Truly, it’s easy.  Packet mix casseroles have a long list of ingredients that aren’t food, and to cook from scratch really is no more effort, though the rewards are many.

This is a basic recipe, you can change the flavouring to make it as full, or mild, as you choose.  You can change the variety of meat or the vegetables, add wine before the stock,  add cream after cooking, add other herbs and spices – experiment!

Ingredients;

  • Beef – Cooking for 6, I used three budget sirloin steaks, but you can use blade, chuck, round, gravy beef – whatever you have, but the tougher the cut, the longer the cooking time.
  • Potatoes – 6 (One large to medium potato per person)
  • Onions – 2 (One per three potatoes)
  • Celery – 4
  • Carrots – 4
  • Beef stock – 1 litre (4 cups)
  • Plain flour – 2 heaped tablespoons
  • Red Lentils (handful)
  • Peas
  • Butter – approx. 70gms
  • Garlic – 2 cloves, or to taste

Method:

  1. Prepare the vegetables.  Chat potatoes can be used whole and unpeeled, which will save you some preparation time.  Cut onions into slices or wedges; the flavour transfers to the general ingredients, so a large piece of onion will not be over bearing.
  2. If you want to cut the meat up, make the pieces fairly large, or you can simply leave the steaks whole and cut them when serving.
  3. Using a heavy based pan/dish that can go on the stove top, fry the onions and garlic in the butter. Add the meat, browning over a high heat for flavour, as though making rare steaks.
  4. Add flour to pan, reduce heat, and cook for a minute or two to blend with the butter and pan juices.  This butter and flour business will make the gravy thicken.
  5. Reduce the heat and add stock, stirring as you go. Add hard vegetables and lentils. The lentils aren’t necessary: they won’t add any flavour, but they cook down and help to thicken the gravy, as well as adding an economical source of protein.
  6. Cover and cook in a slow oven (around 130c/260f) for four hours for cheaper cuts, or two hours for softer meats.
  7. Add softer vegetables such as peas, beans, zucchini, etc, about 20mins before serving.

There are a multitude of ways to customize your casserole. You can add in tomato paste, or tinned tomatoes when adding stock, try different herbs and spices, different vegetables, or leave out the potatoes and serve with rice.  Once you have mastered the basics, the options are endless!

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