Thought al dente pasta was off the menu? Think again

We don't mean to alarm anyone, but it's getting colder and winter is nearly here. Try not to panic. 

 

While the long nectar nights of summer may now be behind us, there is no reason to sob – because this time of year heralds the return of opaque tights, romantic misty mornings and – pleasingly – slow cooker dinners and puds. Don't stick with the old faithfuls, though – there are plenty of totally surprising things you can make in your slow cooker to keep things interesting. Here are some of our favourites. 

 

1. Beef pho

A slow cooker is absolutely genius when it comes to making a pho, which needs slow, gentle cooking of the bones to get that essential complex flavour in the broth. This little beauty is warm, comforting and packed full of flavour. 

 

2. Lava cake

Via: Sainsbury's

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3. Pork tostadas

You don't need authentic Mexican cookware to get a truly authentic Mexican flavour. A case in point? This utterly moreish little banger of a recipe. 

 

4. Al dente pasta

By making the meat sauce ahead of time in the slow cooker and allowing the flavours to develop in the fridge, you not only get a much tastier finished dish, but also a gorgeously al dente pasta, simply by chucking some in at the end of the cooking time. Along with bucket loads of cheese. You mustn't forget the cheese. 

5. Quiche

We know this one sounds totally unlikely, but we tried it over the weekend and, believe it or not, it totally worked. It also means that, when you get home from work, all you've got to do is open a packet of salad, chuck on some dressing and you're good to go. 

 

6. Pizza

These pizzas come out much more like an American deep pan than we're used to in this country, but that does make it seriously comforting and an excellent addition to a night in.

 

7. Bacon jam

Bacon jam is our favourite accompaniment to a creamy and extra-mature cheddar cheese and, with a slow cooker doing most of the hard work for you, there really is no excuse not to make your own this weekend. 

 

8. French onion soup

Letting the onions cook all day gives them the most inviting caramel colour and intense flavour, then it's just a case of plonking all the other ingredients in and letting the slow cooker do the work for you. 

 

9. Mashed potatoes

This recipe is genius for two very important reasons: first, it basically removes the faff of having a boiling over pot of potatoes on your hob while you're trying to get on with other things and, second, it allows you to keep your potatoes warm and moist until you're ready to use them, which means you can now make mash ahead of time. We're never looking back. 

 

10. Butternut squash risotto

Risotto is delicious, but can be a total nightmare to cook for a crowd. Not with a slow cooker, however, which eliminates the need for constant stirring on the stove and allows you to just chuck everything in and walk away. Genius if you've got loads of guests you need to impress.