Are you responsible for feeding a horde of hungry ghouls, princesses and pirates before they go out raiding, er . . . trick-or-treating this week? Are you working all day and wondering how to get a meal into their bellies before they head into the sugar overload zone? Are you a busy person wanting to feed yourself or your family a healthy meal on any given day? Have you got a slowcooker? Or oven? And five minutes you can squeeze out of your morning?
This casserole is for you.
Versions of this recipe, under many different names, have been passed around for decades. It’s been called Shipwreck Casserole, 7 Layer Casserole, Cowboy Casserole, Hobo Dinner, 7-in-1 Casserole. No matter what the name, the simplicity is what keeps people coming back to it. Layers of ground meat and vegetables soften and meld together with tomatoes during a long slow simmer in the slowcooker. No browning or stirring or fiddling required. The recipe is flexible and can be adapted to ingredients in your pantry. Try adding other vegetables, or a sprinkling of fresh or dried herbs to make it your own. The amounts listed here are just guidelines.
Why rely on processed or prepackaged food when you can feed your family an economical, whole-food, home-cooked meal you put together in minutes?
Assemble the casserole in the morning and let it simmer all day in the slow cooker. To save time, slice the carrots, onions and garlic the night before. The potatoes can be washed and ready to slice in the morning, so they don’t discolour, or slice them into a bowl of water and keep them in the fridge overnight. Have the meat defrosted, and the chickpeas and tomatoes set next to the slowcooker with the can-opener ready, so if your eyes are still half shut when you stumble into the kitchen to put the ingredients into the slowcooker, you won’t need to resort to cursing. It will take no time to put the casserole together before you head off to work.
The savoury aroma of Shipwreck Casserole as it cooks will drive your family crazy. It is a delicious smell that makes coming home at the end of a long day doubly rewarding.
Maybe a pirate made this from supplies that washed ashore in a long-ago shipwreck. Maybe it’s what you’d crave if you were stranded on a deserted island after a shipwreck. Or maybe it’s what you’ll feed your family to prevent the shipwreck that occurs if they eat too much candy on an empty stomach.
(gluten free, dairy free)
- 1 or 2 onions, sliced into rings
- 1 lb. (454gms) lean ground beef, chicken or turkey
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 -1½ lbs (450-700gms) potatoes, (about 3-4 cups, sliced unpeeled)
- ½ lb (250gms) carrots (about 2 cups, sliced)
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- a sprinkle of pepper
- 1-14 oz. (398ml) can chickpeas, corn, or other beans, drained (or 1½ cups/360ml frozen or cooked)
- 1-14 oz. (398ml) can diced tomatoes with their liquid
Layer half the onions in the bottom of a slow cooker. (For oven baking, use a large casserole dish, small roaster or deep 9×13” baking dish.) Crumble the uncooked ground meat over the onions.
Thinly slice the garlic cloves and sprinkle them over the meat. Then layer over the sliced potatoes.
Add the carrot slices and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Layer the chickpeas or corn over the carrots.
Then layer with the remaining onion slices. Pour the tomatoes and their juice over all, spreading the pieces evenly over the top.
Cover and cook in the slow cooker on low for 6 to 8 hours.
If you don’t have a slow cooker, cover tightly with a lid or foil, and bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 2 to 3 (or more) hours. It’s done after 2 hours, but is at its melting, flavourful best with an hour or two more than that.
Serves 6. (Leftovers are wonderful.)
Serve the casserole with a sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese, or to be really retro, with a good squirt of ketchup (I won’t tell, since that’s how I prefer it, too).
It’s comfort food for a chilly pirate-and-ghoul-filled night.
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