Monday, 25 June 2012

Snags! And other super-simple suppers

Well, we're off on our holidays next week - very excited, we haven't been away for a week as a family since 2008... And we were only a family of 3 then. So, the four of us are heading off to Schull (or "Pirate-Schull", as the girls have christened it) for a week with my brother and his family.  We are planning a long stop in Cork, as a "half way" post; I've promised the girls a MacDonalds and promised Himself a trip around the English market to stock up on olives and sun-dried tomatoes and parmasean cheese shavings and other spurious items we don't really need but which are essential for sipping white wine on holiday. 
We're very much looking forward to it, but I thought it was a good opportunity to get to grips with the freezer (I've been feeling guilty about this since Margaret's stock-takes and list making). I reckoned there had to be at least one dinner in there for the girls, that I could use for the big "travel day" - they'll want something when they arrive, and I will feel the need for it be something reasonably nutritious as a sop to my conscience after the MacDonalds! I'm sure there's a freezer bag with a natty label telling me that's there's 2 kid sized portions of bolognaise contained within...

Well, yes - that is what I found. I also found a good few unlabeled UFOs (Unidentified Frozen Objects) so Himself and I will be having a couple of mystery dinners this week. Some of the labels have quite old dates - at least a year. Oh well, I'm strong and young(ish) so I'll risk it. And several bags containing one chicken leg or thigh - they'll be useful too. And what's this ... Woo Hoo! A packet of Aldi "Garlic & Herb sausages". Excellent. I know exactly what to do with them; sausage and bean bake. 

I got this recipe originally from my friend Linda, and I read and thought, "ah no, not really". Then, on one of those recipe exchange chain emails (you might have seen them, you get the first mail from a friend, who has copied another friend in the CC line - some one you don't know. You send on a recipe to this random person), I get this recipe back again, this time from Linda's sister I think. Finally I decide there must be something in this, if everyone in a whole family is wittering on about how good is it (and I know Linda is an excellent cook, by the way). Anyhow, I tried it. I was seriously impressed. It really is the ultimate store cupboard dinner - a tin of tomatoes, a glug of Worcestershire sauce, a pack of sausages that you could get at the corner shop or local garage... This is a really handy recipe to have for that for the day you come home from holidays and the cupboards are bare (DAMMIT! I didn't think this one through, did I?!) It's also the ultimate moveable feast of a dinner, the first day I made it I had neither a tin of any sort of beans (well, I had both kidney and baked beans but I just didn't think they'd work!) and also no garlic. I substituted a sweet red pepper instead (you know them, the ones that look like a chili pepper on a huge amount of steroids) and it was delicious. Himself was in seventh heaven, he is half German and his love for the sausage is boundless, in any shape or form. 

So, back to my snags, as Himself calls them. These Aldi garlic ones are quite strong, but I think they'll be excellent in the casserole. I always have a tin of tomatoes, and I'm sure I have a tin of some sort of cannellini or borlotti beans or similar (since that day I was caught out).

I can't wait - I am going to be so popular, the brownie points I'm going to get when Himself gets home and finds out that it's snags for tea!

Here's the recipe; it is, I think, via Rachel Allen (I saw it in a friend's recipe book when I was flicking through it) originally, but this is Linda's take, and mine too. Enjoy, it's a great one that even fussy kids will enjoy - I mean, who doesn't love a snag?!

Sausage Bean Bake
·         Glug olive oil
·         1 onion peeled and sliced
·         3 cloves garlic crushed
·         salt & pepper
·         400g tin chopped tomatoes
·         410g tin haricot beans,66 draineded
·         few pinches sugar
·         8oz sausages, 12 pack
·         glug Worcester sauce

1.         Brown all sausages in pan, finish with glug or Worchester sauce in pan, remove cut in slices, set aside
2.         Add garlic and onion to pan, cover and cook 5-8- mins, add tomatoes and beans, boil, taste, season with sugar, salt, pepper
3.         Add sausages to mixture, then tip into pie dish and bake for 40 mins @ 180°C, can top with grated cheese and breadcrumbs mixed with a little melted butter, or add water if it seems a bit dry (I do it in a frying pan with a lid, which stops it drying out - take the lid off 5 mins before the end and sprinkle the topping on, if using, and brown under the grill till the cheese has melted)
This meal is a complete “moveable feast”. The first time I made it, as per note above, I had neither garlic nor beans, so I added in sweet red peppers. It’s gorgeous made with “fancy” sausages, but it’s a great store cupboard dinner as it’s just as good made with a pack of Denny’s from the corner shop. And I never have tinned haricot beans, so I usually use cannellini beans instead – I’ve been known to use a tin of chick peas. I usually serve this with pasta

And here's another one for you, slightly healthier in that it doesn't have the fat content of the sausages. It's a Darina Allen recipe from her "Simply Delicious Fish" book ... first made for me by my Dad, it's a truly delicious meal that you could serve to anyone and it is really the easiest dinner in the world; quite literally you poach the fish and make a vinaigrette. That's it. 
It is suggested as a starter, but we usually have it as a main course (3-course dinners not being that commonplace round ours of an evening!) served with vegetables and potatoes. You can also use any firm white fish - for a more "mid-week" version, I usually use hake or cod (hake is very cheap and often on offer at the fresh fish counter in SuperValu, and we've already discussed in previous posts how cheap the cod from Lidl is!)

Monkfish with Red Pepper Vinaigrette
(Darina Allen, “Simply Delicious Fish”, pg. 51)
Serves 4 – 6, as a starter
·         12oz / 340g monkfish fillets cut into ½ inch chunks (we used 600g for 3 adults as a main course)
·         ½ red pepper, diced
·         4 tablespoons good olive oil
·         2 tablespoons sunflower or rapeseed oil
·         2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
·         Salt, pepper & sugar to taste
·         Finely chopped chives

1.       Put the diced pepper flesh and vinaigrette ingredients into a bowl and mix well together. Taste for seasoning and keep in a warm place
2.       Steam or poach the fish in boiling salted water til just cooked (1 teaspoon of salt to 2 pints of water). Watch carefully – it should take about 4-5 minutes. The fish should look white and no longer opaque.
3.       Drain the fish on kitchen paper and place in hot plates. Spoon the vinaigrette over and sprinkle with the chopped chives. Serve immediately

Sorry for the lack of pictures - I've yet to actually cook anything today. But give these two a go, they are both quick and easy and nutritious meals, perfect for busy families and harrassed mums

Sarah xx

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