Simple Sausage Casserole

Sometimes we can get really fed up with rice and potatoes and I do try to eat more pulses and beans for variety. This simple sausage casserole is fast, low cost, fills you up and is rather tasty. This is presented as if it is a “recipe” but this is simply making a meal stuff, no pretensions otherwise.

 

A Warming Sausage Casserole for Winter Week Nights

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients

  • 8 pork or beef link sausages (I like Lincolnshire and Cumberland ones, but any will do really)
  • 500g drained weight of canned, pre-cooked beans: kidney beans, borlotti, cannellini, pinto beans would all work, I usually mix two different cans. Drain and rinse with cold water
  • Large jar or 500ml pack of sieved/creamed tomatoes (passata)
  • 500ml water
  • Large pinch of dried mixed herbs or Herbes de Provence
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • tbspn light olive oil or your cooking oil of preference
  • A pinch of sugar, or a splash of milk if your tomatoes are particularly tart
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • If you would like to up the veg quotient, then add in small diced mushrooms and/or courgette, but avoid diced carrot as it takes too long to cook, I’ve added in some broccoli and green fresh beans for the version photographed, along with a few potatoes I boiled separately as I had a few left, not enough to feed us all, but a perfect quantity to drop in to a casserole. Either cook potatoes separately and add in towards the end, or chop small and let them cook through the sauce.

Directions

  1. Place the sausages under a medium-hot grill, they should take around 15-18 minutes but the pack will advise. Check and turn the sausages to ensure that they are browning evenly as you prepare the sauce.
  2. Warm a tablespoon of olive oil and saute the onion and garlic gently on a low-med heat in a larger sized pan. Cook until the onion is very soft.
  3. Add in the tomato passata, water, herbs and seasoning.
  4. Bring to a boil and then reduce the temperature, simmer the sauce for 10 minutes.
  5. Check the sauce seasoning and adjust, but do this from a cooled spoon of sauce, as you cannot really taste what is going on properly if it is scalding hot.
  6. Remove the sausages from the grill and add into the casserole, along with all of the drained beans.
  7. Heat through for a further 5-10 minutes, but leave for a couple of minutes to cool before serving. Sausages can be mouth-blisteringly hot straight from the pan.

Make it Healthier:

I make this sausage casserole with vegetarian sausages all the time. No-one complains, I think a flavourful sauce is the key. If you would like to reduce the amount of sausages, or stretch a smaller pack to go further, sometimes I chop them in half or thirds after grilling.

Oh No, Help Me Fix It…!

Q: My sauce is too runny? My sauce is far too thick? My sauce is exploding all over the kitchen?

A: Tomato based sauces can usually take turning up the heat for a short while to cook away some liquid if you find it is too thin or runny. If you dilute a tomato-based sauce that is too thick with just water close to serving the dish, it does tend to dilute the flavour, which is not ideal. There are three choices, use water but let the dish cook a little longer, use an appropriate stock or tomato puree+water to dilute, but puree in particular does need time to cook out as it can make a dish bitter if you add it in close to serving. An exploding sauce–turn down the heat straight away and add some liquid.

 

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Baked Wild Salmon with a Lemon Butter Caper Sauce

 

I had to blog this “recipe” as it is one of the tastiest dinners I have served up in a long time!

Best of all, the dish can be put together as a main meal in half an hour with a very few ingredients. So, hooray all round! Well, ticks my boxes.

In our family, we made a conscious choice a while ago to eat wild salmon, even if it meant we ate salmon less often due to the higher cost. I’m Scottish by origin, so I know the debates around wild salmon stocks, farmed salmon and pollution, creating and sustaining jobs in rural areas and the release of farmed fish into the ocean. But, for us it comes down to taste. Farmed salmon can be flabby, fatty and lacking in flavour. Wild salmon is firmer, arguably “healthier” and simply tastes better.

I serve the salmon fillet on a bed of crushed new potatoes with a little sauce drizzled over the tatties and then over the top of the fish. Side dishes–perhaps flash pan-fried samphire, or a steamed veg medley. This dish goes particularly well with baby sweetcorn in the medley.

