Slow Cooking Tips

There is nothing better than coming home to the smell of a meltingly tender slow cooked casserole, particularly on dark nights after work. Stick a few green vegetables on when you come in – kale is apparently on the nations favourite list (sales up 54% in a recent grocery trade report) – and you’ve got a nutritious, balanced meal to tuck into.

As it’s National Slow Cooking Month (yes, really) we thought we’d share with you some tricks of the trade and top tips. With a slow cooker saving you both time and money, what’s not to love?

1) To brown or not to brown?
That is the question apparently – the long-running discussion surrounding whether meat should be browned off (or not, as the case may be) rages on. You only need to turn to Google to see pages of forum debates.

Those in the ‘to brown’ camp swear that slightly crisping or colouring the meat before adding the rest of the vegetables onto the slow burner adds flavour and depth the dish, as well as adding attractive colour to the meal. Queen of British Cooking, Deliah adds that browning “seals in the juices”.

Those that don’t bother are equally adamant it makes no difference to flavour as it’s cooked for such a long time that it doesn’t matter – the flavour is driven by the length of time the dish is cooked, the type of liquid added and what vegetables are added.

In summary it seems to be a good idea to sear off the meat if you have time and/or inclination, and it doesn’t really effect it if you don’t!

2) How long?
Is a piece of string? The longer the better, is the general consensus. Low and slow is the rule of thumb – however this does depend on the cut of the meat. Quality cubed steak or leaner cuts like chicken may take less time, even as little as a couple of hours. Sometimes over-cooking lean meat can even make it tougher! More ‘muscled’ meat with a good marbling of fat (and usually cheaper cuts) such as a shoulder or shin, will need more time – up to 4-6 in a slow cooker during the day.

Root vegetables such as carrot or swede will need to go at the bottom of the pot and for the longest amount of time as they will need more time to soften. Things like pasta, rice or fresh herbs could be added right the end of the cook when you get in from work – ideal for things like pilau

3) How much liquid?
And what kind? The rule of thumb is that you should put in as much liquid to just cover the meat & vegetables. The slow cooker has a tightly fitting lid so you don’t want to overfill it (causing a spill) and the steam from cooking will keep the dish full of moisture as it won’t evaporate. What you think is probably too little liquid for a 4-6 hour cook will be just perfect. Using plain water is also fine, but a good stock or, even better, a mixture of ale or wine with stock will bring out the best of those savoury flavours. Always add any dairy products such as cream towards the end or else they might curdle.

4) More than meat?!
Yes you can use your slow cooker for dishes that aren’t meat & veg based! They are also ideal for soups and curries. And for the more adventurous, Mumsnet forums are full of recipes for going one step further – Rice Puddings and Sponge Puddings are a favourite. We even found this recipe for a gluten free version – feel free to share your recipes with us too!

5) So how is this saving me money?
Use a slow cooker to use up any leftover bits and pieces in your vegetable drawer – ideal after the glut of Christmas or a big Sunday dinner, avoiding waste and sticking leftovers in the bin. You can make bigger batches with a slow cooker, so you can freeze portions for later. Alternatively you can bulk up the stews with cheaper vegetables to feed more people for less. Finally you’ll be able to buy much cheaper cuts of meat (brisket or shin is ideal) than you would for ‘fast’ cooking or stir-frying.

So dig out your slow cooker at the bottom of the cupboard and give it a whirl this weekend. Alternatively if you don’t have the time (or want a lazy, no fuss solution!) – just order ilumi’s Beef Casserole to achieve the same effect! We also love our Pork in Cider or Lamb in Gluten Free Ale.

Share your slow cooking recipes with us and you could feature in our ilumi Fan Recipe Book.

Hot List – The Best Gluten Free Products on the Market

This week:

Delicious Alchemy Brownie Mix

DA brownies

Satisfy your sweet tooth with Delicious Alchemy’s award winning and incredibly moreish gluten free brownies. Buy the brownie mix here for only £2.99 here.




