Casseroles – Perfect comfort food for this cold weather

The weather has turned cold and although we don’t have the blanket of snow we had this time last year, thoughts still turn to the right kind of food when there is a chill in the air. Casseroles are the perfect comfort food whether it is beef, lamb or pork, since you are in the house anyhow, are really easy. Just brown your meat, add your veg and liquid and then into the oven until it is meltingly tender. I always make twice the recipe below and freeze one batch for a day when I’m feeling really lazy. This weekend we were having a gang over so I made it with rib of beef and it was delicious. I took all the veg out and reduced the sauce to make the dish a little more refined. Served with a gratin of Swede and sweet potato, buttered carrots and Savoy cabbage with lardons, the dish was delicious and all the plates were practically licked clean. To test that the meat is done, after about 1.5 hours I take a piece of meat out on to a chopping board. If I can pull it apart easily it is done, if not back into the oven.

Oven at 150 Deg Fan
Serves 6

3 lbs rib of beef cut into 2” chunks.
(Alternatively you could use lamb shoulder or pork)
Oil for frying
3 carrots peeled and chopped
3 Shallots peeled and roughly chopped
5 garlic cloves crushed
1 bunch thyme (and rosemary if using lamb)
2 tins chopped tomatoes
1 bay leaf
13 fl oz veal stock if using beef or lamb stock (if you have it) when using beef
110ml red wine
3 handfuls Flat leaf parsley chopped finely

In heavy pan heat the oil over high heat until smoking and add your seasoned meat in batches and sear until caramelised on all sides. Remember brown = flavour so do brown all sides. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Add the vegetables, garlic and herbs, season and cook for 5 minutes until the shallots are slightly translucent. Moderate the heat under the pot if it gets too hot.
Add the wine and reduce until a glaze.
Return the meat to the pot and add the chopped tomatoes and stock.
Bring to the boil and transfer to preheated oven or cook at a gently simmer on the hob (covered) for about 1.5 hours. Keep cooking if not meltingly tender as I describe above. Do check from time to time and remove any scum which rises to the top of your cooking pot. You can serve with the veg it cooks in, however I like to strain the cooking liquid, reserving the meat pieces only. Reduce the meat sauce on the hob by boiling uncovered until it is a consistency I like. Then I return the meat to the pot and if needed bring meat up to hot temperature and serve. Sprinkle over some chopped flat leaf parsley just before serving.
If freezing some, spread it out on a flat tray to cool quickly and when cool pop into freezer bags, date and pop into the freezer to enjoy at a later stage. Im thinking this will be great on a day over Christmas when no one feels like doing any cooking.

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