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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Glorious Coq au Vin from a Jar…

Coq au Vin--The Finished Dish

Coq au Vin--The Finished Dish

I found the Coq au Vin paste below in Sainsbury, in the “special nice foods” section.  And at only £1.59….this appeals to me on lots of levels at the moment!  I thought no way, must be a mistake, full of rubbish, etc, etc. but not true, here are the stated ingredients:

coq au vin paste
coq au vin paste

Water, Shallot, Red Wine, Garlic Purée, Rapeseed Oil, Mixed Forest Mushrooms (Champignon Mushroom, Shiitake Mushroom, Black Fungus, Boletus Luteus), Sugar, Concentrated Lemon Juice, Black Pepper, Salt, Thyme, Parsley, Cornflour, Celery Seed, Bay Leaf. 

I gave it a whirl.  The cooking instructions are actually inside a peel off label, not that I saw this of course until later.  So, Hampshirecook’s Method was:

Brown some chicken drums and thighs.  Fry some shallots, bacon strips and garlic, add in some button mushrooms, then add in the paste and cook around.  Add in third of a bottle of red wine, and reduce down to half.  Add all that plus a 3/4 litre or a pint of chicken stock and a couple of carrots cut chunky into a casserole and in a medium hot oven for an hour with the lid on–or in my case, a bit of tinfoil since the lid smashed long ago.  Remove the chicken, place back in oven to keep warm while reducing the stock down in a pan on the stove to about half. 

It was GLORIOUS.

Served it with rice.  Wish I had had some parsley to scatter over but not beating myself over the head about it.

Why Bother?  I can make a passable Coq au Vin from scratch anyway, and it’s pretty simple to do, so why use a jar product?  Well, I could not afford to buy all those rich mushroom flavours, and in this product’s case, there is nothing to worry about in terms of processed food/e-numbers/weird preservatives.  So, will be stocking up on that one, thanks very much!

(NB I do not receive freebies or endorsements for any products or from any supermarkets mentioned in my blog because 1. no-one has ever asked me or sent me anything and 2. I might find that a bit compromising/limiting so I do not seek it.  Any comments are therefore genuine and if you trawl about my posts, I say nice things and not so nice things about my purchases and relationships with food retailers in about equal measure because that reflects my reality…)

Maltese Baked Potatoes Recipe

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In my occasional series on doing potatoes differently (2 posts to date, see slow fried roast potatoes), this recipe for Maltese baked potatoes is a simple, no-fuss delicious winner, the fennel adding a slightly exotic note to an otherwise rather humble dish. Most dauphinois/casseroled/ranch-style potato recipes use milk or cream but this dish is more like “boulangere” potatoes, using stock and oil. No parboiling first either, which saves a lot of time and trouble.

I can attest to the authenticity of this recipe as hub and I were served this dish with almost every meal on a business jolly a few years ago in Valleta and I asked how it was made, then did the usual trial and error experimentation, trawling the blogs and so on back home.

For a Sunday lunch, Maltese cooks add meat, usually pork, to the base of the dish. Although the fennel is traditional, adding in a teaspoon of mixed curry spice is an option too–though Maltese cooking is very sparing with spice and generally tends towards plain and unfussy. The cuisine in Malta to me seems to be lots of grilled fish & seafood, rustic stews and casseroles, simple robust flavours, great pizzas from their Italian links…what more could you want?

Ingredients (to Serve 4 as a Side Dish):

  • 4-6 ordinary white Potatoes, depending on size, e.g. 4 large or 5/6 medium, peeled and sliced at a medium to thick setting on a mandolin, or as evenly as can be managed if by hand
  • 1 large white Onion, peeled and sliced, not transparently thinly but not great huge chunks
  • 2-4 medium Garlic Cloves depending on taste, crushed rather than minced as this gives a softer taste, roast garlic would be nice too
  • 1/2 Pint/225ml Vegetable Stock
  • 1 tbspn regular Olive Oil (not extra virgin)
  • 1 level tbspn very lightly crushed Fennel Seeds
  • Salt (or not depending on the stock used) and a few grinds of Black Pepper to season

