Slow cooking is very forgiving: you don't need to hover over this yummy curry recipe as it simmers in the slow cooker or in a low oven.

Southern Indian chicken curry

Serves: 4
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 6ΒΌ hours (slow cooker) 1 hour (stove-top)
2 tablespoons Madras curry powder
4 chicken legs
3 tablespoons coconut oil or rice bran oil
1 teaspoon ground fennel
1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
4 tablespoons fresh or dried curry leaves
2 small onions, halved, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
90g desiccated coconut
2 tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 x 270 ml tin coconut milk
crispy fried shallots, coconut cream and basmati rice, to serve
Rub curry powder and salt over chicken to coat. Set aside until needed.
Heat half of the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Cook fennel, mustard seeds, curry leaves, onions, garlic, ginger and coconut for 6-8 minutes until onions are soft, stirring regularly to avoid burning the coconut. Stir in tomatoes and coconut milk, then transfer to the slow cooker.
Heat the remaining oil in the frying pan. Add the chicken and cook for 3 minutes each side or until lightly golden. Transfer to the slow cooker, skin-side up, and mix well. Cook on low for 6 hours or until tender.
Serve the curry with crispy fried shallots, coconut cream and basmati rice.

Time to buy?
If you're investing in your first slow cooker, there are a few things to keep in mind. The capacity of slow cookers ranges from modest versions, perfect for small households, to bigger models (up to 7 litres) that will feed a crowd, often with a meal or two left over for the freezer as well.
Dishes made in the slow cooker require less liquid than those cooked on the stove-top or in the oven, as the liquid cannot evaporate (as a general rule,you'll need about half the amount of liquid in the slow cooker). Since slow cookers take a while to heat up, resist the urge to lift the lid while cooking; if you do need to stir or check the food, replace the lid as soon as possible so the slow cooker doesn't lose too much heat. As with any kitchen equipment, there are some safety points to remember when using your slow cooker:
* Never cook any meat from frozen, or partially frozen, in a slow cooker, as this can allow food-poisoning bacteria to multiply. Always thaw meat fully before cooking.
* If your slow cooker's ceramic insert has been refrigerated or frozen, let it come to room temperature before cooking, or the sudden change in temperature could cause it to crack.
* Never cook dried kidney-shaped beans from their raw state in a slow cooker, as the temperature won't be high enough to destroy the natural toxin found in these beans. Tinned beans are safe for immediate use, but dried red kidney beans (and other similar-shaped beans) should be soaked overnight, then boiled vigorously in fresh water for 10 minutes before being added to the slow cooker.

Olivia Andrews is the author of Whole Food Slow Cooked (Murdoch Books; $35.00), from which these recipes and images are reproduced with kind permission, and available now in all good bookstores and online.