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.
Normally, at this time of year, this is this food I am always wanting and cooking, but as I begin to write this post apparently here in the Uk tomorrow for Halloween, it is going to be 20c! Well, I am going to post this anyway as soon enough, it will turn chilly!
I still cannot believe, in some tiny way that this Casserole that I came up with months ago was the best I had ever made. Yes, it was! I am hesitant to admit it as it involves the contents of Chinese sauces. But by the by, it still was the best I had ever made.
It was one of the first recipes I thought about doing when I was first produced with this Recipe development project for Lee Kum Kee. I suppose it is because I remember Chef’s pairing Oysters with fillet steak and creating rich sauces with those oysters. It was an acquired taste, but one that was around for a while. Shockingly, years ago I worked with a chef who still thought he was in that era and was trying to recreate a recipe by using tinned Oysters to create a sauce for steak! Yak!
Anyway, I set to making this Beef Casserole and am pleased to say that it worked the first time. The lovely flavour of the Oyster sauce pairs beautifully with the Beef and along with that earthy taste of the Chestnut mushrooms and Soy bouncing off that, this was a delightful, rich Bowl of Beef casserole which I will always make now. It’s my little “rule breaking” dish that Im quite fond of! Sometimes maybe rules have to be broken, well… just a little.
Rich Beef Casserole:
(Serves 4) Takes Approximately 3 hours
– 2 Tbsp of Rapeseed or Olive oil
– Knob of Unsalted Butter– 400g Shin Beef/Casserole steak cut to 1 1/2 inch cubes
– 2 Tbsp of Plain flour to coat the Beef
– Salt and cracked black pepper to season
– 1 onion sliced
– 2 Garlic Cloves bashed not chopped
– 1 Celery stick diced fine
– 2 Carrots Chopped Roughly into 1/2 inch pieces
– 1/2 Swede Chopped Roughly into 1/2 inch pieces
– 1 Beef stock cube (may need 2 depending on how intense your stock is)
– Small sprig of Thyme taken off stalks and chopped finely
– 2 Bay Leaves
– 1 Tbsp of Tomato Puree
– 250ml of Chianti Red Wine
– 2-3 Tbsp of Lee Kum Kee Oyster Sauce
– 2 Tbsp of Lee Kum Kee Deluxe Soy Sauce
– Preheat your Oven to 160c
– Place your Chopped Beef onto a chopping board or plate and dry off all moisture with a Kitchen Towel.
– Season the Beef and also coat with the flour.
– In a Heavy Bottomed Casserole Pot heat 1 tbsp of oil until sizzling and start to add the Beef. Do not overcrowd as it will not Brown properly.
– Once all Beef has browned, take out and place onto a plate. Heat the remanding oil into the same Pot and a knob of butter. When Sizzling add the Onions, Celery, carrots and swede and allow to brown also.
– At this stage add the Beef back into the Pot, stir and add the Red wine. Pop in the Beef stock, Tomato Puree and herbs and Cover with Water. Bring to a simmer on the hob.
– Place into the Hot Oven for 2 hours.
– After the 2 Hours Add the Oyster Sauce and Soy Sauce, Stir and place back into the oven for another hour or until Meat and Vegetables are tender.
– At this stage, you may need to balance flavours, i.e if needs a little sugar or more Soy Sauce.
– This dish is great served with Mashed potato or Boiled Rice.