Sausage casserole

IMG_0690

Bert, determined sauce avoider, came home from pre-school raving about the ‘brown, bumpy sauce’ he’d had there. Questioning and detective work revealed it to be sausage casserole. Desperate for some sauce in our lives, I quizzed him intensely, thought hard about what makes the best sausage casserole (and what makes sauce brown and bumpy), did some research and tinkering and came up with this.

Meanwhile, Bert’s been perfecting his joke delivery technique.

‘What do you get if… [stage whisper] what is it? you put what is it??? boiling water down what is it??? rabbit hole?’

I don’t know, what do you get?

‘What is it??? Hot what is it??? bunny. Hot hot hot hot hot hot…hot hot hot… hot hot what is it??? hot hot hot… hot bunny hot hot hot what is it??? cross bun bunny.’

Stewart Lee has made a career out of this. But all we have is an uneaten portion of sausage casserole.

‘What is it?  It is not brown bumpy sauce. It is not brown. What is it?’

He had pasta and Parmesan cheese, we had this.

Serves 4

Good glug of olive oil

1 onion, chopped

2 sticks celery, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 carrot, grated

2 tablespoons tomato puree

1 tablespoon Worcester sauce

1 pack chipolata sausages, cut into bite sized pieces

1 tin tomatoes

300ml chicken stock

1 dessert spoon dark brown sugar

1 red pepper, roughly chopped

1 teaspoon dried rosemary or finely chopped fresh rosemary

salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and soften the onions. Add the carrot, celery and garlic and cook gently till the carrot is soft and pale orange. Add the sausages and cook till browned. Then add everything else, bring to a fast simmer, reduce the temperature and cook for 30 minutes, stirring now and then.

Serve with pasta, buttery mash or crusty bread.

Not Heinz spaghetti

IMG_0678

Me to Bert in the bath last night: Was I being grumpy today or were you being naughty?

Bert (with an air of diplomacy): A bit of both.

Me: I wonder why?

Bert (accusingly): You were being bossy.

Me: That’s my job as your mum.

Bert: [doubtful look]

Me: And you?

Bert (carelessly): I was just doing my own thing.

As part of my ongoing, inadvertant project to pointlessly recreate processed food classics, tonight I accidentally threw together home-made tinned Heinz spaghetti – in a good way. We had ours with meatballs (my intention was to veg-up a tomato sauce for meatballs) and grated parmesan. This makes enough for a big bowl spare in the fridge – as a veg-heavy pizza base topping or to start your own canned spaghetti business.

Or just do your own thing.

Makes absolutely loads

Glug of olive oil

2 sticks celery, finely chopped

1 red pepper, deseeded and roughly chopped

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

A dozen or so fresh cherry tomatoes

1/2 tin sweetcorn

2 tins chopped tomatoes

Pinch of salt

Spahetti, to appetite

Add the olive oil to a saucepan on a medium heat, cook the celery and pepper till softened, add the garlic and cook for a minute, then add the sweetcorn, fresh tomatoes, tinned tomatoes and seasoning. Bring to a simmer.

Put the spaghetti on to cook.

Stir the sauce now and then. When the spaghetti’s almost done, puree the sauce and add a dash of cooking water from the pasta. Drain the spaghetti and stir it into enough sauce to coat it, stowing the rest away for another occasion.

Slurp.

Sausage pasta


‘Look my willy! Look like snake, long snake. I pull it?’

Two minutes later.

‘Look my crazy willy!’

In other news, we had sausage pasta for dinner. 

Serves 2

1 onion, chopped

2 small carrots, diced

2 sticks celery, diced

1 tin chopped tomatoes and half the can of water

Olive oil 

Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon cream

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

4 sausages 

1 tablespoon cream

Parmesan to serve 

Fry the veg gently in olive oil till starting to soften then tip in the tomatoes and water, and season. Simmer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile de-skin the sausage and break into pieces into a hot pan with a splash of oil in. Add the fennel seeds and cook on a very low heat while the sauce cooks. 

Then blend the sauce, add half to the sausages (fridging or freezing the rest for pasta sauce or pizza sauce), stir a spoonful of cream into the remainder and simmer on a very low heat while you cook the pasta. Add a splash of the drained pasta water to the sauce, stir through the cooked pasta till its coated in sauce and you’re good to go. Sprinkle on Parmesan at the table.

Eat naked from the waist down, dressed as the Gruffalo waist up.


