Casseroles seem particularly apt at doing just that as they provide the necessary warmth and a sense of deep satisfaction, which is never to be underestimated. I find that when I am psychologically contented, the vagaries of the weather seem to be far less important. I also like casseroles for two other very practical reasons.
The first is that you can prepare casseroles ahead of time and they only get better with sitting for a few hours in the pot, waiting for the flavours to fully develop and come together.
The second is that they make a little go a long way with the help of all sorts of green and root vegetables...and pulses too.
This winter, for instance, I have been making a lot of "stufati di salciccia " or sausage casseroles, and I must say it all started just by accident, as I once had only 4 sausages left to feed 1 husband and 2 children...not enough at the best of time, definitely way too little after a 2 hours session in the pool. I took inspiration from a simple casserole my mum used to make with sausages, potatoes, tomato passata and bay leaves...simple, yet delicious. I went a little further with adding ingredients based on what I had in the fridge and cupboards. Here is what I came up with.
Just be aware that the quantities and vegetables are only indicative, you can swap onions for shallots; omit the leek or add potatoes; use chickpeas rather than lentils, or even better, borlotti beans. Make this a source of inspiration rather than a recipe fixed in stone, because the ingredients available in the house are never the same.
Sausage and kale casserole with lentils
2tbsp olive oil
1 small/medium red onion, chopped
1 bay leaf
4-5 coarse sausages (plain for a better result)
1/2 glass white or red wine (optional, but highly recommended)
1 carrot, cut into chunks
1 leek, thinly sliced
1 cup brown or puy lentils (or precooked chickpeas or borlotti beans)
5 leaves curly kale (or Russian kale, spring greens etc) hard stalk removed and shredded
1tbsp tomato concentrate
1/2cup tomato passata
1/2 tsp Harissa paste (optional)
coarse sea salt
black pepper, freshly ground
In a heavy based pan, heat the olive oil and add the chopped onion and bay leaf. Stir and leave to soften until the onion loses its pungent smell. Cut the sausages into chunks approximately 5cm long and add to the onions. Raise the heat and brown the sausages for a couple of minutes. If you have some white or red wine, add a splash to the pan at this stage and leave to evaporate completely.
Add now the vegetables, the lentils, Harissa paste and tomato paste. Stir a couple of times then cover with enough hot water to completely cover the ingredients. Season with sea salt and black pepper and cook on very low heat until the lentils are soft, but still have some bite (about 30 minutes). Occasionally stir and check there is still enough water. Check the seasoning and serve with mash potatoes or some nice sourdough bread.