Category Archives: slow cooking

Pulled Pork (Serves: 6/8 – Preparation time: +8hrs)

I’m back to cooking low and slow – as I’ve mentioned before it is a very simple way of cooking in terms of effort.  The key is to ensure that you have plenty of time to let the meat gently cook, it should not be rushed and don’t be tempted to turn up the heat to speed up the process.  By cooking the meat low and for a long period of time the meat will become beautifully tender and become infused by flavours of the herbs and spices.

The dry rub has a slight warmth to it from the combination of chillies used and cayenne pepper however it is not over powering. The smoked paprika and chipotle chilli flakes give the dry rub a wonderful aroma of barbecues and bonfires which adds to the overall flavour of the pork. If you don’t have smoked paprika in your spice cupboard at home I would strongly recommend getting some and giving it a try – it is great in soups, chilli con carne and hummus.

I cooked the pulled pork in my slow cooker on the lowest setting.  If you don’t have a slow cooker then cook it in a heavy casserole (with lid) and cook in the over at 120°C for 6-8 hours.

Serving suggestions:

  • serve as you would fajitas with homemade salsa, grated cheese, sour cream and guacamole.  If you are looking to be slightly healthier then replace the tortilla wraps with lettuce leaves; or
  • serve in brioche buns with barbecue sauce, coleslaw and chips.

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Oxtail casserole (Serves: 4 – Preparation time: 3.5hrs)

As the dark evenings draw in and the temperature starts to drop off rich stews and casseroles come into their own.  The recipe below is a fine example of cooking ‘low and slow’ which results in the meat becoming mouth-wateringly tender and falls off the bone.

Whilst I was in France a couple of weeks ago with some of my school friends, a debate started over what is the difference between a stew and a casserole.  After a lengthy discussion and a bit of googling we learnt that stewing is done on the top of a cooker with heat being applied directly to the underneath of the pot; while casseroling takes place inside the oven with heat circulating all around the pot. In both cases the meat is cut up fairly small and cooked in a liquid (stock, wine, water, cider, etc).  So it transpires that I have been using the terminology wrongly for many years – whoops.

The recipe below is for oxtail casserole which uses Guinness as a substitute for tomatoes and stock on the basis that it has a lovely earthy and almost bitter flavour which combined with the red currant jelly becomes beautifully mellow.  Whilst I cooked this in a cast iron casserole dish this recipe would work really well in a slow cooker, however make sure that you cook it on a low setting for around 6-7 hours.

For presentation purposes I took the oxtail off the bone and served in a roasted squash, which looked lovely.  However I have a confession to make, after decanting the casserole into the squash is dawned on me that whilst pretty it was highly impractical, so I ended up tipping it back into the pot before serving and it saved me from one heck of a mess. In hindsight I should have served the oxtail on the bone (2 per person is about right) with wedges of roasted squash and green vegetables on the side.  As they say “you live and learn”…  Enjoy!

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Chilli beef

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Is it wrong that I wish the weather at the moment was a little colder?  With the clocks having gone back almost a month ago I feel somewhat cheated that the weather hasn’t turned and started to get cooler.  London is decidedly grey at the moment giving the sense that winter is on its way but yet it is still warm outside which is mildly disconcerting.  I can’t wait until we start getting the frosty mornings with the brilliant clear blue skies that justify you making comfort food.

Perhaps it was wishful thinking when I got the stewing beef out of the freezer at the weekend with the view to making something both hearty and warming.  Well the balmy weather has certainly not deterred my plans for the stewing beef and last night I made Chilli Beef.  I suppose in reality Chilli Beef is really a play on Chilli Con Carne but in a stew format.  The combination of the spices and the tomatoes in this recipe create a wonderfully rich sauce.  For me though it is the smoked paprika in this recipe that makes this Chilli Beef something special as it adds a real depth of flavour that makes you want to go back for seconds.

This recipe can be made in advance and reheated when you need it which makes it a good option for when you have friends coming around for supper during the week.  I would recommend serving the Chilli Beef with something simple like boiled rice and a green vegetable of your choice.  Bon appétit!

