When we were at Glastonbury this year, we ate really well. The food there is always incredible, but this year it just seemed better than ever. The biggest difference for me was coming home. Usually I feel a bit poisoned - you know how you feel after Christmas, when you've been eating chocolate all day, every day, only stopping for heavy, comforting meals of loveliness, washing it all down with a pint of Bailey's? That kind of feeling. This year, though, I didn't feel like that. I'd had a few more ciders than my fair share, sure, but I hadn't eaten THAT badly. I mean, I only had chips once!
My two highlights were the Buddha Bowl stall - thai curry, grains, salad and halloumi of dreams - and the Soulful Food company. Every time Matt and I walked past the stall we'd make a promise to each other that we'd go before the weekend was out, as it looked so comforting, tasty and hearty. We ended up going on a boiling hot afternoon, when most people would choose to eat anything other than warming stew, but that's just us. And it was worth it, even in the heat. We ordered a couple of options and shared them, but while the pulled pork stew was nice, the chicken and butternut squash tagine was the winner - the ideal combination of sweet and savoury. I was determined to make something similar.
The summer is the ideal time to dust off your slow cooker. While stews and whatnot can seem like winter food, I'm sure that for most of us, summer doesn't mean only eating cold food. And that's why slow cooking is perfect, because all you have to do is pop your food in before work and then come home to a nice cool house with dinner practically on the table. You really don't want to stand in front of a hot oven or over a hob in the heat, do you?
If, like me, you worry about not having time in the morning to get food ready, then do as I do. I prepare everything the night before and put it in the slow cooker, ready for the morning. Then, all I need to do is turn it on before I leave. If I'm including meat, then I defrost it separately and plonk it in last thing before I turn it on. You can defrost the meat in the slow cooker - I've done it before - but there's some suggestion that it doesn't get hot enough to destroy all the bacteria, so I'm slightly off that idea now.
I based this recipe on the tagine from this blog, with a few tweaks to make it lighter, with more portions and more spice. This would work with different meat or no meat at all - it's pretty versatile. It also makes tons so is a really healthy dinner - 8 Weight Watchers points!
Meat of your choice - we used lamb breast
2 onions, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 butternut squash, chopped and deseeded
3 carrots, chopped
2 x 390g cartons of chopped tomatoes
2 x stock cubes (match your meat if you can, or use veggie)
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp turmeric
5 cardamom pods
2 tsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
Hearty slug of sweet chilli sauce
Couscous (50g per portion)
Raisins and fresh coriander to serve
8 servings / 8 WW propoints
1. Chop up all your vegetables and plonk them in the slow cooker.
2. Add the garlic, spices - basically everything on the ingredients list, leaving back one of the stock cubes, the couscous, the raisins and the fresh coriander.
3. Pop your meat on top. Don't worry about cutting it up first - after cooking all day, it should just fall apart.
4. Cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4.
5. After the time is up, break the meat apart. If you do need to cut it up, just lift it out, give it a chop up and then add back to the slow cooker.
6. Give everything a good stir - oh, and have a taste to see if you want to add any more flavourings - then pop the slow cooker back on for 30-60 minutes.
7. Prepare your couscous by adding as many portions as you're using to a bowl, then pouring boiling water over it until it's just covered. Pop a plate over the top and leave for 10 minutes.
8. When the time is up, mix it up with a fork and then add the raisins and coriander.
9. Dish up! This freezes really well too, so make the most of those leftovers.