Whether you’ve been diagnosed with Coeliac Disease or suffer from gluten sensitivity giving up lager is probably one of the hardest things to eliminate from your weekends, but thanks to CELIA, you can now ditch the wine and shorts. The naturally carbonated beverage tastes just as good as their wheat filled competitors. Sold online at Waitrose CELIA is very much the leading brand in gluten free lager.

1 x bottle: £2.29

Almondy Daim Chocolate Cake



A perfect alternative to the regular gluten filled desserts that don our dining tables at Christmas. Almondy’s Chocolate Diam Cake has an irresistible almond base with a golden cream and crunchy caramel. It’s deliciously coated with smooth milk chocolate and 100% gluten free.

You can buy this cake in most large supermarkets for only £3.00.

Newburn Bakehouse Sandwich Thins



These gluten and wheat free Sliced White Sandwich Thins are made from a deliciously soft mix and are pre-sliced for your convenience. Just pack it with your favourite filling, add toppings and grill to make a pizza, or dunk in your soups and casseroles. They can also be toasted for a crispy texture, the perfect accompaniment to salads.

You can buy these thins from the free-from aisle of most large supermarkets or online at the Newburn Bakehouse site for £2.20 a pack.

ilumi Fan Recipes

Gluten & dairy free chocolate brownies

Preperation time

10 mins

Cook time

30 mins

Total time

40 mins

The recipe makes 25 brownies.


6 eggs (separated)

35g to 70g of Sweetener, I only use 35g but if you like it sweeter then you can add up to 70g.

60g cocoa powder

1tsp vanilla essence

fan recipes


Preheat the oven at 180ºc, line a baking tin with baking paper

Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks.

In a separate bowl add the egg yolks, sweetener, vanilla essence & cocoa and then whisk together if you find that the mixture is to stiff you can always add few drops of water.

Carefully fold in the egg whites

Pour the mixture into the tin and the bake for 20 to 30 mins

The brownies are delicious served hot or cold

If you would like to add a topping I mix a bit of sweeter with some fat free fromage frais and coco powder and then spread on the brownie top with some fresh strawberries.

Recipe sent in from Mel Flack via Facebook



FODMAP simply stands for Fermentable Oligo-Di-Monosaccharides and Polyols – bit of a tongue twister, hence the acronym. The diet is based around eliminating FODMAPs, which are certain types of carbohydrate that are not absorbed in the small intestine and are inadvertently passed onto the colon. This lack of absorption causes particular problems for sufferers of IBS as bloating symptoms such as flatulence, abdominal pain and constipation can occur.

The diet is often used in those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) however it is also beneficial to anyone who may have any other kind of digestive disorder.

If you think that you may benefit from following the FODMAP diet, seek advice from a dietitian. They will be able to help carefully eliminate the harmful carbohydrates from your diet. You will need aid from a dietitian as they will be able to determine which food is causing you significant problems.

The process: Once you and your dietitian have weened you off high FODMAP foods you will notice a vast improvement in your symptoms. After this you will then begin to introduce FODMAPs back into your diet, one by one, so that you can then figure out, from the way your gut responds, which foods you are and aren’t able to tolerate.

FODMAPs are usually found in processed foods, wheat products and some fruit and vegetables. Download this PDF for a full and comprehensive list of low FODMAP foods.

ilumi Asda Photobomb

Thank you to everyone who has given ilumi such a warm welcome in Asda! We hope you all are enjoying our new noodle snack pots and easy cook rice, as well as our new improved retail range. Keep letting us know what you think by posting on our Facebook page here.

If you follow us on social media (if you don’t then you should be!) you would know that we’ve been running a competition to win £50’s worth of ilumi.

We had a fantastic response from our lovely customers and some really good selfies with our new range. Unfortunately we could only choose 1 winner, and that was Regina on Twitter who sent in this great photo of her daughter next to the ilumi dishes on the shelf at Asda.


If you’d like to see the rest of the entries please follow this link to our Pinterest board.

And once again, thank you all for taking part.

Tips for Creating the Perfect Dinner Party

Plan ahead

Brilliant dinner parties all have one thing in common: great planning. The key to starting off on the right foot for your dinner party is to be well organized and prepared before you even set foot in the kitchen.

