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Slow Cook Italian and other slow cooking cookbooks

April 2, 2015

Slow Cook Italian by Gennaro Contaldo - mycustardpie.comMy slow cooker has been the best thing I’ve bought in years. Pressure cooker – sits in the cupboard; Kitchenaid – I use less and less; Vitamix – soup making and smoothies only. But my slow cooker, a quick, cheap impulse-purchase from Lakeland, has been used at least once a week since it found a place in my home.

Of course, I did what I always do; went out and bought some new cookbooks to go with it.  Slow Cook Italian by Gennaro Contaldo has just been published, so let’s see how it compares with the other books I’ve road-tested.

Slow Cook Italian – Gennaro Contaldo

Gennaro Contaldo rose to fame due to Jamie Oliver who credits him on the cover of the book “Beautiful, classic recipes made with passion, by the man who taught me everything I know about Italian cooking.” Slow Cook Italian is different from my other books as it’s not written specifically for the slow cooker. It’s a collection of Gennaro’s recipes which fall under the slow cooking banner.  The photography is simple interspersed with a few pictures of Gennaro with his family; not every recipe has a picture. As well as soups, stews and savoury bakes, there are chapters on pasta, light dishes and leftovers, roasts, breads, cakes, desserts and preserves. Where a recipe is suitable for the slow cooker, there are specific instructions. Gennaro confesses that he never uses a slow cooker but sticks to a pot on the stove top, harking back his parents generation when all cooking was done on coals or wood.

As I was hosting two 17-year-old boys flying in from Kuwait to attend Arabian Youth Orchestra this week, some hearty comfort food was certainly in order.

Gennaro says that although a ragu is one of the most popular pasta sauces worldwide, the Bolognese is often made badly outside of Italy: too much tomato, not cooked for long enough and usually served with spaghetti. I pride myself on a good ragu so wondered if this recipe – the official recipe of the Bolognese association of the Accademia Italiana della Cucina would be that different. Turns out I’d fallen into the trap of making it too tomatoey and this super simple slow cooked version was really excellent. It’ll be my ‘go to’ ragu in the future. I also bought some tagliatelle against KP’s wishes (who refuses to eat anything but spaghetti).

The ingredients list for Pollo all cacciatora (Hunter’s chicken) was fairly simple too – chicken with herbs and lots of cherry tomatoes (from our garden).  This was seriously good and got a massive thumbs up from the boys. I also used the recipe for Pomodori esiccati a casa (home-dried tomatoes), to use up our glut from the garden, which didn’t differ from my normal method.

On the slow cooking front Goulash Tirolese (Tyrolean beef stew) and Stufato dia manzo al cioccolato (slow-cooked marinated beef with chocolate) are next on the ‘to try’ list. There are more non-slow cooker recipes but many look appealing including panini al rosmarino (rosemary bread rolls) which pop up in Jamie books but Gennaro makes his a lot prettier. In fact all of the breads look really intriguing including some rolls with aubergine baked inside them. The recipes for baked pears with amaretti biscuits and almonds, and almond tea cake (there’s a theme) look really tempting and the apricot and hazelnut tart is begging to be made.

If I’d been browsing in Kinokunya where books have to grab your attention within a few turns of the page, I probably wouldn’t have taken this home as it’s quite understated. But after cooking from it, the true value of simple, authentic Italian food shines through for the slow cooker and beyond. I’m so glad I have it as I know this book will definitely be on my counter more than on the shelf. Gennaro captures a time when life was slower too and conveys this through delicious dishes.Slow Cook Italian by Gennaro Contaldo -

The Essential Slow Cooker Cookbook – Lorna Brash

This book did stand out in the bookshop and, whereas many slow cooker cookbooks have a domestic science look about them, this one shouted ‘pick me I have delicious recipes and, by the way, they are made in a slow cooker’. The detailed instructions (about settings in particular) show the author really knows her way around this method of cooking and there are many ‘I didn’t think of making that in a slow cooker’ moments. She addresses the ‘wateriness’ issue (some slow cooking recipes don’t seem thick enough) too and gives advice on adapting our own recipes for the slow cooker. Nearly but not all recipes have a picture with them. My favourite to date have been:

Mediterranean slow-roast lamb shanks, Louisiana beef chilli, Provençal slow-roast lamb shanks with rustic beans, chicken with creamy leek and tarragon sauce, and Mediterranean stuffed peppers. Not sure why I haven’t made the ginger crème caramels yet – they are calling my name.

