I love nothing better than pretending its just like when I was small and when you came home from school, dinner was already made and all you needed to do was homework first, of course, then your tea was on the table...

So the nearest I can give you to that feeling again is to buy yourself a slow cooker with your Christmas vouchers, that is if you have don’t already have one. Check the cupboard at the side of the sink: it will have a bread maker, liquidiser, blender and ice crusher in there so you may have to move them out of the way to reach the slow cooker.

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I was speaking with a lovely lady from Strathaven just before Christmas about this very cupboard. Now she found a Swan double boiler in there and she didn’t even know what it was for!

I had been saying that I had never used a double boiler for chocolate since the day that I left school and a few wee blasts in a microwave melted good quality chocolate no problem at all. However, having said this I would not tell my old teacher that if I came across her (not that she is old just incase she is reading this !)

So asides for chocolate melting, this is a simple winter heartysupper that you can pop in the slow cooker and get on with your day.


Hearty minestrone soup

100g/three and a half ounces of smoked, dry-cured lardons

2 carrots, roughly chopped

2 sticks celery, sliced

1 onion, roughly chopped

3 garlic cloves, crushed

2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, needles finely chopped

1 teaspoon of chopped fresh or dried thyme

1 tablespoon of tomato puree

400g/14 ounces of canned, chopped plum tomatoes

1.2 litres/two pints of good-quality chicken/vegetable stock

400g/14 ounces of cannellini beans in water, rinsed and drained

50g/one and three quarter ounces of your favourite shaped small pasta (kids favourite or whatever is in the cupboard, even spaghetti snaps into small lengths!)

100g/three and a half ounces of baby leaf spinach or spring greens, thickly shredded

Salt and freshly ground  black pepper

2 tablespoons of summer harvest rapeseed oil

25g/one ounce of parmesan, grated


1 Put a large frying pan over a low heat

2 Add the lardons and cook for 10 minutes until crisp and golden

3 Spoon out the bacon and leave the fat in the pan for the next part

4 Tip the carrots, celery and onion into the bacon fat and fry for two minutes

5 Add the garlic, herbs and tomato purée and cook for one minute, then add the tomatoes and most of the stock

6 Bring to the boil

7 Carefully transfer the soup to a slow cooker, cover with the lid and cook on high for four hours until the vegetables are tender

8 Stir the beans and pasta into the soup, adding the rest of the stock if it seems overly thick

9 Scatter the shredded greens over the top of the soup, then re-cover with the lid

10 Cook for 20 minutes until the pasta is tender

11 Stir in the greens and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper

12 Serve in bowls with plenty of parmesan and a big chunk of bread