Have sausages, will casserole (Pork and pigeon with root veg)

Pork and pidgeon sausage and root veg casserole served with rice cooked with borlotti beans

I’ve been quite busy recently…. which is not something I can complain about, but being a musician, being busy means being out at night (or out on tour), either of which seriously curtails your activities in the kitchen.

Even though eating in nice (and sometimes not so nice) restaurants can be a very agreeable way of life, after a while, I do start to feel a deep seated craving to make a homecooked meal, prepared at leisure, with a glass of wine at my side, listening to something good on the radio (apart from when I turn on the extractor fan, which tends to put paid to my being able to hear anything else going on…), and enjoying the anticipation of what’s to come.

So last Friday, I was unexpectedly and pleasantly surprised to hear that the gig I was supposed to be doing that evening had been cancelled at short notice, but with full pay, which effectively awarded me a paid day off (always a cause for a minor celebration).

My thoughts, of course, immediately turned to what I would cook with my newly acquired evening of leisure.
Seeing as summer seems to be well and truly over here (not that we had much of one anyway) I thought I’d prepare a rustic and comforting casserole using some pork and pigeon sausages I had stashed in the freezer for just such an occasion, and a variety of root vegetables from the local market.

Here’s what I did:

First I gathered all my veg ready for preparation:
Onion, leek, garlic, carrot, celery, parsnip, small turnips,  and beetroot.

Root vegetables at the ready

When all had been suitably peeled and chopped, I sweated them down in a little butter and oil:

Sweating down the veg

Fresh beetroot turns everything red, including my hands and the chopping board:

Red stains

As you can see above, I also added some bayleaves.
While the veg was sweating down, I browned off the sausages:

Browning the sausages

Then added the sausaged into the pan with the veg:

Add the sausages to the veg when suitably browned

Added a glass of red wine (a robust Italian Merlot in this case):

Add the wine

Added some beef stock (sadly not fresh stock this time, but from a cube, albeit an organic one with no MSG):

…and added a good few glugs of Worcestershire Sauce:

Add a few glugs of Worcestershire Sauce

Then stir gently, cover and leave to simmer for about 1 1/2 – 2 hours

Stir this then cover this and leave to simmer

About 15 mins before serving, I added a bunch of fresh sage:

Fresh sage

Chopped it finely and added it to the casserole. It was quite a lot of sage. Too much could make a dish bitter, but in this case there was so much sweetness from the root veg that it balanced out very nicely:

Add the sage to the casserole...

I made a simple rice dish with borlotti beans and herbs to serve this with. The sausages were extremely good. I always think pidgeon has a similar texture to lambs liver and I could detect this in the sausages. I always feel slightly cheated if I don’t find at least one piece of lead shot in my food while eating game. Luckily I found a bit (but didn’t bit on it…phew..).
The root veg, as said before, lent a delicious sweetness to the sauce. Beetroot is always a treat, and the small turnips were a revelation. They had a smell when raw that was ever so slightly horseradishy, and they kept their texture in the final casserole.

All in all a successful start to the autumn I think….

Served out with rice cooked with borlotti beans...

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A Tale Of Two Risottos

Mushroom risotto and risotto with chorizo, paprika picante, peas, courgettes and sage

It’s true what they say. It really is all in the stock.
Well, I’m not sure whether they do say that, or indeed who “they” are meant to be be, but I recently made two risottos that turned out to be the finest I’ve ever cooked by a long way (indeed, it was some of the most flavoursome food I’ve ever cooked, of any variety), and I’m pretty convinced it was largely down to the quality and depth of the stock.
Obviously, every time I  roast a chicken, I endeavour to make stock the next day. But the last time, I think I was going to away for a few days following, so I froze the carcass instead.
Then, there were a couple of barbecues where I grilled a generous quantity of chicken wings over charcoal, and I elected to save and freeze the bones from these also.
I also had a few uncooked chicken wings in the freezer.
So the other week, after a visit to the Farmer’s Market the previous Sunday, and picking up a collection of delicious mushrooms, I decided to make the stock and a nice risotto.
First thing was to make the stock, using the above mentioned chicken lefovers, 2 onions, 2 carrots, 2 sticks of celery, a few bay leaves and a handful of peppercorns.

Stock ingredients, assembled and ready for a good gentle simmer.

I brought this up to the gentlest of simmers, and then vacated the kitchen for about 7 hours. (I went out to a rehearsal actually, and forgot I had some stock on. This turned out to be a fortuitous mistake).
When I returned, I remembered I had left the stock on, so strained it and was left with this delicious and concentrated golden chickeny nectar:

The stock ready for use.

I then assembled the main ingredients for the risotto, namely mushrooms, parmesan cheese, onion and garlic.

Parmesan cheese, onion, garlic and mushrooms

Now, I didn’t bother to look up the various types of mushrooms, I’m vaguely aware of what some of them are, but if anyone would like to identify them for me on the comments, that would be appreciated.

