Life has been busy and so dinners have mostly been quick and easy. This sauce is my store cupboard sauce that I turn to when I need something that requires little thought or effort. The new potatoes are so delicious at the moment that I decided to serve the sauce with them instead of cooking pasta, which is a more usual accompaniment to this sauce.
It was really good – the melt in the mouth buttered potatoes were a delicious foil to this slightly acidic sauce.
100g chorizo sausage, sliced into 1 cm thick rings
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
400g tin of plum tomatoes, whizzed in a blender until smooth
1 tbsp tomato puree
2 tbsp capers
large knob of butter
chopped mint leaves
Scrape the new potatoes and place in a saucepan. Cover with cold water. Add ½ tsp salt to the water and 3 sprigs of mint. Bring to the boil and then simmer until tender when you test with the point of a knife. Drain and return to the saucepan with the knob of butter.
Whilst the potatoes are cooking, place the chorizo, chilli and garlic in a pan with a little olive oil and cook for a minute or so. Add the tomatoes, the tomato puree and the caper berries. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer until the potatoes are cooked.
Serve the chorizo sauce with the buttered potatoes and sprinkle with chopped mint.
Hunting around for ideas for tea the other night revealed that I had some Spanish style sausage meat left over from the meatballs I made earlier in the week, celery, carrots and some potatoes busily spurting in the bag. Those potatoes really need using up! So I decided to make a layered bake.
You could replace the Spanish style sausage with any other meat that takes your fancy or you could just leave it out and maybe add a few peppers into the mix for a veggie treat.
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
3 sticks of celery, sliced
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
250g sausage meat
3 large potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
a few sprigs of thyme
600ml stock ( I used vegetable)
salt and pepper
Butter a shallow baking dish well. Cover the bottom of the dish with a layer of potatoes. Layer the onions, garlic, celery and carrots and sprinkle with salt and pepper and the thyme. Break the sausage meat into chunks and place on top. Season again lightly. Add the final layer of potatoes. Pour over the stock and then season again lightly. Place small chunks of butter on top.
Cover the dish with foil and bake in a preheated oven at 180°c, gas mark 4 for about 1 hour, until all is tender. Take off the foil and cook for a further 20 minutes until the top is brown and crispy.
Shropshire Fidget Pie is, I have to admit, something I became aware of only a few years ago. It seems it went out of fashion for some time. The interest in eating local food has revived its fortunes and I finally got to taste a fidget pie a couple of months ago at our local National Trust property. The National Trust cafes tend to serve superb local food and this one serves food that is harvested on site from the walled garden and the farm. Fortunately for me one of the cooks at this property is also a family friend so when I saw her just before Christmas I grilled her for the recipe. She told me what made up the filling.
Anyway, as a true Salopian I thought it was about time I made a Fidget Pie. (For those unaware, a Salopian is someone born in Shropshire. The county was previously known as Salop, goodness knows why they felt the need to change the name). Some of you might be aware that I am very proud to be a Salopian and a Midlander so to cook something that hails from the county makes me very pleased.
Our friend’s advice and a search around the internet has led to this version. It is a combination of several recipes. At the National Trust they make it in a pasty shape but it is also made like a pork pie in some recipes or as a topped pie as I have in this version.
It was a total success. Mr OC was a bit dubious when he heard what was in a Fidget Pie, but he was certainly won over tonight. The combination of cider and apples really deliver a tasty punch. This is a pie that comes highly recommended by me and Mr OC.
For the pastry:
8 oz plain white flour
4 oz cold butter
4 tbsp cold water
For the filling:
1 bramley apple, cored, peeled and sliced
2-3 potatoes, peeled and finely sliced
1 onion, peeled and finely sliced
250g (10oz) ham or gammon
1 tsp brown sugar
salt and pepper
1 tsp dried sage or 4-5 fresh leaves finely chopped
2 tsp cornflour
150 ml (¼ pint) double cream
300ml (½ pint) cider
Beaten egg for brushing over the top of the pie.
