Tag Archives: one-pot meal

Melanzane, all the flavours of the Mediterranean.

15 Mar

  My daughter-in-law is vegetarian and I am always on the look out for tasty vegetarian recipes.  The funny thing is that, since I have started doing this, my husband has started eating vegetarian meals and loving them.  I never thought I would see the day.  This recipe is an excellent example of a meal Terry can’t get enough of.  He loved it so much the first time we had it, that he ate the leftovers for lunch on the next two days.  That’s another thing that is unheard of!

I’m not sure what I like best about this meal.  It’s a bit fiddley to make but, once all the layers are prepared, takes second to put together.  It’s a meal in itself, just eat it with crusty bread.  It warms up well and I have even frozen it successfully.  Best of all though, is the creamy taste of the cheese sauce as it melds with the tomatoes and aubergines.  Mmm!

The dish is from Southern Italy.  There are numerous recipes for it, you will find one in almost all Italian cookbooks and I have seen a few over the years in the cooking journals I subscribe to.  I can’t remember where I saw this recipe as it was so long ago, but I have made it numerous times, at home and on holiday, and it always turns out the same, delicious.  If you are trying to watch the calories I believe it will turn out just as well if you make the sauce with semi-skimmed milk and use half fat cheddar.  There is very little fat in the remainder of the dish as the aubergines are blanched rather than fried.  As they absorb so much fat when fried, this will automatically make the dish lower in fat and healthier.

Aubergines are a common ingredient in Mediterranean cooking so it would be easy to assume they originated there.  Not so!  Aubergines are native to India and it is thought it was introduced to the Mediterranean area by the Arabs in the Middle Ages.  There are numerous varieties.   The most common in Europe and North America is the large, deep purple variety.  In Thai they prefer the small berry type, sometimes green and sometimes pale purple.  Indian cuisine favours the small round or long thin purple fruit.  The seeds are bitter as they contain nicotinoid alkaloids, not surprisingly as it is related to the tobacco plant.  At one time aubergines were thought to be poisonous as they are related to the Nightshade family but in India they use it daily in cooking and even grind it to a paste to help heal wounds.

Anyway, to the recipe.

Melanzane

  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 2 large garlic clove, crushed
  • 700g jar passata
  • 6 ripe tomatoes, skinned and deseeded
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1tsp caster sugar
  • 2 large aubergines, thinly sliced into rounds
  • 500ml/1 pt cheese sauce (bought or home-made)
  • 100g Parmesan, grated.
  1. Preheat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6.
  2. Make the tomato sauce by heat oil in a deep frying pan and frying the onions for 4 minutes until softened.  Add the garlic and cook for a couple more minutes, making sure it does not burn.  Add passata, chopped tomatoes, oregano and sugar.  Bring to boil and remove immediately from the heat.  Set aside.
  3. Make the cheese sauce (if using) by adding 2oz/50g butter, 1.5 oz/37g plain flour and 500 ml/1pt milk in a pan over a medium heat.  Whisk continually until the sauce thickens.  Add 4oz/100g grated cheddar cheese and 1 tsp English Mustard.  Set aside.
  4. Blanch the aubergine slices in a large pan of boiling salted water for about 5 minutes until softened but still holding their shape.  Drain onto kitchen paper.
  5. To assemble the dish, place half the tomato sauce in the bottom of a ovenproof dish.  Arrange half the aubergines on top then drizzle with the cheese sauce.  Sprinkle with cheese.  Repeat ending with the remaining cheese sauce and grated parmesan.
  6. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes until golden and bubbling.

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Lancashire Hotpot – no bones about it!

13 Apr

I absolutely love slow cooked meals with good, hearty ingredients of meat, vegetables and potatoes.  Lancashire hotpot is one such meal.  I have seen many recipes for this dish, in fact some have said that finding two cooks who will agree on what should go in a Lancashire hotpot is about as easy as finding a straight-talking politician. There is even disagreement about whether the basic meat included should be lamb or beef.  Most recipes, however, use lamb and this is usually on the bone which, personally, I think makes for messy eating and is almost impossible for small children to get their heads around.  One thing I do believe, is that the cheap cuts of lamb definitely have the sweetest meat and they are great for feeding a family on a low-budget.  I have made this recipe for many years, using either breast of lamb or neck chops, but you will find no bones, just tender chunks of sweet tasting meat.  I thought I would try to find out a little about the origins of Lancashire hotpot.

There is a fair amount of controversy about the origins of this dish but, in the main, the experts seem to concur that this was born from peasant food, used to fill the stomachs of hard-working industrial workers.  Given their finances, even this would probably have been a rare treat at the table.  In the days when cotton was king in towns throughout Lancashire, tall brown earthenware pots would be left on the range to simmer gently, the slow cooking getting the best out of cheap cuts of meat, using the embers of the last night’s fire. If properly assembled the dish needed no attention until the workers returned hungry from their labours. The whole family would be working long shifts in the mills, even the small children earning a few pennies a day there, so the dish was ideal for them.  The traditional meat was mutton, best-end of neck, middle neck, or even scrag end, from sheep farmed on the uplands of Lancashire since time immemorial. It is a sign of the times that mutton is now rarely sold, so modern-day hotpot is usually made from lamb.  Years ago, oysters, once the food of the poor in Britain, seasoned the gravy and gave it a more gelatinous texture, as well as adding cheap protein.  Today these have been replaced by kidneys.  Whatever the recipe this dish continues to be a firm favourite in Lancashire and now, made famous perhaps by Betty’s hotpot in Coronation Street, all over the UK.

Here is my version, made many, many times and has yet to fail.  If you have stock left over from stewing the lamb freeze it in rigid containers for another time.  Don’t worry about the kidneys, you will not know they are in the finished dish and they give the gravy an incredible flavour.  If you don’t want to go to the trouble of cooking the breast of lamb you could use left over roast lamb, cut into bite sized slices and make the lamb stock using a stock cube.

Lancashire hotpot                                 Serves 4

  • 1 breast of lamb or 4 large neck chops
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 lambs kidneys, core removed and finely chopped
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 2 tsp cornflour
  • 3/4 pt lamb stock (reserved from cooking the breast or neck chops)
  • 1 beef stock cube (not Oxo as it is too strong)
  • 1 tsp Worcester sauce
  • 1 tbsp thyme, leaves only
  • 2 lb potatoes (Maris Piper or Desiree are good), peeled and thinly sliced
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  1. Put the breast or neck chops of lamb into a large pan.  Barely cover with water and add two bay leaves.  Bring to the boil, cover and then simmer for about 1 hour or until the meat is falling off the bones.  Remove the meat and reserve the stock.  When the meat has cooled, remove the lean meat from the bones of the chops or, if using breast of lamb, from between the layers of fat and sinew.  Layer the meat in the bottom of an ovenproof dish.
  2. Preheat the oven to 170C/160C fan/gas 3.
  3. Heat the vegetable oil in a large, non-stick frying pan.  Fry the kidneys for 1 minute then add the onions.  Stir and fry slowly over a low heat for about 10 minutes until the onions are softened and just turning colour.  Stir in the stock, Worcester sauce, stock cube,and thyme.  Mix the cornflour with a little cold water and slowly stir into the onion gravy.  Season well, bring to the boil then pour over the meat.
  4. Top the onions with a layer of potatoes, overlapping them slightly.  Push the potatoes down a little so they become coated with stock.  Cover with foil and bake in the oven for 1-1.5 hours or until the potatoes are tender.  Remove the foil, turn the oven up to 200C/180C/gas 6 and continue cooking for a further 10-30 minutes or until the potatoes are brown.

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