ll want to make sure it’s not too liquid.

I know I often say so, but I’m definitely making this again. I might play around with it some more, but I’m pleasantly surprised with how this turned out, seeing as it was the first time I tried my hand at making a non-slow cooker recipe in the slow cooker!




how to: convert recipes to slow cooker recipes

I tried my hand at converting a normal recipe for the slow cooker this week! I found this recipe for a spiced venison stew with chocolate on BBC Good Food, and thought it sounded really nice. I always wanted to try a stew or chili with chocolate – to see what kind of a difference it may make. I like dark chocolate with chili in it – and when I lived in Italy my favourite ice cream shop made an amazing chili chocolate ice cream – so the idea of that hint of chocolate in a hearty stew was intriguing. However, my local supermarket didn’t stock venison, so I had to go with beef instead.

Having experimented a little with my slow cooker so far (the three bean chili, a beef stew that turned out way too dry, two different batches of peanut butter shredded chicken, and a parsnip and apple soup that was more reminiscent of apple sauce) I’ve come to believe that mine is a bit stronger than may be usual. When I made the beef stew and the first batch of shredded chicken I followed the cooking time exactly and they both turned out really dry. For the second batch of chicken I took off 30 min of the lower estimate and it was still a bit dry. I don’t know if there’s any way that you can figure out what the heat is (instruction manual maybe) but since I was cooking beef I figured I’d be ok even if it was a little bit underdone.

Scouring the internet for how to convert recipes I found a number of articles that set out very similar tips. Essentially it seemed that your best bet is to take soups or stews since they’re often ‘slow cooked’ anyway and since they contain a good bit of liquid. Lifehacker provided me with a slow cooker conversion chart by One Good Thing by Jilliee, but like I said above I made my own adaptions to the cooking times.

Conventional recipe time    Slow cooker time on low     Slow cooker time on high

15-30 min                           4-6 hours                             2-3 hours

35-45 min                           6-8 hours                             3-4 hours

50 min – 3 hours               8-10 hours                           4-6 hours

My stew falls into the last category (about 2.5 hours) but my previous experience has shown that cooking the food on the low setting for the time specified as the high estimate on the high setting (i.e. cooking the stew on low for 6 hours in this case) may be the way to go. So this time I went with my gut.

There are also a few things they say you should think about in terms of the ingredients – the big thing being the liquid. If your recipe is a soup or stew, or something else that already has liquid in it, the tip is to reduce the liquid by half. If your original recipe doesn’t have any liquid (or sauce) in it you should instead add 100-125 ml water to it – to create the steam needed for the slow cooker to reach its cooking temperature.

As for meat and vegetables, the general tip is to brown/sear any meat – unless you want to shred it – and seafood going in the pot. Obviously you don’t have to sear the meat, but they say it enhances the flavour and it helps in that it removes some of the excess fat which otherwise will just end up in your broth. Onions and garlic on the other hand should apparently always be browned first, or it will be too strong in flavour.

I like my vegetables with a bit of a bite still in them, and have found that even on the low setting, 6 hours in a slow cooker does mushy things to them. Most of the tips I read online said that hard vegetables like carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, swede, parsnips, etc. can go in right at the beginning, but I would say that if you’re able to (i.e. you’re not cooking it overnight or while you’re at work) it’s nicer to add your vegetables halfway through. Softer vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, peas, etc. should always be added nearer the end, or they’ll disintegrate in the stew. Another tip on the root vegetables (if you have to add them at the beginning) is to wrap them in foil and place on top of the beef, and then stir them in when the cooking time is over. This way they’ll stay a little bit firmer.

I haven’t yet tried a recipe containing dairy products or rice or pasta so I can’t comment on the next tips, but apparently any dairy products – milk, cheese or other – should be added in the last 30-60 minutes of cooking, and rice and pasta should be parboiled and added at the end – with just enough time left to heat through.

If your recipe calls for a thickening agent to be added to the sauce/broth, wait until the end. My tip (based on what I’ve done with my other stew) would be to reduce the cooking time by 30-45 minutes. Once finished cooking, combine cornstarch and water  until no lumps remain(the quantities vary but a good basis is 4 tbsp water and 2 tbsp cornstarch) and add to the slow cooker. Cook on high for 30 minutes. Another option is to remove the broth/sauce from the slow cooker and reduce it on the hob (stove in American), or to simply remove the lid on the slow cooker and cook on high for 30 min. I haven’t tried the last way, but the cornstarch approach is tried in tested in many regular recipes, so I’ll probably keep using that.