Contact your guests well before the day to find out any particular likes, dislikes, and dietary requirements. Once you have an idea of individual preferences, you can begin to sort out your menu.

Write your menu down, tweak it if necessary, and stick to it on the night. Most dinner parties follow the standard three-course rule (think Come Dine With Me), but feel free to branch out from this format if you have a better idea.

With your menu to hand, create a detailed shopping list of everything you could possibly need for your dinner party. Before you head out shopping for ingredients, double and triple check your shopping list, just to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything. Make sure to shop well ahead of time so no one ends up running around searching for the last few ingredients on the day of the party.

If your dinner party is a particularly special occasion, make your menu extra special. Try pairing each course with a quality wine; the extra effort will really wow your guests.

For those of us who want everything to be absolutely perfect, a trial run of cooking the menu might be a good idea. After all, contestants on the Great British Bake-Off practice their showstoppers for weeks before the competition, so get a leg up on yours and test out your menu on friends and family.


Food preparation

The key to dinner party food preparation is organization. A well-organized kitchen space makes for quicker prep and less stress. Start out with a clean, stocked countertop and your meal setup will seem much simpler.

Try to get as much prep work done as you can before your guests arrive on dinner party night. To a guest, there is nothing worse than an absent host, so make sure you are well prepared and are able to focus on your guests and their needs when they are in your home.

Start with the basics: chopping vegetables, marinating meats, and assembling and refrigerating any items that will go into the oven or onto the stove later on. Some meals can even be pre-cooked ahead of time and simply warmed up or finished off once your dinner party begins. Work out which parts of your meal can be partially prepared now and save yourself stress later on.

Once your slicing and dicing is finished, sit down and work out timings for cooking. This kind of schedule works best if it is very detailed, so be specific. Follow your schedule down to the minute on dinner party night and your stress levels will thank you.

Be conscious of your hob and oven space and whether you have enough pots, pans, and baking trays to cook all your food at the right time. Save yourself the frustration of forgotten side dishes and add these space notes into your schedule for the night.

It seems obvious, but make sure to clean up as you go. By keeping your workspace clean and your dishes at least pre-washed and stacked in the dishwasher, you will save yourself some washing-up time at the end of your dinner party.

food prep

Party decorations

Begin to prepare your party decorations and table setup at least the day before your dinner party, saving you time and stress on the day. If you feel stressed for time and are using a separate dining space for your guests, consider setting the table completely the day before the party.

If you’re struggling to think of suitable decor ideas for your dinner party, consider theming your night. Don’t worry, we’re not suggesting a burlesque night or anything too over the top, but a few subtle links to your menu will not go amiss. (For example, if you are serving Moroccan food, a dining room with gentle, soft lighting, authentic Moroccan serving tagines, and dark red and purple tablecloths and napkins will make an understated and appropriate addition to the ambience of the night.)

However you choose to decorate your living and dining space, keep it simple. Guests will be able to recognise when you’ve gone to too much trouble; too many over-the-top decorations and pieces of delicate china give your away your struggle. The goal is to make your home look effortlessly tasteful, so remember that less is more.


On arrival

When guests begin to arrive at your home, the most important tip is to appear relaxed and calm. Regardless of the state of your kitchen and of your own mind, a happy greeting will put guests at ease and make them feel welcome.

Most dinner parties begin with canapes or nibbles and drinks, so set your party apart with a do-it-yourself drinks tray. Choose one or two signature tipples themed around your night and stash a table or trolley with all the fixings to encourage guests to mingle and chat while you sneak away to finish up appetizers and any last minute food preparation. Don’t forget a non-alcoholic option for the designated drivers or teetotalers in your group, and remember not to go overboard, or no one will make it to the table!

If any guests wander into the kitchen while you are preparing food and want to help, don’t shoo them away immediately. Make them feel included by giving them small, simple tasks such as chopping wedges of lime for G&Ts or filling water jugs and glasses. Anything more complicated will only stress you and/or your guests out!

