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The year hasn’t started as many of us would have hoped, but CASA’s Maria Broadbent has some tasty ideas of how best to use our time in lockdown




2021. Well – I understood the sentiment of a humorous WhatsApp I received last week.

“I would like to cancel my subscription to 2021. I have tried the seven-day free period and I don’t like it.”

It is what it is and as human beings we are incredibly able to adapt to changes in circumstances. The inability to mix and socialise is a challenge for many, hermits and Grinches excluded – although you can only be a Grinch if you have someone to be Grinchey at!

Enjoying cooking (43926596)
Enjoying cooking (43926596)

What, therefore, are the challenges in the weeks ahead? Learn a new skill maybe? Learn to meditate, cook or take up a craft perhaps? Launch yourself into a project of a home, personal or garden makeover? Blitz the attic, junk drawers or overrun spare room – the options are endless.

If you prefer something static, how about sorting out your photos or cleaning your email inbox up? Watch that box set that you never have chance to view? My mum, who always gets a cameo appearance in this article, was heard to say she was bored. In all my 52 years, I have never heard her say that. It only lasted a day and then she started a new jigsaw and decided to call all her friends she would normally send a Christmas card to. Mind over matter!

As this article is always a mixture of food, lifestyle and a seasoning of positivity – I thought I would try to once more encourage you all to try your hand in the kitchen. Failing that, perhaps a food and wine quiz with tasters? This month is Veganuary, people have not been as wholehearted this year about the concept. Anything that feels like deprivation is a big ask when we have already had our liberties curtailed – similarly there is less of a ‘taste’ for dry January.

Everything though in moderation – so with this in mind I put together a vegan sharing menu which will please the palate of even a confirmed omnivore. Don’t worry meat eaters, we also have a meat and fish and a classic Spanish version.

It is challenging in the hospitality industry currently as the brake/accelerator approach is hard to steer. We are so grateful to our landlord Nick Corke of Peatlings Wine Merchants for his support through this. Because he has discounted our rent we have, with the additional government support, been able to carry on trading – takeaways Tuesdays to Saturdays, sandwich deliveries to businesses Monday to Saturday and meals on wheels seven days a week.

Another big thank you to Anglian Coastal Marquees which contacted us to say there would be no charge for our marquees during lockdown. Hopefully, following a conversation I had with West Suffolk Hospital, it is erecting a marquee at the hospital for a R & R location for staff.

COMMUNITY SUPPORT

Meals on Wheels

With the rise locally in Covid cases of the Kent variant, many want to avoid the shops. We have, therefore, been busy deliveringhot two-course lunches to those who are older and/or vulnerable. These cost from £8 per person per day. We mix it up with Hungarian Goulash, Paella, Melanzane Parmigiana, as well as traditional favourites including sausage and mash. Delivered to the door, hot and ready to eat – if you know of anyone who is struggling or needs a little help, do let us know. We also check that they are OK and if they need any basic supplies.

West Suffolk Hospital 30 per cent staff discount

I tried to donate some free meals to the staff at West Suffolk Hospital, but this is not currently allowed. It appears last year some free food was donated (not from us I hasten to add) and two teams, including an A&E team, were off duty with food poisoning. So. . . how else to help, I wondered? We don’t use Deliveroo or similar because they charge a flat rate of 30 per cent and with the time taken to prepare all our dishes this does not make economical sense. However, it occured to me to give this same 30 per cent to the West Suffolk Hospital staff for takeaway collection would be a far better use! (Tuesday-Friday, please order in advance and show your WSH or Cambridge Trust card when you collect.)

COOK CASA

We are introducing our click and collect boxes. Everything you need to make these CASA tapas dishes. More details will be available on our website CasaBSE.co.uk

Spanish Meatballs – confirmed favourite and great to do with kids.

This was such a popular video and recipe when I wrote/posted it just over a year ago, I thought it would make a good first Cook Casa at home recipe box. Everything you need to make the meatballs and sauce (chef not included).

Andalusian Chicken – warming and simple to make.

Tasty, simple and healthy, delicious – serve with rice. Facebook live video coming up next week!

SOUP or STEW?

Here are three fairly straightforward soup and stew recipes. A meat, a fish and a vegan option. They can all be made in advance and frozen in portions or put in a slow cooker to look forward to. All three of them are gluten and dairy free (assuming you don’t serve the goulash with regular soured cream).

