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Posts Tagged ‘family meals’

One of the things I love about my Vicarage cooker (my treat when we moved here) is its small slow oven. The slow oven is a bit titchy – only big enough for one large pot or only a single baking sheet of meringues, but I am using it more and more for winter casseroles. Tonight I cooked sausage casserole – one of our top favourites which has a few variations but is always very popular with the kids (and grown ups too).

I make this using Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference chipolatas. I’d recommend using good quality ones as cheap ones can come out rather spongey. And you only need to use a single packet to feed a family and can get that for about £2 if there’s an offer on.

The Vicar's dinner

Ingredients

  • 1-2 onions, finely sliced
  • Pack of sausages
  • 2 cups (500ml) lentilles vertes or green lentils
  • Bay leaves, mixed herbs
  • Red wine (about a glassful) and stock
  • Optional – tin of tomatoes, chunked carrots

Brown the sausages in your casserole dish and then remove them to a plate or bowl whilst you pop in a little oil or butter and the onions. Leave the onions to get nice and soft then return the sausages, chopped up into bite sized chunks, to the pan. Tonight I chopped the sausages with a spatula before I removed them and fried the onions, otherwise you can slice them with a knife once removed – I recommend pinning them to the chopping board with a fork rather than fingers (I speak from experience of burnt fingers and escaping sausages).

To the onions and sausages add the lentils, bay leaves and herbs and wine and stock (I use hot water and vegetable stock powder). This evening’s casserole also included a tin of chopped tomatoes. The liquid needs to be added to a generous level above the lentils and sausages – say 5cm/2″ in your pan. This gives space for the lentils to swell and liquid to evaporate.

 Bring to the boil and then simmer for at least 1/2hr on the hob, or pop in a slow oven at about 140ºC (Gas Mark 1) for a couple of hours or more. The slow cooking method has the advantage of keeping the Vicarage kitchen warm, so this is obviously my preferred option.

I tend to check the casserole every hour or so if it’s in the oven, just to make sure that there is still enough liquid. If you’re adding carrots it’s best to do so about half an hour before the end of the cooking time, otherwise they can get a bit soggy. Add salt and pepper to taste before serving and add a little extra liquid if needed to ensure a bit of sauce to soak into the essential accompaniment of mash.

As you can see, I served the casserole with mashed sweet and normal potatoes, and some braised red cabbage. This is a great winter warmer and excellent value for money. We had leftovers that will do well with a bit of chunky bread for lunches whilst the kids are at shcool.

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Last night we ate one of our favourite Malaysian dishes for tea at the Vicarage. I love to cook this reminder of our 51/2 years in South-East Asia. And to provide ginger warmth in a chilly kitchen. It’s easy, delicious and only uses a single dish (tho’ you might want to use a wok for some greens on the side aswell). It’s expandable for lots of people and is not too foreign for most visitors. Anyone who occasionally eats takeaway Chinese will love this.

Claypot chicken rice and bok choi

Ingredients

  • Chicken pieces (preferably skinned dark meat on the bone, chopped into bite size pieces by your local Indian butcher – but otherwise skinned thigh pieces are probably easiest or thigh fillets if you have bone-haters dining) – 1 to 2 thigh or drumstick pieces per person
  • Rice (we love Thai fragrant jasmine, but any will do) – about 120ml per adult and 60ml per child (dry measure)
  • Big chunk of fresh ginger (2-3″ here)
  • Soy sauces, light and dark (1-2 tbspns of each)
  • Oyster sauce (1-2 tbspns)
  • Sugar (1 tbspn)
  • Oil – sesame (1 tbpn if you have it) and vegetable (2 tbspns)
  • Extra treat for authenticity – pickled green chillis (chopped) on the side, marinaded in soy sauce

Ready to serve

You need about an hour from preparation to serving for this dish. But there’s time to supervise piano practice and maybe do some laundry in that hour. Or even drink a cup of tea. Or blog a recipe. You don’t need a clay pot to cook it either – I use a casserole dish. Mine has a glass lid which makes it easier to tell if stuff is cooked, but a cast iron casserole or a good sized saucepan would be fine. It’s rather easier with a non-stick pan because of the crunchy ricey bits (see below).

First pop the rice on. I have a rice cooker which has a cup sized at 160ml. For three adults and three fairly hungry children I used 4 cups. I cheated and used the rice cooker to measure the water to the right level, but the Malaysian way, which works just fine, is to put water in so that your forefinger, laid flat on the top of the (pre-rinsed) rice, is covered by the water. Put the cover on the pan and cook the rice until all the water is absorbed. This should take about 15 minutes.

Whilst the rice is cooking prepare the chicken and let it marinate in its sauce. You can quickly drizzle on the soy sauces, the oyster sauce, the sesame oil and add the sugar before mixing the pieces about to ensure that the marinade is coated over the chicken. Then you want to get the ginger’s juice without the pulp. The best way to do this is to first peel your piece of ginger and then grate or blend it. Pop the chewed up ginger pieces in a sieve and press down with a spoon to get the ginger juice out over your chicken portions. I used my chopper attachment from my stick blender to whizz the ginger first and a small plastic sieve.

Once all the water is absorbed into the rice, pop the chicken pieces and the marinade on top, together with the vegetable oil. Cover the pot again and leave it to cook on a low heat for 20 minutes. Don’t open the lid, as this will prevent the chicken from cooking thoroughly, as it steams on top of the rice.

After 20 minutes, open the lid and get a spoon and mix the chicken into the rice. You should find that some of the rice at the bottom of the pan has gone all crispy. Mmmm. Replace the lid and cook for a further 15 minutes on a low heat. Whilst this is going on, you might want to cook some veg.  It was Bok choi (with garlic, soy sauce and a little sugar) for us last night.

At the end of the 15 minutes, mix the rice and chicken up again to extract some more lovely crunchy ricey bits and serve with the veg and a side of chopped pickled green chillis in soy sauce for added zing. Warming, filling and family friendly.

Pickled chillis - ingredients and finished condiment

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When I had a surplus of leftover gammon the other week I made two very pleasing dinners for the family, as well as sending the kids to school with gammon sandwiches for half the week. The second recipe I tried was this Spanish hotpot, an extrapolation from a suggestion from a Twitter pal.

This was so popular that the kids were begging me for extras, even when it was all finished up. I shall be making this again, with chorizo or bacon if leftover gammon is lacking.

Ingredients

1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
Chopped leftover gammon
1 tin tomatoes
1 tin baked beans
1tspn smoked paprika

Fry the onion in a casserole dish until soft and translucent. Then add the pepper and gammon, the tomatoes and the beans, together with the smoked paprika. Add water to cover the ingredients and simmer for about 20 minutes until the peppers are soft. Serve with rice or crusty bread.

It is the smoked paprika that makes this taste particularly delicious, although you could use the unsmoked variety if you haven’t got the smoked. Other options for this dish would be peppers of other varieties, different varieties of pork – bacon or chorizo perhaps, cannellini or haricot beans rather than baked (maybe add some tomato puree instead), and olives might be good too.

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