One of the problems with going on holiday is coming home to an empty fridge. Having a well-stocked store cupboard and freezer is the only way to avoid the horror of food shopping with two overtired and fractious children in tow. My store cupboard has been rather less comprehensive of late, as I have been making a concerted effort to curb my food hoarding tendencies and avoid the familiar scenario of twenty-odd open packets in the cupboard and not enough of any one thing to make a meal. I plan only to keep stocks of things I actually use on a regular basis and not things I would like to, or feel I ought to, cook with . This is the problem with so many of the 'essential store cupboard lists one sees in the front of cookery books. If I kitted out my kitchen with all the different things that various authors claim are essential (large selections of vinegars being a particular case in point), I'd have no money left for the meat, fish or vegetables. Let alone the gin and tonic.
So, with some good-quality pork sausages (from Edwards of Conwy) and homemade chicken stock out of the freezer, some tins from the cupboard and herbs from the garden, I made this lovely casserole. The only thing I had to go out for was an onion from the shop in the village, and we needed milk anyway. I made a loaf of bread in the bread machine, with 1 tsp of easy-blend dried yeast, 500g flour, 1 tsp Maldon salt and 350ml water. All in all, a good meal, and for very little effort. I used butter beans, which are Christopher's favourite (at the moment), but cannellini, or any other white beans would work in this dish. I've made it using chickpeas too, which was great, especially when substituting the sausages for chicken thigh portions. It will, of course, need cooking for longer if you do this.
Sausage & Bean Hotpot
6 pork sausages
400g can chopped tomatoes
500ml chicken stock
2x400g cans butter beans
thyme and bay
Heat a little oil in a big pan and cook the sliced onion until soft. Add the sausages and brown them a little. Tip in the tomatoes and stock and add the herbs and pepper. Bring to the boil and stir in the drained, rinsed beans. Simmer for 20 minutes, then fish out the bay leaves. Serve with something starchy to mop up the juices. Some good crusty bread is easiest, but plain steamed potatoes work really well too.
There were quite a lot of beans in tomato sauce left after we'd eaten, so I shall save those freezer for the boys to have, with toast, as a quick lunch or supper.