Four veg pizza sauce

Looks and tastes like standard pizza sauce (maybe a little sweeter), turns pizza into a vaguely healthy meal for small builders who spent all afternoon methodically digging a tiny road into the gravel on the drive.

I can’t remember the last time I saw my child without fancy dress on, other than in the bath.

Enough for about 16 pizzas (I froze some)

1 large carrot

1 small parsnip

2 sticks celery

Dash olive oil

Salt and pepper

1 tin chopped tomatoes

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon golden caster sugar

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 6/ 200 degrees. Slice the veg into 5cm batons, drizzle generously with oil, season and roast for about half an hour. Then tip the lot, oil and all, into a pan with the tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and sugar, cooking gently for 10 minutes. Blend to a puree, check seasoning and spread on rolled out pizza dough before adding mozzarella and any other toppings (ham for me, road dust for him).

Chickpea and tomato macaroni

 

Bert breakfasted as a fireman, shopped as an astronaut and dined as a builder.

If I’d ever wondered what it was like to be famous, walking down a shopping street with a tiny astronaut would have given me a clue. Nearly everyone stared, smiled or stopped to talk. Bert was muttering to himself under his helmet ‘look me! I spaceman!’ 

Not every man can carry off a silver jump suit.

Serves 2-3

1 small onion, chopped

A little olive oil

3 cloves garlic, peeled but left whole

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

2 sticks celery, chopped

400ml passata

1 x 380g can chickpeas

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons single cream

Macaroni to appetite

This is based on a Nigel Slater recipe but I rarely make a tomato sauce without adding extra veg. I had mine with green salad (Bert mimed being sick) and we both had grated cheese on top.

Gently sauté the onion in a little olive oil. Add the garlic, carrots and celery and cook till the onion’s transparent, then tip in the passata (or tinned tomatoes, if you prefer). Bring to a fast simmer then turn right down and cook on a gentle heat for an hour to an hour and a half.

At the end of the cooking time put the pasta on to boil. Puree the sauce and add the drained chickpeas and cream, seasoning to your taste. Heat through for five minutes then stir through the drained pasta.

If you don’t have a blender, you could finely chop the onion, crush the garlic and grate the veg.

Serve with grated cheese and green leaves (bleurgh).

  

 

Alphabet soup

alphabet

This is a version of a Jamie Oliver recipe. Bert spurned it, but I put that down to teething (teething which had miraculously disappeared by the time he was offered his first chocolate milkshake later). Not sure how we’ll justify his evil behaviour when those last two molars have come through.

Serves 3 generously

Selection of veg to roast (I used a carrot, 3 sticks of celery and a red pepper, but you could just use a couple of those, or substitute leek for the celery), roughly chopped

1/2 a punnet of cherry tomatoes

4 or 5 garlic cloves, whole and unpeeled

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tins chopped tomatoes

1/2 tin of water

2 or 3 handfuls of alphabet pasta (or spaghetti broken up into pieces)

Spoonfuls of pesto and grated cheese to serve

Drizzle the veg, cherry tomatoes and garlic with olive oil and roast in a hot oven (220 degrees or the top of the Aga roasting oven) for about 40 minutes, till soft.

Set aside the garlic and tip the veg and juices into a pan, squeezing the soft garlic out of its papery cases into the veg. Add the tinned tomatoes and water and blitz with a blender to a nearly smooth onsistency. Stir the pasta through and bring the lot to a simmer on the hob, cooking till the pasta’s soft (about 7 to 10 minutes).

Serve with a blob of pesto and a sprinkling of grated cheese.

This did not get the dramatic ‘mmmm’s that the chocolate milkshake did. At least, not from Bert.

 

 

Mini risotto alla Milanese

milanese

Oops, we’re having a barbeque for dinner and forgot to start it in time for Bert.

Serves 0.5 with leftovers for risotto balls for lunch – triple the quantities to serve 1.5

1-1.5 teaspoons butter

1/2 onion, diced finely

1/3 stick celery, diced finely

1/2 clove garlic, crushed

1/3 cup arborio rice

1 and 1/3 cups hot water from the kettle

About 1/3 to 1/2 a low salt chicken stock cube, crumbled

Pinch of saffron

Handful grated parmesan

Grating of black pepper

Saute the onion, celery and garlic in the butter till soft and translucent then stir through the rice. Add the liquid bit by bit till it’s absorbed – it will take about 20 minutes. Throw in the saffron with the first addition of liquid and add the pepper and cheese at the end.

