Vegetarian fare the slow way

Slow Cooker Vegetarian, by Katy Holder, Allen and Unwin, $33
Slow Cooker Vegetarian, by Katy Holder, Allen and Unwin, $33
While most people think slow cookers are most useful for cooking tough cuts of meat, they also do equally well cooking vegetables, Australian food writer and stylist Kathy Holder says.

Passionate about cooking and encouraging people to eat a healthy diet, she says a slow cooker is ideal for cooking healthy meals because you start with predominantly fresh, whole foods and very few nutrients are lost in the cooking process.

And as a working mum of two boys, Katy understands the challenges of getting a nutritious home-cooked meal on the table on a daily basis.

Her latest book, Slow Cooker Vegetarian, uses vegetables and pulses to make complete meals without the need for additional protein, such as meat.

It also includes a list of ``toppings'' to add flavour and texture - such as pangrattato (garlic and herb breadcrumbs), seed crunch, lemon and dill yoghurt and chilli and herb oil - and also gets around the problem of one member of the family liking a particular flavour while others do not.

``Put them in the middle of the table when the meal is served and let everyone choose their own.''

Like all good family cookbooks, it includes a section on desserts such as crumbles, sago pudding, cheesecake and even a chocolate brownie.

She advises people to keep a close eye on desserts as they cook to ensure they do not overcook, as the size of the slow cooker can affect some of the puddings.

The rest of the book is divided into chapters for soups, curries, family favourites, rice, pasta, grains and warm salads and sides.


Butter miso mushroom risotto 

Photos: supplied
Photos: supplied
A modern Japanese twist on an Italian classic. This versatile risotto can also be made with other vegetables, such as pumpkin and snow peas.

Serves 4

Preparation time 5 minutes

Cooking time 1 hour 50 minutes


1 Tbsp sesame oil

300g sushi rice, rinsed

2 garlic cloves, crushed or finely chopped

2 spring onions , thinly sliced, white and

green parts kept separate

4 Tbsp white miso paste

50g butter

400g mixed Asian mushrooms, such

as shiitake (stems discarded and caps

sliced), shimeji and enoki

50g baby spinach leaves

To serve

toasted sesame seeds


Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the rice, garlic and the white parts of the spring onions and stir for 1 minute until the rice grains are well coated. Transfer to the slow cooker.

Whisk the miso paste with 750ml (3 cups) of boiling water until dissolved, then pour into the slow cooker. Cook on high for 1¼ hours, stirring halfway through.

Melt 20g of the butter in the frying pan over medium high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook for 3 minutes until slightly softened. Tip the mushrooms into the slow cooker, along with 185ml (¾ cup) of boiling water. Stir well, then cook for 15 minutes.

Stir in the remaining butter and the spinach leaves, plus another 185ml (¾ cup) of boiling water if needed, and cook for 10-15 minutes until the spinach wilts and the rice is al dente. Check the seasoning.

Scatter with the green parts of the spring onions and the toasted sesame seeds to serve.


Lentil and mushroom moussaka

A little bit of preparation is needed to make this rich and creamy moussaka. However, once it's in the slow cooker you can leave it for several hours.

Serves 6

Preparation time 20 minutes

Cooking time 4¾ hours


160g (¾ cup) Le Puy or tiny blue-green lentils

1.2kg eggplants (aubergines), cut into 5mm slices

2 Tbsp olive oil, plus extra for brushing

1 onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed or finely chopped

400g Portobello mushrooms, diced into 1cm pieces

2 Tbsp finely chopped oregano

2 Tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf (Italian) parsley

½ tsp ground cinnamon

700ml tomato passata (pureed tomatoes)

50g butter

50g (⅓ cup) plain (all-purpose) flour

500ml (2 cups) milk

1 egg, lightly beaten

100g feta cheese, crumbled

To serve

flat-leaf (Italian) parsley and rocket leaves


Pick through the lentils to remove any small stones that might be present. Put the lentils in a saucepan of cold water. Bring to the boil and cook for 10 minutes, then drain.

Meanwhile, preheat a grill to high and line a large baking sheet with foil. Lightly brush the eggplant with oil, season well with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and grill for 5 minutes each side until golden. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium high heat. Cook the onion, garlic, mushrooms, oregano, parsley and cinnamon for about 8 minutes until the onion is soft. Stir in the passata and lentils, then season and set aside.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute, then gradually whisk in the milk. Cook for 4 minutes, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens. Season to taste, then remove from the heat and whisk in the egg.

Lightly grease the slow cooker. Cover the base with a third of the eggplant slices, then spread over half the lentil mixture. Repeat the layers, finishing with eggplant. Pour over the sauce and scatter with the cheese, then cook on low for 4 hours. If there is still a fair amount of liquid around the edges, remove the lid and leave to cook for a further 20-30 minutes.

Serve with parsley and rocket leaves.


Indian curried yellow split pea and coconut soup

Korma curry powders are milder than many other Indian spice mixes, so this is a great way to introduce aromatic food to your family. Add less if your family is still getting used to spiciness.

Serves 6-8

Preparation time 20 minutes

Cooking time 3 hours 40 minutes


2 Tbsp olive oil

2 brown onions, finely diced

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 leek, white part only, washed, thinly sliced

1 carrot, diced

1-3 Tbsp korma curry powder

660g (3 cups) yellow split peas, rinsed

2 litres (8 cups) good-quality vegetable stock

300ml coconut milk

45g (1 cup) baby spinach leaves

juice of 2 limes, or to taste

To serve

1 long red chilli, thinly sliced diagonally

Greek-style yoghurt

coriander leaves


Heat the olive oil in the insert pan of a slow cooker or a frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, leek and carrot and saute for 5-7 minutes, or until tender. Add the curry powder and stir for 30 seconds, or until aromatic.

Return the insert pan, if using, to the slow cooker, or transfer the vegetable mixture to the slow cooker. Add the split peas and stock. Cover and cook on high for 3½ hours, or until the split peas are very tender.

Stir the coconut milk through. Puree the mixture to a rough consistency, using a stick blender, food processor or blender, leaving some of the soup un-pureed if desired. (You may need to add a little extra coconut milk to reach your desired consistency.) Stir in the spinach and lime juice, to taste. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Ladle into bowls and serve topped with chilli, yoghurt and coriander.


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