Three comforting slow cooker dinners for busy days

Gráinne O’Keefe: As the evenings get darker and cooler, we’re craving tasty stews and soups

October until February is slow cooker season. It is the perfect time of year to dust your slow cooker off, as robust root vegetables come up from the ground and we begin to crave comforting hot stews and soups. I love to get a cheaper cut like ham hock or stewing beef and combine with soaked beans, veggies, stock and potatoes, slow cook for a few hours until everything is tender and delicious, and get it set for mopping up with a huge slice of sourdough lathered in salted butter.

Slow cooking is the perfect method for busy people, especially if you are cooking for more than one person, and with minimal time involved you can create some flavourful comfort foods in minutes (well, hours, if you include the actual slow cooking part). Although it’s tempting to throw everything into the slow cooker at once and hope for the best, it’s worth adding a few minutes’ prep time to sear the meat and sauté the vegetables, thus creating a deeper flavour. You can skip this step in each of the recipes below, with the exception of the stuffed peppers (though if you figure out a way to make this recipe entirely in the slow cooker, do let me know).

The pulled pork is very simple, and if you aren’t a fan of eating cheek you can swap it out for shoulder, collar, loin or even belly

In professional kitchens, slow cooking is a daily ritual, depending on the menu. Currently in Mae we have slow cooked Iberico pork, confit duck legs and a jus gras, all of which require some form of slow cooking. Marinating beforehand brings more flavour and tenderness to meaty dishes. I prefer to use cheap cuts if I’m cooking for myself, as they tend to have a higher fat content and better flavour. I use chicken thighs for my soup, but breasts will work just as well – you will need to reduce the cooking time, however. Wild rice is lower in carbs than white rice, and is also a complete protein. It holds its texture much better when slow cooking, and doesn’t overcook in the same way that white rice would.

The pulled pork is very simple, and if you aren’t a fan of eating cheek you can swap it out for shoulder, collar, loin or even belly. The chimichurri is far simpler than my usual recipe, to allow the sweetness of the barbecue sauce to shine.


The peppers are a great vegetarian option and can be stuffed with any fillings. You can even make them more kid-friendly by doing a pizza-style stuffed pepper with pepperoni, cheese, breadcrumbs and some more hidden veggies.

Pulled pork sandwiches with barbecue sauce and chimichurri

Creamy chicken soup with wild rice and leeks

Spinach and mushroom stuffed bell peppers in a tomato and tarragon sauce