Shredded beef soft tacos

Soft tacos with beef

From Gimme Some Oven’s Slow-Cooker Shredded Beef Tacos and Simply Recipe’s How to Make Corn Tortillas by Elise Bauer

What can we say about the English version of Mexican food? I guess we do a version of Tex-Mex.  Is it even possible to do an inauthentic Tex-Mex?  Mexican food that’s an awful lot of steps removed from the real thing by the time we get our hands on it.  However, that doesn’t stop it tasting really good!  I guess now I’m gluten-free I miss the soft flour tortillas that make a burrito so, so delicious.  But without dwelling on what I can’t have, I’ve gone full steam ahead and got myself a tortilla press.  Yes you can buy corn tortillas ready-made on the internet but they’re not particularly cheap, especially compared to a packet of masa harina (the flour used to make corn tortillas).  I reckon it has already paid for itself the amount I’m making and really, they are so easy to do yourself.  I follow a combination of instructions on the packet of flour and internet directions (see link above).  They are just flour, water and a little salt, although I do make them slightly larger than recommended.  It has taken a few goes to get them really good but it has been worth it.  I’m not sure they would be as easy if I were rolling them, but I just threw myself into the tortilla abyss.  He who dares wins as they say!  Corn tortillas in the stores, around here at least, have wheat flour in them because it makes them a bit more flexible.  So of course they do!  Crispy tacos are gluten-free usually, but I like a soft one, I just do.  To go with these wonderful creations I’ve made shredded beef.  I’ve opted for my favourite slow-cooking cut of shin of beef again because it is very flavourful and cheap as you like.  I actually made the filling the day before I needed it this time and reheated on the day, making the salsa, guacamole and tortillas from scratch that evening.  If you want to save time you could just buy ready-made pots of salsa and guacamole.  Nothing wrong with them, it’s just I like making my own!  I also tend to serve tacos with cheddar cheese and a sour cream substitute (either a low lactose cremè fraîche like Rodda’s, or home soured soya cream).

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Beef curry (with spinach saag and rice)

Beef curry (with spinach saag and rice)

From BBC Food’s Slow Cooker Beef Curry by Rachel Manley

This is a different sort of curry to that aubergine one that I make with the coconut milk.  I’m sure it is very inauthentic!  It’s probably very British though.  It is the one I do when I’m popping the slow cooker on for the day.  Beef works very nicely here, and I can honestly say I’ve never made it with anything else.  Get a nice chunk of a stewing cut (skirt, shin or chuck are good) and preferably dice it yourself.  Those boxes of pre-cubed meat you can get at the supermarket just called ‘stewing’ beef can be any cut, or a mix of cuts, and they’re usually too small a dice and end up tough.  Use a local butcher, farm shop or trusted box scheme if you can.  Feel free to adjust the chilli up or down to your preference.  I make this fairly mild as I’m usually feeding it to C.  She likes this one because it is very tomatoey, and that’s just how most toddlers roll.  I’ll post the spinach saag accompaniment next as I’ve veganized that and, if I’m honest, I could just eat bowfuls of that just by itself!  I may have a made a curry without coconut milk, but that doesn’t mean it won’t make an appearance somewhere in the overall meal…  I find some curries are a bit lacking in the vegetable department, even though the tomato, garlic and onion do count.  I like a veggie side dish for very meaty curries and although I usually end up making some sort of dhal, the spinach saag is very delicious indeed and is relatively quick.

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Beef stew

Beef stew (with mash)

It’s been getting a bit more like Spring, thank goodness.  Although it’s a bit rainy the sun has been making a regular appearance and it’s been relatively warm.  Hurrah!  Time for the last few truly wintery recipes to make an appearance.  There’s something to be said for a thick beef stew with a pile of buttery mash.  Comfort food for certain.  This recipe can be varied depending on what you’ve got in the way of vegetables.  I find the canned tomatoes are essential, but any root vegetable will do if you don’t have carrots – turnips, swede, parsnips are all good.  You can swap out celeriac for celery, and leeks for the onions.  I use beef shin here because it is an excellent choice for the slow cooker, being transformed after hours of slow cooking, but other stewing cuts would work as well.  I did brown the meat before I popped it in the slow cooker because I find it transforms the final colour of the stew, rather than for any particular taste reasons.  You can therefore omit this step if you can’t face frying meat early in the morning.  For me though browning a bit of beef is no different to grilling a bit of bacon so not a problem.  Everything else goes in without any additional meddling.  I’d like to say I served this was colcannon as I usually do, but C is going through a phase of only really eating vegetables raw.  When I was a child I wasn’t so keen on plain cooked vegetables – cabbage, cauliflower and carrots all tasted better to me au naturel.  My mum would just leave me a bowl of uncooked vegetables to accompany my meal and that was that.  The only exceptions to the rule were potatoes, cooked all ways, and roast parsnips, yum.  So I actually served this with plain mash and a pile of uncooked shredded cabbage.  I’d forgotten how much I liked it!  Just have to remember to make a mash ‘barricade’ to stop the hot gravy getting on the cold cabbage…

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Vegetable and bean chilli

Vegetable and bean chilli

Adapted from Slow-Cooker Vegetarian Chili With Sweet Potatoes by Kay Chun on Real Simple

I’ve been meaning to make a chilli with something chocolatey in it ever since I spotted a post from Frugal Feeding a few weeks back.  This has cocoa powder in it, rather than real chocolate, and it’s a slow cooker recipe because I’m a little bit in love with mine.  You will hear some people say that everything that comes out of a slow cooker just tastes of celery, or carrot, or whatever, regardless of what you put in.  This is simply not true!  It does make delicious stews but if the ingredients and seasonings used every time are similar then they will all have a certain flavour.  But I can assure you this vegetable and bean chilli does not taste like a beef stew!  And neither does it taste like pulled pork, which is another great use for the slow cooker.  I’m also working on an overnight hot oatmeal recipe, because as mentioned in previous posts, I can’t be trusted first thing in morning to do anything complicated.  Finding breakfast ready-made for me is a fine thing but I need to make it during the day first so I can be sure it won’t burn the house down while we sleep!  But I’m rambling off topic here.  This is an excellent dish if you know you’ve got a hungry horde coming.  If your slow cooker is large you can double-up the ingredients.  That’s the other great advantage of using a slow cooker when guests are due – you can get most of the prep for your main dish out the way really early on, leaving you free to do other things before people arrive.  I’ll be posting a recipe for cornbread that goes well with it, but equally you can serve this with rice.

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