Monday 18 December 2017

Recipes: All in a Stew

All in a stew Casseroles provide a hearty and complete meal in the one pot and, as Rachel Allen explains, there's a recipe to suit all tastes and occasions. Photography by Tony Gavin

Rachel Allen
Rachel Allen
Bean and sausage casserole.

Rachel Allen

There is a stew of different reasons why I love meals made in just one pot. I know I'm not alone in the huge relief at the prospect of only washing that one pot. It's not just the washing up, though -- there's also the ease of only having to taste and season just one dish.

Plus, it's a lot simpler to have the whole meal ready when just one dish is used, rather than coordinating an assortment of different side dishes.

Some of these recipes can even be made a day or two ahead, which makes cooking the whole meal on the day just a matter of heating everything up. That's real convenience food.

Sausages may be the ultimate comfort food. I can't think of many more delicious things to eat than a piece of brown, sticky sausage that you've prised from the pan.

I made the bean and sausage recipe opposite on a blustery east Cork evening. It's sort of a simple cassoulet, without the hassle or expense of duck confit. The sausages I use in it vary. Sometimes, I'll use just one type of sausage and, at other times, I'll include two or three different kinds. O'Flynn & Sons Master Butchers -- see    Rachel Recommends -- make duck-liver sausages that would work wonderfully in this recipe.

If I'm using just normal breakfast sausages, I'll also include kabanossi or chorizo sausages in the total weight, as they'll bring extra flavour. Of course, for a meat-free version, this recipe is also delicious without sausages. The trick with this recipe is in some aggressive seasoning. Lots of fresh herbs with enough salt, freshly ground black pepper and sugar all help to bring it to life. It will taste even better reheated the next day.

My beef and red wine hotpot is good for fuelling your inner radiator. The rich stew and gravy is brightened with a little vinegar, and it's all soaked up by the sliced potatoes on top. Cooked in the oven, the potatoes turn golden and crisp. It's deceptively simple, and a delicious winter warmer.

Not all one-pot meals have to be rich, hearty stews. I adore the duck recipe, opposite, which caramelises the onions and uses gorgeous duck fat to make perfectly crunchy potatoes. The turnips are not essential, but they go so well with duck's meaty flavour. Use the smallest turnips you can find for the best flavour.

Bean and sausage casserole
Serves 6-8.

For the bean and sausage casserole, you will need:

  • 400g (14oz) dried haricot beans, or 3 x 400g (14oz) tins of cooked haricot beans
  • Olive oil for frying
  • 8 large sausages, about 600g (1¼lb) in total, cut into 4cm (1½in) chunks
  • 3 large red onions, sliced into wedges through the root
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon each of fresh thyme and rosemary, chopped
  • 2 tins of tomatoes, chopped
  • 3-4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar

For the breadcrumb topping, you will need:

  • 150g (5oz) breadcrumbs -- see my Tip, above
  • 20g (4 tablespoons) fresh herbs, such as parsley, chives, rosemary and thyme, chopped
  • 40g (1½oz) grated cheese (use whatever bits of delicious, leftover cheese you have in the fridge, or something like cheddar)

If you're using dried haricot beans, put them in a bowl and cover them well with cold water. Allow them to soak for at least 6 hours, or overnight. Drain the beans, then place them in a saucepan and cover them with water again.

Place on a medium-to-high heat, bring to the boil and allow to simmer until the beans are nice and soft. Don't drain the water -- it has great flavour and will be used later.

While the beans are cooking, put a large saucepan or casserole on a high heat and add a small drizzle of olive oil. Tip in the sausages and cook them for a few minutes, until they're light golden all over. Tip the sausages onto a plate and set aside, leaving any oil in the pot.

Next, add in the onion wedges and the finely chopped garlic, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, then turn down the heat to allow the onions to cook slowly, until they're tender and a little golden -- about 8-10 minutes.

Next, add in the browned sausages, the chopped fresh thyme and the chopped fresh rosemary, the tins of chopped tomatoes, the sugar, the red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar, whichever you're using, and the cooked beans and all the cooking water. If you're using tinned beans, add a canful of water along with the beans and all the liquid.