Method:

Mix the garlic, stock, fennel seeds and oil together, infuse for a few minutes. Place the sliced onions at the bottom of a casserole dish, layer over the sliced potatoes and pour over the liquid. Season lightly. Cook in the oven at 190 degrees Celsius/375 degrees Farenheit for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until the top is browned and crispy and the potatoes cooked through. The potatoes should be moist, with a very small puddle of gravy juices. This dish is similar to boulangere potatoes as I said, but that version commonly uses thyme/rosemary as a flavouring and alternate layers of potatoes and onions with stock. It is technically possible to overcook these potatoes and end up with brown mush but I am sure that will never happen to you…

Pork in a Pickling Style — A Version of Adobo Pork

Adobo Pork in a Pickling Style

Adobo Pork in a Pickling Style

This recipe for “adobo pork in a pickling style” could be a taste shock if you have not tried something like this before: not a curry, not chinese, not anything familiar really.  Pork chops, thin cut loin steaks or cubed loin are marinated in soy sauce, distilled white vinegar, lots of crushed garlic, whole black peppercorns and bay leaves, then stewed and then the heat turned up to caramelise and make a sticky sauce.  The peppercorns make this hot and the white vinegar makes it brutally sharp, while the soy sauce gives the dish amazing depth and a deep red-browny colour, with the garlic as a strong undertone but not as overwhelming as the amounts suggest.  The peppercorns soften in the marinade and then cook in the stew and sort of crush in your mouth with a fiery surprise.  Wonderful.

This dish is an adaptation of an adaptation.  The original recipe came to our family via Indian actress Madhur Jaffrey’s first/early celebrity cookbook from the 1970’s, which I cannot trace now, but she was inspired by a Filipino classic dish, adobo pork & chicken for which no standard recipe exists.  Jaffrey anyway had a tendency to over-oil/over-ghee her recipes, and whatever cut of pork she suggested we changed that along the way too.  I have to say this is also a very fickle dish, sometimes the pork does not seem to want to be anything other than solid and hard, other times it is perfect melt in the mouth and yet it can flake away to nothing too.  Such is pork casserole really and the variable quality of pork we have in our supermarkets, else I am a rubbish cook with no consistency, which could conceivably be the case!  Oh and a big, big thank you to Greedy Rosie for checking her vast recipe book collection for me and finding yet another adobo version, the lady is a star.

Pork in  Pickling Style Recipe Basic Ingredients:

Depending on how many people you are feeding, this recipe of course can be scaled up and down.  A 500g pork loin will serve two to three people, this sounds like a lot of meat but reduces down considerably when cooked and could serve four if you have additional side dishes.  Trim off any pork fat/rind to your own taste (I tend to remove as much as I can but in the Philippines traditionally you would probably use a more fatty pork). Place your cubed pork, pork chops or thick cut loin chops in a bowl, add in equal volumes of light Soy Sauce to distilled White Vinegar to adequately cover, I use around 8 tablespoons or 1/2 (US) Cup of each to feed 4 and my preference is for Kikkoman soya sauce, though I used a new “delux” double-fermented Lee Kum Kee soy sauce for this one today which is much redder in colour.  A variation is to use 1/4 dark soy sauce and 3/4 light soy, it gives a richer and darker look and taste, but not strictly necessary as long as you are using a decent quality soy.  Crush 4-6 garlic cloves and add in, along with a teaspoon of whole black peppercorns, a heaped teaspoon of brown sugar (Demerara or muscavo, whatever you have, palm sugar would probably be more authentic) and 2 medium-size bay leaves.  

