Free up more me-and-them-time with this glorious winter-warmer feast from one of our favourite cooks, Jo Pratt, a mum who understands that great family meals don’t have to mean spending all day in the kitchen…
Lamb and Redcurrant Casserole with Rosemary Dumplings
Jo says: “This hearty casserole is ideal to serve as an alternative to a roast when you’ve little time to prepare. Simply throw everything in a casserole dish, pop it in the oven and leave it to cook. The only other thing to do is whizz together the dumpling ingredients in a food processor and put on top of the casserole towards the end of its cooking time.”
MAKES 2 adult and 4 kid-sized portions
PREPARA TION TIME 20 minutes
COOKING TIME 2½ hours
FOR THE CASSEROLE
750g/1lb 10oz lamb shoulder, diced
3 heaped tbsp plain/all-purpose flour
2 large onions, thickly sliced
½ swede/rutabaga, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces
2 celery stalks, sliced
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
3 tbsp redcurrant jelly
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp tomato purée/paste
400ml/14fl oz/scant 1¾ cups red wine
200ml/7fl oz/scant 1 cup lamb or beef stock
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
cabbage or curly kale, to serve
FOR THE DUMPLINGS
75g/2½oz/scant 2∕3 cup self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting
75g/2½oz/heaped 1 cup fresh white breadcrumbs
75g/2½oz butter, diced
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp finely chopped rosemary leaves
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1. Preheat the oven to 160°C/315°F/gas 2–3.
2. Put the lamb and flour in a bowl or large plastic freezer bag and toss well, making sure all the lamb is coated in the flour. Put the lamb and all the remaining casserole ingredients in a large flameproof casserole dish, mix well and bring to the boil over a high heat. Cover with a lid and bake for 2 hours until the sauce is thickening.
3. Meanwhile, make the dumplings. Put the flour, breadcrumbs and butter in a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the mustard, rosemary and egg, and season lightly with salt and pepper. Blitz briefly until the mixture forms a fairly moist dough. Using floured hands to stop the mixture sticking to you, divide the dough into 8 equal portions and shape them into balls.
4. After the casserole has been cooking for 2 hours, take it out of the oven and remove the lid. Put the dumplings on top of the lamb and sprinkle a few flakes of salt on top of each one. Return the dish to the oven, uncovered, for a further 30 minutes, until the dumplings are golden and the casserole is rich and thick. Serve the casserole just as it is or with some lovely buttery cabbage or curly kale.
Leftovers for something different
Redcurrant lamb and green bean pie.
Mix any leftover casserole with some blanched green beans and spoon into a large pie dish or individual dishes. Top with puff or shortcrust pastry, pierce a hole in the top and brush with a little milk or egg yolk. Bake in a preheated oven at 200°C/400°F/gas 5 for 25–30 minutes until golden.
Sticky Toffee and Banana Pudding
An all-time favourite, my family love this banana version. The portions are deliberately generous to make sure there’s plenty left over for the rest of the week.
MAKES 2 adult and 2 kid-sized portions
PREPARATION TIME 15 minutes
COOKING TIME 30 minutes
FOR THE BANANA PUDDING
85g/3oz butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
250g/9oz dates, stoned and chopped
250ml/9fl oz/1 cup black tea
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda/baking soda
175g/6oz/heaped ¾ cup caster/superfine sugar
2 eggs, beaten
175g/6oz/scant 1½ cups self-raising flour
2 ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
1 teaspoon ground mixed spice
ice cream or shop-bought or Foolproof Home-made Custard to serve
FOR THE STICKY TOFFEE SAUCE
100g/3½oz/heaped ½ cup light brown sugar
100g/3½oz unsalted butter
125ml/4fl oz/½ cup double/heavy cream
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4 and grease a 22cm/8½in square
2. Put the dates and tea in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Cook for 3–4 minutes until soft, then stir in the bicarbonate of soda/baking soda.
3. Beat together the butter and caster/superfine sugar, using an electric mixer, until light and creamy. Stir in the eggs, flour, bananas, mixed spice and date mixture until well combined. Pour into the prepared baking dish and bake for 40–45 minutes until the top is just firm to the touch.
4. Meanwhile, to make the sauce, put the brown sugar, butter and cream in a saucepan over a low heat and cook gently until the sugar has dissolved and the sauce is a light toffee colour. (Both the pudding and sauce can be gently reheated and served within a few days. Alternatively, a slice of pudding can be popped into lunchboxes or enjoyed with your afternoon cuppa.)
5. Once cooked, pour the warm sticky toffee sauce over the pudding and serve with ice cream or custard.
Recipes extracted from In the Mood for Quick Family Food by Jo Pratt © Jo Pratt 2016 published by Nourish Books, London. Paperback £14.99. Commissioned photography by Gareth Morgans.