In 1940, a nexus of three factors led New Jersey-born Irving Nachumsohn to invent the slow cooker. First among these was the increase the number of women in work during the war effort. World War 2, for all its drawbacks, was the making of the modern woman. Once women had gained a taste for the rewards and camaraderie of the workplace, there was no way they were going back to the kitchen, and inventors and food technologists had their back.
The second factor in the rise of the slow cooker was the need to look after the downtrodden Jews of the world, and provide for their needs and desires. For too long, Jewish people had been ground under the heel of of other races and religions, and it was high time they had their day.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Jewish people (i.e. women) were not permitted to cook on the Sabbath, yet mouths had to be filled with inexpensive, nutritious food.
Enter Nachumsohn and his method of cooking cholent – the traditional, slow-cooked stew that was prepared the day before the Sabbath to avoid the need for cooking on the day. In the 1940s, solutions to the cholent was to cook the dish in a very low oven overnight (not terribly clever if you were on gas), or to leave the stew with the local bakery and have it cooked in a similar way to Boulangeré potatoes (i.e. in with the the bread).
The Nachumsohn device was marketed as ‘Crock-Pot.’ In a lengthy 2015 article for the Washington Post, Max Ehrenfreund charted the rise, fall and rise of the slow cooker, noting that it is now a machine increasingly in the hands of men keen to do their bit in the kitchen. It is the hero of Superbowls, pulled pork and curries.
The recipe given here was found by us when we wanted to use up some dried apricots. It is the epitome of a good slow cooker recipe in that there is essentially no prep whatsoever.
Slow-cooker Moroccan tagine
- 2 tbsp neutral oil
- 1kg diced lamb
- 1 onion, sliced
- 1 carrot, chopped
- 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 1 can crushed tomatoes
- 2 tbsp flour
- 250ml natural yoghurt
- 100g dried apricots, chopped
- 250ml beef stock
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp brown sugar
Add all of the ingredients to the slow cooker apart from stock and spices.
In a small bowl or jug add all of the spices to the stock and whisk together. Pour into the slow cooker.
Mix everything together and cook on high for 4+ hours or low for 6+ hours until the meat is falling off the bone. Stir every two hours if you are at home to do so.
Check the flavour of the sauce and season with salt and pepper.
Serve on top of couscous with parsley and a dollop of yoghurt garnish.