Ropa Vieja and Bienmesabe

gran-canaria-menu

Today has been quite possibly one of the coldest days of the winter so far; a cold-to-the-bone kind of cold when it takes an hour in a hot bath to thaw out. In the depths of winter, I can’t help but dream about summer holidays in warmer climes…

When Monarch Holidays invited me to recreate some traditional Spanish recipes for their new online Island Cookbook, I thought it was a perfect opportunity to feed my craving for sunshine food and cheer up these dark, dank days. I took my inspiration from the third largest of the Canary Islands, Gran Canaria, where I have fond memories of holidaying with my family as a teenager Continue reading “Ropa Vieja and Bienmesabe”

Shakshuka with potato and sausage for British Sausage Week

Sausage shakshuka

Shakshuka is one of our favourite weekend brunch dishes. It’s essentially a spiced tomato and pepper stew with eggs poached on top and hails originally from North Africa. As you may have noticed, I’m a sucker for any dish that comes with an egg on top.

We play around with the ingredients of our shakshuka quite a bit – it’s one of those versatile dishes that lends itself to experimentation. This particular variation is very good and very satisfying, bringing together flavours of North Africa with elements of a Full English, namely sausage and potato. If you happen to have either or both of these leftover in your fridge, it’s the perfect way to put them to good use.

sausage shakshuka3 text

The addition of sausage is rather fitting as this week is British Sausage Week, an annual celebration of the traditional Great British Banger. We adore sausages here at Chez Bangers, as you might have guessed, but we are very fussy about the sausages we buy. Only proper bangers with a high meat content from happy pigs make it onto our table.

For this shakshuka, I used delicious Cumberland pork and honey sausages from Donald Russell, an award-winning online butcher. They are beautifully flavoured with herbs and spices and there’s a subtle sweetness from the honey, which works so well with the spicy vegetable stew. All Donald Russell sausages are made with Freedom Food pork shoulder meat as standard.

Make sure you serve this up with lots of crusty white bread for mopping up all those gorgeous spicy juices and runny egg yolk.

Sausage shakshuka2 text

Shakshuka with potato and sausage

Serves 3 to 4

1 tsp cumin seeds
4 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, halved and sliced
1 red and 1 green pepper, sliced
2 bay leaves
handful fresh thyme, leaves picked
6 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
½ tsp cayenne pepper
salt and pepper
4 good quality pork sausages, grilled and chopped into bitesize chunks
3 medium potatoes, boiled and diced
3 or 4 eggs (1 per person)

Dry roast the cumin seeds in a large frying pan for a couple of minutes, before adding the oil and onions. Gently cook the onions for 5 minutes, then add the peppers, bay leaves and thyme. Continue to cook gently for 10 to 15 minutes.

Next add the chopped tomatoes, cayenne and season to taste. Turn the heat down low and cook for another 15 minutes. Then stir in the cooked sausages and potatoes.

Preheat oven to 180°C / gas mark 4.

Pour the stew into a large, flat, ovenproof dish. Using the back of a ladle or large spoon, make ‘dents’ in the stew into which you then break your eggs. Place the dish carefully in the oven and cook for 10 to 15 minutes until the eggs are just cooked – the whites should be set but the yolk still runny.

Serve immediately with lots of fresh, white bread.

Disclosure: I received a selection of complimentary sausages and sausage products from Donald Russell for review and recipe development. No money exchanged hands and all opinions expressed are my own. For details of the full range visit www.donaldrussell.com.

Round-up: February’s Recipes for Life Challenge

Thank you to everyone who took part in February’s Recipes for Life and got this new challenge off to such a brilliant start.

The idea behind the challenge is to come up with tasty, wholesome and easy-to-cook recipes that revolve around just three main ingredients and that can be cooked by members of SWALLOW’s cookery club. Each month we have a different set of ingredients and one winner will be named. The best of the recipes submitted will be included in a new charity cookbook  SWALLOW is planning to publish later this year.

The theme in February was sausage, onion and tomato, and we received a fantastic assortment of recipes. I knew you lot wouldn’t let us down.

