A couple of weeks back, we had the first fluttering of snow this year and temperatures dropped to actually what it should be in January now… 0 degrees. Hurrah! Finally!
My woolies came out and winter is finally here! I do love winter. I do! I love the snow. Also, putting on those oversized coats that you always say you are going to fit into, snuggling in a huge knitted scarf and wearing a pom pom hat. But simply taking yourself out for a crisp, cold winter’s walk and trying to catch what birds and wildlife you can spot. How lovely?
Here is a photo I took on that Sunday of a beautiful wintery scene in Leicestershire:
We stopped at a lovely area we know where you can just sit and watch the birds feeding. We were thrilled to see a great spotted woodpecker, he was a grand little thing. Neither of us were quick enough to take a picture! We also saw a Jay which was beautiful with his flash of bright blue on him.
But thats just me, I love that. More to the point, the food that you can pair with all this winter bliss is wonderful.
In this weather I crave for hearty stews and soups. Don’t we all surely? Dunking that crusty bread in there is food heaven. But do we all feel they are complicated to make? Or time consuming without a slow cooker?
Well, I thought I would show you a very simple way of doing a casserole. I did it after that winter outing but actually came up with the recipe last year and forgot to write about it! I also shared this recipe with my readers of my weekly column in the Leicester Mercury.
Not all stews and casseroles take forever. With this recipe it’s all in the prep, then into the oven and it does all the work for you, so you can sit back with a large glass of wine in front of the fire.
This is simple, affordable food that will blow the cold socks off your friends and family.
I actually created another recipe from the last bits of veg and juice that were left so I will post that shortly too for you too.
Herby Chicken casserole with winter veg and pearl barley:
– 1 tbsp Rapeseed oil
- Chicken thighs (1-2 per person)
- 1 onion diced
- 1 garlic clove finely chopped
- 1 stick of celery sliced
- 2 carrots diced into chunks ( Veg all the same size )
- 1 large parsnip diced into chunks
- 1/4 Swede diced into chunks
– 1/2 tin of chopped tomatoes
- Chicken stock ( 1 gel pot ) to roughly 1 litre of water
- A tied mixture of herbs of Sage, rosemary, thyme, lemon thyme and bayleaf
- salt and cracked black pepper to season
- a good splash of dry white wine
- a handful of pearl barley
- 1 leek sliced
- 3-4 chestnut mushrooms sliced
- If you want to thicken the sauce slightly at the end, add in a tbsp of chicken gravy granules.
- Cook the pearl barley to packet instructions, drain and set aside to pop in later.
* Preheat oven to 190c.
- Fry off your Chicken thighs just to colour. Pop onto a plate aside. Then in the same fat, fry off your onion, carrots, parsnip, swede and celery for a couple of minutes just to coat.
- Add your garlic into the casserole pot, stir and add the chicken back in with the tomatoes, wine, stock and herbs. Cover with a lid and place in the oven for 30-40 minutes depending on how many you are feeding for.
- After 30-40 minutes check on the Casserole to see if veg is cooking well or may need a little water etc.
- At this same point add in your leeks, mushrooms and pearl barley Pop back into the oven for 10 minutes.
- After 10 minutes if you would like your sauce thicker, add in 1 tbsp of chicken gravy granules.Pop back in the oven for 5 minutes.
* After this point, check if it needs seasoning and then you are ready to serve. I served mine with Mustard mashed potato by adding dijon mustard to how you would normally do your mash.
Nowadays we use mince in our shepherds pies, however back in Victorian times they would always use up their leftover roast meat as a frugal way of living. It must have been some treat back then as it still has a certain endurance about it every time I eat it. The same with a cottage pie also, which if some of you aren’t aware, that is used with beef mince or in this case would have been leftover from your roast the previous day.
I love doing this and creating different recipes with the leftover meat than just putting it cold into a sandwich for lunch the next day.
This way definitely gives more flavour I feel to the dish, a deeper earthier taste. Plus it brings a coarse texture that can be more appealing to others also. Plus it’s less fatty.
This meat was taken from just a fore leg of Lamb, a bit like a large shank that I managed to buy and I got two huge parts of the leg for only £8! Down from £21! What a bargain!
So you see my readers, not always is a roast an expensive dinner, it’s looking for that bargain first and it’s also what you manage to get out of it.
(Using leftover Roast Lamb)
Ingredients: (Serves 4 approximately )
- Roughly 6 floury potatoes such as Maris piper, wilma or marfona peeled and cut into even size chunks.
- 100 ml double cream
- a good size knob of unsalted butter
- Salt and pepper to season
- 1 tbsp rapeseed oil
- approximately 400g leftover Roast Lamb meat coarsely chopped
- 1 large onion diced
- 1/2 leek sliced thinly
- 1 carrot finely diced
- 1/2 celery stick finely chopped
- 1 clove of garlic finely chopped
- a small sprig of thyme
- Any gravy/juices/stock saved from the joint, use for a sauce
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- a good splash of red wine such as a cabernet sauvignon/merlot or Cotes du Rhone
- a few splashes of Worcester sauce
- a few grinds of cracked black pepper
- Salt if needed or if too strong tasting, use a pinch of caster sugar to even out.
* Boil potatoes in a pan of boiling water until tender. Drain and mash the potatoes adding the ingredients to it. Set aside.
- In a hot frying pan pop in your rapeseed oil and fry off your onion for about 2-3 minutes. Then add your celery and carrot and fry off for another minute.
- Add in your leeks to the mixture, fry of for a further minute and then add in your garlic and thyme.
- Add your chopped meat, gravy/juices,tomato puree, Worcester sauce, wine, pepper stir and leave to simmer for 20 minutes.
- Taste as you go along and you can add more wine or water as you wish if it becomes dry.
- When the mixture is reduced down to a gravy like sauce and the meat is tender again pop into a pie dish, top with your mash and roughen the mash with a fork.
- Then place into the oven for another 20 minutes or when the topping is golden brown and bubbling at the edges.
* Serve on its own or with some green vegetables and a glass of red.