The thing that most people give as a reason why they don’t cook is that they don’t know what to make. Sounds obvious, but it’s true; we’re exposed to so much food from so many cultures these days that when we get home and think what we actually might want to cook for ourselves, the answer isn’t always forthcoming. The factor in, lack of time, lack of seasonality reflected in the supermarkets and an explosion of cheap places to eat out in London and no wonder that no one cooks anymore.
On the flipside to this, cooking usually leads to more cooking. Once you start getting good enough that your results are more than just palatable, feeling better as what you’ve cooked is fresh and doesn’t obtain unnecessarily high quantities of fats (as most restaurant food you eat out does) and have stuff in the fridge that needs to be used up, one meal leads to the next. Most of my meals start this way, thinking about the stuff I’ve made too much of and need to transform into something else, or find an accompaniment for to make another meal out of; things I’ve bought on a whim and just suddenly noticed un-opened at the back of the kitchen cupboard, or vegetables that are starting to wilt.
|as usual way better than it looks|
|Theresa loved this. I think the ladies generally love presentation more than us men|
|a bit like grape juice, but a bit like wine too..|
This meal was no exception. We had the sausages to use up and also to factor in that I’d made a mistake and overcooked them so they’d become slightly too tough to eat on their own. Then there is the change of season that is a natural suggestion for some kind of stew and the other factor was that we hadn’t bought that alcohol free red-wine that we’ve found in Waitrose for a while either. Suddenly we had a plan. Sausage stew quickly translated to cassoulet and found the rest of it’s side dishes quickly after as I was thinking of a french kind of meal; a vegan remoulade of celeriac, sautéed haricot-verts and the salad of chicory I give below. So that’s my thought processes for coming up with new ideas in the kitchen. Let me know of what gets you started if you feel inclined.
Slow Cook Cassoulet
1 cup haricot/cannelini beans
3 tbs olive oil
1 stick celery
2 seitan sausages cut into rough chunks see here
1 tbs tomato paste
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1 1/2 cups stock
1tsp mustard powder
1cup red wine
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp basil
salt and pepper
1. soak the haricot beans overnight and then place in a pan with plenty of water and cook for about an hour until soft – or 25 minutes in a pressure cooker if you have one.
2. Add a tablespoon of olive oil to a frying pan and sauté the celery until soft. Add the sausages and another tablespoon of the oil and over a medium heat brown the sausages for another 5 minutes. Add the tomato puree and stir for a minute until mixed.
3. Empty the contents of the pan into the slow cooker along with the rest of the ingredients (if you do not have a slow cooker, proceed over a low heat with a large saucepan, to cover and simmer for 1 hour).
4. If using the slow-cooker, turn setting to low, cover and cook for 5-6 hours, checking intermittently and topping liquids up with a little more wine or stock if it’s drying out.
A great side dish
2 heads chicory
handful of walnuts (lightly toasted)
2 tbs olive oil
1 tbs white wine vinegar
1 tsp mustard
1 tsp sugar
salt and pepper
chopped fresh parsley
1. wash and peel chicory and scatter the leaves over a wide plate.
2. Blend all the other ingredients, apart form the parsley and drizzle over the leaves.
3. Scatter the parsley and walnuts over the top and serve immediately.