Pork in Marinade

Method: Marinate in the fridge for as long as you can, but for at least a couple of hours.  It can sit in there all day if that suits, just turn the meat over a few times. In either a large, deep skillet (that has a lid for later) or a wide-based heavy pot, warm a tablespoon of vegetable or olive oil, more if you have a large volume of pork.  Crush another 4-6 garlic cloves and gently fry over a low heat. Brown very large pork chops first and separately before softening the garlic, it is not necessary to brown cubed pork or thin loin steaks. Add in the pork to the softened garlic with all of the marinade and a cup of cold water so that the pork is just covered.  Bring to the boil for a few minutes before putting the lid on and stew gently until cooked, anywhere from half an hour for thin loin chops or tender pork loin to 45 minutes for thick chunky chops or very large cubed and less tender meat.  Remove the cooked pork, then turn up the heat under the pan for 5 minutes or so until it foams and creates a sticky, carmelised sauce.  If you are faffing around meantime with veg and rice, you can add splashes of hot water just to keep it from being too dry–if you make this dish you will see what I mean!  Remove the bay leaves, and place the meat back in the sauce before serving with sicky white rice (I overcook Basmati by a couple of minutes but you can use e.g. Thai sticky rice) and with steamed or stir-fried greens on the side.  It is great to put out a serving dish of rice with the entire adobo pork casserole on top and let folks help themselves–the sticky sauce kind of mixes up with the slightly sticky rice, its fab.

Comment: So you don’t have to, I have tried all variations I can imagine–all dark soya sauce, brown malt and cider & wine vinegars, I have tried quickly marinading too and tried reducing down the garlic.  I have tried adding other spices/ginger and so on too.  No variations work out, but if you do hit on another combo, please let me know!  This dish is what it is: brutally tasty–it clubs rather than charms the tastebuds, buy hey, sometimes that is just what you need.  We loved this as kids but I would pick out the peppercorns first for the very small ones…

Ham Hot-Pot: Using Up Leftover Hams

Ham & Leek Hot-Pot

Ham & Leek Hot-Pot

Scottish tradition and superstitions being what they are, I can’t wish anyone a happy new year until it is actually the new year!  So, on the premise that lots of people are likely to have a whole lot of leftovers in the next couple of days, here is my favourite leftover dish.

My mum makes this hot-pot, so now I do too. No idea where the original idea came from,  it is similar in concept to a moussaka but using leftover ham, inter-leaved with thinly sliced potatoes and leeks, baked in a casserole in the oven in a light bechamel sauce.  It is extremely moreish — I have never had a big enough portion of this dish — and we would typically serve it with steamed kale or cabbage on the side.

Due to the somewhat slapdash nature my family folklore cooking, I checked out the re-heating of previously cooked hams, and as long as you achieve a good internal cooking temperature of 140 degrees Celsius, 345 degrees Farenheit there should be no problems.  See the US Department of Agriculture food safety advice on cooking and re-heating hams here.

Recipe: Ham Hot-Pot

Ingredients: (This amount served 3 adults in our house, or would serve 2 adults and 2 small ones…)

  • 400g or so (how much do you have?) leftover cooked ham, this time it was a pork loin joint but could be any kind of ham or gammon joint, etc.
  • 1 large Leek, thinly sliced, or 2 medium ones which is what I used
  • 2 lbs/800g Potatoes, suitable varieties would be Maris Piper, King Edwards or similar, anything the supermarket says is robust enought to roast, boil and bake!
  • Salt and Pepper to season
  • 1 Pint of Bechamel Sauce, either store-bought or make your own by infusing milk gently with an onion studded with a few cloves, a bay leaf, grate of nutmeg or a blade of mace and some peppercorns and then making up as for a white sauce using the infused milk–BTW you always need to start with about a pint and a half of milk to get a pint of sauce.  Here is Delia Smith’s classic Bechamel sauce recipe just for fun.  She misses out the cloves though, no idea why?

Method:

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius, 390 degrees Farenheit. Slice the ham, leeks and then the potatoes thinly, I used a mandolin for the potatoes on a medium setting and hand cut the ham and leeks.  Keep the potato slices in a separate bowl of water to stop them going brown as you assemble the dish and pat them dry with kitchen paper as you layer up.

