I just noticed that my last blog post was back in January for December’s Cookery Calendar Challenge, more than a month ago. Several things have got in the way of blog posting – we were away for ten days in January, looking after a family of Greek rescue cats in the Midlands while visiting various branches of the Tassell/Pearson family and now (I can hardly bring myself to say this) I AM ON A DIET. Yes, the dreaded ‘D Word’.
While we were in Warwickshire, I met up with my old school friend Carole, who was about to embark on the Slimming World programme. Last summer’s pasty frenzy left about 50% of my summer wardrobe rather too snug for comfort – painfully aware that I will be needing to wear it in a few weeks time when we get back to Turkey, I decided I would keep Carole company.
Two weeks later, and half a stone down, it isn’t proving to be too difficult at all. I am having fun tweaking recipes to make them Slimming World-friendly, which mainly means being canny about not adding fat or sugar, and making sure all fat and skin are removed from meat and poultry. We eat very little sugar in this household in any case, but it has certainly made me aware of just how gung-ho I am about glugging olive oil into everything with gay abandon. Now, the pan gets a few spots of oil brushed over it, just to stop everything from sticking and burning.
Which brings me to last night’s dinner. I decided I would take part in February’s Cookery Calendar Challenge, created by Penny from thehomemadeheart. I have acquired several new cookery books recently and the challenge definitely spurs me on to make something new.
This month’s book is Georgina Fuggle’s ‘Take One Pot’, which has been residing on the book-case in an unloved, unused way since it arrived last summer.
I had to choose a recipe that I could easily adapt to meet the Slimming World requirements, but in view of the deeply inclement weather in these parts at the moment, I wanted something substantial and comforting. I settled on Georgina’s very simple chicken and sausage cassoulet. It was absolutely delicious. I discovered at the eleventh hour that I had no dried beans, so I used a can, but I don’t think this detracted from the end result and was, of course, a lot quicker. If you are more organised than me, of course use dried beans, in which case you will need to soak them, then rapid boil them for ten minutes, then rinse them and cook them in fresh water for about 1.5 hours.
I also added a small glug of red wine, because there was about an inch left in a bottle, which has been perched on the worktop for days, and I wanted to put it into the recycling.
The cassoulet was very easy indeed – only a few minutes to prepare, then an hour in the oven – and was deliciously garlicky and savoury. When I make it again, I will possibly add a teaspoon or two of paprika or a pinch of chilli, just to give it a little added warmth. It was just the ticket for a cold, wet night, and the good news is that there is now a tub of it residing in the freezer for a lazy night next week.
If any of you out there are watching your figures, I used Porky Lights sausages, which you can order online or buy in any of the major supermarkets. They are very tasty and quite meaty, and much lower in fat and calories than your everyday banger. I cooked all six of the sausages, as Robin is always happy to tidy up any surplus, particularly after being starved of pork products for the last 14 years…
Here’s my slightly tweaked version of Georgina’s recipe for cassoulet:
Chicken and sausage cassoulet (Slimming World-friendly version)
Approx ½ teaspoon oil for brushing the pan
6 sausages (I used Porky Lights)
4 skinless chicken thighs
1 onion, peeled, halved and sliced
3 – 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 rashers of lean back bacon, fat and rind removed, diced
2 sticks celery, thickly sliced
1 – 2 carrots, peeled and thickly sliced (I only used one, as it was enormous)
1 heaped tablespoon tomato puree
A good splash of red or white wine (optional)
1 x 400g can of white beans (or other bean of your choice)
Approx 750ml stock – you may not need it all (a cube is fine)
2 bay leaves
A couple of sprigs of thyme
Parsley, leaves and stalks
Salt & pepper
Pe-heat the oven to 160°C.
Brush an oven-proof non-stick skillet or deep frying pan with oil and set over a medium heat. Add the sausages and chicken thighs and brown on all sides. (If you don’t have a pan suitable for the oven, transfer the cassoulet to a baking dish before putting into the oven).
Set the chicken aside, then add the onion, garlic and bacon to the pan, cover with a lid and cook over a low to medium heat until the onion has softened.
Return the chicken to the pan, stir in the carrots, celery, tomato puree and wine, then add the beans and enough stock to almost cover everything – I left the chicken pieces and sausages just slightly protruding above the liquid (and I photographed this for you, then this morning I usefully deleted this photo by accident, and couldn’t get it back – duh!). Finely chop a few parsley stalks and add to the cassoulet, along with the bay leaves and sprigs of thyme.
Season very generously with salt and pepper, bring the cassoulet to the boil, then put into the oven, uncovered, for an hour. Check after half an hour and add a little more stock if necessary – there should be plenty of liquid, but you do want it to reduce and thicken a little.
Just before serving, remove the thyme and bay leaves, and stir in a generous tablespoon of chopped parsley.