So without further ado, here is the all-important round-up:

I kicked off the challenge with these incredibly easy Sausage Meatballs, based on a recipe from Nigellisima – a perfect meal to cook when the children have their friends home for tea. Because who doesn’t like meatballs?

Sausage-Pasta-Bake

Next up was this wonderfully versatile and frugal Sausage Meat Sauce for Pasta Bakes or Sloppy Joes from Fuss Free Flavours. Skinning your sausages helps make a little go a long way and this dish sees just two sausages feed four people, plus you can use whatever veggies you happen to have in. The end result is a scrummy sauce to serve with pasta or as the filling in a sandwich for a seriously good Sloppy Joe.

sausage-lasagne

Thankfully Under The Blue Gum Tree has broken her resolve of not taking part in any new blog challenges in 2013 and entered this delicious Sausage Lasagne into Recipes for Life. Admittedly making a lasagne takes a little time and there are quite a few steps, but for something so satisfyingly tasty, we reckon it’s well worth the effort.

Now don’t these Slow Cooker Turkey Sausages and Veg in the Red look good? This is what you could end up with if you use up what you happen to have in your fridge. Or at least if you live in On Top of Spaghetti’s house anyway! A fabulously warming dish featuring turkey sausages, aubergine (egg plant), peppers, herbs and spices.

I’m a big fan of pearl barley as a tasty, cheap and cheerful way to fill empty tummies on a wintry day. And they are absolutely perfect in stews, casseroles or hotpots, such as this Thrifty Sausage, Vegetable and Pearl Barley Hotpot from Utterly Scrummy Food for Families. Michelle from Utterly Scrummy says it’s also an ideal way to use up leftover cooked sausages or cooked chicken.

Lentils are another popular ingredient for the frugal cook, and don’t they look rather good in this Sausage Casserole from Matt and Corpy, the two foodie dads who comprise The Good Stuff? The perfect winter warmer served with lots of crusty bread to mop up all those lovely juices – waste not, want not!

There’s nothing like a hotpot to warm the cockles on a cold, winter’s day, and this Sausage, Bean and Veggie Hotpot from Chez Foti looks like it would take some beating in the cockle-warming stakes. Made with one pack of sausages and stuffed full of vegetables and beans, it’s hearty enough to feed a family of four, twice!

Puff pastry tarts are great, aren’t they? They’re superbly versatile and you can get all creative trying out different toppings. As with this Sausage & Onion Tart from Sarah at The Garden Deli, or rather Sarah’s son actually. He came up with this tart as their entry for Recipes for Life after making something similar in his food technology lesson at school. We never cooked anything half this tasty when I was at school! Can’t wait to see what Sarah’s son comes up with for March’s challenge…

pastyCheck out this Jumbo Mediterranean Sausage Pasty from The Crazy Kitchen – now doesn’t that look the business? Despite the list of ingredients, it’s ever so easy to make and creates hardly any washing up – a real bonus in my eyes! Filled with delicious tastes of the Mediterranean, such as feta cheese and olives, and of course some good meaty sausages, I know this would definitely keep my family happy.

Next we have this gorgeous Sausage Ragu from Annie at The Foodie Blog, who you might know better from Twitter as @mammasaurusblog. It’s another excellent family-friendly recipe that’s a doddle to rustle up when time is short, and that’s both tasty and wholesome to boot.

soba noodlesThese Quick and Easy Soba Noodles from Fun as a Gran make for such a colourful teatime dish and they also have the additional benefit of being gluten-free, dairy-free, and egg-free. If soba noodles aren’t your thing and you’re gluten-tolerant, then you can use regular spaghetti.

sausage and pepper pasta

Pasta is as much a family-favourite as sausage, which is probably why it’s made so many appearances this month in Recipes for Life. Vanessa at JibberJabberUK teams them up here in her yummy Sausage and Pepper Pasta, which she says is equally good made with vegetarian sausages. I know my kids would adore this for their tea.

