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Taking it slow
with Dean Edwards

Local chef Dean Edwards lets us lift a leaf or two from his chilled-out new recipe book – what a lovely lad!

We’re big fans of the philosophy implicit within the pages of Cook Slow. “At a time when society tells us that we should live our lives at a thousand miles an hour,” author Dean Edwards begins, “why have I decided to take inspiration from a cooking process that totally goes against this train of thought?” Slow-cooking food, he goes on to explain, is a satisfying way of transforming the most basic, inexpensive foodstuffs into something special (always a handy trick in January) allowing for plenty of interim time best spent with family and friends or focusing on our wellbeing. We found out a little more from the Bristol chef and pinched one of his fave recipes to try out this month.

TBM: What do you love about this technique?

Dean: Over recent years I have seen unusual cuts of meat like ox cheek, as well as old favourites such as oxtail, popping up in restaurants and butchers’ – traditionally cheaper cuts of meat that require slow-cooking and a little more love and attention but, damn, they sure do pack a punch in the flavour department. The process of slow cooking is by no means confined to just meat dishes. Vegetables form a huge part of the slow-cooking process; onions melt away, root vegetables become tender and sweet and the possibilities are endless.

Why have we stopped using our slow cookers?

I think people view their slow cookers either as a seasonal piece of kitchen kit that they dust off at the first sign of frost or they really don’t know what to do with them outside of a traditional stew. I wanted to bring slow-cooker cooking bang up to date and emphasise it as a way of cooking all year round. The recipes can be rich and comforting like the Moroccan lamb with paprika dumplings which is perfect for winter, or light and fragrant like the Thai seafood curry which I enjoy throughout the year.

What are you admiring in Bristol right now?

Bristol is booming in the food world and I’m so excited by the explosion of great places to eat in and around my beautiful city. I love the street food vibe at the Cargo containers and St Nick’s market where many great vendors showcase their delicious offerings. Exciting independents like Harts Bakery, Souk Kitchen, The Cauldron, The Ox and Box-E are among my favourites.

What can you see being big in food for 2019?

I can see us experimenting more and more in the home kitchen. I love the fact that in recent years we have seen a rise in the diversity of cuisines being showcased by fantastic restaurants up and down the country. Not only that, we are able to buy authentic ingredients to make dishes from around the world in our local supermarkets. I predict that we will see a rise in us cooking these dishes at home; recipes like Caribbean curry goat and ramen, which rely on slow-cooking processes, will become increasingly popular. I also predict that Sri Lankan food will be huge in 2019.

Is cooking good for the soul?

I truly believe that it is; for me it’s not just the end result, it’s the whole process from being inspired and considering what to cook to the shopping, the preparing of the meal then the joy of eating with family and friends. I get incredible enjoyment from feeding people and seeing the clean plates being delivered back into the kitchen.

Give us your best three slow-cooker tips

1) Browning ingredients such as meat and cooking down the vegetables – while not essential, this will definitely add levels of flavour to your meal. 2) As a general rule of thumb you will only need half the quantity of liquid for a slow-cooker recipe as you would for a conventional cooking method. Remember, the more liquid you add the more the flavour will be diluted. Oh and don’t be tempted to peep during the cooking process. 3) Try different cuts of meat in your slow cooker. Prime cuts are very expensive so why not try something a little more unusual? Skirt steak, ox cheek, shin, pork cheek and oxtail are all easier on the wallet, perfect for slow cooking and are packed full of amazing flavour.

What if we don’t have a slow cooker?

What if I told you there is both a slow-cooker method and a conventional oven method in the book? I made my life twice as hard during the writing and testing of the book to make your life easier. I hate the idea that not having a certain piece of kitchen equipment alienates some from cooking. I want my recipes to be used so I always try to make sure that both the ingredients and equipment are familiar and accessible. Saying that, I bought my slow cooker for £18 from the supermarket so its definitely an affordable method of cooking and one of my better investments.

What’s your philosophy on food?

Food doesn’t need to be complicated to be delicious. I use accessible ingredients and keep recipes as simple as I can while still making them inspiring to the more confident cook. It really does mean the world to me that my recipes are cooked and enjoyed up and down the country. I don’t do this to pat myself on the back, I do this because I truly love food and cooking and I hope that comes across in the recipes.

