Monday, March 17, 2008

Quest for the Best

This first recipe uses mainly storecupboard ingredients, and the beans could be varied - red kidney beans, haricot beans, pinto beans, butter beans, even baked beans. With so many different canned beans available, the choice is ours. If, like me, your oven takes several minutes to heat up, switch on before you start the assembly.
Chunky Tuna Cassoulet: serves 4
400g can tuna in oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tsp dried thyme
2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
1 tblsp tomato puree
5 fl oz (150ml) vegetable or chicken stock
2 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
400g can flageolot beans (or other variety)
400g can cannellini beans
1 can hot-dog sausages (0pt)
2 slices buttered bread
Drain the tuna, and use 1 tblsp of its oil to fry the onion for 7 minutes, until softening, add the garlic towards the end of the cooking time.
Stir in the tomatoes, the puree, dried herbs and stock and bring to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes. Then add the drained beans and parsley. Stir in sliced sausage (if using). Place half the mixture into a casserole dish, and place the flaked tuna on the top. Pour over the remaining sauce. Blitz the bread and butter in a processor and sprinkle this over the top. Bake at 200C, 400F, gas 5 for roughly half an hour, give or take a minute or two (depends upon the depth of the dish), until golden and heated through.
Tip: once the onion and garlic have been cooked, the remaining ingredients, being already 'cooked', really just need heating through, so the whole lot could be assembled in one pan, just tucking in the tuna, and heated through on the hob. Once-the bread has been sprinkled on the top, finish off under the grill.

This next vegetarian casserole comes with great flavourings. Reading the ingredients it could seem as though it is a main course and dessert rolled together, but in truth it is quite the traditional way to cook vegetables in Africa and Arabia.
Sweet Winter Casserole: serves 4 (V)
2 tblsp olive or sunflower oil
2 onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
2 tsp ground cumin
2 large parsnips, thinly peeled and cored
3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
8 oz (225g) frozen string beans, cut in half
3 oz (75g) sultanas
2 oz (50g) flaked almonds
1 tblsp runny honey
1 pint (600ml) vegetable stock
salt and pepper
zest and juice of 1 small lemon
Heat the oil in a pan and fry the onion until softened, stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute, then stir in the cumin and fry for a further minute. Cut the parsnips into chunks and add to the pan together with the sweet potatoes. Cover and cook over low heat for five minute, stirring occasionally. Add the sultanas, honey and almonds, stir to mix well, then pour in the stock. Bring to the boil, cover and reduce the heat to simmer, and cook for approx half an hour or until the vegetables are just tender. Add the thawed beans and cook for a further five minutes. Season to taste, stir in the lemon zest and juice and serve.

Celery is more often eaten raw, or cooked in stocks and other dishes, more as a flavouring.This next recipe uses celery as a vegetable, and because the dish contains both carbohydrate and protein content, as well as the celery, this can be called a 'well-balanced meal', suitable for a lunch dish, or as a starter at a dinner party. Served after a bowl of hot soup, it could also make a supper dish.
Celery and Ham Gratin: serves 2 - 4
1 head of celery
4 large, thin slices of cooked ham
half a pint of cheese sauce, hot
4 oz (100g) pasta penne
2 oz (50g) grated cheese
1 slice bread, crumbed
Wash the celery, removing outer ribs, tops, leaves and stump*. Divide the remainder into four thick pieces
and cook in boiling water until just softened. Drain well, and wrap each piece with the slice of ham.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta until tender, drain and place on the base of a buttered shallow casserole dish, , place over the celery bundles, and cover with the cheese sauce. Mix together the grated cheese and the breadcrumbs, and sprinkle this on top. Finish off under the grill.
*Tip: save the trimmings from the celery, use the stump and outer ribs for adding to soups, stocks, or whatever, and use the green leaves to add to salads.

The final recipe today is for a type of pastie. Traditionally made in the pasty shape, the pastry could be cut into squares and folded over to make triangles or oblongs. Can be eaten hot or cold.
Ham and Apple Pastie: makes 4 individual ones
10 oz (275g) short pastry
6 oz (175g) cooked ham, diced
2 eating apples, diced
1 tsp sugar
Roll out the pastry and cut into 4 circles. Sprinkle the apples with the sugar and mix with the ham, then pile this over one half of each pastry circle. Dampen the edges and fold over to make a semi-circle. Alternatively, put the mixture into the centre of the pastry and bring the sides up to the top. Either way, seal well and flute or curling over the edges of the pasty.
Bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for about half an hour or until the pastry has browned. Remove from oven, cool slightly and serve with a salad, or cool on a cake airer to eat later in the day.