And finally, Jacki managed to get her Sausage, Chorizo & Chickpea Stew in by the skin of her teeth, and I’m so glad she did as it sounds absolutely divine. Jacki isn’t a blogger so I can only share a PDF for her recipe but I’m planning on cooking up her stew myself and I promise to feature it on the blog together with photos very soon.

But, of course, there can only be one winner. And so I’m very pleased to announce that first prize in February’s Recipes for Life Challenge goes to… *drum roll* Chez Foti’s Sausage, Bean & Veggie Hotpot.  Tracey who runs SWALLOW’s cookery club said they chose Chez Foti’s dish “because it’s just perfect for the cold weather and they all thought it would be warming, filling, nutritious and it could be half-cooked at the cookery group and then finished off when they got home for dinner.”

So a huge congratulations to Louisa from Chez Foti on winning the first ever Recipes for Life – a small prize will be winging its way in the post to you very soon. And also a special mention to Helen at The Crazy Kitchen whose Jumbo Mediterranean Sausage Pasty came a very close second.

Thanks again to you all for taking part in the first month of Recipes for Life and we hope you all get involved again in March – the next three ingredients will be announced very soon so watch this space for details.

Star Wars sausage stew

Somehow I completely failed to spot that this week is National Sausage Week here in the UK. Now if anyone should be celebrating the humble sausage, it clearly should be Bangers & Mash. The amount we consume in our house contributes significantly to supporting the British sausage industry, I’m sure.

Thankfully, I had this very tasty sausage dish waiting in the wings to appear on the blog – a perfect winter warmer for all the family on these darker, colder days.

So bumped up the running order a little, I bring you the ‘Star Wars’ sausage stew, a recipe my children (and us grown ups too) adore, which I discovered in my old Blue Peter Book of Gorgeous Grub, circa 1980. The topping of crushed up plain crisps and grated cheese takes me back to my childhood when crisps seemed to appear in hot dishes all the time.

As a child I was a committed fan of the BBC children’s programme Blue Peter, winning a total of four badges over the years in various competitions. I was forever pestering my mum for old boxes, loo roll holders and sticky backed plastic so that I could make the latest Blue Peter creation.

But for some reason I never tried to recreate any of their recipes. It was my dad who recently dug out this cookbook, which, to be totally honest, I can’t remember having as a child as I wasn’t really all that interested in food back then. Oh how things change! So I’m rather enjoying working my way through all the recipes that were submitted by Blue Peter viewers, answering the call from presenters Simon Groom, Chris Wenner and Tina Heath.

According to eight-year-old Elspeth Bruford from Edinburgh who sent in this recipe…

We called it this because it was invented when we wanted a hot meal waiting for us when we came home from seeing the film ‘Star Wars’.

I wonder where Elspeth is now and whether she still makes her Star Wars sausage stew?

Star Wars sausage stew

Serves 4 to 5

1 tbsp vegetable oil
450g sausages (Elspeth cut hers into slices; I left mine whole)
2 onions, chopped
175g bacon, chopped
1 small tin baked beans
1 small tin sweetcorn (I used frozen)
1 large tin chopped tomatoes
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper
2 large potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1 packet of plain crisps, crushed
50g Cheddar cheese, grated

Preheat the oven to 150ºC / gas mark 2.

Heat the oil in a large casserole and brown the sausages, then remove to one side. Add the onion and bacon to the casserole and gently brown. Throw the sausages back in, as well as the beans, sweetcorn and tomatoes. Add the bay leaf, season well with salt and pepper and give it all a good mix.

Top with the sliced potatoes and season again. Cover with a lid or foil and cook in the oven for around two and a half hours.

Remove the lid or foil and turn up the heat to 190ºC / gas mark 5 and cook for another half an hour to brown the potatoes.

Finally top with the crushed crisps and cheese and return to the oven until the cheese has melted. Serve immediately.

Beef stew and parsley dumplings

I could never live permanently in a hot country. OK, so I have been known to moan about the cold weather from time to time. But if it were always hot, we’d never be able to eat warming winter grub like sticky sponge puddings, hearty meat pies or rich, slow-cooked casseroles. We need the seasons in order to eat well I reckon.