We’re using the (pretty tiny amount) of leftovers for risotto balls for Bert’s lunch one day this week. They’d be nice with tomato sauce in the middle.

Barley risotto

barley

This is similar to risotto in every way except it takes a bit longer (about 45 minutes), so start a good while before your baby’s howling like a wolf, and you don’t need to keep stirring while the liquid’s getting absorbed, freeing you up to race tiny cars.

We didn’t have any lemons so I used a bit of sumac from my Ottolenghi period.

Serves 1.5

Teaspoon of butter

1/2 stick celery, finely diced

1/2 onion, finely diced

1 clove garlic, crushed

100g pearl barley

300ml passata

400ml boiling water

Low salt veg or chicken stock cube, crumbled

Finely chopped oregano leaves or 1 teaspoon dried oregano

Zest of half a lemon

A pinch of saffron

Grating black pepper

Saute the veg in the butter, then stir through the barley and add the liquid and seasonings. Bring to a boil, reduce to a gentle simmer and cook for around 35-45 minutes, till the liquid’s absorbed and the barley’s tender.

Serve with a bit of mild cheese on top – maybe pecorino or crumbled feta.

Spag bol

bol

My standard bol recipe used to include red wine, salty bacon, milk and sometimes chopped chicken liver. Sounds a little voodoo when it’s all written down and it was a bit too intensely savoury for a baby. It also involved finely cutting up loads of stewing steak. When you’ve just got a small amount of free time in a day, spending most of it cutting up meat is less appealing.

Serves 6 (we had 3.5 for dinner and leftovers for lasagne)

500g minced beef

300g minced pork

1 onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves chopped

1 carrot, diced

1 stick celery diced

leaves from a spring of rosemary, finely chopped

glug olive oil

500g passata

200ml boiling water

Low salt beef stock cube

Grinding of pepper, grinding of nutmeg

2 bay leaves

Fry (or ‘sweat’) the onions, rosemary and garlic in the olive oil, adding the other veg and cooking for around another 5 minutes. Transfer to a large saucepan or casserole and brown the meat in batches. Add to the veg and then pour over the passata and water, crumble in the stock cube and season, tucking in the bay leaves. Bring to a steady boil and then cook in a very low oven (140 degrees or an Aga simmering oven) for around 3-4 hours. You might need to bring it onto the hob at the end to reduce it a bit.

Beef stew and pesto mash

beef

Babies seem to prefer a tomatoey base to a beef stew – I suppose it’s lighter and fruitier and less intense.

Bert also seems to prefer having food dumped en masse in front of him and being in control of what he eats. Fair enough, I suppose I do too. This is good for picking up, but soft enough to chew when you’ve got just a couple of Bugs Bunny teeth.

Serves 2.5 or 1.5 with leftovers for pie or baked potatoes

450 g stewing steak

About 30 g plain flour, seasoned with grated nutmeg and black pepper

A couple of glugs of olive oil

1 stick celery, grated

1 large carrot or two small, grated

1 large carrot or two small, cut into chunks

1 red onion, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon dried rosemary or the leaves from a small sprig of fresh rosemary, very finely chopped

1 dessert spoon tomato puree

1 low salt beef stock cube

About 400ml water – hot from the kettle

Floury potatoes to your appetite – I used 5 smallish ones for the two of us and we had leftovers

2 dessert spoons basil pesto

Coat the beef  in the seasoned flour, heat a glug of oil in a frying pan and brown the beef on all sides. Transfer to a casserole dish with any remaining seasoned flour. Saute the veg in a bit more oil till the onions are soft. The shredded veg will melt into the sauce. Add to the casserole with the herbs, tomato puree, stock cube and water. Bring to a good boil on the top of the stove then cook at 180 degrees for about 3 hours. I’ve got an Aga, and I cook it on the bottom of the simmering oven for 3 or 4 hours.

Peel and chop the potatoes into even pieces and put in a pan of cold water, bringing to the boil, reducing to a simmer and then cooking till tender – about 20 minutes, depending on the size of your pieces. Or, if you’ve got an Aga, try the ‘steaming in the simmering oven’ method, curse your Aga and vow never to try that method again, and cook on the top of the stove till done. Mash till very smooth then stir in the pesto.

Grab handfuls and stuff them in your mouth, nose and ears.