Italian Sausage Casserole

In the freezer I had a large Italian pork sausage, flavoured with fennel. I made this stew, which could be made with any good quality coarse pork sausage, for example a Cumberland sausage. The stew is very easy to make, and we served it with creamed potato and celeriac mash, and sea kale florets. 

INGREDIENTS;

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 coarse Italian pork sausages (around 400g) or similar
  • 1 large onion, finely sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder, or other chilli powder
  • 1 tsp date syrup, or treacle
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 300ml stock
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tsp mixed herbs (I used the mystery herbs from Italy)
  • salt and pepper

METHOD:

  • Fry the sausages in the oil in a large frying pan for around 8 minutes, until they are browned. Transfer to a casserole dish. 
  • Fry the onions in the same pan over a medium heat, for around 5 minutes, until they are beginning to brown.
  • Add the crushed garlic and chilli, and cook, stirring for another couple of minutes
  • Add the stock, tomatoes, puree and herbs, and bring to a simmer.
  • Pour over the sausages in the casserole dish, and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. 

This tastes better if it is not boiling hot, let it sit for a few minutes whilst preparing the mash and vegetables. 

Venison and Guinness …

You could make this into a pie, a stew, or a steamed pudding. I added dumplings, rather than going out to buy potatoes. The venison came from Storas Uibhist. You can get this locally by visiting Eat Drink Hebrides. 

INGREDIENTS:

For the stew:

  • 500g venison, cubed 
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 small celeriac
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried marjoram
  • 1 bayleaf
  • 1 tbsp cornflour
  • 150ml guiness
  • 100ml stock
  • salt and pepper

For the dumplings:

  • 125g self-raising flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 50g shredded suet
  • 1/2 tsp mixed herbs
  • 3-4 tbsp cold water

METHOD:

  • Chop the onion finely, peel and dice the celeriac. Heat the oil in a heavy casserole pan and fry the vegetables until they are just beginning to brown. 
  • Add the herbs and the meat, and fry until the meat is browned.
  • Sprinkle in the cornflour, stir, and then slowly add the Guinness and stock. Bring to a simmer, and then season with salt and pepper, to taste. 
  • Put the lid on the casserole dish and put it in the oven at 140C for an hour and a half – then add the dumplings.
  • Make the dumplings so that you can add them to the stew for the final cooking time.
  • Mix the flour, salt, herbs and suet in a bowl and then add the water to make a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured surface, and cut into 8 bits. Roll each dumpling into a ball, coating with a little flour.
  • Drop the dumplings into the stew, and return to the oven at 200C for a further 20 minutes.  

If you are going to make the stew into a pudding, make a suet pastry using 110g self-raising flour, 110g fresh white breadcrumbs, 110g suet, a pinch of salt and approx 140ml cold water. Line a greased pudding bowl with 3/4 of the pastry, fill with the stew, cap with the rest of the pastry, and steam for 2 hours. 

Venison Stew with Membrillo

It is time to make the most of what is in the freezer. I am avoiding going out as much as possible, and eating some of the odd ingredients that are stashed in our freezer. I often take inspiration from recipes from the internet, adapted to what I have. In the freezer, for this recipe, I had some venison diced for stew, and I also had an old pack of membrillo, a quince paste that is generally served with Manchego cheese. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 500g diced venison
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp black pepper, ground
  • 200ml red wine
  • 200ml stock
  • 1 tbsp membrillo paste
  • salt to taste

METHOD:

  • Marinade the meat for at least two hours, and preferably overnight, in the wine and olive oil, seasoned with black pepper and dried rosemary. 
  • Strain the marinade and set aside. 
  • In a casserole dish, fry the venison in a little more olive oil,
  • When the meat is browned, add the strained marinade, stock and membrillo paste. 
  • Cook in a slow oven, around 140 C for around 1 1/2 to 2 hours, when the meat should be tender. Season to taste

I served this with kale tops and mashed potatoes. 

Pheasant casserole

A shout-out to all of you who are thinking about seeking out the food in your freezers in an emergency, to all of you who have found a couple of pheasants in there. I love a good basic pheasant casserole, it works very well in a coq-au-vin style stew. This version is from Norman Tebbit’s recipe book ‘The Game Cook’. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 50g butter
  • 1 pheasant (I usually joint the pheasant but you don’t have to.)
  • 120g streaky bacon, lardons or similar
  • 1 large onion
  • 200ml red wine
  • 600ml stock
  • 225g mushrooms, chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • Bayleaf
  • Pinch of dried thyme leaves (or use a bouquet garni)
  • 1 tbsp flour blended to a paste with 25g butter

METHOD:

  • Preheat the oven to 170C
  • Melt the butter in a large frying pan and brown the pheasant, transfer to a large casserole dish
  • Saute the bacon in the frying pan, along with the finely chopped onion, until the onion begins to brown
  • Add the fried onion to the casserole dish, along with the wine, stock, herbs, salt and pepper. 
  • Cook in the oven for a couple of hours. 
  • When the pheasant is almost cooked, add the mushrooms. 
  • Once the mushrooms are cooked, you can thicken the stew with the butter/flour mixture. Adjust the seasoning, and serve

I like mashed potato and celeriac with this casserole.

