There's nothing like a bowlful of steaming-hot stew to beat the winter blues. When it's grey and drizzling outside, I adore having a pot of something soothing and delicious bubbling away.
he sausage and bean casserole is comfortingly simple, and has a delicious crunch from the olive oil croutons, along with the verdant kick of kale and hazelnut pesto. This is a casserole worth making extra batches of, so you can pop them into the freezer to savour on another rainy day.
The pork and coriander stew has such delicious flavour. The red wine and sherry vinegar bring with them a zingy richness that complements the pork beautifully. Make sure to cook it low and slow to get the best, most succulent result from the meat. Don't be tempted to cook it too quickly, and remember to reduce the oven temperature to 145°C if you're cooking it in a fan-assisted oven.
Stewed plums always remind me of cosy Sunday lunches when I was little. They are divine with whatever delicious custard you can get your hands on, but if you fancy making your own, then I recommend this gorgeous saffron-infused creme anglaise, also far right, that'll transport you to sunny climes in one taste.
If you have a few hours to cook the pork and coriander casserole, then you could reduce the heat to 140°C, 280°F, Gas 1 and let it stew away slowly. It could take up to four hours, but it will be meltingly tender when it is cooked.
Sausage and bean casserole with kale and hazelnut pesto
For the pesto, you will need:
• 60g hazelnuts
• 75g kale (stalks removed - weigh after removed), roughly chopped
• 1 clove of garlic, crushed
• 30g finely grated hard cheese (such as a mature Kylemore, Coolea, or parmesan)
• 200ml extra-virgin olive oil, plus an extra 25ml
• Small pinch of salt
For the rustic croutons, you will need:
• 1 small loaf of ciabatta or sourdough or white yeast bread (a few days old if possible)
• 75ml-100ml extra-virgin olive oil
• Sea salt flakes
For the casserole, you will need:
• 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 8 large butcher's sausages
• 3 onions, halved and sliced
• 2 cloves of garlic, crushed or finely grated
• Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 2 x 400g tins of tomatoes, chopped
• 2 x 400g tins of haricot beans, drained
• 300ml chicken stock
• A sprig of rosemary
• 2 teaspoons sugar
1 First, make the pesto. Put the hazelnuts on a tray and roast them in the oven preheated to 200°C, 400°F, Gas 6 for 5-6 minutes until the nuts are a light-golden colour under their skins. Put them into a tea towel, rub the nuts to loosen the skins, then pick out the nuts and discard the skins. Leave the oven on at the same temperature, as you will need it to cook the croutons.
2 Put the roughly chopped kale in a food processor. Blend it for a minute or so until the kale is quite fine, then add the crushed garlic, the peeled roasted hazelnuts and the finely grated hard cheese, and blend again until fine.
3 Add the 200ml of extra-virgin olive oil, taste and add a small pinch of salt if necessary. Pour the pesto into a sterilised jar, then bang the jar on the worktop to remove any air bubbles. Pour the 25ml of extra-virgin olive oil into the jar, cover it with a lid and put in the fridge. This pesto will keep in the fridge for 6 months.
4 To make the rustic croutons, break the bread into chunks approximately 3cm-4cm in size. Put them in a bowl and drizzle them with the extra-virgin olive oil, and season with the sea salt flakes. Spread the seasoned bread pieces out on a tray and cook them for 5-8 minutes in the preheated oven until they are a light golden colour.
5 To make the casserole, drizzle a tablespoon of the extra-virgin olive oil in a saucepan on a low-to-medium heat and add the sausages. Cook the sausages for a few minutes, turning them occasionally, until they are golden on all sides. Take them out and slice them into pieces 1cm-2cm wide. Set aside.
6 Put the remaining extra-virgin olive oil in the pan and add the sliced onions and the crushed or finely grated garlic, whichever you're using. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally over a low heat until the onions are soft and light golden.
7 Next, place the sausages back into the pot, along with the tinned chopped tomatoes, the tinned haricot beans, the chicken stock, the sprig of rosemary and the 2 teaspoons of sugar. Season with more sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cover and cook on a low heat for 20 minutes, then remove the lid and cook for 10 or so more minutes until the liquid is reduced and the flavours have all infused. Season again with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste, if necessary.
8 Serve the casserole in warm bowls with a generous drizzle of kale pesto and rustic croutons over the top.
Rachel's top tip
For the sausage and bean casserole, instead of using tinned beans, you can use dried beans. Weigh 240g of dried haricot beans, soak them overnight in plenty of cold water, then drain them and boil them in fresh water until they are tender - about 45 minutes.
Pork and coriander stew
You will need:
• 3 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
• 1.5kg prepared shoulder or neck of pork (off the bone, with the skin and excess fat removed) cut into 2-4cm cubes
• 1 teaspoon black peppercorns, cracked
• 1 teaspoon salt, plus extra
• 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and bashed but not completely crushed
• 500ml red wine
• 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 3 large red onions, each peeled and cut into 10 wedges
• Freshly ground black pepper
• 3 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander, leaves and stalks
• 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar To serve, you will need:
• Creamy mashed potatoor cooked butter beans
1 Toast the whole coriander seeds in a dry pan on a medium-high heat for a minute or so, tossing them regularly, until they are slightly darker in colour and toasted. Tip the toasted seeds into a mortar and crush them with a pestle until they are coarse - alternatively, blend them in a spice grinder, or allow the seeds to cool, then place them in a plastic bag and crush them with a rolling pin.
2 Place the prepared pork cubes in a bowl, add the crushed toasted coriander seeds, the cracked black peppercorns, the teaspoon of salt, the bashed garlic and the red wine, and leave the meat to marinate for at least an hour, or overnight if possible.
3 Preheat the oven to 160°C, 325°F, Gas 3. Place a large casserole pot or saucepan on a medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the extra-virgin olive oil and allow it to get hot, then remove the cubes of pork from the marinade - make sure to reserve the marinade. Brown the marinated cubes of pork in about three batches in the pot. Set each batch aside while you brown the next. Once all the pork has been browned, add the remaining extra-virgin olive oil, toss in the red onion wedges and season them with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook the onions for 1-2 minutes, then tip in all the browned meat and the reserved marinade and bring up to a simmer.
4 Cover the pot and transfer it to the preheated oven, then cook the stew for 1½ to 2 hours until the meat is meltingly tender.
5 Stir in the chopped fresh coriander and the sherry vinegar, and serve the stew with some deliciously creamy mashed potato or some cooked butter beans.
Stewed plums with saffron creme anglaise
You will need:
• 350ml water
• 350g caster sugar or granulated sugar
• 1 vanilla pod, split down the centre
• 9 ripe plums, split in half and the stones removed
1 Put the water, the caster sugar or the granulated sugar, whichever you're using, and the split vanilla pod in a saucepan over a medium heat. Bring it to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar, and boil for 2 minutes.
2 Prepare the plums and put them into the hot syrup. Bring the liquid back up to the boil and cook the plums over a medium heat for 12-15 minutes, until they are completely softened. Take the saucepan off the heat and allow the plums to cool, or serve them while they are still warm, with some saffron creme anglaise.
3 These stewed plums will sit perfectly in the fridge for a few weeks. Reheat to serve if you wish.
In season: Cavolo Nero
Delicious cavolo nero, which is a type of kale, is in season now. Use it for the kale and hazelnut pesto if you can get hold of some.