Sausage & bean winter casserole

It’s supposed to be spring but it’s still absolutely freezing outside so I’m resorting to cooking casseroles to keep me warm. From a food waste perspective casseroles are an absolute dream; it’s a dish that you can produce by mixing the simplest ingredients together and turn into something tasty by throwing in a few store cupboard essentials such as stock cubes, tomato sauce or Worcester sauce.

The humble sausage is the main basis for this meal, a cheap and tasty ingredient that can be used to create a hearty protein filled evening meal. A lot of the other ingredients in this recipe were from my freezer, I needed to empty my freezer as I was moving house and this recipe enabled me to use up loads of fresh ingredients that I’d previously frozen. You can find tips on freezing fresh items here and I promise that I will do a follow up blog post soon with further tips.

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 x sausages cut into 2.5cm chunks
  • 400g pinto beans
  • 2 x sticks celery roughly chopped
  • 2 x carrots sliced
  • 1 x onion thinly sliced
  • 1 x parsnip diced
  • 8 x mushrooms cut into quarters
  • 16 x cherry tomatoes (optional)
  • 3 x cloves garlic crushed
  • 1 x red chilli finely sliced
  • 1 x tbsp olive oil
  • 1tbsp paprika
  • 400ml chicken stock
  • 100ml white wine
  • 1tbsp mixed herbs
  • 1 x bay leaf
  • Dash of Worcester sauce

METHOD

Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat.

Fry the sausages for approximately 4 minutes or until browned, remove from the pan and set aside.

Add the onion and celery to the pan and cook until the onions start to soften.

Add the crushed garlic and sliced red chilli and cook for 1 minute before adding the paprika, stir well so that all the ingredients are covered in the spice and cook for a further minute.

Add the white wine or a splash of stock to the pot and scrape the pan with a wooden spoon, turn up the heat and bring the casserole to the boil, continue to cook until the liquid has reduced by half.

Add all the remaining vegetables to the pan, bring back to the boil and cook for 3 minutes before returning the sausages to the pan.

If using, add the cherry tomatoes to the pan along with the stock, Worcester sauce and seasoning. Bring to the boil before reducing to a simmer, cover with a lid and cook for 40 minutes, adding more stock if needed.

Finally remove the lid, add the pinto beans and cook uncovered for 10 minutes, serve with crusty bread.

TIPS

If you prefer a thicker sauce add a tbsp of flour towards the end, or more if required.

Substitute the vegetables for any others that you need to use up.

Sweet Chilli Salmon with Asian Vegetables

Salmon is one of my midweek time saving meals. It’s quick to cook, can be served with pretty much any side and gives rise to a huge variety of optional flavour mix ups; from simple lemon and parsley to teriyaki salmon or something more unusual, such as sweet chilli.

The idea for this dish was again down to leftover ingredients mentioned in my No Shop Week blog, which included fresh salmon fillets that I’d frozen alongside carrots and green beans.

The vegetables screamed stir-fry at me and Asian flavours are so easy to achieve with a few stock cupboard essentials.

If you’re a fan of Asian food, I’d recommend always keeping in store soy sauce, sesame oil, honey and; a new discovery on my part; ginger paste (although only buy this if you will use the paste regularly as it does have a shortish self life when open). In terms of flavour, I prefer fresh ginger but I like the fact that keeping paste in stock, opens up the opportunity to throw together a huge variety of Asian sauces without having to visit the shop.

I’m a flavour junky and I knew I wanted to stir fry the vegetables with sesame and soy but I didn’t want the salmon to be bland so I coated it in sweet chilli sauce, covered it in foil and baked in the oven for 15 mins. Whilst the salmon was cooking I prepared the veg, chopping the baby carrots and green beans into long thin slices.

In a wok, I heated a tbsp of oil and fried a clove of crushed garlic with a tsp of ginger paste for a minute, before tossing in the veg. I then added a tbsp of sesame oil and 2 tbsps of soy sauce and stir fried for a further few minutes before serving with the salmon. And that’s how to quickly make great Asian style side.

(Again I’m not one for measuring, as a guide two to one of sesame vs. soy is a good start. Sesame oil is very strong flavoured so I tend to start small and adjust as I taste)

If you fancy some carbs, this dish will be great with rice or why not flake the cooked salmon up and stir fry with the veg and a portion of egg noodles.

 

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Pork & Potato Broth

In my previous post No Shop Week,’ I promised to write up the recipe for this dish which was made solely from left over vegetables, frozen items and stock cupboard items…no supermarket visit involved. This recipe is a great example of how knowing the base of a few simple dishes can really help to reduce food waste.