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Chilli Beef

Ingredients:

400 g stewing beef
salt and pepper
2 onions sliced finely
3 garlic cloves roughly chopped
1 heaped tbsp plain flour
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp cumin
¼ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp thyme
1 tsp hot chilli powder
1 beef stock cube
Water to deglaze the pan
½ a fresh chilli chopped finely
1 tin of tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato purée
1 to 2 tbsp of honey to sweeten
1 tin of kidney beans (400g)

Steps:

  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C (Fan)
  1. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl, add the beef to the mixture and stir until the beef is well coated.
  1. Heat some oil in a heavy bottomed pan on a high heat. Add the beef and any remaining dry mix to the pan stirring from time to time until the beef has browned off.
  1. Turn the heat down and add the onions and garlic to the pan. Continue to cook until the onions have softened stirring as required.
  2. Whilst the onions are cooking, dissolve the beef stock cube in a little boiling water and use the liquid to deglaze the pan. It is best to use a wooden spoon to do this so that you do not scratch the bottom of your pan.
  1. Next add the tomatoes, fresh chilli, tomato purée and honey to the pan and stir well.
  1. Cover the pan with the lid and place in the oven and cook for 40 minutes before adding the kidney beans. Return the pan to the oven and cook for a further 1hr 20mins.

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Thai beef salad

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Last year I bought a couple of new “toys” for my kitchen, namely, a food processor and a slow cooker and they have been invaluable!  I mentioned in my last blog that I have been throwing a number of dinner parties recently and half of the meals that I have been making really would not have been possible if I did not have these two appliances for a mid-week dinner party.

I use my slow cooked to make all manner of things, ranging from pulled pork, rice pudding, tagine, curry and stews.  I suspect you are thinking that these are really winter dishes and to an extent you are right, but there really are some lovely summer dishes that you can make in your slow cooker, for example this Thai Beef Salad.

I use my food processor to make anything from, hummus, cakes, pastry, coleslaw, focaccia to mackerel pate.  Yes I admit it is a pain to wash up but it saves me masses of time in terms of preparation.   If you can afford to get one and have space in your kitchen to it is a worthwhile investment!

I am a huge fan of Vietnamese and Thai food and their fresh and fragrant flavours.  This salad is a flavour explosion and has so many things going on at any one time ranging from sharp, spicy and sweet, to tangy, smoky and cool.

The key to this meal is in the preparation and forward planning, I cook the meat overnight, so that it may cool whilst I am at work during the day. The dressing can be made in advance as it will keep over several days and will just need to be shaken up just before serving. Then it is simply a case of preparing the salads, which if you can use a food processor really takes no time at all.

It may look like a lot of effort to make this salad, however, I cannot recommend it enough.

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Thai beef salad (serves 8-10)

Ingredients:

  • 650 – 750g beef brisket (cut into 1” chunks and any sinew and fat removed)
  • 500-750g thin fresh rice noodles

Beef marinade:

  • 2″ ginger (peeled and grated)
  • 1 chilli (finely sliced)
  • 150ml light soy sauce
  • 5tbsp honey
  • 3 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
  • 1tbsp hot sauce (or sweet chilli sauce)

Mixed Salad:IMG_3659

  • 4 carrots (peeled and finely sliced)
  • 8 large radishes (finely sliced)
  • 1 cucumber (peeled, halved and de-seeded, then cut into slices)
  • 2 large mangoes (peeled, de-stoned and cut into bite-sized pieces)
  • 5/6 spring onions (roughly chopped)
  • 1 large handful sugar snap peas (roughly chopped)
  • 1 sweet red pepper (sliced)
  • 1 handful mint (roughly chopped)
  • 2 handfuls coriander (roughly chopped)
  • 1 small bunch chives (roughly chopped)
  • 2 limes (cut in wedges)

Green Salad

  • 1 Romaine lettuce (roughly sliced)
  • 2 bags mixed salad/stir fry leaves (ideally a combination spinach, kale and pak choi)