Start by making the pastry. Put the flour and cold butter into a food processor and whizz until it is the consistency of breadcrumbs. Add the water (you may need more or less) and whizz until it forms a ball. Put the pastry into a plastic food bag or wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
For the filling, boil the potatoes for 3 minutes and then add the onions to the water and boil for another 2- 3 minutes. Drain well.
Using a dish that measures 23cm x 30cm layer the apples, potato, onion and ham into the dish, season with salt and pepper and sprinkle over the brown sugar and the sage.
In a jug stir together the cornflour and the cream until combined and then mix in the cider. Pour this over the filling.
Roll out the pastry to the size of the dish and then cover the dish, pressing down well around the sides. Make a hole in the top of the pie. I used my blackbird as a steam vent. Brush with the beaten egg.
Place in a preheated oven at 180°c, gas mark 4 or the baking oven of the Aga for about 1 hour until the pie is golden brown.
It has been ages since I shared something savoury with you. It’s not because we eat cake and nothing else in this house, it’s because my savoury food is never very photogenic. I would like it to look like this or this but it never does. My presentation skills are always lacking. I never pile things into towers I just spoon it onto a warmed plate. It is especially difficult to get a good photo of an evening meal in an English winter. With a cake I can take it outside and take a photo using the little natural light offered by our dull January days. With an evening meal the sun was last seen a good few hours ago and the lights in our kitchen are of the spot variety which means wherever I stand I am always casting a shadow.
Anyway, I decided that last night’s meal was so good it needed to be shared with you regardless of whether it looks a bit of a mess in the photos. I had roasted a gammon joint, but I should have boiled it or soaked it the previous day because it’s just a bit too salty . So I thought if I layered it into a potatoes boulangere this might reduce the ham’s saltiness but add a good flavour to the potatoes. Then I thought I might add carrots too to add an extra savoury element.
The end result was very comforting indeed, soft and squidgy veg and tender ham with a crispy potato topping. I urge you to try it soon. If I had more time I would have crisped the top more, but we were both very hungry.
Serves 2 hungry people
2 large potatoes, sliced thinly
2 carrots, sliced
1 onion sliced thinly
4 ham slices
400ml vegetable or chicken stock
Method I use a tin measuring 26cm x 20cm and butter it generously. Then place a layer of potato, a layer of carrot, a layer of ham, then a layer of onion in the tin and season generously with pepper (you won’t need any salt). Top with a layer of potato and pour over the stock. Dot with more butter. Cover with foil and bake in a preheated oven at 180°, gas mark 4 or the baking oven of the Aga for 1½ hours. Remove the foil and continue to cook for another ½ hour until browned on top. Serve in a pile on a plate if you are anything like me. A chunk of good bread is obligatory to soak up the juices.
This gratin came about from a mixture of things. I love boulangere potatoes, and a few weeks ago I had a cabbage in the cupboard waiting to be used so I added a layer of cabbage and I was surprised at how good it was. Then Rachel from Rachel Eats did the most amazing take on Rowley Leigh’s Cabbage and Sausage Cake, her majestic oak tree, as it became known. Now, before I had read Rachel’s words on the Cabbage and Sausage cake nobody could have convinced me to try such a thing. However, I was convinced by her words and the art of her photography that it had to be a good thing, so I made it one night a couple of weeks ago. It tasted divine. Mine didn’t look as good as Rachel’s, well for one thing I nearly dropped it as I turned it out, but it tasted very good indeed and probably even better reheated the next day. So, I thought perhaps a bit of sausage may just work in my potato and cabbage gratin. And, do you know? It does. So, thank you to Rachel for the inspiration.
When Mr OC ‘phoned me today and asked what was for tea, which is his habit (sometimes he asks me this question when he ‘phones as he walks from the train station to work. The man thinks about his stomach a great deal! ) and I suggested a potato, cabbage and sausage gratin, I could tell from his tone that he thought this may be a bad idea. But when he was halfway through eating it tonight he declared it “actually quite good, not as bad as I thought it would be”. I suppose this may not be considered high praise, but his plate was wiped clean by the end so I am taking it as such. He even declared that it didn’t need the gravy that I had forgotten to make. Anyway, my view on the matter is that it is delicious, and that goes for the dish with or without the sausage.
