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What does one cook for a sick (British) husband who loves casseroles and is feeling miserable? A casserole, of course.

At the risk of boring my readers and fans (sorry Mom), I once again consulted Delia (Delia’s complete cookery course). No one would think I own in the region of 100 recipe books.

I decided on Lancashire Hotpot, something I have neither eaten nor cooked before. Cape Town is in the grip of Arctic-like weather, and it seemed a good prospect.

One of the ingredients is lamb’s kidneys, which I have never purchased before and never thought I ever would. I bought them at the Rosmead Spar – my go to place for almost anything. The thing that first struck me was the attractive price. For eight, large, fresh, peeled, plump lamb kidneys I paid R20. That’s about 1.50 GPB and 2.40 USD.

To prepare the kidneys, cut them lengthways and then snip out the core. The recipe didn’t specify which lengthways – lengthways as a flat bean shape or lengthwise as an on-its-thin-edge bean shape to make two symmetrical halves. After some trial and error, I discovered that the latter worked best. You end up with the core (white, lumpy bits) on the sides of the two halves, and it is then easy to snip around with them with scissors to remove them.

The casserole was rich and delicious. I asked my husband if he was very sure he should drink wine in his poorly condition, and he replied that he was very sure that he should. We had Graham Beck Railroad Red – a reliable, easy-drinking and full-flavoured wine. Railroad Red is a good bet when having friends around – always pleasant and quite versatile.

Tasting notes from the back of the bottle:

“Rich and spicy on the nose, layered with berry fruit flavours on the palate. Enjoy with lamb or veal dishes, as well as duck or roast chicken.”

And from the Graham Beck website:

“Since its inception the Railroad Red has become a firm favourite amongst wine lovers eager for outstanding quality at an affordable and attractive price point. This wine offers endless drinking pleasure. Components may vary but varietals include Merlot, Shiraz and Cabernet Franc with small percentages of Sangiovese, Ruby Cabernet and Mourvedre. Railroad vineyards are all home grown. The Shiraz, Mourvedre and Ruby Cabernet hail from the sunny sites in Robertson, promoting upfront fruit characteristics. The berries were fermented in closed and open fermenters with regular pump-overs and punch downs to ensure optimum fruit and soft extraction. A portion of the blend was matured in 4th fill French and American oak barrels for 6 – 8 months with the rest of the blend kept unoaked for upfront berry fruit flavours and freshness. Sweet red berry fruit flavours from the Merlot and Cabernet Franc and spiciness from the Shiraz with layers of subtle fruit tannins on the palate. Enjoy with veal, roast lamb, stews or rich pasta dishes. Harmonious, lightly oaked, fruit-rich and flavourful with lively drinkability. A generous and rewarding red wine.”

Lancashire Hotpot – my adaptation of Delia’s recipe

1.3 kg mixed good-quality lamb chops
Cooking oil
8 lambs’ kidneys, cored, skinned and chopped fairly small
500 g onions, chopped roughly
1.5 heaped tablespoons flour
750 ml hot water, mixed with 1 dash Worcestershire sauce
2 bay leaves
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1.2 kg potatoes, peeled and cut into 2cm thick slices
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Butter

Heat the oven to 170C
Brown the lamb in small batches and transfer to a casserole dish
Brown the kidneys and add them to the lamb
Brown the onions, adding more oil if necessary
Add the flour to the onions and stir until mixed
Add the stock slowly whilst stirring
Add salt, pepper, bay leaves and thyme
Pour the onion mixture over the lamb
Arrange the potatoes on top of the meat in an overlapping pattern
Put salt, pepper and dots of butter on the potatoes

Cover the casserole and cook for 1.5 hours
Uncover and cook for an additional 45 minutes
Change the oven setting to grill, and grill the casserole for 15 minutes until the potatoes are golden brown

Light some candles and enjoy the meal, ideally in front of a roaring log fire with someone you love.

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