At Heart Research UK we understand the pressures of working, housekeeping, raising a family, looking after ageing relatives and trying to keep a heart healthy lifestyle in the midst of such busy lives. That’s why we’ve come up with tips to help you prepare a healthy meal for the family on those short winter nights with the use of one slow cooker. The Foods Standards Agency has reported that people in the UK are moving away from making food from scratch and cooking and sharing special meals together and are increasingly concerned about cost and convenience issues versus long term health consequences. Add the ingredients to your pot in a morning, set the timer and come home to the smell of a delicious meal all prepared for you. By shortening preparation and washing up time you’ll have more of the evening to sit down together, enjoy a wholesome meal and even have time for some active fun.
Keep your heart tender
Joints of meat don’t need to be cheap, fatty or have salt added to be crisp and tender. Acids such as acetic acid in white vinegar or apple balsamic and citric acid in fruits such as lemon, orange or lime help to break down protein, tenderising the muscle fibres. Other fruits that work well are pineapple and figs as they contain enzymes which breakdown the muscle fibres. Why not try adding a splash of orange juice and some sliced fig to your chicken joint and let the slow cooker do the work, cooking slowly for 8 hours. Serve with couscous and some quick stir fry veg in a spray of rapeseed oil for a healthy tasty meal that allows you time to go for a run.
Rub it in
You can tenderise meat manually by using a mallet or giving the meat a gentle rub; go for herbs and spices which compliment the recipe and appeal to your palate without using salt. For instance, gently rubbing with ground ginger and adding crushed pineapple works well for ‘sweet and sour’ style pork joint. Add some pre-chopped onions from the freezer and a can of chopped tomatoes to the base and cook in the slow cooker on a low heat for 6-8 hours. You could pop some frozen veg and bean sprouts in for the last 20 minutes of cooking for a hearty one pot meal the kids could do while you run a hot bath and unwind from a day at work.
Create a slurry
Towards the end of cooking if you find you have too much liquid and want the sauce thickening, don’t be tempted to add high salt stock cubes or coconut milk. Mistakenly some women in the Damart Loving Hearts campaign reported coconut and coconut oil as a source of heart healthy fats, when in fact it contains a high amount of saturated fat and should be eaten in moderation. You’d be much better creating a ‘slurry’ of equal amounts (approx.1 tbsp.) of water and cornstarch and gently stirring through the liquid towards the end of cooking. Starch thickens a sauce very quickly when heated without causing harmful effects on your arteries.
Vegetarian recipes are wonderful for adding crunch, texture, variety and heart healthy fibre and antioxidants. They also blend well if you want to make leftovers into a soup for the next day. Try a Moroccan style harira, which is a stew like thickened texture consisting of lentils, chickpeas, spices, passata, coriander, chunky vegetables and vegetable stock (go for reduced salt varieties). Whilst harira is a hearty meal of its own, traditionally served to break the Ramadan fast, it can be blended to your liking and eaten at any time of day.