Slow Cooking for Vegetarians – Annette Yates

This book covers just about anything you could ever dream of and whacks it in a slow cooker. Bought with veggie teen in mind it’s been the inspiration for so much more including porridge, cakes, Christmas pudding and vegetable stock. There are pages of veggie stews, soups and braises and everything is with recognisable ingredients although it does include some Quorn recipes (I avoid this processed food). The head notes are tempting but this book is without a single image inside. It’s also proved that some things should be done the traditional way; slow cooker cranberry sauce is horrid.

200 Slow Cooker Recipes – Sara Lewis

A small low-cost book, which I’ve used the least. Usually I turn to it when developing a recipe for something that’s in my head and I need to check temperatures and cooking times. It has a lot of similar recipes to the Lorna Brash book but without the gorgeous photography but with a surprising amount of detailed instruction and a good recipe layout, plus every recipe has a picture.  A good starting point but I might not miss it if it disappeared from my book shelf (after I’ve tried out the lemon custard cremes recipe).

Slow cooking cookbooks review - mycustardpie.comDo you use a slow cooker? Any cookbooks you recommend for slow cooking or Italian food? Do you own any other Gennaro books? Please share your thoughts below….

Disclosure: I bought the last three books myself from Kinokunya, Dubai and, and was sent Gennaro’s book to review by Pavilion. All opinions my own.

  1. daver001 permalink
    April 2, 2015 2:50 pm

    Gennaro is a star! I went to his sadly closed Passione in Fitzrovia a few times and it was marked by a simplicity of style and authenticity of ingredients. Flowers on the table? No, just a staggeringly fragrant tomato! The last time I went he wandered round the small place with a large wicker basket of mushrooms which he’d picked himself that weekend – no recipes in mind, just invited us to pick the ones we liked and he’d create something. His other books are good, though I feel the couple with Carluccio seem to push him more into the background of the more flamboyant AC. To bale Gennaro as just the chef who discovered Jamie Oliver is to do him a great disservice!

    • April 3, 2015 7:51 am

      Fair play Dave – I think that whatever Gennaro’s past, he came to fame via Jamie and that’s how most people know him. Great to hear the back story though. The clever simplicity of his food and cooking certainly shines through in this book.

      • daver001 permalink
        April 13, 2015 2:52 pm

        Gennaro’s book just arrived here on Dartmoor courtesy of clever order timing with Amazon and I’m loving it. He had me at the two page spread of pickles on shelves! Solid and inspirational like all his books, there are some stunners in here – no doubt, you’ll be delivering up the pumpkin carpaccio to vegan daughter? He gets fair coverage to in this month’s Jamie magazine.

      • April 14, 2015 9:18 am

        Quite out of the blue, this is becoming one of my favourite recipe books. There are some good fish and vege options for you in there too, but I’m diving into the meaty stews with relish. But you always knew that Gennaro was a hidden gem didn’t you. Enjoy Devon

  2. April 2, 2015 3:02 pm

    Just got my Slow cooker recently and was looking for books to buy. Your post came at a great time! Love watching Gennaro’s videos on Foodtube, so entertaining

    • April 3, 2015 7:55 am

      I think he’s more understated on the page … and I quite like that too.

  3. April 2, 2015 3:21 pm

    I don’t own an electric slow cooker, but I love to stew things in my Le Creuset casserole…

    Genara Contaldo’s book looks interesting.



    • April 3, 2015 7:56 am

      I won’t be getting rid of my cast iron anytime soon either Rosa 🙂

  4. April 2, 2015 3:29 pm

    This makes me want to get a slow cooker and Lorna’s book. Great post, thanks for sharing.

    • April 3, 2015 8:01 am

      It’s earned its place in my kitchen.

