Student food

June 28, 2012 § Leave a comment

Centre stage goes to my son George today. He’s studying for a Food and Nutrition GCSE qualification at school and one of his recent assignments (or “controlled assessments” in exam board jargon) was to research and prepare two meals suitable for a student living away from home.

George came up with two dishes: a spicy sausage and bean casserole and a vegetable and goat’s cheese frittata, both of which can be served with oven-baked potato wedges and a mixed salad to turn them into a balanced meal.

It’s fair to say that over the last month or so we’ve eaten a lot of sausage casserole and frittata as George tweaked his recipes and perfected his cooking techniques. Both of George’s final dishes are really good: packed with flavour; simple and relatively quick to make; dirty dishes for washing up kept to a minimum; relatively inexpensive; incorporating vegetables to help achieve the 5 a day target. What more could you ask for in a weekday meal? As a result they’ve become part of our family cooking repertoire and George is now very proud to have a couple of “signature dishes” up his sleeve.

The sausage and bean casserole is enriched with smoked paprika, tomatoes, sweet peppers and, controversially in a school kitchen, red wine:

The frittata combines chunks of goat cheese with spring onions, peas and lightly cooked purple sprouting broccoli with the egg and grana padano cheese base. You can use different green vegetables depending on what’s in season and you can leave out the goat’s cheese if you like, but if so George suggests adding more grated grana padano to boost the flavour of the finished dish.

Recipe for sausage and bean casserole

The starting point for this recipe was “James’ Sausage Casserole” from Fiona Beckett’s book “The Ultimate Student Cookbook” which George reckons is the best student cookbook currently on the market.

All the tin/can sizes in the recipe are for a standard 400g can

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 red onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 pack of good quality high meat content sausages. (A pack will weigh 400-500g and if it contains 8 sausages it makes for easy serving portions of 2 sausages per person).
1 yellow pepper, halved, deseeded and cut into strips
1 tin butter beans, drained and rinsed in hot water from the kettle
1 tin borlotti beans, drained and rinsed in hot water from the kettle
1 tin chopped tomatoes (with herbs if you like)
100ml red wine
100ml hot chicken or vegetable stock (stock made from powder or a cube is fine for this recipe)
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
salt and pepper
olive oil

Select a large, heavy-based lidded saucepan or enamelled cast-iron casserole big enough to hold all the ingredients. Add a little olive oil to the chosen pan (maybe 2 tablespoons oil), place it over a low to medium heat, add the sliced onions, half cover with the lid and cook gently, lifting the lid and stirring with a wooden spoon from time to time, until the onion is soft and cooked through but not browned. This cooking technique is called sweating.

Remove the lid, increase the heat to medium and add the sausages and yellow pepper strips. Cook for a couple of minutes, turning the sausages frequently with tongs or your wooden spoon from time to time. Don’t worry too much about trying to brown the sausages as they might stick if they cook at too high a temperature for too long.

Next add the beans, tomatoes, wine, stock, smoked paprika and a little salt and pepper. Stir to mix, bring to the boil over a high heat then cover the pan, turn the heat down to low and simmer over a low heat for one hour. Lift the lid and give the contents of the pan a stir every 10 minutes or so. If after 45 minutes, there is too much liquid in the pan, remove the pan lid, turn the heat up and boil more fiercely to reduce and thicken the sauce. Watch the pan carefully though and stir more frequently so that the sausages and vegetables don’t burn.

Recipe for Vegetable and Goat’s Cheese Frittata

Again, a recipe from Fiona Beckett’s “The Ultimate Student Cookbook” (Spring Vegetable Frittata) provided a great starting point for this frittata. Technically, a true Italian frittata is cooked very gently so that it does not brown. This is a looser interpretation of what a frittata should be and does taste good cooked to brown the surfaces lightly – don’t overdo it though.

Serves 2

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
4-5 spring onions trimmed and finely sliced
60g defrosted frozen peas (you could of course use fresh peas from your garden if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on some)
60g trimmed, steamed broccoli (purple sprouting, tenderstem or ordinary all good but the purple sprouting kind needs a slightly longer cooking time to soften its stems which have a tendency to be a bit woody)
100g goat’s cheese (a slice of French chèvre log is fine – use all of it including the edible rind) cut or crumbled into rough 1cm cube chunks
25-50g finely grated grana padano cheese (similar to Parmesan but less expensive)
a tablespoon of chopped fresh herbs such as parsley, chives, chervil or a teaspoon of chopped fresh tarragon which is stronger in flavour (optional)
5 large eggs, choose free range or organic
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Choose a medium heavy-based non-stick frying pan with a metal handle suitable for going under the grill about 20cm in diameter for this recipe. It’s very disheartening to have your lovely frittata stick and burn in the wrong kind of frying pan. The frittata top is cooked under a hot grill so turn this on now and set to a medium heat.

In a large jug, whisk together the eggs, salt, pepper and grated grana padano cheese with a fork just to mix thoroughly. Set aside.

Heat the olive oil in your frying pan over a medium heat and fry the spring onions gently for a minute or two. Add the peas and broccoli to the pan and cook for a minute or two, stirring gently. Turn the heat up a little then pour in the egg and cheese mixture from the jug. Dot the pieces of goat’s cheese over the surface of the frittata. Lift the egg away from the surface of the pan at the edges as it begins to set and allow more liquid egg to take its place. Reduce the heat if the egg seems to be cooking too quickly. After 3 or 4 minutes once the frittata is mostly set, slip the pan under the grill and continue to cook until the top surface is puffed up and lightly browned. Cool for 10 minutes or so in the pan, then turn out, cut into wedges and serve warm. It’s also good cold the next day if you happen to have some leftover.

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