There are other options to add flavour to this casserole. A spoonful of rowanberry jelly or red current jelly adds a fruity twist, or you could add a little cooking apple. Another option would be to add a splash of cream at the end. You could swap the onions for shallots or leeks. 

Venison casserole with red wine

I am lucky to live in a place where wild venison from red deer is readily available. This year I have bought my venison from South Uist Estates. We’ve now got rather a lot in the freezer, and the Christmas Day menu is sorted. 

Tonight I made a casserole using the recipe in The Game Cook by Norman Tebbit. I did add a few variations, couldn’t help myself. It was very very good. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 900g shoulder of venison, diced
  • 100g smoked pancetta, or streaky bacon cut into 1cm cubes
  • 2 tbsp plain flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 25g butter
  • 1 white onion, finely chopped
  • 2 sticks of celery, finely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 300ml stock
  • 150ml red wine
  • 100g mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • Bouquet garni (I used the mystery herbs with added bayleaves)
  • a couple of good shakes of Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste

MARINADE INGREDIENTS:

  • 150ml red wine
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp brandy or rum
  • 1 medium red onion, finely chopped
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • Peel of 1/4 orange, shredded

METHOD:

  • Put all of the marinade ingredients in a plastic box with a secure lid. Add the venison, shake it all around to mix, and then leave overnight in the fridge. 
  • Preheat the oven to 170C
  • Take the venison out of the marinade, wipe off the chopped onion and orange, and set aside. Strain the marinade and save that as well. 
  • Heat the oil and butter together in a large casserole dish, and gently fry the pancetta. Once it starts cooking, add the chopped onion, carrot, garlic and celery, and continue to cook until the vegetables are beginning to brown. 
  • Toss the venison in the seasoned flour, and then add the flour, herbs and meat to the pan. Keep stirring the meat in the pan until it starts to brown. 
  • Once the mixture is really dry, add the marinade, the red wine and the stock, a good splash of Worcestershire sauce, and  bring to the boil and reduce to a simmer. The liquid should cover the vegetables and meat. 
  • Add the mushrooms, check for seasoning, and then put the casserole into the oven for a couple of hours. 

Serve with mashed potato, and a green vegetable. Try adding celeriac to the mash, or serving with roasted parsnips. 

Sweet and Sour wild goose with almonds

We have some wild goose breasts in the freezer, and I am always looking for good ways to cook them. Somewhere I have a traditional goose soup recipe to try, but before I could test it,  I came across a recipe for a lamb dish in Nightingales and Roses by Maryam Sinaiee. 

I must tell you, it was sensational, best recipe ever for wild goose. Spices are available from Seasoned Pioneers, and the other ingredients I got from Persepolis in Peckham. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 100g slivered or flaked almonds
  • 2 dried limes
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 small onions, finely chopped
  • 3 goose breasts, sliced into strips
  • 1 teaspoon of ground turmeric
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 stick cinnamon
  • 100g dried barberries
  • 30g butter
  • 1/2 tbsp rose water
  • a small pinch of saffron, ground and steeped in 1 tbsp boiling water
  • a teaspoon of brown sugar or date syrup
  • a large pinch of salt, to taste

METHOD:

  • Cover the almonds in cold water, and leave to soak. 
  • Cover the limes in boiling water, and put something on top to weigh them down so they remain immersed
  • Heat the oil in a heavy pan, and fry the onions over a medium heat for around 8 minutes, stirring frequently to make sure they don’t stick as they fry – they should be sticky and beginning to brown. 
  • Increase the heat to high, and add the goose meat and turmeric. Fry until the meat is browned on all sides. 
  • Add the tomato paste, cook for a couple of minutes, then add the cinnamon and enough water to cover the meat. Bring to the boil and then simmer for half an hour. 
  • Rinse the limes, and pierce them in three or four places. Add them into the stew along with the drained almonds, and simmer for another half an hour. 
  • Fry the barberries in the butter. 
  • Just before serving, when the goose is cooked, check the flavour. Add salt and sugar to balance the sourness, and boil off any excess water. 
  • Add the rosewater, saffron water and barberries, and serve with plain rice. 

Lamb and Rhubarb Stew

This is just too good to be true, and too good not to share. The Hebrides produces the main ingredients so well. Mint and rhubarb grow in my garden, and there are sheep all around. The recipe is Persian, and this version comes from ‘Nightingales and Roses’ by Maryam Sinaiee. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 5 tbsp vegetable oil, or 50/50 oil and butter
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 400g lamb, off the bone and cut into large cubes
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 120g parsley, finely chopped
  • 50g fresh mint, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 3 stalks of rhubarb sliced into 2cm lengths
  • 2 tsp date syrup, or brown sugar

METHOD:

  • Heat 2 tbsp oil in a casserole dish, and lightly brown the onions. 
  • Turn up the heat a little and add the lamb, turmeric, salt and pepper, and fry until the meat is browned on all sides
  • Pour over boiling water, so that the meat is covered by around 2 cm of water. Simmer for an hour and a half. 
  • Heat the remaining oil in a frying pan, and cook the herbs for four to five minutes, until they start to darken. 
  • Add the flour, and continue to stir and cook for another three minutes or so. 
  • Add the herbs to the lamb stew and simmer for another half an hour, to make a thick minty stew. At this point, the stew can be set aside and can be finished another day. Just add the herbs, and then stir and freeze, and then do the half hour simmer on defrosting. 
  • Add the rhubarb and date syrup, stir it in and then cook the stew on a low heat for another 10 to 15 minutes. Don’t stir, as this will break up the rhubarb

Serve with rice. 