Dressing:IMG_3664

  • 5/6 tbsp Hoisin sauce
  • 2/3 tbsp peanut butter
  • 3 limes (juice)
  • 1″ ginger (peeled and grated)
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1tbsp hot sauce (or sweet chilli if you prefer)
  • 2/3 tbsp olive oil

Serve with:

  • Chilli (finely sliced)
  • Peanuts (roughly crushed in a pestle and mortar)
  • Prawn crackers

Steps:

Stage 1 – Slow cook beef

  1. Place the beef and all the ingredients for the marinade into a slow cooker.
  2. Put the slow cooker on a low setting and cook for around 6-10 hours stirring occasionally. You will know that the beef is ready when it is slightly caramelised and falls apart when you use two forks to shred it.
  3. When you are happy that the beef is cooked, remove from the slow cooker and place in a bowl, drizzle over some more honey and soy sauce (roughly 3tbsp of each) stir thoroughly and leave to cool completely.

Stage 2 – Salads

  1. Prepare the salads if you have a food processor use it to slice all of the vegetables finely.
  2. In a large bowl combine the, carrots, radishes, cucumber, sugar snap peas, mango, sweet red pepper, mint, chives and coriander. Garnish with the lime wedges.
  3. In another bowl mix together the green salad of the Romaine Lettuce and the mixed leaves.

Stage 3 – Dressing

  1. In a large jam jar shake together the dressing ingredients until they are completely combined.
  2. Add more soy sauce, Hoisin sauce or lime juice as required according to your own tastes.

Stage 4 – Noodles

  1. Just before you are ready to serve, shred the beef with two forks.
  2. Heat some oil in a large pan, then flash fry the noodles adding the beef to warm slightly in the last two minutes

Stage 5 – Serving

  1. To serve place some of the green salad on a plate.
  2. Add a spoonful or two of the mixed salad.
  3. Top with some of the beef noodles.
  4. Pour over a little dressing and add the chilli and peanuts according to your own tastes.
  5. Serve with some prawn crackers.

Boeuf Bourguignon

Boeuf Bourguignon is a French classic originating in the French region of Burgundy.  It is therefore not altogether surprising that is traditionally made using a red Burgundy.  This is my take on the dish, using local/home-grown ingredients.  This dish needs very slow cooking at a low temperature.  I tend to cook mine it two stages – I cook it in the morning for 3 hours at 140C fan , I then leave it to sit in the oven until the evening when I cook it for a second time for 1 ½ hours at 160C fan, as I find this helps the flavours to mature.

As with all slow cooking, meat becomes beautifully tender and falls apart.  One word of advice when making this dish – don’t cut your vegetables too small as they can fall apart, and half the beauty of a meal like this is finding a lovely piece of mushroom or carrot.  My tendency is to serve it in a large bowl so that none of the sauce falls off a plate.

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Boeuf Bourguignon

Ingredients: (serves 6)

  • 1 – 1.25kg stewing beef (gristle and excess fat removed cut into manageable chunks)
  • 750ml red wine (I used a local wine called Coteaux du Quercy but any full-bodied, fruity red wine will do)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 large sprig of thyme
  • 1 tsp peppercorns
  • 2 handfuls plain flour
  • 150g lardons
  • 1 red onion (thickly sliced)
  • 2 garlic cloves ( minced)
  • 600ml beef stock
  • 6-8 carrots (cut into large chunks)
  • 6-8 small onions (cut in half)
  • 6 mushrooms (cut into large chunks)
  • seasoning

Steps:

1.  Put the beef, wine, bay leaves, thyme and peppercorns into a large bowl and leave to marinate for as long as possible – preferably overnight.

2.  Once marinated, remove the beef from the red wine marinade (keep the marinade as you will need it later) and place it in a bowl with the flour and some seasoning.  Make sure it is well coated.

3.  Heat some oil in a large casserole dish, brown off the beef in batches.

4.  Remove the beef from the casserole dish and set to one side whilst you cook the red onion and lardons for 4-5 minutes.  Once cooked, add the beef and stir well.

