Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Comfort Food

Winter. This season was just made for cooking don't you think? The oven warms the house, the food is rich and filling, red wine, casseroles, pot pies, hot puddings...

Two of my favourite guinea pigs were over for dinner on Saturday night, the guest of honour being Miss J's godmummy whose birthday it had been a couple of days before. I decided I wanted to do comfort food - a casserole and a pudding. I confessed to Kaz that it had been a long time since I had last made a casserole (erm, around 12 years at a guess) as the last time hadn't been all I hoped for. My memories are hazy, but I recall that although it wasn't a complete disaster, it was not not the melt-in-your mouth, full-o-flavour experience you expect nay, CRAVE from a hearty casserole.

In anticipation of this momentous occasion, I had an emergency trip to Kmart the Thursday night prior. I had been tipped off they had a range of good quality cast iron/enamelled cookware at reasonable prices. I have a great collection of Corningware, as all brides should, but you can't use that on the stove top and I wanted this to be a one pot dish. So, I dashed in en route home and when I found the appropriate aisle was confronted with a selection of RED. Bah!!!!! Again with the red! But something compelled me to turn around and lo! there was a lovely oval dish on a gorgeous shade of cobalt blue for only $56. Bargain. Even more of a bargain when I got to the checkout and it scanned at $39. You gotta love Kmart.

So I was all set for Saturday night comfort food. I had sought out some suitable casserole contenders, but eventually settled on this. The main reason was I also hadn't ever cooked with leeks before. I know, I know - at my age that is a travesty but one shortly to be recitfied. I did tweak it a bit, as is my wont. As is all cooks wonts really.

Chicken Leek and Mushroom Casserole

8 chicken thigh pieces
1 tbs olive oil
250g rindless bacon rashers, coarsely chopped
2 leeks, pale section only, washed, ends trimmed, cut into thick slices
400g button mushrooms, halved
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbs plain flour
250ml (1 cup) salt-reduced chicken stock
250ml (1 cup) white wine
6 sprigs fresh thyme
125ml (1/2 cup) thickened cream
Zest of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 180°C. Heat a 3L (12-cup) capacity flameproof, ovenproof casserole dish over medium-high heat.

Add half the chicken and cook for 3-4 minutes each side or until golden. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining chicken, reheating the dish between batches. Use paper towels to wipe the dish to remove excess fat.

Add the bacon, leek, mushroom and garlic and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until golden brown. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute or until well combined. Add the stock, wine, lemon zest and thyme, and bring to the boil.

Return the chicken to the dish. Cover and bake in oven for 1 hour or until the juices run clear when the chicken is pierced with a skewer.

Use tongs to transfer the chicken to a plate/s. Put dish with leek mixture back on the stove. Add the cream and bring to the boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 5 minutes or until sauce thickens slightly.

Pour leek mixture over chicken to serve. I served with evil mashed potatoes and green beans.

I had always though casseroles to be very complex and time consuming. Not sure where I got that idea from - I was so wrong!

And so to dessert. I have been wanting to make a self-saucing pudding for aaaaaages. Given Kaz's husband Chocolate Crackle (long story) is not a chocolate fan (ironic, huh) I thought I'd avoid the obvious and go for a caramel flavour. The following recipe is kind of a melange of a few, so I can't really credit anyone but me!!

Caramel Self-Saucing Pudding

3/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/4 cups self-raising flour
100g butter, melted
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
5 tbs golden syrup
1 tbs cornflour
1 1/2 cups boiling water

Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease a 1.5 litre ovenproof dish.

Combine 1/4 cup of the brown sugar and all of the flour in a bowl. Add the melted butter, egg, milk and 3 tbs of the golden syrup and stir until combined. Spoon into greased dish.

Combine the remaining 1/2 cup of brown sugar and cornflour. Sprinkle over the pudding mixture. (Note: if you are having a dinner party you could do up to this stage beforehand and finish off with the next step while you eat your mains)

Combine boiling water with the remaining 2 tbs of golden syrup. Pour over the top of the pudding mixture and bake for 40-45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. I served with double cream but runny cream would be yummo also.

As this is really so easy to make I have no choice but to expand my self-saucing repertoire forthwith. And I might add while I am fixated on self-saucing, my Mother is currently obsessed with steamed puddings. In particular, a rhubarb steamed pudding Fast Eddie made on Better Homes and Gardens a few weeks back. Her first attempt I wasn't privvy to, but apparently resulted in quite tasty, but very hard 'steamed rock cakes'. Part of me indulged in a little schadenfreude at this, given her usual lack of modesty when it comes to her cooking accomplishments, but I love rhubarb and I love puddings so I am hoping she succeeds next time.

Up next: I know, I lied and this wasn't the Lemon Meringue Cake recipe so I am doing that next. Promise. It's worth the wait though....

1 comment:

  1. Oh I'm drooling here just reading the titles and casserole would be amazing with some freshly baked bread! :)