Don’t forget the music! Make or choose a playlist for the night, or pop in a CD before guests arrive and make sure it’s on repeat. There is nothing worse than coming to a lull in conversation and experiencing complete silence.

on arrival

Meal time

After drinks and nibbles are finished, it’s time to move to the dining room. Seat your guests however you like, but a handwritten place card would make a lovely personal touch. Only split up couples if you know they will welcome a chat with new people; some people will not appreciate the surprise.

If your dining room has the space, keep a side table stocked with extra drinks, cutlery, napkins, and anything else your guests might need. This way, if something happens while you are away in the kitchen, no one will need to run around looking for supplies. It also makes replenishing drinks far more convenient and leaves more room on the table for platters and dishes.

While your guests know you aren’t a Michelin starred restaurant, the presentation on your plates really does give that extra wow factor. Take a few minutes to make your dishes look stunning and your guests will notice the difference.

Take your table service up a notch and pair wines with your courses. Most of us know the basics of chicken and white wine, beef and red, but wine pairing is a much more complex art. Take a little time to do the research and your meal will be better than you could imagine. For some wine inspiration, check out this detailed wine pairing list from BBC Good Food.

Keep the lighting in your dining room low or use candles to create ambience. Low light is soft, romantic, and very forgiving of even the most burnt dishes.

Once you’ve left the kitchen and joined your guests, remember to turn off the hob or oven: no one wants a house fire as part of the night’s entertainment! Even if your guests are imbibing, try to have only one or two drinks yourself and keep your senses sharp throughout the party.

meal time

End of the night

After dinner, offer your guests a coffee, tea, or other nightcap, but make sure there’s something to signal the end of the party. If you’re struggling to get everyone out of the house, nothing ends the night like turning up the lights and clearing away the dirty dishes.

As long as you haven’t drunk too much, you can be aware of others’ needs. Does anyone look like they might need a cab home? Feel free to gently suggest it and offer to call a firm for them if they like.

After everyone has left, it’s finally time to relax. Have a nightcap (or two!) yourself and put your feet up. Give yourself permission to leave the washing up until the morning, and pat yourself on the back for having hosted a successful, brilliant dinner party.


Kelsey Meyers

Pictures via Modernize


ilumi Fan Recipes

ilumi fan recipes 1


80g vegan margarine, plus extra for greasing
2 tbsp ground flaxseeds
120g dark chocolate
½ tsp coffee granules
125g self-raising flour
70g ground almonds
50g cocoa powder
¼ tsp baking powder
250g golden caster sugar
1½ tsp vanilla extract
70g glacé cherries (rinsed and halved

– Heat oven to 170C/150C fan/gas 31⁄2. Grease and line a 20cm square tin with baking parchment. Combine the flaxseed with 6 tbsp water and set aside for at least 5 mins.

– In a saucepan, melt the chocolate, coffee and margarine with 60ml water on a low heat. Allow to cool slightly.

– Put the flour, almonds, cocoa, baking powder and 1⁄4 tsp salt in a bowl and stir to remove any lumps. Using a hand whisk, mix the sugar into the melted chocolate mixture, and beat well until smooth and glossy, ensuring all the sugar is well dissolved. Stir in the flaxseed mixture and vanilla extract, the cherries and then the flour mixture. It will now be very thick. Stir until combined and spoon into the prepared tin. Bake for 35-45 mins until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean with moist crumbs. Allow to cool in the tin completely, then cut into squares. Store in an airtight container and eat within 3 days.

Ceoliac UK – Is It Coeliac Disease TV Advert


Back in September Coeliac UK launched their first ever television advert. It debuted at 8.35am on the 7th of September in an interval during Good Morning Britain on ITV.

This advert is a milestone for the charity and for coeliac disease as a whole as it’s the first ever advertisement to raise awareness for the condition. The aim is to try and draw attention to the diseases symptom’s and ultimately help in the search for the half a million un-diagnosed coeliacs in the UK.

coeliac advert

The advert highlights the symptoms of the condition before diagnosis, and is part of the charities ‘Is It Coeliac Disease?’ campaign.

The 30 second advert shows people struggling with diarrhea, fatigue and stomach pain (which are the most commonly reported symptoms of the condition) and steer them to the sites online assessment.

