What do you cook on those nights when you really don’t feel like cooking? For me, nine times out of ten it’s pasta. Generally baked with something, though my old friend, pasta bolognese, the first dish I ever cooked by myself, also gets a fair bit of airtime. But more often it’s tuna casserole – a concoction of pasta, bechamel sauce, vegetables, and, usually, tuna. (Sometimes the vegetables manage to outnumber everything else so much that there’s no room for the tuna, and it goes back into the cupboard, waiting for another opportunity). If I have people coming around, I’ll grab some instant pasta sheets from the refrigerator section, and layer my vegetables and bechamel with that and a sauce made from garlic and a tin or two of tomatoes, with a few herbs thrown in. It’s the same meal, but when you call it lasagne and serve it with bread and a salad it becomes glamorous enough for guests…
The trouble is, of course, that I did this on Monday night, and there’s a limit to how many pasta bakes one can eat in a single week. Especially as we’re still eating our way through the lasagne leftovers. So tonight, I’m returning to that other old faithful – sausages. In summer, it’s sausages with bread and sautéed onions and capsicums (with fruit salad for dessert, because I feel guilty about the lack of vegetable content). In autumn, the sausages often get thrown into a casserole with onions, celery, and grapes, and get served with a baked sweet potato. In winter, they might become part of my Cheat’s Cassoulet, casseroled with beans, tomatoes, carrots, celery and onions, and baked for hours with breadcrumbs on top (and you can blame Diana Henry’s Cook Simple for those last two combinations).
But today is a grey, cold day, and I have red cabbage in the fridge and jerusalem artichokes and potatoes in the pantry and organic veal, pumpkin and apricot sausages from the farmer’s market. Just contemplating these ingredients makes me feel very Eastern European, which means it’s time to relive a dish from my childhood… though not one I actually ever liked as a child.