Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Try Before We Cry

This dish is all to do with adding as much flavour as possible, so there are plenty of ways to adapt this dish and reduce the costs but still ending up with plenty of tasty things. Myself find a tablespoon of tomato puree stirred in also boosts the flavour.
Remember that dried beans weigh twice their weight (at least) after soaking and cooking, so you will need to use extra canned cooked beans, but only if you can afford it.
Simple Cassoulet: serves 4 - 6
2 lb/1.2 kg dried haricot beans (use cooked, canned beans)
1 large onion, chopped
4 large tomatoes, skinned and chopped (use canned tomatoes)
3 stalks celery, sliced
5 cloves garlic, chopped (use 2)
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 sprigs fresh parsley
1 lb (450g) belly pork (use one pork hock)
12 oz (350g) collar of bacon (or chunks cooked ham)
1 pint (600ml) chicken stock or hot water
1 tblsp oil
8 Toulouse sausages (use any herby sausages)
1 duck cut into 8 pieces (use skinless chicken portions)
2 tblsp chopped parsley
1 oz (25g) breadcrumbs
Soak, cook and drain the dried beans in the usual way (or drain the canned beans). Into a large pan put the onions, tomatoes, celery, garlic, herbs, pork,bacon and chicken, then pour over the stock/water and simmer gently for an hour.
Meanwhile put the oil in a frying pan and cook the sausages until browned all over (they don't have to be cooked through), and cut into large chunks.
Strain the meat and vegetables (reserving the liquid) then cut the meat also into large chunks. Then begin to assemble the cassoulet.
Spoon half the beans into a large, deep casserole. Top with the chunks of meat and sausage, then cover with remaining beans. Pour in enough of the reserved liquid (including sauce if using canned beans), to cover, adding extra stock or water if necessary. Sprinkle with chopped parsley, then sprinkle with the breadcrumbs.
Bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 1 1/2 hours. Every 30 minutes, break the breadcrumb crust into the stew - but don't stir it in. Then repeat every half hour.
If the stew is beginning to dry up, add just a little more boiling stock or water. When cooked, take to the table and serve directly from the pot.
Note: Cassoulet is best prepared the day before serving as the flavours improve with re-heating, always making sure it is thoroughly heated through.

Although baked (aka 'jacket') potatoes can be speedily baked in a microwave, they are not as tasty as when baked in the oven, where their skins become crisp and taste so good. There are short-cuts. (1) Boil the whole potatoes for four minutes, and then finish off in the oven, this usually saves a third of the time needed to cook them (1 hour instead of 1 1/2 hours). (2) Stick a metal skewer through the middle/length of the potato. The metal gets hot and this cooks the centre of the potato more rapidly. Or (3) Part micro-wave and part grill - 'recipe' for this follows:

Speedy Jacket Potatoes:
1 baking potato (approx 8 oz/225g) per person
olive oil
Prick the potato with a fork. Sit each on a piece of kitchen paper in the microwave, then cook on High for 8 minutes (10 minutes if baking 2, longer if baking more). When soft, transfer to a baking tray and brush all over with olive oil, then place under a pre-heated grill (medium - high heat) and grill for 5 minutes, turning the potato until the skin is crisp.
Ideally, then cut a cross in the top of the potato using a sharp knife, hold the base and squeeze open. Pop in a knob of butter or your chosen filling, then eat and enjoy.