Casseroles are quite filthy. They fill a part of our soul that is primeval, a sudden comforting that we can't quite place our fingers on. We associate them with our childhoods, our parents, our grandparents and remind us of time long gone. For this reason they are filthy to many television chefs, how the hell can you create a great casserole when we all have our own ideas of what makes a great casserole? The casserole, deeply personal, deeply warming, has become an unfashionable meal, a filthy word that now conjures up images of hours of chopping, hours of watching the oven, hours of waiting for a good meal and surely we can't have that in our faster than food digital world? For those of us who have been in love, been loved and in turn have loved, we know something good is worth waiting for and the casserole is an act of love, an act of sharing, it is the ultimate love in culinary terms.
We have always been fond of the casserole on Pig Row, it is something that we can throw in a pot put on a low heat and come back after a few hours to a wonderful dish. Sometimes though you want that warmth, that love in less time and there are cuts of meat that will give you maximum taste and minimum prep.
PIG ROW SAUSAGE CASSEROLE
This humble dish means an average serving of it cost less than £1.45 per person but is guaranteed to put a smile on anyone's face.
1lb of thin pork sausages. Don't skimp on taste here, go for a bloody good sausage. We buy Old English from our butchers and we recommend you buy yours from a good independent butcher. You want maximum pork and minimum chaff (there are so many crap brand sausages out there, so pick a sausage that you'd respect after eating on a sandwich, not one you'll be moaning to your mates about for the rest of the week).
1 x big onion.
1 x large carrot.
4 x medium sized potatoes (a good solid all rounder will do for this).
1 x large courgette.
3 x cloves of garlic.
1 x tin of plum tomatoes.
1 x tablespoon of tomato puree.
Mixed herbs (the blend that includes marjoram and rosemary).
Olive or Vegetable oil.
A cup of water.
20 x button mushrooms.
METHODAdd a splash (enough to coat the bottom of the pan) of olive oil to a pan over a medium/high heat. Make sure the pan is one that can be used on a ring and in an oven, it will need a lid for later. As it heats up slice up your onion. Prick your sausages with a sharp knife and add them to the pan, brown them, the idea is to give them a little colour not cook them all the way through. Set the browned sausages aside in a bowl. Now add the sliced onions to the pan, turn the heat down so as not to burn the onions. You can pour in some water at this point, and this will prevent the onions from browning. Dice your potatoes, carrots and courgettes into 1-2cm squares (it doesn't have to be exact, just chop your veg to a similar size). Add the potatoes and carrots to the now softened onions and cook on a medium heat for around ten minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon to coat all the veg in that lovely infused sausage oil. Add your courgette. Stir ingredients together and add a pinch of salt and generous amount of pepper to taste. If the ingredients stick to the pan, add some water and turn the heat down. Now add the tomato puree and stirs into the ingredients in the pan until they are thoroughly coated in the puree. Open the can of tomatoes and pour into the pan, use a pair of sharp kitchen scissors to cut up the plum tomatoes (you may wonder why we just don't get chopped tinned tomatoes, the reason is simple, we like plum and find it deeply satisfying to cut them up). Fill the empty can of tomatoes with water and add to the pan. Now stir together and simmer for five minutes. Grate the garlic into the pan. Add the mixed herbs. Taste, if you want more pepper or salt, add it. It's your taste, you make the choices. Now put the browned sausages back in, pushing them down and mixing them in with the rest of the ingredients. Put the mushrooms in the pan and push down into the sauce, cover the pan with its lid. Put in a fan oven for 60 minutes at 180c, a little longer for normal ovens. You will know the casserole is ready when you can use a knife to skewer a potato and it falls apart. Serve in bowls with hunks of bread.
You can also do this dish with 3 x chicken legs, cut the thigh and drumsticks apart, brown them and follow the same instructions above. The mushrooms are optional for this dish. You can see below the chicken casserole bubbling away.