It was broadcast across various channels in the month of September. If you’ve seen it let us know what you think by commenting on our Facebook page, or if you haven’t watched it yet, click here.


Midweek Meals – Bonfire Night


Jacket Potato & Cheesy Chilli


1 x pouch ilumi Chilli Con Carne
1 medium baking potato (approx 320g)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/2 tsp dried mixed herbs

How to make:

– Preheat the oven. Wash the potato and prick with a fork or knife. Rub the skin with the oil and season with salt, pepper and a pinch of dried mixed herbs. Bake for 1 hour, or until the skin is crisp and a knife can easily pierce the centre.

– Once the potato has been in the oven for half an hour, prepare the chilli con carne.

– Cut the top of your ilumi pouch and stick in the microwave for just 2 minutes!

– To serve, cut open the baked potato and spoon the filling into the centre and sprinkle grated cheese on top!

Buy the key ingredient here.

lamb stew

Lamb in Gluten Free Ale Stew


400ml hot vegetable or chicken stock
1 x pouch ilumi Lamb in Gluten Free Ale
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, thickly sliced
2 carrots, thickly sliced
2 leeks, thickly sliced
1 tsp dried rosemary
400g cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
Yorkshire Pudding Recipe

2oz (50g) cornflour
2oz (50g) gluten free flour
3 eggs
1/4 pint (140ml) milk

How to make:

– Yorkshire’s: Make the batter in the usual way and bake in a hot oven. They should rise beautifully and be light as a feather!

How to make:

– Stew: Heat the oil in a large casserole tin . Cook onion, carrots and leeks for 5 mins stirring often, until the veg is starting to soften. Pour over the stock, add the rosemary, cover with a lid and cook until the veg is to your preference.

– Grab your ilumi pouch of Lamb and Gluten Free Ale and stick it in the microwave. Once cooked, pour over your Yorkshire puddings and veg.

Buy key ingredient here.

Coq au Vin with Cobblers

Coq Au Vin with Cranberry & Pumpkin Seed Scones


90g rice flour
140g gluten-free flour
40g polenta
3tsp baking powder
2tsp xanthan gum
1tsp salt
80g soya butter
1tsp sugar
85g dried cranberries
45g spring onion
80g dairy-free yoghurt
2 eggs
1tsp chopped fresh rosemary
40g pumpkin seeds
4 x pouches ilumi Coq Au Vin

How to make:

– Pre-heat oven to 180c.

– Mix together the flours, polenta, baking powder, xantham gum, salt and sugar. Rub soya butter into flour with fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs. Mix in yoghurt and egg to form a dough.

– Stir in cranberries, spring onion, pumpkin seeds and rosemary. Roughly roll the mixture into a round disc (approx 20mm thick) and cut into 12 triangular pieces.

– Place on a greased baking sheet and bake for 15mins until golden.

– In the meantime heat through ilumi Coq au Vin in a pan on the hob.

– Once everything is ready, serve scones alongside ilumi Coq au Vin.

Buy the key ingredient here.


World Vegan Month

It’s World Vegan Day today and it’s the start of World Vegan Month. The annual event  is celebrated across the month of November by vegans around the world as they encourage non-vegans to abstain from eating animal products to show support and celebrate animal rights.

The Day was established in 1994 by Louise Wallis, then President & Chair of The Vegan Society, to commemorate its 50th anniversary and in 2014 the 70th anniversary of the term ‘vegan’.

The ‘World Vegan Society’ which also celebrated its 70th anniversary last year, asks people to ‘take the pledge’ to investigate and learn more about the benefits of a plant-based diet and vegan living.

Taking the 30 day vegan pledge is simple, all you need to do is sign up on the Vegan Society site, and you’ll receive advice on all aspects of a vegan diet – including lots of healthy, easy and unusual vegan recipes to try out, from The Vegan Society.

According to the society, The Vegan Pledge has helped over a thousand people go vegan and stay vegan with its regularly updated tips and support. If you would like to get involved with this great annual celebration of veganism, follow this link.

If you’re planning on going vegan we have a wide range of vegan dishes, sides, sauces, nibbles and banquets available in our online store. Stock up now for World Vegan Month by clicking here.