When I was doing my conversion prep I read somewhere that the liquid in your recipe should still cover your meat and vegetables completely. When I had halved my wine and beef stock it was nowhere near covering everything, so I added the other half of the stock to make up the full amount. However, when the stew was done, there was then way too much liquid, and even reducing it on the hob with added cornstarch mix didn’t make it thick enough in time for me to pop to work this morning. So I think I should have maybe stuck with the halving of the liquid rule. (Also, adding more beef stock compared to the wine will have changed the flavour of the stew compared to the original recipe – for better or worse I don’t know.)

Either way I’m going to keep experimenting with my sloow cooker until we’re best friends and I know all its secrets, likes and dislikes. And I’ll post my adapted recipe for the stew tomorrow or Thursday.


three bean chili with sweet potato (my first slow cooker recipe!)

I’m so tired today. It’s been a long week and I haven’t been sleeping very well most nights. I’m pretty certain I’ve pulled/strained my left chest muscle, so all week I’ve been waking up during the nights because I’ve moved and it has hurt.

It must have been during boxing last Tuesday that I did it, but I first properly felt it on Thursday when I did yoga. Then after a day of carrying heavy boxes around the office, it really started hurting on Saturday. On Sunday it was so bad certain movements made me feel like crying. Since then it’s gotten a bit better – the pain is not as sharp now, it’s a duller kind of pain, but sometimes it still surprises me how much it hurts. Like when I sneezed yesterday and thought I was going to cry. On top of this I’m of course getting a cold – at a time where I can’t sneeze, cough, or blow my nose without being in pain.

In addition to this, I slept really badly both last night (pain) and the night between Wednesday and Thursday when I woke up at 1am, 4am, 5am and 6am, thinking I’d overslept each time. So it wasn’t just the waking up and rolling over in bed, it was the waking up with your heart jumping out of your chest because you thought you were running late (and then trying to roll around without incurring that still somewhat shooting pain in my chest muscle).

So it hasn’t been a great week. I also haven’t been to the gym since Thursday’s yoga, and I don’t know how much I’ll be able to do next week either. You don’t really realise just how much you use/tense your chest muscles in your everyday life until it starts hurting when you do it – just getting up from the sofa, turning around in bed, or laughing has become something painful. I’m going to be really careful about the gym though, because we have a conference with work next weekend at a ski resort in the Alps and I’m not planning to miss out on the skiing.

Anyway, I’m long overdue on this, but I’m going to post the three bean chili recipe that was my first slow cooker attempt! I found it online somewhere where it was a recipe for three bean chili with pumpkin. I’m not overly keen on pumpkin though (and the recipe called for tinned pumpkin which I doubt I’d be able to find in my local supermarket) so I decided to swap it out for sweet potato. I think it turned out nice, but the first portion didn’t give me that ‘wow’ feeling I had hoped for. I then added frozen sweetcorn to my remaining portions and that upped the game a lot. So I think when I make this again I will skip out on the sweet potatoes and instead add sweetcorn (after the chili has cooked for the prescribed time).

Ingredients (6 portions)

2 tbsp olive oil

1 yellow onion (approx. 150g)

4 cloves of garlic

1 red pepper

425g chickpeas

425g kidney beans

425g black beans

425g sweet potato

425g tinned tomatoes (crushed or passata)

2.5 cups beef stock

2 tsp oregano

1.5 tsp chili flakes

1.5 tsp cumin

1 tsp smoked paprika

0.5 tsp sea salt


Fry the onion in 1 tbsp oil until translucent. Add the garlic and fry for another few minutes.

Add 1 tbsp oil to the slow cooker, then add all of the remaining ingredients.

Cook on low for 7-8 hours.

It really can’t be simpler.


Next time, however, I’ll try:

2 tbsp olive oil

1 yellow onion (approx.. 150g)

4 cloves of garlic

2-3 red peppers

425g chickpeas

425g kidney beans

425g black beans

425g tinned tomatoes (crushed or passata)

500g sweetcorn (add after cooking)

2.5 cups beef stock

2 tsp oregano

1.5 tsp chili flakes

1.5 tsp cumin

1 tsp smoked paprika

0.5 tsp sea salt

Also, this obviously isn’t vegetarian because it has beef stock in it, but if you swap the beef stock for vegetable stock you’re good to go. I just prefer the slightly heartier taste I feel like the chili gets with beef stock.


pork and pear stew

Despite being a big city girl (Swedish standard) I come from a family of hunters. My granddad and aunt’s husband were big hunters when I grew up, so a visit to my grandparents inevitably meant moose for lunch/dinner (or maybe deer or boar every now and then). My aunt also has a farm where they raise beef cows (Aberdeen Angus and Herefords), so if I wasn’t having game I was having beef.