NORTH AFRICAN SPICED SOUP

Classically known as Harira and served in the evening during Ramadam. This soup involves no fat and is vegan, best of all it is tasty! I like it with bread or toast, houmous and dukka (a nutty seedy mix).

Ingredients:

1 large onion, chopped

1.2 litres vegetable stock

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 tablespoon of grated ginger (Lazy ginger or ginger purée is fine)

Pinch of cayenne pepper

2 carrots, diced

2 celery sticks, diced

400g tin of chopped tomatoes

450g floury potatoes

5 strands saffron

400g tin chickpeas

2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander (optional – or you can use parsley)

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Salt and pepper

Method:

In a heavy based pan or casserole dish, gently cook the onion in around a quarter of the stock until soft – about 10 minutes.

Make the ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, cayenne and saffron into a paste and stir these into the onion, cook for a couple of minutes to bring out the flavours.

Add the celery, carrot and remaining stock. Simmer for 5 minutes, then add the potato and tomatoes – cook for a further 20 minutes.

Finally, add the chickpeas, lemon juice and season to taste. Bring up to a simmer and add any fresh herbs.

CHEF’S TIP: If you add too much salt you can add more lemon juice or vice versa – they balance each other out.

FISH TAGINE

A delicious, slightly spicy stew with any fish you like. If you use Frylight for cooking the onions, it is also fat free and healthy.

Ingredients:

Fish of your choice (Quite useful for stuff lurking in a freezer!)

1 onion, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ teaspoon saffron strands

1 fish stock pot

2 teaspoons rose harissa (regular harissa will be fine)

2 teaspoons turmeric

2 teaspoons sugar

700g passata

400g chopped tinned tomatoes

Salt and pepper

Fresh parsley

Method:

In a frying pan or pan, gently fry the onions in the oil. Then add the garlic, saffron, turmeric and harissa and stir well.

Add the passata, tinned tomatoes, stock pot and sugar and bring the pan to a simmer. Keep on a low heat with a diffuser if your gas is fierce (in a tagine if you have one) or in a low oven or my favourite in a slow cooker. It is my favourite because if I get distracted it wont spoil. The point of this is to allow the flavours to develop.

Check the seasoning and then gently add the raw fish that you are using – prawns, salmon, any white fish fillets etc.

The fish should only take minutes to cook. Serve with rice, bread or couscous.

CHEF’S TIP: If you wish you can make and freeze the sauce before adding the fish. When you want to use it simply defrost in the microwave, pan fry your chosen fish or shellfish – add the sauce and heat through.

GOULASH SOUP

This is the mainstay of many a ski trip. The mountain restaurants and cafés all produce variations of quality and cost (the two are not directly linked in many cases!). It is hearty and warming and for those of you missing a winter trip. . . this will hopefully warm your souls.

Ingredients:

Extra virgin olive oil

250g onions, sliced

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 green pepper, deseeded and diced

500g beef shin, cut into small cubes

1 tablespoon paprika

1½ litres beef stock

1½ tablespoons chopped marjoram

½ tablespoons caraway seeds

Red wine vinegar

2 tomatoes, finely chopped

1 tablespoon tomato purée

200g potatoes, peeled and diced

Sour cream (optional), to serve

Method:

Add a good splash of oil to a large pan and brown the meat – remove from the pan and set to one side.

Add and gently sauté the onions, garlic and pepper until softened. Add the beef and continue to cook until the meat and the vegetables are cooked.

Stir in the paprika and cook for 2 more minutes, then add 200ml of the beef stock. Bring to the boil and cook until reduced by half.

Add the marjoram, caraway seeds, a splash of vinegar, the tomatoes, the tomato purée and season well.

Add enough stock to cover and simmer until the meat and vegetables are tender, about 1½-2 hours. Add the potatoes, plus any remaining stock and a little water if it’s looking too dry – I would use a slow cooker from this point if you have one. Simmer until the potatoes are cooked. Serve with good bread and a dollop of sour cream, if you like.

CHEF’S TIP: Don’t let the garlic burn it starts to taste bitter – if it starts to catch add some of the stock.

Maria Broadbent is owner of Mediterranean restaurant CASA in Risbygate Street, Bury St Edmunds

Call 01284 701313

See casabse.co.uk