Old Fashioned Lamb Chop Casserole

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.

Lamb chop casserole

  • 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
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C
  2. Season the plain flour with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper
  3. Heat the oil in a large frypan
  4. 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
  5. Once all the chops are done, add a splash more oil and brown off the onion and garlic
  6. 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
  7. 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
  8. 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.
  9. 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
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. Serve with peas.
  13. This makes enough to feed an army.

Ode to Nigella 21 – Bread-sauce-flavoured Potato Gratin

The gratin dauphinois I normally make has been in my repertoire for almost 20 years. Parting with it to try something new, even if it was a Nigella recipe, was a big tall order. But I did it. To be honest, the extra steps in this (in terms of the onion, cloves etc) did not really change the flavour that dramatically, so my original will stand this test of time.

Bread-sauce-flavoured Potato Gratin

  • 500ml full-fat milk
  • 500ml pouring cream
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves
  • 1tsp blade mace (or 1/2 tsp ground mace)
  • 3-4 bay leaves
  • 1tbs Maldon sea salt
  • 2kg floury potatoes
  1. Preheat the oven to 220c and lightly grease a large baking dish
  2. Put the milk and cream in a large saucepan
  3. Peel the onion, cut in half and stick one of the cloves in each half
  4. Add onion to the milk and bring nearly to the boil
  5. Turn off heat and leave to infuse
  6. Peel the potatoes and cut into 1cm slices
  7. Put potatoes into the milk, return to the heat and bring to the boil with the lid on
  8. Lower heat to a simmer and cook until potatoes are tender but not disintegrating
  9. Fish out the onions and blades of mace
  10. Pour the potatoes into the baking dish with the liquid and cook for about 15 minutes until the potato is bubbling and browned
  11. Let it stand out of the oven for 10 minutes before serving (lets the sauce settle down and thicken).

Delicious with any roast meat whatsoever.

Ode to Nigella 14 – heaven and earth mash

Seriously, I think the name of this dish is even OTT for Nigella. The nutmeg was also a really good idea and lifted the dish to a new level. With the zest I just put bit shaved bits of zest in and pulled them out when I was mashing the rest, the recipe was a bit unclear if that was right or if it was meant to be finely grated. I didn’t have time to dwell on it. In fact, I’d probably add another apple. The amount of butter and cream is just ridiculous and yes, it did taste lovely, but I’m not one for saturated fat just for the sake of saturated fat. Would I make this again? Most definitely. But I would at least halve the amount of butter and cream. At least.

Heaven and earth mash

  • 2.5kg floury potatoes
  • 3 eating apples (Nigella used Pink Ladies, I used Granny Smiths)
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 150g butter
  • 175ml double cream
  • 1tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  1. Peel and halve (or quarter if they’re really large) potatoes and cook in salted boiling water for 30 minutes.
  2. Add the peeled, cored and quartered apples and lemon ride and cook for another 20 minutes or until soft.
  3. Drain and put through a ricer or mash back into the hot pan in which you have let the butter melt with the cream while you are draining the apples and potatoes.
  4. Add the nutmeg and season with some salt
  5. Beat everything together and serve.

In the recipe Nigella talks about the two critical components to good mash – one is to puree them and the second is to aerate them. So, even though it’s all been mashed, you have to give it a good beating with a wooden spoon before serving.

She talks about how never ever make mash in a processor as it does something to the potato starch that means you end up with glue. I went through a phase of making mash in the processor because I liked that claggy glue silken smooth mash that you got, so there you go. Take from that what you will.

This serves 10 – and I’d believe it.

Potato Dauphinois

The first time I made this I was throwing a dinner party for ten friends from school. It was 1988 and I would throw dinner parties for me and all my 15 year old friends. Seriously, there were things I’d cook back then I could never be bothered to even try and attempt now. This is not one of them. Sure there’s the whole farnarkling of cutting up the potatoes, but really, it’s worth it in the end.

Gratin Dauphinoise

  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 500ml milk
  • 500ml thickened cream
  • 2kg potatoes, cut into 1cm slices
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  1. Preheat oven to 190C
  2. Butter a large ceramic baking dish
  3. Bring the garlic, milk and cream to the boil
  4. Add the seasonings and potatoes – cook until potatoes are soft but not falling apart
  5. Layer the potatoes in the baking dish, pour over the cream mix
  6. Bake for around 30 minutes.

Nigella Lawson’s Roasted Potatoes in Goose Fat

The best roast potatoes EVER
Granted, I didn’t use the 700g or so of goose fat Nigella recommended, just several good lugs of olive oil, but OH MY, these were so good. (I have since made it with the 700g of duck fat and DEAR GOD it should be a crime for potatoes to taste that good.)

  1. Preheat the oven to the hottest it can be, with the tray you’re going to use in it.
  2. Peel about 1.5kg of potatoes and cut them into thirds, on an angle. As in, imagine the potato lying on the cutting board in front of you. Then cut on an angle from the middle down to the left and down to the right, so you get three pieces.
  3. Put in a saucepan with cold salted water. Bring to the boil and cook for 4 minutes.
  4. Put the oil or goosefat into the tray and let it get nice and hot.
  5. Drain the potatoes well.
  6. Add 2 tablespoons of semolina to the potatoes.
  7. Put the lid back on and give the saucepan a good shake.
  8. Carefully tip the potatoes into the hot oil.
  9. Cook for about an hour, turning after about 25 minutes.

I could seriously have eaten the entire lot on my own.