Store cupboard sausage and cider casserole

There is one consolation to the weather getting cold: I get to make more delicious but ridicuously easy casseroles thrown together with whatever I have lying around. Last night was one such night.

Most people probably don't have loads of cider lying around, but I was in Somerset last weekend and stocked up. The thyme in the window box died of neglect while we were away a month or so ago, so it's kinda equivalent to dried. The sage is still going, so that's fresh.

I made this last night and it was excellent. Now I'm going to enjoy the leftovers for dinner tonight!

Cider and sausage casserole

  • 4 fresh pork sausages
  • 100g diced chopped pancetta
  • 1 large onion
  • 3 large carrots, roughly chopped
  • 1 large courgette, roughly chopped
  • 2 cups green lentils (washed)
  • 1 tbspn chicken stock concentrate
  • ~1 L traditional west country cider
  • sprig of thyme
  • 6 sage leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • ground pepper
  • worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbspn cornflour

Brown the sausages over high heat in (just brown them, you're not cooking them). Remove to casserole dish. Brown the pancetta and remove to the casserole dish. Roughly slice the onion and soak up the fat from the sausages and pancetta, cooking until the onion is slightly browned. Get the oven on to 160C.

Deglaze the pan with some of the cider, scraping up all the lovely goodness from the cooking. Bung everything except the cornflour into the casserole dish and fill with cider until the liquid level is just above the solids. Season with pepper and a hefty glug of worcestershire sauce.

Place in the oven for a couple of hours, stirring occasionally. After one hour, mix the cornflour with a small amount of extra cider, until smooth, and add to the casserole to help it thicken.

I served it over cous cous, because that's what we had in the cupboard. Would work equally well (better, even) with mash, rice, whatever.

River Cafe

Holly took me out to the River Cafe for dinner tonight. Absolutely brilliant feed. I had squid with chilli and rocket, Holly had prosciutto with charantais melon for entrees. Mine was perfect, not so sure about the combination of melon and ham. I found the melon (perfectly ripe, beautifully sweet) overpowered the ham. We shared spinach and ricotta ravioli with parmesan. Perfect!

For mains, I had scallops with chilli, beautiful. Haven't had scallops in a long time. Holly had salt-roasted sea bass with balsalmic vinegar and oregano flowers. The oregano flowers were beautiful and aromatic.

Dessert was a delicious summer pudding and lemon/strawberry sorbet. Gorgeous, particularly on such a loverly warm night, sitting outside next to the Thames.

A lovely meal.


Ingredients for katsu curry

A discussion on about katsu gave me the idea of making a katsu curry tomorrow night when Scott and Katie come around for dinner. These are the ingredients I bought from the Japanese and Korean supermarket at the bottom of Centrepoint. I love that place, and it's just across the road from my new work.

So basically, katsu curry is the sauce. Think a kinda sweet, mild curry. You crumb and fry some meat or vegetables, serve that on rice and cover in the sauce. Yum! Thanks to Yasuyo for showing me how.

I made sushi!

Very sticky rice
Not gonna win any awards, but nice
first try
Well it's not going to win any awards, but my first attempt at sushi worked alright. Certainly tasted good. The wasabi I bought turns out to be insanely hot. Nose tinglingly.


Sushi ingredients
Sushi rice

After sushi for dinner last night at the excellent Yoshi Sushi, I realised how much I miss good sushi. It's rare and expensive in this town. Yoshi is probably the best price/quality balance I've found so far. The sushi train places here all serve expensive, dried-out garbage. I used to eat sushi in Sydney all the time.

Solution: make it myself! I'm starting with the relatively easy maki (rolls), using a recipe from Wikibooks. The hard part, of course, is getting the rice right. And if you know me, I'm crap at rice. So this is very much an experiment.

Amazing chocolate cake

On the weekend I made this amazing chocolate cake from Nigella Lawson's site for Fiona's birthday. Fantastic cake, really rich and yummy. Went down well. I did the orange-flavoured option and it worked out brilliantly.

Now the other half is asking me to make her a cake for her birthday, because I missed it at the time being in Australia. Looking for good carrot cake recipes now.

Becoming an omnivore

For most of my life, I have despised tomatoes. Tomato soup, ketchup, pasta sauce and the like are all fine. Just raw tomatoes, I've always hated.

For the last year or so, I've been trying to work myself out of this. I've been doing this by leaving the tomato on bought sandwiches, munching down on tomato in salads and occasionally, just occasionally, eating chunks of tomato for the hell of it.

It's mostly worked. I wouldn't say I love the things, but I can now easily tolerate them. I'll wait until I get to Italy, land of tomato heaven supposedly, and see if I can find some really really good tomatoes. Then I'll eat some.

This article is by a restaurant critic who, getting the job, needed to lose some irrational food dislikes. Pretty odd ones (except the retsina bit) and he hated one of my favourite foods, kimchi.

Now I've been trying to think what other irrational food dislikes I have. The only one I can think of is avocado. I'm not so pressed to get rid of this one, as it's not such a staple as tomato. If I end up planning a trip to South America, I'll probably have to work on it.

If only I could get Holly to work on some of her food dislikes. She hates tomatoes, most pulses, peppers (but not chillis) and most of all, peas. Even lovely, sweet, fresh peas straight out of the pod. Freak.

Funky Porcini

The fantastic cheese stall at North End Road market had a fantastic thing on offer this weekend. Giant 250g tubs of dried porcini mushrooms for £5. Incredible.

So last night I cooked a mushroom casserole. Rehydrated the mushrooms, chopped up an onion, zucchini, couple of carrots and bunged it all into a casserole dish with a veggie stock cube, a healthy glug of Worcestershire Sauce and some dried thyme, topped up with boiling water.

In the oven at 180 degrees C for an hour and a half, stirring every half hour. I served it up with sweet potato mash (with some roasted aubergine mashed in). Yum!

Vietnamese Mint

With the weather warming up, Holly has been getting her herb seedlings going. Last year we had a fantastic crop of chives, basil and oregano. Considering the small space available (one window sill) we had an incredible crop. The basil variety, in particular, was fantastic with massive leaves from a relatively small plant.

This year we want to grow Vietnamese Mint (also known as Vietnamese Coriander. You can find the fresh herb in most greengrocers in Sydney, but I have yet to see it anywhere here in the UK. It's absolutely vital for Vietnamese cold rolls (goi cuon) and works well in stir fries. It's mildly minty and quite spicy.

So I figure we can grow this through the Summer here in London if only I could find some seeds. No luck with a solid hunt around the net. Any ideas? Even importing them would be okay.