The Grove Is On Fire

How To Make Casserole

Saturday, 17 October 2009

I've just made casserole for church lunch tomorrow. If you would like to make casserole along at home with you, here's how in the simplest possible way.

Get a large casserole dish, this is a Le Creuset casserole dish. It's made of iron, pretty much indestructible, and costs almost £100. My mum has one longer than she's had me, and so I reckon about now it's costing her 10p every time she uses it. That's good value for money. Also, girls'll think you're house trained if you have one, no matter the state of your bathroom. Also, you're mum'll think you're house trained if you have one, no matter the state of your toilet.

Chop up a bunch of onions and fry them in some oil in your casserole dish till they go soft, then throw in some garlic. Add salt. Then, throw in some meat1 and cook it till it's turned brown on all sides. Add salt. Take out of the pan the onions and the meat2, trying to leave the juices in the pan. Pour in some alcohol you have lying around3 and as it bubbles up scrape the pan with a wooden spoon to get all the black stuff of the bottom. When you've done this, add a couple of carrots and parsnips and tomatoes chopped into large chunks, stir this around, put the meat and onions back in, then pour in enough stock4 to not quite cover everything. Add salt. Put in a Bouqet Garni5 When it all starts to bubble again leave it for about five minutes (or a bit longer if you don't mind stirring and you want to the sauce to shrink down). Then put the lid on the pan then put it in the oven at about 150 degrees Celsius. Leave it for a few hours, taking it out every now and again to taste it and see if the meat is falling apart and to see if you need to add more salt. When the meat is falling apart, it's done.

You now have two options. If you made the casserole yesterday, well done, let it cool down, then put it somewhere coldish over night (a fridge will do, but better yet your balcony at this time of year if you've got one). Reheat it the next day in the oven till it's bubbling. This'll give it a chance to absorb all the flavour. If you made it today, then just eat it now with lots of mashed potatoes6.

You can, of course, use other vegetables and other ingredients, most root vegetables will work, as will things like mushrooms and peppers. You can apparently make an entire casserole out of just vegetables, which probably tastes as heinous as it sounds. You can also add bacon to the casserole to make it taste even better, but that should go without saying. Your casserole will keep for a while in the fridge, longer if you freeze it, but you should probably just invite people around your house to finish it off if you've made too much. These people I guess could be young people, and you could use the casserole as a metaphor for the church, and you could make them all play an icebreaker before they ate it. But you could just make casserole for the joy of it.

1 As long as you can name what sort of meat it is, it doesn't really matter what, just don't use proper steak or breast. The beauty of steak is that it's amazingly tasty and cooks in seconds, this'll be sitting in your oven for ours. Buy braising beef instead. Currently Sainsbury's basic beef chunks is braising beef. It takes about three hours to cook, but that's a good thing. It's also much cheaper. Don't use chicken breast because leg and breast is cheaper and the bones while add flavour to it and stop it drying out so much. Also, if you're using skinned meat at this stage (like chicken) you can pull the skin off and put the meat in a freezer bag with some flour and salt and pepper and shake it till it's covered. It'll stop it burning and make it taste nicer.

2 If you're cooking lots, you might need to take out the onions to have room to brown the meat, and you might need to brown the meat in batches. Whatever though.

3 This is called deglazing, it's how you make real gravy. You can use any tasty alcohol really and the sauce will take on the flavour of it. Certain things work better with others but you're generally safe with white wine and light ale. If you don't have any alcohol in your house you can go out and buy some. Or you can use water or stock.

4 Real cooks make their own stock from dead baby cows. However, if you just use vegetable Oxo cubes for everything you'll be fine. You also don't need 3 stock cubes per pint like they tell you. Also don't buy Sainsbury's basic stock. It's wrong.

5 They look like teabags. They aren't. You can buy them in the section of the supermarket which has one of those spring loaded spice racks that stops you from putting the jars back in after you take them out to have a look at what they are.

6 Making mashed potatoes, that's real cooking that is. That's not a blog entry, that's entire website.

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The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it. - Psalm 24:1