4 – 5 medium-sized potatoes
5-6 leaves from a savoy cabbage
4-5 good quality sausages
2 cloves of garlic
570ml (1 pint) chicken or vegetable stock
½ tsp dried thyme
salt and pepper
Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and blanch the cabbage leaves for two to three minutes. Drain and rinse under cold running water to cool quickly and fix the green colour. Shred the cabbage.
Peel the potatoes and slice thinly. Chop the garlic finely. Skin the sausages.
Generously butter a gratin dish and layer half the potato, topped with a layer of half the cabbage. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle over the chopped garlic. Dot lumps of the sausage meat over. Layer the remaining cabbage, followed by the remaining potato. Pour over the stock. Season and sprinkle with the thyme and dot with the remaining butter.
Cover the dish with foil and cook in a preheated oven at 200°c (gas mark 6) for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and return to the oven for a further 30-40 minutes until the top is golden and crusty. Serve with good bread to mop up the juices.
This was Thursday night’s tea. I am a big fan of sausages, so much so that I have volunteered my services to be a judge for Shropshire’s Tastiest Sausage this Tuesday. I will tell you all about it when it’s all over. Back to our tea, bangers and mash is a classic combination and for very good reason, it’s the ultimate comfort food with fluffy mash, savoury sausages and rich onion gravy. I roast my sausages in the roasting oven of the Aga rather than grilling them, but really it’s the same thing. The onion gravy depends on getting the onions to caramelise and for this a slow cook over a gentle heat makes them meltingly tender and then a short blast over a medium heat finishes off the caramelisation. Make sure you use the best quality sausages that you can afford, your local butchers are usually your best bet for a really good sausage.
4 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
For the onion gravy:
1 medium onion, peeled, cut in half and sliced thinly
2 tbsp plain flour
glug of Marsala or Madeira wine
(275 ml) ½ pint hot stock ( I used chicken because that is what I had in the freezer)
First start the gravy by putting 25g of butter to melt in a large pan and add the onion. Cook the onions over a gentle heat until very soft and translucent. Turn the heat up and stir the onions in the pan until browned at the edges. Stir in the flour until it has been soaked up by the buttery onions and add the Marsala, stirring all the time. Add the stock gradually, still stirring until the gravy is smooth. Allow the gravy to simmer for five minutes or so until thickened. Season with salt and pepper.
Whilst the onions are cooking, put the sausages onto a grill rack on a baking tray and place under a medium grill or into an oven preheated at 200°c and cook for 25-30 minutes until nicely browned all over.
Whilst the onions and sausages are cooking, place the potatoes in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring up to a boil and simmer until a knife can be inserted easily all the way through. Drain and place the potatoes and 20g of butter back into the hot pan and allow the butter to melt over the potatoes. Mash with a potato masher or ricer until really smooth and creamy.
Serve the mash, sausages and gravy on warmed plates and enjoy.
We are a meat-eating family and there’s no doubt about it. If I, or my husband, had to choose whether to eat a fillet steak or a fillet of salmon, we would both choose steak pretty much nine times out of ten. So in an effort to get more oily fish into our diet I came up with this meal. It’s very easy to do and it was lovely eaten with my pickled damsons.
Preheat the oven to 180°c (gas mark 4, 350°f) and bake the potatoes in their skins (pierce each potato with a knife a couple of times before putting in the oven to prevent potato explosions) for 1 to 1½ hours until crispy skinned and cooked all the way through (test by inserting a skewer into each potato). In the meantime flake the mackerel and slice the feta into cubes.
Allow the potatoes to cool until you can handle them easily without burning your hands. Split them in half and scoop out the flesh into a large bowl. Put the empty shells into a baking dish ready to be refilled. Add the feta and salt and pepper to taste to the potato flesh and combine well. Add the flaked mackerel and stir gently to combine trying to keep the fish in flakes. Spoon this mixture back into the potato shells and put back in the oven for 20 minutes until golden brown on top.
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