Friday, March 1, 2013

February Cookbook Review: Gluten Free Slowcooking

Gluten Free Slow Cooking: Over 250 Recipes of Wheat-Free Wonders for the Electric Slow Cooker
by Ellen Brown

Celiac disease shouldn’t hold you back from the diversity of cooking! Whether you are strictly wheat-free, or just watching your diet, this book is the first of its kind, specializing in gluten-free slow cooking. Ellen Brown, the author of the highly acclaimed Complete Idiot’s Guide to Slow Cooker Cooking and Gluten Free Christmas Cookies, has created more than 150 new and original recipes for the first book to meet the needs of anyone suffering from gluten intolerance.

(Cover and Description from Indigo. Source.)
Publisher: Cider Mill Press
Publication Date: May 15, 2012

This month, I cooked several recipes from this cookbook.  I made:

Potage St. Germain:

This is a spit pea and lettuce soup.  This recipe is great for a slow cooker because the dried peas take a long time to cook.  The flavour was bright and fresh.  This would be a great spring or early summer soup, with some fresh peas added in at the end.

Potato Soup with Bacon and Cheddar

This is comfort food at its best.  Potatoes, bacon and cheese.  Thick and delicious.  Also very simple to put together.  The truth though?  It could probably be made much quicker in a regular soup pot.  Cook bacon, boil potatoes, add cheese, simmer, done.  All in one pot. 

Italian Cabbage Soup With Sausage

This recipe came into my life right after making a big batch of homemade Italian sausages, so it was perfect.  This is a soup I will make again.  Simple ingredients, full flavour and lots of chunky veggies make this a hearty soup, perfect for a cold winter's night.

Moroccan Lamb Stew

The flavour in this recipe is incredible.  Taste-wise, easily one of my favourites from the book.  Again, my complaint is the number of steps that have to take place before the whole thing hits the crockpot.  Browning the meat under the broiler and then sautéing the vegetables, then using the slow cooker.  It could all be done in one pot, and then left to simmer.

Indonesian Chicken Curry

Nice flavour and Texture, not too difficult to put together.  This one would please those who are wary about curry.  The flavour isn't overwhelming, and it's balanced out with some sweetness.  Worth a try.

Boeuf Bourguignon

Another great comfort food dish, which I made during a snowstorm.  Rich and full of flavour, my husband really liked this one.  I enjoyed it, but I have a different recipe that I like more, although this one gives it a pretty good run for the money.

Compared to what I made  from last month's book, which was almost double the number of recipes, this is nothing.  So it shouldn't be a surprise when I say that I have mixed feelings about this book. 

Let me start with the positives. There are many good things about this book.  The recipes are good.  There wasn't one recipe that didn't taste good, and there were several other that looked really good, too, and that I will probably try in the future.  The book contains appetizer-type soups, hearty soups, meat and fish dishes, sides, and desserts.  A nice variety of recipes, inspired by several different cuisines, including Indian, Thai, Mexican, Italian, and more. 

I also loved the photographs.  I've mentioned before how much I like to see good quality photos of what I'm making so that I know what the meal should look like when it's done.  The book doesn't disappoint on the quality of the shots. 

The instructions were clear and easy to follow, and I had no trouble finding the ingredients, even for the more exotic dishes.  I wasn't worried about making a mistake, because everything was explained in clear, simple language.

Unfortunately, there were a few drawbacks that I just couldn't get past.  I understand that these are personal to me and my experience, so I'll try to lay them out as objectively as possible. 

My biggest issue is that most recipes called for some kind of cooking or sautéing of ingredients before putting them in the slow cooker.  I know that in some cases it's important for food safety reasons, and that didn't bother me.  But other times, when simply softening vegetables or mixing flavours, I'd prefer not to have to take that extra step. For me, this defeats the purpose of the convenience of the slow cooker.  If I were making the recipes in a soup pot, I would do all the steps in that pot, thereby only dirtying the one pot.  I didn't like having to get a frying pan and the slow cooker dirty for one recipe.  A personal pet peeve, but a big one. 

Second, although I thought the photos were beautiful, they weren't always exact representations of the recipes.  I noticed it when I was making the Boeuf Bourguignon.  The recipe calls for sliced mushrooms, but the photo shows whole button mushrooms.  A small thing, yes, but then I noticed it again.  When making the Indonesian Chicken Curry, the recipe calls for diced red bell pepper.  The photo in the book shows long strips.  While neither of these things would change the flavour of the recipes, they do change the presentation.  I think a photo, while obviously taken to show the recipe to its best advantage, should still always show the dish as it's called for in the recipe. 

Finally, and I know this is just me, but I found that most of the recipes could have been cooked just as  effectively in about 20-30 minutes in a soup pot.  Some of the larger meat dishes could not, and I will definitely try some of them in the slow cooker, but many of the soups and side dishes could more easily be cooked on the stove, in much less time.  I enjoyed just having the cooker on and not having to worry about it, but since almost each recipe called for a separate pan to be used at some stage, it actually added a step to use the slow cooker. 

Verdict:  I will continue to use this cookbook, but I probably won't use the slow cooker for all of the recipes.  I'll convert them. This book has good recipes with clear instructions, and I had success with each dish I tried.  It's a good introduction to slow cooker recipes, and it did inspire me to get the slow cooker out again.  However, I found the multiple steps inconvenient with what could essentially be one pot meals. 

It's a toss up.  I don't think you'll be disappointed with the recipes, but it didn't provide me with the ultimate convenience I was hoping for.  I recommend it for the good food, and the beautiful design, but not for the convenience factor.

Purchase:    [  Amazon ]     [ Amazon Canada ]

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