When we were growing up casseroles equalled comfort food. They were prepared for a family meal, a variety of different casseroles were cooked to feed a house full of guests, and they were central to cool weather fundraisers for the community.
Casserole luncheons brought the community together, with each family preparing a casserole to be placed on cloth covered trestle tables that had been set up for the occasion in the local hall. There would be a small admission fee, raffles, maybe a cake stall, and all funds raised would be directed to a local community project, or to a cause that was close to the heart of the community.
While the casseroles back then were cooked in beautiful ovenproof dishes, dishes that could be taken straight from the oven to the table, I feel that they have somehow fallen out of fashion… I suppose now, you could liken them to the modern day slow cooker dish.
Casseroles were often cooked in advance, cooled down and refrigerated in the dish that it was cooked in, ready to be re-heated for a particular occasion or meal – so they were a great make-ahead meal. They were also prepared to be taken to family or friends during sad or troubled times – and yes, the casserole dish always made it back to its rightful owner.
My sisters and I have very fond memories of some of the casseroles that our mum used to make, Sausage Creole, her Chop Suey which was always served with Fried Rice, Savoury Chops, and my absolute favourite… Lamb Hot Pot with Peas.
I am so lucky to have one of mum’s recipe books where this recipe is written, and as you can see from the pic below, it was a much referred to recipe.
This is my idea of comfort food from home, one of the dishes my mum used to prepare, and we all loved it.
- 1 large onion chopped
- 500 g lamb shoulder cut into 3cm cubes
- 2 tbsp plain flour for gluten free option see note below
- 60 g butter
- 450 ml lamb or chicken stock
- 250 g carrots chopped
- 1 x 400g can of peas see note below
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Chopped parsley to garnish
Preheat oven to 160˚C.
Toss the lamb in the flour.
Melt the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat.
Fry the lamb, carrot and onion in the butter for 3 minutes.
Stirring, add the stock and liquor from the peas.
Season to taste, bring to boil and stir until thickend.
Transfer to a casserole dish, cover with the lid and cook in preheated oven for 2 hours, adding the peas for last 15 minutes.
Garnish with parsley.
- This recipe needs canned peas, not fresh or frozen, and you will need to ensure that the canned peas are not "mushy" peas.
- While Mum used diced lamb, I have also used lamb neck chops as well.
- For gluten free:
- I sautée the lamb and remove to casserole dish, then sautée the onion and carrot, add the stock and add that to the casserole dish.
- To thicken, I add a slurry of potato flour and water about 5-10 minutes before it is done, the liquid will be bubbling, and by stirring it through for a minute, then replacing the lid and returning the dish to the oven, it cooks perfectly.
- Perfect sides for this dish:
- Mashed potato
- Steamed cabbage
- Steamed pumpkin
Having purchased some locally sourced lamb recently, I just had to make mum’s lamb hot pot… I also made sure that I made enough to freeze down for a quick, easy and delicious meal – another bonus of this kind of dish. I was having trouble remembering what mum would have served alongside it if it was the only casserole to go on the table for the meal (she always prepared a good variety of veg) so quickly sent a text to my sisters, and between us we come up with mashed potatoes, cabbage and pumpkin. Perfect!
I have written up the recipe more or less as it appeared in mum’s recipe book, but have included some notes on how I made it gluten free.
Until next time