So my mum used to cook. Then she got divorced, had to go back to work and basically raise two kids on her own so she stopped. It all happened around the time I discovered that I liked to cook, which was fortuitous. Even so, my mum doesn’t eat much – like pasta, tomatoes, chilli, anything with spices and so on and so forth.
That said, she makes a vegetable barley soup and a chop casserole I can never match.
But with a recent pocket of cooler weather I desperately needed a casserole, so attempt it I did. And lo, it came to pass that it was delicious.
Now the amounts below are, I confess, a bit of a guess. Casseroles are a moveable feast as far as I’m concerned, sometimes featuring a tin of tomatoes, sometimes some beer of some sort, sometimes mushrooms, you get the picture. So use the following as a lose guide rather than some ‘to be followed to the letter’. I’m just saying is all.
- 6 – 8 lamb loin chops
- a piled heap of plain flour
- olive oil
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic, sliced
- 2 heaped tblsp tomato paste
- glass of red (or white) wine
- 1.5 litres of water or stock
- 4 potatoes (depending on size) halved or quartered depending on size
- 2 carrots, cut into chunks or thick fingers
- handful or two of fresh herbs of choice, chopped
- Preheat the oven to 180C
- Season the plain flour with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper
- Heat the oil in a large frypan
- Dust the chops in the flour and sear in the frypan until you get good colour on them. Do this is batches and place the browned chops in a deep casserole dish as you go, throwing in some of the potatoes and carrots as you go
- Once all the chops are done, add a splash more oil and brown off the onion and garlic
- Pour the wine into the frypan and let it come to a rapid boil as you scrape all the bits off the bottom of the pan into the winey oniony garlicky juices
- Scatter over a good heaped tablespoon or two of the flour that you were using to coat the chops and cook off for a minute or two
- Then add the stock in batches, stirring madly as you do so it doesn’t go lumpy. Never fear if it does, I’ve been known to take the whole lumpy mess and dump it into a jug and then blitz with the stick blender, then pour back into the pan as if nothing ever happened.
- Somewhere in here add the tomato paste – sometimes I add it to the onions to cook it off a bit, sometimes I forget completely and just stir it in once I’ve got the gravy well underway
- Add the herbs and cook for a little while – the trick here is that you don’t want it too thick nor too runny. But you know what? So long as it tastes good, it doesn’t really matter.
- So, put the lid on, bang the whole thing in the oven and leave it there for at least two hours. The other day the one pictured above had almost four and the meat was just dissolving, which I find absolutely divine. In this instance I’d made a cartouche (sp?) of a piece of baking paper I had wet and scrunched up and then placed over the top of the casserole before putting the lid on. No idea if it made a difference but I felt fancy pants doing so.
- Serve with peas.
- This makes enough to feed an army.