5.  Add the marinade, stock, garlic, onions, and carrots and cook on a low heat for 5-10 minutes.

6.  Cover the casserole dish and place in the oven at 140C fan for 3 hours.

7.  After 3 hours add the mushrooms, stir well and if possible let it sit for a while before cooking for a further 1 ½ hours at the higher temperature of 160C fan.

8.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before serving with French bread or a jacket potato and the vegetables of your choice.

Venison and Black Sheep Ale

I made this meal a couple of weeks ago using some of venison that we were given by the local hunt.  When I was last in England I brought back a selection of ciders and ales that I had wanted to try cooking with in various meals and venison cooked slowly in ale was one of the things I had wanted to try.

The venison became beautifully tender and the ale gave the dish a slightly sweet taste.  The one mistake I made when I cooked this dish was that I cut the pieces of potato and Jerusalem artichokes too small, so they broke up during cooking process – in future I will leave the artichokes whole and cut the potatoes into much larger pieces.

 

Venison and Black Sheep Ale

Ingredients:

  • 700g venison (cut into bite sized chunks)
  • 500ml Black Sheep Ale (or equivalent)
  • 3-4 carrots (peeled and cut into chunks)
  • 2 medium potatoes (peeled and cut into large chunks)
  • 8 small Jerusalem artichokes
  • 3-4 baby onions (quartered)
  • 4-5 shallots
  • 6-7 garlic cloves
  • handful of flour
  • beef stock cube
  • sprig of thyme
  • 2oz butter
  • 1tbsp sugar
  • Seasoning
  • 1-2tbsp redcurrant jelly (as needed)

Steps:

1.  Place the sugar, butter, thyme, onions, shallots and garlic in a casserole dish – cook on a low heat for 10-15 minutes.

2.  Flour and season the venison, then add to the casserole dish cook for 3-5 minutes on a high heat.

   

3. Add all the other ingredients, except the redcurrant jelly to the casserole dish, stir well and add a little water if necessary to ensure that the meat and vegetables are covered.

4.  Place in the oven and cook at 160C fan for 2-2½hours.

5.  Once cooked remove from the oven, taste and add a little redcurrant jelly as needed.  Enjoy with vegetables of your choice!

Lamb and Bean Casserole

As the winter months are starting to set in, it is worthwhile having a couple of casserole recipes at your fingertips.  Casseroles in my opinion are wonderful because you can leave them to cook away in the oven at a low temperature and know that after 2-3 hours you will have an amazingly tender meat and vegetable casserole ready to eat.  The other major benefit to a casserole is that there is really no need to serve anything with them other than some French bread – this is because the casserole contains all the carbohydrates and vegetables to make it a well-rounded meal.

A casserole dish is an invaluable piece of kit to have in your kitchen; however if you don’t have one then you could always use a deep oven-proof dish that you cover with a double layer of tin foil.  If you do this you will need to make sure that the tin foil is on very tight so that the steam stays inside the dish whilst it is cooking.

 

Lamb and Bean Casserole

Ingredients:

  • shoulder of lamb
  • 2 onions (diced)
  • 1 red pepper (diced)
  • 2 carrots (diced)
  • 3 celery stalks (diced)
  • a small bunch of thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • tin of tomatoes (400g)
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • ½pt vegetable stock
  • a tin of Cannellini white beans (800g)
  • 2 glasses of red wine
  • seasoning
  • oil (for cooking with)

Steps:

1. Preheat oven to 160C fan.

2.  Place Lamb in a large casserole dish with a little oil and cook for 5 minutes allowing the meat to brown off a little.

3.  Add the onions, carrots, celery, pepper, seasoning and paprika and mix well.

4.  Finally add all the other ingredients, cook for 10 minutes to allow it to come up to heat before placing in the oven and cooking for 2 – 2½ hours until the meat is meltingly tender and falls off the bone.

5.  Remove from the oven.  Take the shoulder out of the casserole and strip off any meat that may still be attached to the bones.  Cut the meat into bite sized chunks before returning the meat to the casserole dish; stir the well before serving with a slice of French bread.

