Thursday, March 5, 2015

Hot Pots and Casseroles

Lets get back to basics and create heartwarming old fashioned dinners that will have everyone hitting the pot for seconds!

Casseroles are basically slow cooked meat and veggies started over the stove and then transferred to the oven.  You can either start them off in saute pans or use one of those casserole dishes that can be used on the stove an then transferred to the oven.

Another method is to use a slow cooker – so you begin by saute off the veggies & meat in a non stick pan and then transfer to the slow cooker covering with liquid.  I’m a great fan of the slow cooker as dinner is ready when I come home in the evening – I open the door and you are hit by fantastic cooking aromas, its like theres someone in the kitchen getting dinner ready! How good is that on a dark cold wet winter’s night..

You need a Liquid – Stock, Wine, Water, Tomatoes, 
Herbs Rosemary, Thyme, Bay leafs, 
Spices – paprika, cumin, coriander, chilli, 
Chopped garlic – finley chopped onion

Casserole Preparation...

Trim the meat of any fat – cut into even sized cubes
Dust meat with flour salt & pepper
Pop a little oil on a non stick pan and heat
Add the meat in batches and seal on all sides
Remove meat from heat and place on kitchen paper
Pop onions, garlic, celery, carrot to the pan and cook for 5 mins or until nicely fragrant and glossy.
Add the meat and veggies to a casserole dish or slow cooker
You need a Liquid – Stock, Wine, Water, Tomatoes, Herbs, Spices

If using a slow cooker follow the instructions.

Beef Casserole – oven takes about 2 hours
Chicken Casserole – oven takes about 1 hour
Veggie Casserole – oven takes about 45 minutes

Chicken Casserole 

Whole chicken cut into pieces , ½ cup of white wine, about 1/2 litre of chicken stock, 1 can of tomatoes, 1 clove of garlic finely chopped, 1 finely chopped red onion, teasp of paprika, salt & pepper.
or a 
Chicken Provencal with black olives, tomatoes, fresh basil… 

Beef Casserole 

1kg stewing steak cubed, ½ litre of beef stock,  1 glass of red wine, chopped garlic, onions, diced celery, carrots & sliced mushrooms, 1 small bunch of thyme & bay tied together with a string or popped in a little muslin cloth, salt & pepper.
See recipe for Beef Bourguignon later in this blog... or how about a Beef Stroganoff?

Veggie Casserole 

Garlic, onions, veggie stock, peppers, celery, carrots, lentils, butternut squash,  chickpeas, can of tomatoes, teaspoon of cumin & paprika.

Finishing touches..
Add a 1 tablespoon of fresh or sour cream 5 mins before you serve
Chop some fresh chives,  flat leaf parsley, coriander or 

Coq Au Vin – A Classic French Country Dish
Serves 4

4 Generous pieces of chicken (skin on)
4 slices of bacon 
3 good handfuls of mushrooms sliced
10 small onions or shallots  (peeled) 
¼ cup of brandy  - warmed
½ bottle of red wine
1-½ cups of chicken stock
Bouquet Garni 
=  about 3 / 4 parsley sprigs, 2 Thyme, & 2 Bay leaves tied together – (wonderful flavours)
1 tbls tomato puree
2 tbls butter
Few grinds of fresh black pepper
1 tsp salt

2 tbls of parsley


Preheat oven to 180 c /gas 4 / 350F… On the Cooker Top _ in a flameproof casserole dish melt 1 tbls of butter and fry off the bacon – remove with a slotted spoon & reserve.. 

Pop the Chicken pieces in and brown off in the butter – takes about 5 /6 mins – CAREFULLY pour over the brandy and cook for a further 2 mins. 

Return the bacon back to the casserole and pour over the stock, wine & bouquet garni.  Stir well, Cover the casserole and pop in the oven for about 40 mins. 

Meanwhile cook off the onions and mushrooms by melting 1 tbls of butter in a pan and add the onions & cook for about 6 mins until golden brown.  Now add the chopped mushrooms and continue to cook for a further 4 mins..  

Remove the casserole from the oven and add the onion & mushroom mixture, salt, pepper & tomato puree, continue to cook on the cooker top with the lid off for about 10 mins this will help reduce the sauce.  (remove the bouquet garni prior to serving) 

To Serve: Scatter some chopped parsley over the top & Transfer the entire casserole dish to the table.

Red lentil & Sweet Pepper Casserole

2 teasp sunflower oil 1 red pepper cubed
1 onion chopped 1 yellow pepper cubed
2 garlic cloves 1 orange pepper cubed
2 tbls of curry powder  1 courgette diced
150g (5oz) red lentils 1 carrot cubed 
600ml 1pt veggie stock   2 tbls fresh coriander
1 can chopped tomatoes - whizzed
1 ½ tablespoons almond flakes toasted
Salt & ground black pepper 

Heat the oil in a non stick pot and cook the onion for about 2 mins then pop in the garlic & stir in the curry powder,  cook for about another min.  Now toss in the all veggies and combine with the onion mixture ensuring you get all the veggies coated with the onion mixture. 

Add your stock, tomatoes & lentils, & cook on a medium heat until lentils are soft which takes about 20 mins, 

Season with a little salt & pepper, fold in the coriander and continue to simmer until sauce reached the consistency you like!!

If you would like dress up this dish why not pop a handful of flaked almonds on a non-stick pan for about 2 mins until toasty… serve in a bowl with flaked almonds scattered on top.

Serve with steamed basmati rice


I’d buy topside for the beef and ask the butcher to trim it for you if not do it yourself as is really important to have small pieces of tender beef! 

Donelli’s Beef Bourguignon
Serves a crowd or great for freezing… 
Serves 10 

2.5 kg beef
1 small piece of lean bacon .5 kg trimmed and cut into cubes
15 shallots peeled & sliced in half 
5 handfuls of mushrooms sliced
3 cloves of garlic bashed & finely chopped
1 handful of all purpose flour
1 bottle of red wine
6 ladles of beef stock  
1 handful of fresh thyme
Salt, Pepper

1.  Heat a tablespoon of olive oil,  in a large non stick pot, add the shallots and cook for 5 mins turning continually on medium heat,  add the garlic and cook for a further 2 mins.
2.  Season the beef with salt, pepper & flour, pop into the shallot mixture, cook until browned on all sides. Add the cubed bacon and cook briefly for 2 mins.
3.  Add the wine to the mixture with a couple of ladles of stock and bring to the boil, simmer.
4.  Slice the mushrooms and cook off in a non stick pan pop aside until ready to use.
5.   Simmer with the lid off for about 1.5  hours, ensure beef is submerged in the liquid, if not add some more beef stock, after 1.5 hours test the beef is tender if not continue to cook ( test that the beef is tender is if it can be cut with a fork)
6.  Add the mushrooms & thyme, bring up to the boil and serve or 

If keeping this for serving at a later stage, cool in containers with lids off in the coolest place in the house, only pop into the fridge when totally cool..

Serve with steamed rice or roasty garlic potatoes & a green veggie....

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