Stifatho – Greek beef stew with tiny onions

My recipe for Stifatho comes from The Home Book of Greek Cookery by Joyce M. Stubbs. I bought it in a jumble sale in 1987, and it has been in use ever since. There are many other versions online. The trickiest bit was to find small onions or shallots. Shallots grow well here. The ones in the shops are a bit too large, you are hoping to use shallots or onions about the size of a walnut.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1kg stewing steak, cut into portions about the size of half a post-card and 1cm thick
  • 1kg shallots or pickling onions
  • 200ml olive oil
  • 1 can of tomatoes
  • 200ml red wine
  • 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • salt and pepper

METHOD:

  • In a skillet, brown the meat in hot olive oil and put into a casserole dish.
  • Cover the meat with hot water, and stew gently in a moderate oven (140C) for an hour.
  • Using a soup wand, puree the tin of tomatoes, and add them to the meat, along with the peeled whole onions, garlic cloves, bay leaves, spices, red wine, wine vinegar, and the rest of the olive oil.
  • Bring the stew to a simmer, stir, cover with a lid and return to the oven for at least another two hours.
  • Once the meat is tender, and the sauce is rich and thick, take it out of the oven and set to one side. Check seasoning and add salt and pepper at this stage.
  • Cook some small potatoes, and serve with the stew. The stew could be served with mashed potatoes, or in small bowls with a side-serving of boiled potatoes.

Tas Kebab

I found this in an old book of Greek recipes, but when I researched it online, I found many variants. It is one of many Greek recipes that originated further east, and there are dishes by the same name in Iran and Turkey.

All of the recipes have in common a stew that is served with rice. I made it the way suggested in my book, with a bit more detail about how to add the rice. The quantities are quite large: once the rice is added this will serve around 10 people.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 kg stewing steak, cut into small pieces, around the size of the last joint of your thumb
  • 50g butter
  • 2 finely sliced onions
  • 1 can of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 wine-glass of vermouth (I used Noilly Prat)
  • 500ml hot water
  • 1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
  • A pinch of cinnamon
  • salt and pepper.
  • 500g basmati rice
  • Sliced carrots, optional extra.

METHOD:

  • In a heavy pan, melt the butter and add the sliced onions. Cook the onions slowly so they soften and begin to colour.
  • Add the tomatoes, cinnamon, sugar and season with salt and pepper.
  • Add the pieces of meat and add to the pan with the water, bring to a simmer and cook very slowly for a couple of hours.
  • Add the vermouth and set to one side.
  • Wash the rice in cold water then boil it in salted water for six minutes. Drain the rice and rinse through with cold water. If you are adding carrots, they can be chopped and cooked with the rice.
  • Put half the rice in the bottom of a casserole dish. Then add the stew, then the rest of the rice (you can do multiple layers like this, ending with a rice layer).
  • Put the casserole pan into the oven at around 130C and bake for an hour.

If you don’t want to cook it straight away, you can freeze the stew in portions. I allowed 100g of stew to 50g of rice to good effect.

Venison or beef with port, guinness and pickled walnuts

This is another recipe from Delia Smith’s Christmas recipe book. It is also available widely online. It is delicious. I serve it with mashed potato, or with potato mashed with celeriac.

The quantities below serve 10-12. It is easy to halve the quantities.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2.75 kg venison or beef, cut into flattish cubes around 3cm across
  • 1.2 litres of guinness
  • 275 ml ruby port
  • 2 bayleaves
  • 4 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 400g jars of pickled walnuts, drained and quartered
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • salt and pepper

METHOD:

  • The night before, put the meat in a large plastic container with bayleaf, thyme, port and guinness. Seal the top and give the mixture a good shake. A good technique is to put the ingredients in a bowl with a small plate on the top to ensure all the meat is immersed.
  • The next day, pre-heat the oven to 140C.
  • Melt half the butter/oil in a casserole dish and heat gently. Drain the meat, reserving the marinade for later. Pat the meat dry before frying off in small batches, until it is browned. Take the meat from the pan as each batch cooks, and set it aside.
  • Add the rest of the butter and oil to the pan, and melt together over a moderate heat until it starts to bubble. Add the onions and brown this for around 8 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to fry for another couple of minutes
  • Return the meat to the casserole dish, stir in the flour, and then pour in the marinade, add the walnuts and season with salt and pepper.
  • Bring the casserole to a simmer, then put the lid on, and transfer the whole thing to the warm oven for 3 hours.