Favourite recipe in the book?

It would have to be the beef ragu. I grew up eating spaghetti bolognese and it’s both my daughter Indie and my partner Liz’s favourite meal so it’s on order on a weekly basis in the Edwards household. It’s nothing ground-breaking but instead of using mince I use skirt steak which, when cooked gently, breaks down until it almost melts away into the rich tomato sauce. From a selfish point of view, it would have to be the sticky toffee pudding – who knew you could cook a sponge pudding in a slow-cooker pot?

Oxtail bunny chow (serves 4)

Absolutely no bunnies were harmed in the testing of this recipe! Bunny chow is a classic South African dish of beef curry served in a hollowed-out loaf or crusty bread roll. It’s street food at its finest. Once the curry has been demolished, you then eat the bread, which has soaked up all the fiery, spicy juices from the curry. If you don’t fancy trying the oxtail, then replace it with another 400g (14oz) of cubed skirt steak.

• 1–2 tablespoons olive oil
• 700 g (1 lb 9 oz) oxtail
• 400 g (14 oz) skirt steak, cut into 2.5 cm (1 inch) cubes
• 2 tablespoons plain flour seasoned with salt and pepper
• 2 onions, sliced
• 3 garlic cloves, crushed
• 1 thumb-sized piece of fresh root ginger, grated
• 1 green chilli, deseeded and diced
• 6 whole cloves
• 4 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
• 1 cinnamon stick or ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1 star anise
• 1 heaped tablespoon garam masala
• 1 teaspoon nigella seeds
• 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
• 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
• 2 tablespoons tomato purée
• 800 ml (28 fl oz) beef stock if using the conventional method or 400 ml (14 fl oz) if using the slow cooker method
• 1 x 400 ml (14 fl oz) can of coconut milk
• 400 g (14 oz) Maris Piper potatoes, cut into small cubes
• 2 small bakers’ loaves or 4 rolls, halved and hollowed out
• Finely chopped fresh coriander, to garnish

For the carrot and onion sambal:
• 2 carrots, julienned or grated
• 1 red onion, thinly sliced
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 garlic clove, crushed
• 1 green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
• Juice of 1 lemon
• 1 teaspoon caster sugar

Conventional method
1. Heat the oil in a large heavy-based casserole over a medium to high heat. Dust the meat with the flour, then add to the casserole in batches and seal for 5–6 minutes, until golden. Remove from the casserole and set aside.

2. Add the onions, garlic, ginger (or Time Saver Curry Base) and chilli and fry for 5 minutes before adding the spices and cooking for a couple more minutes. Add the tomato purée and cook for a further minute. Pour in the 800 ml (28 fl oz) of stock and coconut milk and bring up to a simmer.

3. Return the meat to the casserole and add the potatoes. Put the lid on and cook over a gentle heat for 3 hours.

4. Remove the oxtail from the casserole and shred the meat from the bone. Return to the casserole and cook, uncovered, for another 15–20 minutes, until the sauce has reduced and thickened.

5. Towards the end of the cooking time, make the sambal. Mix the carrots with the onion, sprinkle over the salt and leave for 10 minutes, then drain the excess liquid. Add the rest of the ingredients and allow to stand for 20 minutes.
ª Spoon into the hollowed-out rolls and garnish with finely chopped fresh coriander. Serve the carrot and onion sambal on the side.

Slow-cooker method
1. Follow steps 1–2 as for the conventional method on page 120, making sure you use only 400 ml (14 fl oz) of stock.

2. Put the meat and potatoes in the slow cooker and carefully pour in the stock mixture. Cover with the lid and cook on low for 8 hours.

3. Follow step five as in conventional method.

4. Remove the oxtail from the slow cooker and shred the meat from the bone, then stir the meat back into the slow cooker.

5. Follow step six as in conventional method.

TIP: Leave the bread from the hollowed-out rolls to go stale, then grate it and freeze for handy breadcrumbs.

• Extracted from Cook Slow by Dean Edwards (Hamlyn, £14.99). Photography by Ria Osborne