Some meals are just the equivalent of a great big hug, aren’t they? Big, warming, carby cuddles that taste and smell of home. For us Hungry Swans, this is one such meal. Not because of the casserole (we were veggies for the majority of our youth) but because of the lovely, fluffy, herby dumplings which Mummy Swan used to cook in leftover vegetable stew. Dumplings are delicious, so easy to make and I think they’re really underrated. Some people we know have never even tried them! Blew my mind, that did. If you’re one of these people then you need to give this recipe a go. The casserole looks complicated, but most of the ingredients you should have lying around the place anyway (she says…) and it’s actually easy-peasy; after a bit of work at the beginning it’s essentially ‘just bung everything in a pan and let it simmer’. The sauce you end up with is amazing – rich and tomatoey with a hint of spice from the chilli and paprika and a kick from the Worcester sauce. We‘ve called it ‘Full English Casserole’ because it’s pretty much all the ingredients in a full English breakfast. We’re creative like that, you see. You could probably even whack in some black pudding if you felt very strongly about it. I wouldn’t add hash browns though, but if you can’t be bothered to make dumplings (WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU??) this would be delicious with crusty bread or even toast if you’re really keen on keeping the breakfast theme going…
I should also say that this is one of those dishes where the leftovers possibly taste even better than the meal the first time round, so feel free to double the recipe so you can freeze some for a rainy/windy/snowy day. Don’t do this with the dumplings though, they’re best fresh so just make another batch when you put your casserole on to reheat.
You will need (serves 3):
For the Casserole
6 rashers of streaky bacon
2 small onions
1 large clove garlic
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp Worcester sauce
200g chopped tomatoes
a squeeze of tomato puree
2 bay leaves
A few sprigs of thyme and the same of rosemary
100ml red wine
300ml veg stock
400g baked beans
For the dumplings
100g vegetable suet
200g self raising flour
Rosemary & black pepper
A splash of water (for binding)
What to do:
- Brown the sausages in a (good sized) frying pan for 10 minutes or so, then put them in a heavy bottomed saucepan
- Snip your bacon into about inch long pieces and cook that in the same frying pan, once it’s started to go crispy transfer that to the same saucepan as the sausages
- Add your onions and mushrooms to the same frying pan (adding a little oil if needed) and cook them for about 5 minutes. Add your crushed garlic and cook for another couple of minutes.
- Add your chilli flakes and smoked paprika to the onions & mushrooms, stir, stir, stir
- Add your wine, stock, chopped tomatoes, Worcester sauce, tomato puree and herbs to the frying pan and bring it to a simmer
- Verrrrryyyy carefully transfer this to the larger saucepan with your sausages and bacon, add your baked beans and bring it back to a gentle simmer. If your frying pan isn’t big enough for all the liquid just add your onions & mushrooms to the saucepan before putting the liquid straight in there.
- Leave to simmer for 10m or so while you make your herby dumplings…
- Put your suet and flour in a bowl, with a decent amount of black pepper and your chopped rosemary and give it a mix
- Add water, a dribble at a time and stir until it has come together in a doughy ball. Ideally you want the mixture to be coming away from the sides and not leaving a sticky residue. If you’ve added too much water you can always add more flour but don’t go overboard.
- Check your casserole. If you think the sauce has reduced too much add a splash of water to loosen things up a bit.
- Take a tablespoon of your dumpling mixture and (using another spoon) kind of fashion it into a ball. It’s not going to look pretty, so don’t worry too much about perfection. Place this dumpling into the simmering sauce carefully so it’s kind of sitting on top. Repeat until the mixture’s all gone.
- Put the lid on your saucepan and leave gently simmering for about 20m or until your dumplings are cooked all the way through – take a knife and fork and prize one open to check. You’ll be able to tell easily as the mixture will be fluffy instead of doughy and sticky. Remove the bay leaves before serving!
- Eat. Feel the hug…