As I recently told a fellow tweeter – I don’t do carbs by half measures. Indeed, carbs are one of the main reasons I cook. Carbs are the epitomy of comfort food. What would mac and cheese be without the mac? What would bangers and mash be without the mash? You get the idea. And so, when I dug out some stewing beef from the freezer last night, I realised I couldn’t possibly think of a meal that didn’t involve dumplings.
The other great thing about stews and casseroles (aside from those little pillows of joy) is that they are throw-everything-in-one-pot cooking. That also means only one pot to wash-up. See, there are no downsides! And so, for these next two recipes I’ll only give rough measurements (if you’ll forgive me). The key is simply slow cooking at low temperatures and seasoning. Oh, and dumplings. Did I mention dumplings?
Beef, beetroot and blue cheese casserole
Coat stewing beef in seasoned flour and brown in a heavy-bottomed pan with sunflower oil. Remove the meat and set to one side. Add more oil if needed, then add roughly sliced red onions and fry until caramelised. Add cubes of beetroot and potato, a good glug of balsamic vinegar, a few generous shakes of Worcestershire sauce, and a pinch of brown sugar, along with the browned beef. Add wine, some passata (I happened to have half a glass of Big Tom left) and beef stock, and bring to the boil. Once boiling move to a medium-low oven (around 160ºC in a fan oven) for 1 hr 30 mins. Meanwhile mix 2 parts flour, to 1 part beef suet and 1 part crumbled blue cheese and a handful of chopped parsley. Add enough milk to bind into a dough, then shape into golf balls. Add the dumplings to the casserole and return to the oven, with the lid for 30 mins. Remove the lid, then return to the oven to brown until you’re ready to eat. If you’re being good, serve with broad beans.
Sausage and lentil casserole with a cauliflower cheese crust
Roughly chop onions and swede and add to a heavy-bottomed pan with olive oil. Sweat until slightly softened, then add the sausages (making sure they touch the bottom of the pan, and are able to caramelise slightly). Add red lentils, chopped tomatoes, chicken stock and lots of coriander (even the stalks). Bring to the boil and then chuck in the oven to bubble away until everything is cooked and reduce (about 160ºC in a fan oven for an hour). Meanwhile, break a cauliflower into florets and boil until tender. Drain, then roughly chop with a spatula. I added some leftover cheesy bechamel sauce, clotted cream and mustard but creme fraiche, mustard and a handful of grated cheddar would work just as well. When the casserole is cooked, spread the cheesy cauliflower mix on top and add some extra grated cheese, return to the oven until the cheese is bubbling and brown.
Two for the price of one. You’re welcome.