  5. April 2, 2015 3:53 pm

    Thanks so much, your book reviews have made me want to replace my slow cooker, which gave up the ghost when I was still married. With our winter just starting, I really like the idea of leaving the food to cook while I’m at work and getting home to a hearty warm meal.

    • April 3, 2015 8:09 am

      It feels like someone else has cooked for you…

  6. April 2, 2015 3:56 pm

    looks like a couple of great books, I really need to catch up with ‘modern’ books as I’ve been with my head in century old books for nearly two years now. Even the old and stuffy smell has grown on me, I need to smell some freshly printed ink again! 😉

    • April 3, 2015 8:01 am

      Talking of modern books – my parcel arrived yesterday. Thank you for Magic Soup 🙂

  7. The Real Geordie Armani permalink
    April 2, 2015 4:20 pm

    Great review, thanks for posting. You know how much I love my slowcookers, yes I now have two! you must try and lamb and pomegranate done in the slow cooker. Bit faffy but so worth it.

    • April 3, 2015 8:10 am

      I now have slow cooker envy! Good tip about the lamb and pomegranate.

  8. April 2, 2015 4:31 pm

    now I know I should get one… although most of our Arabic food is actually slowly cooked! but an electric new gadget wont hurt;) thanks for sharing:)

    • April 3, 2015 8:12 am

      It actually takes up about the same amount of cupboard space as a large cooking pot and will earn its place in your kitchen.

  9. April 2, 2015 5:32 pm

    Very informative post. I don’t have a slow cooker but now I want one! And I know which books to pick up when I get mine 🙂

  10. April 2, 2015 6:41 pm

    I’ve always been terrified of pressure cookers. Everyone back home uses them a lot and I spent most of my childhood fearing they’d burst! But I think I need a slow cooker in my life 😊 and some of these great cookbooks

    • April 3, 2015 8:23 am

      Yes – the fear factor is high for me too and why my pressure cooker rarely gets an outing.

  11. April 2, 2015 8:58 pm

    I do love my slow cooker but as we rarely eat meat these days it lives in the garage until meat-loving FIL comes round! But when I do cook with it (and I recommend the small ones to widowed men and busy singletons so they can get a hearty meal without much hands-on cooking) I am always vowing to use it more. How great that you have such an abundance of home-grown tomatoes to use already. You know I envy you! And I do love Genarro. He seems like such a gent. I hope his book does well.

    • April 3, 2015 8:33 am

      I thought it would be all about the meat too Kellie – but the vegetarian slow cooker book opened my eyes. It’s fantastic for all those bean and lentil dishes too.

  12. jensfood9 permalink
    April 2, 2015 9:54 pm

    I must be the only food blogger who doesn’t have a slow cooker, I’ve seen so many great recipes over the past few months so I really must get one. In the meantime Genarro’s book sounds like a good option for me as it’s not specific to slow cookers and I would like to learn how to make a proper ragu.

    • April 3, 2015 8:35 am

      When everything in my schedule was under pressure this week the slow cooker definitely took the strain Jen. The ragu was a triumph – and just down to some small subtle amends to my usual recipe.

  13. April 2, 2015 9:56 pm

    I love my slow cooker. On warm it holds a steady 60C so doubles up as a sous vide. I mainly use it for beans and overnight oatmeal.

    My slow cooker cost £17 from Argos well over 10 years ago. Love it!

    • April 3, 2015 8:36 am

      Gosh – I’d never thought of sous vide Helen … another use for it. Brilliant.

  14. glamorous glutton permalink
    April 2, 2015 11:05 pm

    I don’t have a slow cooker, like Gennaro I just use a very low oven setting or low gas setting on the hob. I love long slow cooked dishes and his new cook book looks like a must have. Thanks for the info Sally. GG

    • April 3, 2015 8:49 am

      I struggle to get a very low heat on my gas cooker even with a diffuser. My Staub casserole is not going anywhere soon as I still love it, but it’s not out of the cupboard so much since slow cooker arrived.

