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Comfort Food

PUBLISHED: 11:39 31 October 2012 | UPDATED: 22:15 20 February 2013

Comfort Food

Comfort Food

Warming dishes for a chilly time of year

These two recipes make lovely dishes for a chilly time of year and theres something very comforting about having an aromatic casserole or sweet tart baking in the oven and filling the kitchen with cosy aromas when its cold, wet and dismal outside.


Sausage casseroles are perfect comfort food as theyre easy to make, wonderfully warming and satisfying to eat. This recipe is a take on an old Delia Smith classic and combines herby sausages with smoked bacon, leeks, caramelised shallots, a rich cider-laced herby gravy and rosy-skinned slices of apple. It is a great dish for Bonfire Night served with crispy jacket potatoes or buttery mash and is ideal if you have a crowd of hungry people to feed as quantities can easily be multiplied and it can be made well ahead (even frozen), then re-heated on the day.


The pear tart has a vanilla and Amaretto flavoured frangipane with a crispy crumbled Amaretti biscuit topping and can be served hot or cold.



SAUSAGE, APPLE, LEEK AND CIDER CASSEROLE


I make my version of this recipe with cocktail rather than full-size sausages as they heat through quicker if youre warming the dish up. I sometimes add a handful of chestnut mushrooms or crushed juniper berries to the recipe, too. Serves 6-8 people.


540g herby cocktail sausages


250g smoked streaky bacon or lardons


200g shallots


2-3 leeks


1 large Cox or Bramley apple


500ml strong dry cider


2tbsp plain flour


450ml ham or vegetable stock


2 bay leaves


Small bunch fresh thyme


Large sprig fresh rosemary


2tbsp balsamic vinegar


tsp sugar


1tbsp butter


Pre-heat the oven to 175ËšC/gas mark 4. Place the shallots in a bowl, cover with boiling water and leave for 5-10 minutes to soften the skins and make them easier to peel. Finely chop the rosemary needles and garlic and cut the smoked bacon into 1cm size pieces. Chop the white of the leeks into 1 inch pieces. Carefully drain the shallots and when cool enough to handle, peel and set aside.


In a large heavy-based pan or heat-proof casserole dish fry the sausages until golden then remove from the pan and fry the bacon until browned and slightly crisp. Remove the bacon pieces with a slotted spoon and fry the shallots and leeks with the rosemary and sugar in the remaining bacon fat until lightly caramelised and golden. Remove the shallots and leeks then add the flour to the pan and stir briskly so that the flour combines with the remaining fat in the pan to make a roux. Gradually stir in the stock, cider and balsamic vinegar and bring to the boil, stirring constantly until you have a smooth thickened gravy. Season to taste and put the sausages, bacon, leeks and shallots back in the pan with the thyme and bay leaves. Bring back to a simmer then put a well-fitting lid on the casserole or pan and place in the oven for 30-45 minutes or until the sausages are completely cooked through.


While the casserole is cooking, cut the apple into large slices removing the pips as you go, then heat the butter in a frying pan until foaming and gently cook the apple slices until soft and lightly golden. When you are ready to serve the casserole scatter the apples slices on top with a little fresh thyme.



FRANGIPANE, PEAR AND AMARETTI TART


This Italianate-style tart is great served warm or cold with either a jug of custard, double cream or mascarpone mixed with a litte Amaretto liqueur. Serves 6-8 people.


300g butter


250g caster sugar


220g plain flour


150g ground almonds


3 large ripe pears


1 vanilla pod


3 large eggs


15g plain flour


30ml Amaretto liqueur


4 crushed Amaretti biscuits


Place 150g of the butter and 200g of the plain flour in the bowl of a processor and blitz until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla pod and add to the bowl of the processor with 100g of the caster sugar and one of the eggs then blitz briefly to form a dough. Tip out onto a lightly floured work surface and then wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for half an hour.


Roll out the pastry to a 2-3mm thickness and use to line a 20-23cm loose bottomed fluted flan tin. Lightly prick the base, cover with cling film and place in the fridge for another half an hour.


For the frangipane filling place the remaining caster sugar, flour, butter, eggs, ground almonds and Amaretto liqueur into a large bowl and mix together then add half of the crushed Amaretti biscuits.


Pre-heat the oven to 180ËšC/gas mark 4. Peel the pears and cut into thick slices, spoon the frangipane filling into the pastry tart case then top with the slices of pear and the remaining crushed Amaretti biscuits. Cook for 30-45 minutes or until golden brown and the sponge springs back from a light touch. Allow to cool then unmould from the tin and serve warm or cold.

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