A Top Bananas Cowgirl Stew!

Prep Time:5 mins, Cook Time: 8 hours, Total Time: 8 hrs, 5 mins

May 30, 2014

Eat Your Veg | Cowgirl Stew

I was delighted to be asked to review Mumsnet’s brand spanking new family recipe book Top Bananas, jumping at the chance in fact! Written by sisters Claire and Lucy McDonald, AKA Crumbs Food and based on the most popular recipes and tips shared on Mumsnet. It’s real, honest and hearty family food for busy parents, “tasty recipes that are easy to shop for and make, with short and uncomplicated ingredients lists”. Perfect in my book. And indeed it really is bang on.

It’s a beautiful book alone with outstanding foodie photography to gawp over (but that may just be my obsession!) let alone the actual recipes. Oh the recipes. They’re good. Really very very good. Exactly the sort of food I want to feed me and my little lot. There’s hardly a recipe I know they wouldn’t devour. Impressed?. Extremely. And this is from someone who’s been generally disappointed by virtually every children’s or family cookbook I’ve ever read. Truly. The book, and each individual chapter, starts off with just the right amount of excellent no nonsense nutritional and eating advice. Then swiftly moves on to the recipes.

I absolutely loved the Breakfast recipes, as it’s without doubt the meal of the day I lack the most inspiration for, or maybe that’s because I’m usually way too tired (and grumpy) to put together great food at this silly time of the day. But I’m now determined to de-grump, get the book out and try the Fluffy Eggs, “they resemble savoury cloud-like meringues…but nicer”, genius, as well as the Kedgeree (my kids have NEVER had it, despite being fish lovers), and the intriguing Devils-on-Horseback Bread (think dead easy no knead bread with bacon and prunes) and Breakfast Quesadilla (my kids are both big fans but as yet haven’t had a breakie version). The Packed Lunch section includes similar sort of stuff I like to make myself, including Cheese Muffins, Wraps, Hoummus and Malt Loaf. But then there are a few new lunch ideas that tickled my fancy including Tuna Melt Parcels, Sticky Chinese Chicken Strips and Great Balls of Broccoli.

The Soups are naturally healthy and hearty and include the fun sounding Frog Soup (mainly peas in case you were wondering). I took a total shine to pretty much all “The Holy Grail” One Pot Wonders, especially digging the quickie Sophisticated Seabass, Chicken Scooter and The ‘Holy Trinity’ Stew (an ever-so-fragrant lamb, butternut and chick pea stew). Naturally I was drawn to the Lovely Veggies section where there’s some truly mouthwatering vegetarian fodder on offer. The Bean Burger recipe looks to die for as do the Stuffed Peppers, Courgette Fritters and Homity Pie. And as every busy parent knows the slow cooker is your friend and you won’t be disappointed by the selection of delish Slow Cooking ideas, the Really Garlicky Chicken has soooo got to be made as has the Cowgirl Stew which I did indeed happily try, and devour, and was allowed to reproduce the recipe for you below.

Always in a hurry I was naturally drawn to the Fast Food recipes and pleasantly surprised to see a ‘super-diddly-umptious” Italian Baked Chicken and foil-wrapped Origami Fish, not your usual fast food fodder. As you know I cook with my kids on a very regular basis and it’s always fascinating to see what others consider to be suitable recipes for Cooking with Children. Quite a few of the recipes I already make with the monsters including Pizza, Burgers, Chicken Dippers, Pancakes, Biscuits and Cookies but I’ll certainly be getting them to bake the yogurt pot One-Pot Fruity Buns one day very soon. Amongst the Party Food how could you not be drawn to the Raspberry Jam Chicken, another simple stroke of genius as are the Marmite Swirls.

My only slight criticism of an otherwise awesome book would be my disappointment with the Puddings and Baking. I should stress this is a very personal criticism to me, but there’s just a little too much sugar going on in most of the recipes for my liking. And not enough use of fruit as a natural sweetener nor use of any wholemeal or alternative flours or healthier fats. But as I said this is personal to me and as a rare treat the recipes do sound very delicious.


I chose to try out the Cowgirl Stew. A recipe right up Eat Your Veg’s street, dead easy to prep (just chuck it all in the slow cooker), uses pretty much all store cupboard ingredients and is packed full of lots of good stuff. A serving counts as 3 of your 5-a-day, but I bumped this up to 4 with the handy serving suggestion of green beans. Happy days. I actually omitted the polish kabanos/chorizo as I didn’t have them to hand (and aren’t really something in our diet), used chipolatas instead of standard sausages, opted for pearl barley and lager. And it was delicious. Mightily so. Most importantly it got a very firm thumbs up from the monsters and will definitely be made again. Probably very very soon. Such a great family-friendly exceptionally tasty recipe that’s sure to be a big hit with all that try it.

So to sum up Top Bananas, I’m overwhelmingly impressed by pretty much all of it and currently at only £13.40 on Amazon it’s a snip. Worth each and every penny. It’s honestly the best family food cookbook on the market I’ve come across. I say go get yourselves a copy. NOW!

I was given a copy of Top Bananas for review. All opinions expressed are my own and I was under no obligation to write a positive review.

The Good Stuff:

Carrots, Onion, Pearl Barley, Baked Beans, Tomatoes

Great For:

Toddlers, Pre-Schoolers, Big Kids, Family Dinners, Midweek Meals, Weekend Slowies

Special Equipment:

A Slow Cooker

A Top Bananas Cowgirl Stew!

Ingredients Prep Time:5 mins, Cook Time: 8 hours, Total Time: 8 hrs, 5 mins

3 large carrots, sliced
1 onion, chopped
6 good-quality sausages, each cut into 6 or 12 chipolatas
2 polish kabanos or 2 small chorizos, sliced
handful of pearl barley or red or green lentils
400g tin baked beans
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
couple glugs Worcestershire sauce
2 garlic cloves, sliced
salt & pepper
400ml lager or vegetable or chicken stock, heated

1) Arrange the carrots on the bottom of the slow cooker. Arrange the onion, sausages and kabanos or chorizos over them, then sprinkle the lentils or barley on top. Spoon out the baked beans in a layer, then do the same with the tinned tomatoes. Add the Worcestershire sauce and garlic and season fairly generously to taste.
2) Pour over the heated lager or stock (if the food is still not fully covered, top up with some water).
3) Put the lid on the slow cooker, set it to low and leave it to cook all day, or for at least eight hours.

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4 thoughts on “A Top Bananas Cowgirl Stew!

  1. Heidi Roberts

    I wouldn’t mind sitting around a campfire with my horse tied to a tree if I could eat this stew!!

  2. Tina @ The Spicy Pear

    I keep saying this but I really do need to invest in a slow cooker. This new book looks very interesting. I too need some inspiration on what to eat in the mornings, especially as I recently discovered my so called ‘healthy’ muesli was full of sugar and hidden calories. And now that i have a new job in the City, some speedy suppers for weekday evenings will be perfect so that I am not chained to the stove.

  3. ManjiriK

    the cook book sounds lovely ! I am a great fan of one pot meals and that stew looks wholesome and heartwarming , love your photo too. Now all I need is to go get myself a slow cooker !


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