Ingredients

  • One Boneless Salmon Fillet per person, Skin On (Wild salmon fillets may look thinner/smaller than farmed salmon, circa 100g-120g each in weight per fillet is the usual portion I serve as a main course.)
  • Two thin slices of Lemon per fillet
  • Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper

For the Sauce:

  • Juice of 1-2 Lemons depending on number of portions. (The grated rind of half a Lemon is optional–I am not a fan of citrus rind as I find the flavour can be too harsh.)
  • 25g of Butter per person (I use unsalted butter as a matter of course in our house; leave out the salt if you are using salted butter.)
  • 1 fat Garlic Clove, minced
  • 1/2 Tablespoon of rinsed Capers per person
  • A couple of grinds of Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Equipment:

  • A baking tray sufficient to lay out the fillets; tinfoil; a thin covering of a light oil for foil (vegetable or light olive oil will do), a small saucepan

Method
Pre-heat the oven to 210 degrees Celsius. This fish cooks quickly, so prepare any side dishes first so that they will time with serving up.

Line a baking tray with enough foil to create a “tent” over the fish. Lightly oil the foil base, and place the fillets skin side down, season and place on the lemon slices. Fold back the excess foil for now so the fish is fully exposed, and bake in the oven for 10 minutes.

Remove the fish from the oven, unfold the foil and “tent” the fish–the foil may be hot at the edges. Leave aside for another 10 mins, the fish keeps cooking and will be done perfectly.

Prepare the sauce–melt the butter gently in the saucepan, then add the rest of the sauce ingredients and heat again on low for a few minutes until the garlic is just cooked through but not browning, a couple of stirs and this is done.

Unwrap the fish, remove the lemon slices.  The skin can be removed with a fish slice as you plate up.  Serve with the sauce spooned over.

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Baked Wild Salmon with Samphire and Crushed New Potatoes

 

Dining with the Toffs: Lady Maclean’s Diplomatic Dishes

Strolling Round Old Croatia

Mooching about our rented holiday villa, sorry, amazingly huge palazzo in Croatia, I found an extraordinary cookbook, Lady Maclean’s Diplomatic Dishes.  Veronica Maclean was a Scottish blue-blood, born to Lord and Lady Lovat in 1920, photographed by Cecil Beaton 20 years later and celebrated as a fragile beauty.  According to her Independent obituary, she led a “marvellously full life” as is always a distinct possibility when one is born into such a family.

She was a socialite and a diplomat’s wife, publishing a number of cookbooks that drew on her circle of aristos and diplomats to provide content, a little bit like guest blogging today.  This particular volume is a rather unique record of dishes served at formal and informal weekend parties, luncheons and dinners in country house/diplomatic circles during the 50’s and 60’s.  Heavy on the cream, pints of the stuff being required for some dishes, the recipes are supplied by embassy chefs and the wives of ambassadors, aristocrats and politicians from around the world.  Few of the recipes even bother to mention how many people the dish serves, I think one is supposed to work it out from the context or the quantity of ingredients! 

Lady Maclean lived on the island of Korcula in Croatia for many years with her husband “Fitz” Maclean.  The Croatian connection is probably why so many of the recipes feature truffles, and why too the book pitched up on the shelves in my own rented villa in the Istrian hills, as it was owned by yet more Scottish aristos.  One of the recipes, a breakfast dish of baked eggs, calls for “3 good-sized black truffles” to be grated over.  Well, that’s about a thousand quid right there, and just for your brekkie…

Croatian Tartufi and Tartufata

Tartufi And Tartufata

I do understand her adoration of the black gold though.  We ate out in the restaurant terraces of hilltop village squares, where dish after musty, truffly dish wafted tantalisingly past our noses.  We were dipping our bread in truffle-infused olive oil, we truffle-tasted in old Venetian stone buildings, and we contemplated the utter ugliness that is a fresh truffle.  What we actually bought were three little taster pots of tartufi, costing around £12.  Tartufi is poor man’s truffle, a mix of white or black truffles with other ingredients, served like a sauce.  I intend to serve up my little truffle extravagance with ribbon spaghetti later this week.

Lady Macleans Diplomatic Dishes (1975) is out of print now, but available from second-hand re-sellers on amazon.co.uk.  I have ordered mine already.