  15. April 2, 2015 11:20 pm

    I have a slow cooker, which I’m ashamed to say is underused. I never seem to manage to cook the right amount of liquid, everything seems to be a little too liquid. You’ve inspired me to try harder! Thank you!

    • April 3, 2015 8:51 am

      Because of the condensation and lack of evaporation you need less liquid than you think. You can also remove the lid for the final hour and put on high to thicken. I agree some recipes can be too soupy unless you are careful – although good for bread mopping 🙂

  16. April 2, 2015 11:38 pm

    Great post – I saw Gennaro with Jamie Oliver o his new Comfort Food TV show and they cooked a few types of pasta together – worth a watch if you can. Happy Easter too!

    • April 3, 2015 8:52 am

      Happy Easter to you too. Thanks for video tip – I’ll go and seek that out. I need a refresher course on pasta making.

  17. April 3, 2015 12:40 am

    My sister is always singing the praises of her slow cooker. Actually it used to be mine but I gave it to her bc I made only one thing in it and it was an utter failure. These cookbooks might be a fun Bday present for her! Thanks for the recommendations. Your meal looks so beautiful

    • April 3, 2015 5:04 pm

      Thanks Lynda – I was always a bit sniffy about slow cookers but so many blogs tempted me and now I’m a complete convert. I’ve had a few things that could have been better but getting to understand cooking in it is part of the fun for me.

  18. April 3, 2015 1:06 am

    Over the winter months I had good intentions of using my slow cooker but never did. However, I do love reading cookbooks for inspiration, so Gennaro’s book is now on my must read list. Maybe, my slow cooker will emerge from the cupboard after all. 😊

    • April 3, 2015 5:05 pm

      Well as the temperatures here never dip very low, I can vouch that it’s good to use whatever the weather! Can’t wait to see what you cook.

  19. April 3, 2015 1:57 am

    Thanks for this wonderful post, you have just inspired me to dust off my slow cooker and give it another go!

    • April 3, 2015 5:13 pm

      Let me know what you cook Marisa 🙂

  20. ramblingtart permalink
    April 3, 2015 2:59 am

    I love my slow cooker so very, very much. 🙂 It is truly a lifesaver around here. Thank you so much for these great recommendations!

  21. adelphigrad permalink
    April 3, 2015 3:46 am

    food looks so good

  22. April 3, 2015 10:57 am

    I’ve never used a slow cooker….results certainly look good. I often wanted to try “hay box” cooking and there’s certainly plenty of hay where we live…maybe now’s the time:)

  23. April 3, 2015 3:28 pm

    My slow cooker’s back in England in my dad’s shed… he gets it out once a year to make mulled wine in!! It’s been around for a good 12 years, I’d say, but I stopped using it because there was a serious lack of recipe inspiration around at that point – most of the recipes in the accompanying booklet had tinned pineapple in 😉 But these books look fantastic, particularly the Lorna Brash one. Have passed your reviews on to my slow cooker-using friends 🙂 Happy Easter!

  24. andreamynard permalink
    April 5, 2015 1:27 am

    I’m a big fan of Gennaro and have been really tempted by this book so great to hear you’ve been enjoying cooking from it. May have to splash out.

  25. April 5, 2015 6:02 pm

    I too recently bought a slow cooker but have only been using it to make bone broths. It’s too big for the two of us otherwise! I do use my Le Creuset often.

  26. April 6, 2015 5:50 pm

    I love our slow cooker! We used it for a beef cheek ragu this weekend. Very tasty and enormously economical too. A kilo of meat made enough for 3 meals for the two of us. I can also recommend Miss South’s book Slow Cooked, not many photographs but a really wide range of slow cooker recipes, she’d been using slow cookers extensively for ages before the idea for the book came about and it shows.

  27. April 7, 2015 2:37 pm

    I am actually going to buy a slow cooker this weekend, so will check out these books! Thanks so much for the heads up! 🙂

  28. April 9, 2015 10:58 am

    your post just excites me more to use my new slow cooker 🙂 I’ve been planning to use it for weeks now and I couldn’t think of the best recipe to inaugurate it in my kitchen 🙂

  29. April 12, 2015 10:45 am

    Wooow i love this!!!

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