One of the most useful additions to my kitchen over the last two years has been the cast iron casserole dish we were given by my fiance’s parents as our engagement present. Countless stews, casseroles and curries have been cooked and served in this beautiful royal blue pan. It is the most versatile piece of cookware we own, perfect for making stock out of a leftover chicken carcass or making batches of soup for weekday lunches.
My advice if you’re looking to splash out on a present for a foodie, a cast iron casserole dish is a fantastic idea if they don’t already own one!
Onto the recipe… This is an adaptation of a recipe from Rachel Allen’s Easy Meals with more emphasis on vegetable content to bulk up the dish. I bought a pound of stewing beef from one of the butchers in the English Market and after 2 hours of cooking in the oven, it was falling apart in the pan and tasted absolutely amazing.
adapted from Rachel Allen’s Easy Meals
2 tbsp olive oil
454g stewing beef, cut into 2cm chunks
salt & black pepper
2 tbsp flour
2 onions, peeled and finely chopped
4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1cm cubes
2 large leeks, trimmed and cut into 3cm pieces
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
2 tbsp tomato paste
200 ml red wine
300ml beef stock
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 strips orange peel
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs rosemary
200 g ready rolled pastry
1 egg, beaten
Preheat the oven to 160C.
Pour the olive oil into a casserole dish on a medium-high heat, season the beef with salt and pepper and, when hot, add the beef to the pan. Fry for 3-4 minutes until well browned, then stir in the flour and cook for a further minute.
Add the vegetables, tomato paste and garlic. Stir together and cook for 5 minutes or until the vegetables have softened. Add the wine, vinegar, orange peel, bay leaf and rosemary, along with the beef stock. Season with salt and pepper, then stir together, bring to the boil and cover with a lid.
Place in the oven and cook for 2 hours or until the beef is tender. Remove from the oven and turn the temperature up to 220C.
Cut the pastry to fit the top of the casserole dish, leaving an extra 1cm on the edge. Make a hole in the centre with a sharp knife, and add the pastry on top of the filling.
Return the dish to the oven, and bake for a further 12-15 minutes until the pastry is crisp.
Some final shots from our Cambodia trip in a butterfly cafe where we ate lunch surrounded by swarms of butterflies in all colours imaginable.
I am not the biscuit fan in our household. I never crave the chocolate indulgence of cookies or the buttery taste of shortbread. I have never debated whether a Jaffa cake is a biscuit or a cake, or whether to get the McVities or the Jacobs version. The idea of dipping a biscuit into a cup of tea confounds me- why would you do that to a nice cup of tea?
However my fiance‘s weakness is for biscuits in every form. M&S’s chewy double chocolate cookies are winners and every coffee break in the morning needs to be accompanied with at least 2 biscuits. In our desire to cook and bake more food from scratch, we decided to tackle biscuits recently, starting with shortbread.
Shortbread really is one of the simplest recipes out there, most commonly made with three ingredients- butter, sugar and flour. The combination of creaming butter and sugar and then folding in the flour makes a crumbly dry biscuit. Adding egg yolks to the recipe gives a much sturdier and less crumbly texture, and also seem to make the biscuits store better in an airtight container.
325 g plain flour
200 g cold cubed butter
125 g caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 egg yolks
Place the flour and butter in a food processor and whizz until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the sugar, vanilla extract and egg yolks. Pulse for a minute until it comes together.
Turn the dough out onto a piece of clingfilm and shape into a log. Wrap tightly and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180C/ 160C fan. Cut the log into 5-8mm thick slices and place on a baking tray lined with baking parchment.
Sprinkle over a bit of caster sugar and bake for 20 minutes until golden around the edges.
Allow to cool and then store in an airtight container.
Perhaps my most favourite lamb burger recipe, but made extra special with an additional salsa to top the whole creation.
Avoca Lamb Burgers with Fiery Tomato Salsa
adapted from A Year in Avoca
454g minced lamb
1 egg, lightly whisked
2 tbsp fresh breadcrumbs
1 small onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 red chilli, de-seeded and diced
2 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
20g fresh mint
1 tsp ground cumin
1 punnet cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 small red onion, very finely diced
1 small red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
juice of 1 lime
2 tbsp freshly chopped parsley or coriander
sea salt & black pepper
4 ciabattas/ baps
Baby spinach leaves
Manchego or strong cheddar cheese
Slices of red onion
1) Place the lamb, egg, breadcrumbs, onion, garlic, chilli, cumin and herbs in a bowl and mix well. Season with salt and pepper and divide the mixture into 4 burgers.
2) Fry or grill the burgers for 6-8 minutes on each side until the burger is cooked through.
3) Meanwhile, combine all the salsa ingredients and mix well.
4) Place the burgers on ciabatta with salad, cheese, red onion and garlic mayonnaise, and topped with the tomato salsa. Serve with side salad and potato wedges.
I’ve written about my family’s boxer before– a lazy hound with odour issues and a love for taking up all the room on the couch/ bed/ wherever you want to relax. For all my loving complaints about his laziness, I absolutely love watching him at play. Sprinting after a ball or playing tug, I’m always surprised when I see a placid dog turned into an energetic, feisty creature intent on only one thing- keeping the ball.