Stew and dumplings, a proper winter warmer

This beef stew with rib-sticking parsley dumplings is one of my favourite winter warmers. It’s a proper old-fashioned kind of meal, like your gran would make.

I like to include sweet potatoes in the stew to give it a lovely sweet, creamy flavour, but the real beauty of stews and casseroles is that you can use whatever root vegetables you happen to have in. It’s cooked nice and slowly so the meat and the vegetables are gorgeously tender. If your children aren’t big fans of veggies, this is a great recipe for sneaking a few past them.

Beef stew and parsley dumplings

Serves 4

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
500g stewing steak, diced
2 carrots, sliced
1 parsnip, diced
1 sweet potato, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp corn flour
25o ml hot beef stock
2 400g tins chopped tomatoes
small bunch rosemary, finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste

For the dumplings

110g self-raising flour
salt and pepper
1 tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
50g shredded suet

Preheat the oven to 150°C/Gas Mark 2.

In a large casserole heat the oil and fry the onion until golden. Add the beef quickly and fry until browned.

Next add the root vegetables and garlic and cook together for another few minutes. Sprinkle over the corn flour and mix in to cover the meat and vegetables.

Pour in the beef stock, tomatoes and add the rosemary and a little salt and pepper to taste – depending on how well seasoned your stock is. Bring to a gentle simmer, then cover and put in the oven for around four hours.

When the stew is almost finished cooking, make up the dumplings. Mix the flour, a pinch of salt and pepper and parsley in a bowl. Add the suet and quickly combine but don’t rub in. Mix in cold water, a little at a time, until you can pull the ingredients together to make a stiff dough that leaves the bowl cleanly. Shape into eight dumplings.

When the stew is ready, that is when the meat is tender and falls apart easily, place the dumplings carefully on top of the stew and spoon over some of the liquid. Cover again and put back in the oven, increasing the temperature to 220°C/Gas Mark 7, for about 20 minutes until the dumplings are cooked through.

Irish stew

Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Irish stew.
Irish stew who?
Irish stew in the name of the law!

Apologies. I had an overwhelming desire to share one of my favourite childhood jokes from the classic Ha Ha Bonk Book. Whenever Irish stew is mentioned, I hear the joke in my head. Right, so now I’ve got that out of my system, on with the food…

I was recently inspired to experiment with mutton after reading a couple of newspaper articles. So after stocking up the freezer with various cuts, my first foray into cooking this delicious but much maligned meat saw me creating a wonderfully aromatic mutton curry.

Next I wanted to try something a little more traditional. And what could be a more traditional use for mutton than Ireland’s national dish, Irish Stew?

I found the recipe below in the rather wonderful The Silver Spoon cook book. I know, I know. Slightly strange to turn to the Italians for an Irish dish, but I love the fact you can look up any ingredient in The Silver Spoon and you’ll find what to do with it.

What immediately struck me was just how simple this recipe is. Apparently purists use only mutton, potatoes, onions and water, and perhaps a few herbs. It was hard to resist the temptation to add just a little something, even if it were just a couple of carrots. But resist I did, and good job too as it really doesn’t need anything else.

Despite the mutton having quite a strong flavour (it’s almost gamey), the whole family really liked this dish and so I will be cooking it again. Surprisingly, considering he is a big fan of curries, my husband prefered the Irish stew to the mutton curry.

If you can’t get hold of mutton, try using lamb instead.

Irish Stew

Serves 4

800g mutton, cut into cubes
800g potatoes, thinly sliced
3 onions, thinly sliced
1 tbsp chopped thyme
2 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper

In a large casserole arrange alternate layers of mutton, potatoes and onions, seasoning each layer with salt, pepper and herbs as you go. Add the bay leaf and pour in just enough water to cover.

Bring to the boil over a high heat. Cover, lower the heat and simmer for 1¼ hours until tender. (Or, like me, leave in the bottom oven of the Aga for an afternoon.)

And that’s it. Couldn’t be easier. Enjoy with a big hunk of buttered bread.