Turn the heat to high, bring to the boil, then turn the heat down so that the whole mixture can simmer, uncovered, for about 30-40 minutes, stirring regularly. When it's ready, the tomatoes will have softened completely, the beans will have absorbed lots of flavour from the rest of the dish and the liquid will have reduced a bit, so that the beans and sausages are just peeping out of the surface of the liquid. If the mixture is too dry, just add a little water. If it's too saucy, keep it simmering, uncovered, for a bit longer.

To make the topping, in a bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs, the chopped herbs and the grated cheese. Taste the tomato-and-bean mixture, adding more seasoning or red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar, whichever you're using, if necessary. The mixture can be made in advance up to this point. It will also freeze well. When you're ready to serve, scatter the breadcrumb mixture over the hot stew and place it either under a hot grill or in a very hot oven (230°C, 450°F, Gas 8) for about 5-15 minutes, until the breadcrumbs are golden and toasted on top. Serve on warmed plates or in shallow bowls.

Pot-roast duck legs with onions and root vegetables
Serves 4.

You will need:

  • ½ tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 duck legs, excess fat removed, but with the skin left on
  • 4 onions, peeled and halved through the root, each half then cut lengthways into 4 wedges
  • 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 floury potatoes, peeled and cut into 2cm (¾in) dice
  • 6 small white turnips, peeled and cut into 1-2cm (½-¾in) dice
  • A splash of white wine
  • 100ml (3½fl oz) chicken stock

Preheat the oven to 200°C, 400°F, Gas 6.

Pour the olive oil into a large casserole dish or an oven-proof saucepan with a lid and place it on a medium heat. When it's hot, add the duck legs, skin-side down, followed by the onion wedges, the sprigs of fresh thyme, and some salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Cook for 4-5 minutes, or until the duck-leg skin is a rich golden brown, then tip in the diced potatoes and the diced turnips.

Cover with a lid and cook in the oven for 1-1¼ hours, by which time the onions should be golden, and the root vegetables and duck cooked through and tender.

Divide between four plates, then place the pan on the stove and, on a high heat, add a splash of white wine, allow it to bubble for a minute, then add the chicken stock. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper, then pour it over the duck and vegetables, and serve immediately.

Beef and red wine hotpot
Serves 6.

You will need:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 250g (9oz) button mushrooms, halved (or quartered, if they are large)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 small onions, peeled and sliced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1.5kg (3lb 5oz) stewing beef, cut into 6cm (2½ in) chunks
  • 150ml (5fl oz) red wine
  • 100ml (3½fl oz) beef or chicken stock
  • 3 teaspoons rosemary leaves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 650g (1lb 7oz) floury potatoes, peeled and cut into 5mm (¼in) thick slices
  • 25g (1oz) butter, diced

Preheat the oven to 150°C, 300°F, Gas 2.

Pour the olive oil into a large casserole dish or an oven-proof saucepan with a lid, and put on a medium-high heat. When it's hot, add the halved or quartered mushrooms. Season with some salt and freshly ground black pepper, then toss for 2-3 minutes, or until the mushrooms are lightly golden. Remove the mushrooms from the pan and set aside, leaving any oil behind in the pan.

If there isn't much oil left in the pan, add another tablespoon of olive oil. Tip in the sliced onions and the finely chopped garlic, stir over the heat, then season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook for 4-5 minutes, or until the onions and garlic start to turn golden at the edges.

Add the chunks of stewing beef, the red wine, the beef stock or chicken stock, whichever you're using, plus 2 teaspoons of the chopped rosemary leaves. Bring to the boil, then cover with a lid and place in the oven to cook for 1¼--1½ hours, or until the meat is just tender.

Take the pan out of the oven and turn up the heat to 230°C, 450°F, Gas 8.

Stir in the fried mushrooms and the red wine vinegar, then add the potato slices, arranging them over the beef in the pan -- it's fine if there's more than one layer. Scatter over the remaining chopped rosemary leaves, season with some salt and freshly ground black pepper, then dot with the diced butter.

Place the hotpot back in the (now hotter) oven and bake for a further 30-40 minutes, or until the potatoes are cooked through and beginning to turn golden. Bring to the table and serve.


  • Rachel's clothes, Brown Thomas
  • Jewellery, Loulerie
  • Make-up by Roisin Derrane for Lancome using the Lancome Spring 2014 Colour Collection
  • Hair by Jennifer Lil Buckley for Brown Sugar

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