Gammon glazed with honey and redcurrant jelly

Gammon is my all-time favourite meat.  We normally only have it at Christmas as an accompaniment to the turkey – I have never really understood this as I would be more than happy to eat just the gammon by itself.  But then I suppose Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a turkey.  We normally buy a huge gammon so that we can enjoy it cold in the days following Christmas in sandwiches, pies etc.

When it was suggested the other day that we get a gammon out of the freezer I was a little bit excited!  I think my favourite bits are the slightly caramelised parts on the outside of the joint and if I am being totally honest the fat (because it becomes so sweet due to the glaze).  Unfortunately these are also the favourite bits for everyone else in the family – so you can imagine the contest to get these morsels at Christmas.

Whilst cooking the joint may take a while it is absolutely worth it because it just melts in your mouth.  The gammon is good either hot or cold, so if you only have time to cook it the day before, do not worry as it will still taste delicious.

Gammon glazed with honey and redcurrant jelly

Ingredients:

  • A boned smoked gammon joint 
  • 2 bay leaves
  • pepper (for seasoning)
  • 3tbsp honey
  • 3tbsp redcurrant jelly

Steps:

1. Soak you gammon in a bowl of water for a couple of hours before cooking.

2. Dry the gammon slightly before placing in a roasting pan with one bay leaf on top and one underneath the joint.

3. Season with some pepper then cover the roasting pan with tin foil.

4.  Cook in an oven at 180C fan for 30 minutes per 500g of gammon (e.g.  2.5kg Gammon = 2 ½ hours cooking).

5. Remove from the oven and remove any string that the gammon may have been cooking in.  Carefully slice off the skin leaving as much fat on the joint as you can.

6. Warm the honey and redcurrant jelly in a saucepan.

7.  Score the fat on the joint in a diamond pattern then spoon over the honey and redcurrant mix.

    

8. Place the gammon back in the oven for a further 30 minutes, basting the joint every 10 minutes with the glaze.  Enjoy!

 

Changing the way I think about some foods – Rabbit…

Living in France has opened my eyes to many things in terms of food – the most notable of which has been the versatility of rabbit. Growing up in England, the only rabbit that I had eaten was wild rabbit.  Wild rabbit tends to look like a red meat that has a lovely gamey taste.  In France the rabbit is different because they are reared for their meat much like chickens in the UK, subsequently their meat is white.

It is a dream of my parents to become self-sufficient (if any of you have ever read John Seymour’s book The Concise guide to Self-sufficiency – you will know that if you are successful the only thing you should ever need to buy is salt).  In terms of the production of fruit, vegetables, honey and meat my parents do pretty well.  I am not sure they will every go the whole hog and plant wheat/barley in order for us to have our own flour but the possibility is there should they wish.

One of their best producers is their rabbits.  We have three breeding rabbits, Hop, Skip and Jump who have a maximum of two broods during the winter and spring months.  In our experience the rabbits produce roughly 6-9 kittens (baby rabbits) each time, which means we get anywhere between, 24-36 rabbits each year for consumption.  This makes rabbit a very economical animal to rear, particularly when one rabbit can comfortably feed 5-6 people.

I am not going to pretend that the first time I was told that we were going to eat rabbit for supper I was a little sceptical.  This is because my first pet was a huge white rabbit, called Snowy (I know it was a very original name).  Once I got past the fact that I was not in fact eating Snowy but an animal that had been reared for eating and it not the type of animal you can pick up and cuddle, I was pleasantly surprised at how nice it tasted.   People often make a comparison between the taste of rabbit and chicken and it is probably the best way to describe the flavour.  The meat to all intents and purposes is fairly bland, but it absorbs flavour wonderfully which makes it very good to cook with.  I fully appreciate that rabbit is not for everyone, but I would definitely recommend everyone try it once.

Yesterday I had some friends around for supper.  When I asked them what meat they would like for supper they replied ‘rabbit’ because they don’t eat it that often and, when they do, it is wild.  I have had an idea about how I wanted to try cooking it for some time with apple, cider and mustard and this presented me with a perfect opportunity.  The meal does take quite a long time to make as initially you have to poach the rabbit very slowly in the oven.  However it is certainly worth the effort.