The perishable ingredients that I had to use up were:

Celery

Potato

Carrots

Onions

Ingredients in the freezer included:

Pork mince

And store cupboard essentials that I had in stock were:

Vegetable stock

Worcester sauce

Chilli sauce

Ketchup

Garlic

The idea for this recipe came from my hate of celery. I’m really not a fan of raw celery, in my opinion, anything that contains less calories than it takes to eat isn’t a food. The only time I ever use celery is in stews and soups, which are conveniently both fantastic recipe ideas for using up leftover veg.

Now I could have cooked a simple soup out of my leftovers and for you vegetarians out there, feel free to adapt this recipe by leaving out the pork, or if a thicker blended soup is more your bag, throw in a few extra potatoes and blend before serving.

Anyhow, back to the pork…

I know how long most veg takes to cook, and this is what dictated the order of which they were added into the pan, so if you’re using different vegetables, follow this methodology to work out your timings.

For this specific recipe though, here we go with the method:

  • Heat 1 tbsp oil and fry onions for 2-3 mins until soft
  • Add pork and fry for 4-5 mins or until browned
  • Add chopped celery and fry for a further 2 mins
  • Drain off some the fat from the pork, this will avoid a scum forming on top of the broth
  • Add stock (see notes) and bring to boil. Once boiling reduce to a simmer, add diced potatoes and cook for 5-7 mins
  • Once the potatoes start to soften add in the chopped carrots and continue to simmer for a further 3 mins
  • Finally add Worcester sauce, ketchup and seasoning to taste

Tip

If you don’t like your vegetables quite as al dente as me, feel free to keep simmering until they are cooked to your liking.

And that’s it, a quick simple broth from leftovers.

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In terms of the measurements I was unsure how much stock to use. 250 ml per portion sounded like a reasonable amount and I wanted 4 portions so I made up 1 litre of stock.  When I came to add this to the meat, it just felt like too much so I reckon only about 800ml went in.

The trick with inventing dishes and also when following other peoples recipes, is to follow both your instinct and your taste buds. Don’t be afraid of messing up dishes by adding too much of an ingredient or diverging away from a recipe. If you’re unsure of how much of a particular ingredient you should add, start with a smaller quantity and keep adding until you’re happy. In this instance I started with 1 tbsp of both ketchup and Worcester sauce and continued until I was happy with the flavour. In total about 2 tbsp of ketchup and 1.5 tbsp of Worcester sauce went in.

I mentioned in my “No Shop Week” blog, that knowing a few basic recipe bases & tips will help with inventing dishes. My tip to take away from this recipe is that adding ketchup and Worcester sauce to casseroles and soups is a great way to add flavour without having to buy any extravagant sauce mixes.

Believe it or not, Ketchup is a fantastic ingredient to sweeten up dishes, Worcester sauce adds a bit more depth to stocks and stews with its unusual and unique taste, and although not used in this recipe; if you like things spicy, Tabasco/chilli sauce is an easy way to add a bit of a kick to recipes.

Parsnip & Potato Rostis (from left-over veg)

Glancing in my fridge on boxing day I was met with a huge array of left-overs giving me plenty of ammunition for a few experimental dishes.

We’d cooked far too many vegetables to accompany Christmas dinner, a common mistake when cooking up roasts, but being determined not to waste a morsel I’d kept all the surplus in the fridge. Some of the left-over vegetables had made it onto my boy-friends turkey sandwich – ‘a roast dinner sandwich’ (or a manwich in his words), which was pretty delicious but it hadn’t made a dent in the left-over roast potatoes, parsnips and baby carrots.

I’d seen Nigel Slater cook up some Bubble and squeak patties so I decided to do something similar with my left-overs. I mashed up all the potatoes, parsnips and carrots but the mixture was very dry, so for moisture I added a dash of left-over turkey stock and gravy. After adding seasoning, I divided the mixture into 4 (although the number of röstis will depend on how many left-over veggies you have) and moulded into patty shapes which were probably about 1.5cm thick.  I heated a knob of butter in a non-stick frying pan but was unsure of cooking time so I turned the röstis over every two minutes (I find if you turn too often the röstis start to fall apart). After a total of about 8 minutes, they were a nice golden colour and hot all the way through.

The röstis would make a delicious side dish but I also had some left-over stuffing from the turkey which I decided to serve with the röstis. I moulded the stuffing into thin patties, again adding some left-over stock for moisture and popped them in the oven at 200c for 15 minutes. Again I was unsure of timings so I kept my eye on them, the stuffing patties were very moist and I was unable to turn during cooking but after 15 minutes they had dried out and become golden.

To serve, I placed the stuffing ontop of the vegetable röstis and for the final touch I reheated a small amount of leftover cranberry sauce in the microwave. The röstis were absolutely delicious with all the flavourings of a roast dinner, they’d make a great starter or a light supper  and the best thing is that I’m pretty sure they can be made with any left-over vegetables. I’ll definitely be making them next time I cook too much vegetables.

This is the first time I’ve made something out of left-over cooked vegetables and it would be great to hear about what other people do with theirs.