For many, the coronavirus pandemic has been the impetus for seeking out a slower, calmer and more sustainable lifestyle.
It’s a lifestyle that foodie Alyce Alexandra has long supported and lives out at her Mount Macedon property.
Passionate about the avenue of food from seedling to stomach, it is her mission to get more people cooking from scratch to discover its many rewards.
“The pandemic has certainly reminded people that we can’t always rely on supermarkets – they don’t make food appear. People are gardening a lot more now and want to find new ways to prepare their produce,” Alyce said.
“There has also been a big change in how people think about their everyday living and a push to become more sustainable to help ourselves and the planet.”
Part of that approach, Alyce says, has been increased interest in vegetarian and vegan recipes, which star in her latest book Modern Slow Cooker that redefines the slow cooker for a modern kitchen.
“When I first started, desire for vegetarian and vegan recipes came from a small part of my audience but now more and more people are interested in this way of eating – whether that’s to reduce their meat intake, or environmental and ethical reasons. They are thrilled that I have such a big collection of recipes,” she said.
Alyce said the slow cooker presented a calmer way of cooking.
“There’s no time pressure at the end of the end of the day when it’s time to eat and it’s been a busy day. Life is sometimes complicated so if we can use appliances to make our lives easier why wouldn’t we?” she said.
“So often people think of slow cookers and think of recipes like soups and curries but there’s so much more that you can do. I really do think I’ve redefined the slow cooker and aligned it with how we cook and eat today.”
For beginners, Alyce recommends trying her Thick and Saucy Vegetable Bolognese.
“It’s a good place to start because most people are pretty familiar with Bolognese. In this recipe the vegetables give the same texture and flavour to the traditional sauce but it is made with veggies,” she said.
“It has a rich and intense flavour that most people will enjoy.”
Alyce said, once people have mastered the staple Bolognese sauce, they can feel confident in creating dishes like lasagne and Sheppard’s pie.
Alyce is the best-selling author of nine cookbooks for slow cookers and thermo cookers. She has her own range of kitchen accessories and runs her own cooking school. Modern Slow Cooker was released for sale this week.
Thick and Saucy Veg Bolognese
2 tablespoons extra virgin
2 brown onions, thinly
3 garlic cloves, diced
2 carrots, finely diced
2 celery sticks, finely diced
1 eggplant, diced
400g swiss brown
200g pitted kalamata
500g ripe tomatoes, diced
¼ cup (70 g) red miso paste*
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 chicken-style stock
cubes or 1 tablespoon
powder (page 184)
3 teaspoons ground
700g passata (page 167)
1 potato, peeled and grated
Hands-on time: 15 mins
Total slow cooker time:
4 ½ or 8 ½ hours
1. Heat oil in a large frypan over medium heat. Once hot, add onion and sauté for 5-10 minutes or until soft. Add garlic and continue cooking for a couple of minutes. Transfer to slow cooker.
2. In this order, add carrot, celery, eggplant, mushrooms, olives, tomatoes, miso paste, maple syrup, stock cubes or stock powder, paprika and passata to slow cooker. Cover and cook for 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low.
4 OR 8 HOURS LATER
3. Add grated potato, fold through, incorporating well. Cover and cook for a further 30 minutes on high. And your bolognese is ready to serve! My favourite option is to ladle the sauce over penne or rigatoni and garnish with a sprinkling of cheese and fresh greens. This sauce is also great as a shepherd’s pie base, a pie filling, pasta bake sauce, served over creamy polenta, stuffed in capsicums or inside a jacket potato.