When we read ‘cook for two hours’ in a recipe, most of us slam the book shut! Don’t in future. “Slow food” is a philosophy, not a cuisine and it’s really not about cooking all-day long!
While we’re always looking for quick, simple recipes that are easy to make and delicious to eat, the flavour that is developed when food is slowly cooked is irreplaceable. When it comes to slow cooking, the flavours are deeper and more mellow, changing the texture of the food being prepared. Therefore an understanding of the food being cooked is critical.
Meat for instance has three types of tissues. First is the muscle tissue that forms the grain of the meat. Second is the connective tissue that holds the muscle tissue ' the most important form of which is collagen, which when cooked melts down. The third type is the fat, which dissolves quickly when heated. So, when the meat is heated, the muscle fibres toughen and tighten, squeezing out the natural juices. This is the reason why a well-done piece of meat is drier and tougher than a rarer one.
Some fruits and vegetables take slow cooking very well. And some do not. Cabbage, for instance, is a disaster when cooked for long. Tomatoes slow roasted in an oven for a couple of hours in oil hold out very well. When cooked in a pan, they break down easily ' the longer they are simmered, the better the flavour.
Ingredients: 4 cups tightly-packed spinach leaves; 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil; 2 medium leeks, trimmed, and white and light-green parts thinly sliced; 2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped; 1 medium onion, chopped; 1 celery rib, chopped; 7 cups vegetable stock or water; 1 medium potato, diced; 1 medium zucchini, diced; 2 cups chopped tomatoes; 1/4-1/2 cup of pesto, made with blended basil leaves, garlic cloves, olive oil, Parmesan cheese and pine nuts
Method: Heat oil in a large pan. Add the leeks, carrots, onion and celery and saut' over low to medium heat until softened. Add stock, potato, zucchini, spinach and tomatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer gently for one hour. Remove the pot from flame. Stir in pesto. Adjust the seasoning. Serve with grated cheese or a drizzle of olive oil.