Slow cooking is a method of cooking which dates back decades, and is now becoming a revolution in India. Although a conventional style of cooking, it has now become the latest trend for the food connoisseurs across the country who are adopting this method keeping in mind the plethora of benefits it has to offer.
This is a method of cooking food slowly where the ingredients are cooked for a longer time on a low to medium heat setting. To compliment slow cooking, one of the best materials to cook in is cast iron cookware, which not only helps keep the nutritional value of the food intact, but also looks beautiful in the vibrant colours it adds to the kitchen, against the mundane stainless steel, we have been used to. Moreover, this method also decreases the possibility of burning the food or sticking to the bottom of the pan. Slow cooking helps the ingredients blend together which further intensifies the flavours of all the ingredients. For instance, if you are cooking meat, the gelatin is well extracted from the meat and the bones, which in turn will give a thick concentrated sauce. Furthermore, this process keeps the distinct flavours of spices like clove, cinnamon, and star anise intact.
It is very important to choose the right equipment for slow cooking. The enameled cast iron casseroles are ideal for slow cooking. Being a good conductor of heat, thick walled and flameproof casseroles hold the heat extremely well. Keeping the food moist and tender, the material is ideal for a stylish presentation, and keeps additional portions warm until ready to serve. It relies on the concept of cooking on low to medium heat settings thereby retaining the nutritious value of the food. It also reduces the use of oil, which adds to the health benefits.
The advantage of slow cooking is that it requires the least amount of attention. Once the food is on the stove, it can be left to slowly cook itself. One does not have to open the lid repetitively to stir and to make sure that it does not stick to the bottom and the spices are being well absorbed.
If you are adopting the method of slow cooking for the first time, it is imperative to keep in mind that the casserole has a well-fitted lid. Since cast iron is a heavy material, it is the most important to pick up the one with easy to hold knobs.
Here are a few tricks to keep in mind to make flavoursome and delectable food using the slow cooking method:
- You must make sure that you sauté the meat and the vegetables before you leave it for cooking to maximise flavour.
- Put less salt to start with, as salty flavours get concentrated while slow cooking.
- Do not forget to crush/break hard spices before adding them to the cooking pot as they release their flavours slowly.
- Ingredients like fish and seafood that get cooked comparatively faster should always be added towards the end of the cooking time.
- It is important to add hot water for cooking to prevent lowering the cooking temperature.
The author is the Country Head of Le Creuset, India and SAARC.