So I’ve pretty much grown up on lean meats. Moose is probably one of the leanest things you can eat, and with a mother who – whether she meant to or not – transferred her aversion to butter, whipped cream and deep fried foods to me, I have never been a fan of fatty foods. I don’t like butter or fat milk, I don’t particularly like whipped cream (a little can work) or battered and deep fried foods. I don’t like mayonnaise and thus there are certain sauces I don’t like (Béarnaise, Hollandaise…). I also don’t like vinegar, which means there are a lot of salad dressings I don’t like.

This means that often when I eat with people who don’t know me they mistake my dislikes for trying to be healthy or being on a diet, which is actually quite annoying. I understand that/why people jump to that conclusion, but it still bothers me because what they don’t know is that this dislike for fatty things is more than weighed up by a love for sweet things.

Anyway, where I’m trying to get with this is that I have never been a big pork fan. S thinks bacon is one of the best things in the world, whereas I would often choose something else. Leaves more for him though – so I’m sure he doesn’t mind! Recently, however, I have started to cook more with pork tenderloin. I made that goulashy stew, a pork cider stew (that I haven’t posted yet because it didn’t photograph that well), bacon wrapped pork tenderloin (twice – on S’s request) and now this pork and pear cider stew. Something about pork makes it go very well with fruit, and having a sweet tooth I like the sweetness of the cider and the soft pears in this so much. Also, while we’re on the topic, can I just say that the expression for liking sweet things is so much better in Swedish! In English you have a sweet tooth, but in Swedish you are a sweets (/candy) pig. How much better is that?

The other pork cider stew I made was less sweet than this one, but I think that was partly because it had carrots and parsnips in it instead of fruit. That one was made using apple cider, whereas this one has pear cider (to go with the pears). I would recommend using a cider with a slightly higher alcohol content, to get more of that cider flavour. I had to buy mine in the supermarket which meant that it only had 2.2% alcohol, so it was very sweet and didn’t add the same depth of flavour to the stew. But it was still very nice.

20161125_185551 (2).jpgIngredients

2 tbsp vegetable oil

500g pork tenderloin

1 medium onion

4 garlic cloves

2 tbsp flour

500 ml pear cider

2 medium pears

100 ml cream

Heat half of the oil in a pot and fry the pork on high heat until browned. Set aside.

Reduce the heat to medium, add the remaining oil and the onion and fry for about 8 min, until soft. Then add the garlic and fry for another few minutes.

Add the flour and stir thoroughly. Increase the heat, then add the cider and let it boil for 5 minutes.

Return the pork to the pot, season with salt and pepper, then reduce to a simmer and leave to cook for 10 minutes, covered.

Peel, core and cut the pears into 16 slices (so 8 each). Add them to the stew and leave to simmer for another 10 minutes, covered. Then add the cream and stir thoroughly.

I chose to have my stew with mash potatoes, but the recipe I found online recommended crusty bread. I think a good mash was really good with this though, especially now that it’s colder outside and I want comforting food. Bread is probably very nice with this in spring, but for now I’ll settle for mash.


pork tenderloin goulash-ish stew

I’ve been feeling quite autumny lately, even though the weather has been really nice. It’s a bit chilly in the mornings and evenings, but the days are usually sunny and quite warm. But the cold and wet spell we had a few weeks ago has made me feel like it should be time for knitted jumpers and ankle boots.

That’s also spread to my cooking, and last week I made this goulash-ish stew. The reason I’m calling it goulash-ish is that it’s very simple, but the original recipe from BBC Good Food calls it a pork goulash.I like simple stews though – I don’t want to have to buy 20 ingredients to make just one dish.

Before simmering down.

I made a really nice goulash once, but then (like with the blueberry and lemon cake) I didn’t save the recipe. The last time I tried making a ‘goulash-in-a-dash’, as it was called, it was too tomatoy. But this one felt a lot better.

The original recipe was a stew with dumplings, but I didn’t want to make that, so I put potatoes in mine instead. That way you don’t have to serve it with anything else.


Ingredients (4 portions)

600g pork tenderloin

500g potatoes

400g tinned, chopped tomatoes

400g passata

250 ml beef stock

2 peppers

2 cloves of garlic

2 tbsp paprika




bay leaves


Start by browning the pork loin in some oil. Set aside.

Chop the garlic (and if you like onion you can add an onion too) and brown in oil. Throw in the peppers and pork loin, and add the paprika. Pour over the chopped tomatoes, passata, and beef stock.

Add the potatoes – I usually quarter mine – and season with salt and pepper. Then throw in the bay leaves.

Leave to simmer for around 20-30 minutes to reduce the liquid.

It isn’t harder than that! Very simple, with a lot of ingredients you will possibly already have at home.

I got three large servings out of this – but as you can see my plate was overflowing! I served it with some crème fraîche and a nice slice of bread, and enjoyed my autumn-feeling. Bring on the cinnamon buns and hot chocolate!