In a 2 or 3 pint greased oven-proof casserole dish, start with a layer of ham on the base, then inter-leave with layers of leeks and then overlayered potatoes, seasoning with a tiny bit of salt and freshly ground black pepper as you go. I tend to “distribute” half slices of the ham rather than overlayer it up as otherwise you run out of ham pretty quickly.  I also finish with a double layer of potatoes, no idea why, just seems the right thing to do.

Make up the Bechamel sauce and pour over, and “jiggle” (a Scottish expression!) or gently shake the casserole till the sauce distributes through the layers.  Bake for around 50 minutes to an hour, until the top goes golden brown, the sauce is clearly bubbling away through the casserole and the potatoes are cooked if you insert a sharp knife easily right down to the bottom, if you feel the slightest resistance try a slice and see.  Slice the potatoes too thickly and this dish will take much longer in the oven, the sauce can dry out and disappear and it will be yuk, so you might want to cover with foil or parboil the potatoes first if you want to have big chunky ones in there.  And yes, the casserole dish is a total pain to wash up afterwards, but promise it is worth it.

Chicken Pie Casserole Recipe: Pie Crust Not Required

Chicken Pie Casserole Recipe

I have a cheek calling this a chicken pie recipe, it is really chicken in yummy gravy with veg and a pastry topping.  My apologies if you were determined to do something more complex.  My mum never made savoury pies with crusts attached, all her steak pies and chicken pies were made as casseroles and she cooked puff pastry squares in individual serving sizes separately.  And boy, do I so get why she did this, savoury pie crusts are a total pain, adds heaps more stress to the cooking experience and the result (see below for my last Friday efforts) does not look, serve as easily or taste as good as making the puff separately.

Chicken Pie Casserole Ingredients (Serves 4):

  • 4 medium-size Chicken Breasts, cut into irregular chunks of around 2 cm
  • Seasoned, Plain Flour, enough to generously coat the chicken
  • 2 Carrots, cut into rounds, I quite like them rustic and chunky, ie about 1/2 cm to 1 cm, you could dice of course 
  • 1 small head of Broccoli, cut into small florets
  • 1 medium Onion, diced
  • 1 clove of Garlic, minced
  • Teaspoon of dried Sage
  • Large Bay Leaf or 2 x small Bay Leaves
  • 600 ml good quality Chicken stock
  • Glass of White Wine
  • Olive oil and Butter for browning the chicken
  • A sheet of ready-made puff pastry, or about 200g

Method:

Warm a large frying pan and then add the oil and about 50g of butter.  Warming the pan first stops food sticking too much.  Toss the chicken chunks in seasoned flour with the sage added, make sure the chicken is well coated with flour.  Brown the chicken chunks in the frying pan until golden with some browny bits on the edges — this adds to the final flavour.

Meanwhile, in a large pan, saute the minced onion in olive oil until glossy in appearance and then add the garlic and carrots and sweat these for a couple of minutes.  Add in the stock and bay leaf, bring to the boil and then simmer.

Once the chicken is browned and taken out, deglaze the frying pan with the white wine, and stir like crazy to get all the stickiness off the pan.  Once this mixture has reduced and thickened a little, add this to the chicken stock broth with the chicken chunks.  Simmer over a medium heat for about 30-40 minutes, adding further stock and reducing the temperature if the gravy is reducing too much.

I add the broccoli florets a little later on in the cooking process, half-way in really, as I don’t like mushy broccers, but it’s personal taste.  In a proper pie, of course you don’t have that choice or control.

Once the chicken in gravy is cooking, line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and then oil this lightly too.  Cut out whatever shapes you fancy from your pasty, I have thought that you could do cute stars and moons for kids, but generally I just cut boring rectangles.  Cook according to the instructions, usually about 30 minutes so they should time to be ready when your casserole is ready.

I should explain the picture below: a bunch of people arrived at the door as I was fiddling with this, I realised I had pulled out too big a casserole dish and thought, oh sod it, it’ll be OK but the pastry kind of collapsed inside, silly me.  Still tasted good, and I think makes my point totally about not attempting to do this as an all in one pie.  You have been warned…

Collapsed Chicken Pie...

Collapsed Chicken Pie...