I roughly chopped up most of the mushrooms, but reserved the darker slender bunch for garnish at the end.

Chopped mushrooms

The next step, before the cooking of the risotto proper was to saute the mushrooms in a little butter and olive oil (in a separate pan), and set them aside. The key here is to saute them just enough that they are cooked, but not so they start losing their water and juice content.

Sauteing the mushrooms

Now for the fun bit. First of all, put the stock in a pot and bring to a very gentle simmer on the stove. Don’t let it boil, as not only will this impair the flavour, but you want to reserve as much as possible, while keeping it hot and ready to ladle into the rice. When you’ve done this soften some butter and oil in a pan and gently saute the onions and garlic until soft, but be careful not to let them brown to much or burn. Then add the rice and saute for a couple of minutes. This process cracks the surface of the rice grains, and enables them to absorb the flavoursome stock later in the cooking process.

Sauteing the rice

When the rice has been sauteing for a couple of minutes, add a glass of white wine, in this case it was a crisp Pinot Grigio:

Add a glass of white wine.

When the wine has been absorbed by the rice it’s time to start adding the stock, one ladle at a time. The important thing here is to keep the rice moving constantly, so the stock is absorbed evenly, without the rice sticking to the bottom.

Adding the stock

I tend to stir in a rough “figure of eight” type pattern, as you can see from the action shot below. I find this keeps everything moving in a satisfactory manner.

Stirring

When the rice acquires a nice plump appearance, it’s almost done and time to add the mushrooms. If you taste a grain, it should be al dente but not quite done.

Rice almost done

Add the previously sauteed mushrooms at this stage and stir through.

Add the mushrooms

This is now the time to saute the mushrooms reserved for the garnish. I used the pan just vacated by the previously sauteed mushrooms….

Saute the garnish mushrooms

While these are sauteing away happily, add the grated parmesan cheese to the risotto and stir through:

Add the cheese...

Only after adding the cheese did I test and adjust for salt, seeing as the cheese adds so much salt from itself.
By this time the garnish mushrooms should be nicely browned, so take them off the heat.

Garnish mushrooms

All that’s left now is to serve up with a glass of the aforementioned crisp Pinot Grigio.
The risotto was everything you would expect: rich, creamy, unctuous, satisfying, comforting (I’m trying not to sound too much like Nigella or Nigel here)….

Risotto served...

A couple of days later, I still had half of the chicken stock left. It had been in the fridge, so now had taken on a jellified form. I had to exercise a considerable amount of willpower to stop myself from just eating it with a spoon.

Jellified chicken stock

When I had mastered my desire, I decided a suitable course to take to use the stock would be another risotto, but of a completely different nature to the previous one. I settled on chorizo with smoked paprika picante, with fresh peas, courgettes and a fried sage garnish.
You could argue I suppose that a risotto with chorizo and especially paprika in it is more of a Spanish than Italian dish, but I’m afraid I’m no great respecter of tradition where food is concerned. If I can use what’s in my fridge and make it tasty, I’ll make any ingredient from anywhere into any dish of any description.
First thing I did was to place the chorizo sausages in a separate pan for an initial browning, to make them easier to slice up:

Chorizo

Cooked them until they were this brown:

Browned chorizo

The sausages were then chopped and fried in a pan with onion and garlic, and to this I added a teaspoon of the delicious smoked paprika picante.

Fry the sliced chorizo with chopped onion and garlic, and add the smoked paprika picante..

When the paprika was fried for a minute or two, I took the pan off the heat and set my stock on to simmer:
I then prepared my veg. First shelled some nice fresh peas:

Shelled fresh peas

…and chopped some organic courgettes from the Farmer’s Market:

Chopped courgettes

I then put the pan containing the sausages back on the heat and added the rice. When the rice had received it’s initial frying, I again added a nice  glug of Pinot Grigio.

Add the wine

When the wine had been completely absorbed by the rice, I added the peas and courgettes, and started to stir in the stock:

Adding the stock

This time I did take a break of a few seconds while stirring in order to chop some fresh sage.
I chopped most of the leaves and reserved a few to fry for the garnish.

Fresh sage

When the rice was pretty much done, I added in the fresh sage:

Adding the fresh sage...

While the sage was warming through the risotto, I fried the remaining leaves in a little olive oil for a garnish until crisp. This only takes a few seconds:

Frying the sage...

The Risotto was now ready to serve out, garnished with the sage and, again, a glass of the afore mentioned Pinot Grigio.
It was wholly delicious, the chorizo adding an earthy meaty flavour to the already rich chicken stock with the peas and courgettes retaining a freshness and the sage a very agreeable subtle crunch.

The risotto served out....

I can say one thing for sure at the end of all this. It’s worth freezing your chicken bones… 🙂