 

Rabbit in an apple, mustard and cider sauce

Ingredients:

Stage 1

  • 1 rabbit (whole)
  • 2 small onions (roughly chopped)
  • 2 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 2 carrots (peeled and roughly chopped)
  • 2 apples (cored and roughly chopped)
  • 1 – 1 ½ litres stock
  • 1 bay leave
  • 1 large sprig of thyme
  • 5-6 juniper berries
  • Oil (for cooking with)
Stage 2

  • rabbit meat (stripped off the bone from stage 1)
  • ½ – 1 pint stock (that is left over from stage 1)
  • 2 medium onions (sliced)
  • 2 garlic cloves (minced)
  • handful of plain flour
  • handful of lardons
  • 2 apples (peeled, cored and sliced)
  • 2 heaped tsp Dijon mustard
  • 250ml medium dry cider
  • seasoning
  • oil (for cooking with)

 

Steps:

Stage 1:

  1. Preheat oven to 150C fan.
  2. Place the onions, garlic and oil in a large casserole dish, cook on a low heat until the onions are soft.
  3. Add the herbs, apples, carrots and rabbit to the pan.
  4. Pour over the stock until the rabbit is about ¾ covered.
  5. Bring to the boil, cover with a lid and then place in the oven for 2 hrs.
  6. Remove for the oven and leave to cool.
  7. Once cool, strip the meat off the rabbit and place in a bowl and pass the stock and vegetables through a sieve into a measuring jug so they are both ready to be used in stage 2.

 

Stage 2:

  1.  Place the onions, garlic and oil in a large casserole dish, cook on a low heat until the onions are soft.
  2. Add the lardons and the flour, stir together well.
  3. Gradually add in the stock and mustard and allow it to thicken, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add half of the cider, the meat from the rabbit and apples.  Cover with a lid and leave to gently simmer for around 20-30 minutes.
  5. Add the remaining cider and cook for a further 5 minutes then taste and season as necessary before serving with green beans and mashed potatoes or roasted vegetables.

 

Curry Night – A rich tomato based lamb curry

You can’t beat a good curry!  If I was getting a takeaway 90% of the time I would go for a curry.   When I was younger I used to really enjoy the coconut based curries like Korma, however over the years I have started prefer slightly spicier tomato based curries.  The curry I probably order the most is a Rogan Josh closely followed by a Bhuna.  It is fairly hard to come by a good curry out in France so I have had to try to make my own.  I am not a huge fan of shop bought sauces because quite a few of them leave an aniseed after-taste in your mouth.  That being said, they are very useful when you are in a rush and want to have a curry quickly.

By contrast, the type of curry I have been making is a very slow cooked lamb curry, whilst it uses a lot of spices it is very simple to make.  The joy of this curry is that once it is cooked the meat falls of the bone and is beautifully tender.  The spices I use give the curry a gentle warmth and would probably be best described as a medium spiced curry.  For my friends who struggle with its heat I serve a yoghurt dip (a combination of yoghurt, lemon zest and cucumber) and sliced banana which counters all of the spice.  Whilst I prefer this curry to be made with lamb I have in the past made it with rabbit and chicken which worked equally as well.

Below is a picture of my spice line up –

 

A rich tomato based lamb curry

Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp fenugreek
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 10 cardamom pods (shells removed)
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  •  2 onions (sliced)
  • 2 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 3 heap tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 can tinned tomatoes
  • ½ pint stock
  • 750g – 1kg lamb (cut into chunks)
  • 2tbsp vegetable oil

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 160C fan.
  2. Place spices in a pestle and mortar and grind together.
  3. Place the garlic, onions, spices and oil in a large casserole pot (with a lid) and leave to cook on a low heat until the onions are soft.
  4. Add the lamb and leave to brown for roughly 5 minutes.
  5. Then add the rest of the ingredients to the casserole pot, give it a good stir before covering with the lid and placing in the oven for 2 – 2 ½ hours.
  6. Serve with rice and mango chutney.