Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Sausage Casserole

It's still ruddy cold out and I'm still trying to feed up Mr ToothFairy with traditional English winter fayre. It turns out that Canadians don't really have much tradition in the way of food. I still remember, after his first few weeks in the UK, having to tear him away from a Full English Breakfast at night - seriously, who does that?? The next obsession was Sunday Roasts on any day of the week. It just doesn't compute that we have time specific limits on some foods! Alas, this will be his first ever sausage casserole, it's a firm favourite of mine when it's done the English way (my way) or the French 'cassoulet' way. 

This recipe utilises a load of cupboard basics: baked beans, canned tomatoes, dried herbs with some standard root veggies and a pack of good quality sausages. It's such a versatile dish too, you can use fancy root veggies like parsnips, or you can use pumpkin or squash. I wouldn't advise many soft veggies like a Brassica (broccoli, cauliflower) as they will probably just disintegrate to nothing and make it a bit of a thick mess. 

So, this dish can be done in a slow cooker if you've got all day to prepare for it, one big pot for an evening dinner or a mix of pan and baking like I did today. So here it is, I massively urge you to have a go, it's delicious beyond belief.

Serves 2 hungry people. Takes less than 1hr. 

6 good quality sausages of any kind (pork and leek, cumberland, whatever you like)
1/2 can of beans
1/2 can of chopped tomatoes
1 red onion, diced
1 large potato, diced
1 carrot, diced
300ml chicken stock - 1 stock cube or Knorr stock gel. 
dash of Worcestershire Sauce
1tsp each of sage, basil, thyme. Fresh or dried. 
Black pepper

Grill or fry the sausages until they're cooked through, remove from the pan and set to one side.
Fry the onions in a bit of oil in a pan. If you have just cooked the sausages in there you probably don't need the extra oil
Add the potato and carrots to pick up the sticky sausage juices from the bottom of the pan, fry for a couple of minutes to seal in some flavour. They don't need to cook through.
In a separate pan add the tomatoes and beans and bring to a gentle simmer, add the fried veggies and the chicken stock and keep bubbling away. 
Chop the sausages into 3 or 4 pieces - depending on how big they are - and add to the big pot.
Add the herbs and season to taste. Make sure you taste before throwing salt in as chicken stock invariably has loads enough in already.
Once it's tasty-delicious just whack a lid on the pan and keep on a low heat for 15mins. 
Serve with mash, rice or on toast! Everything's good on toast. 

Alternatively you can make a breadcrumb topping and bake:
Make two pieces of toast and wait for it to cool (lets the steam out and keeps the breadcrumbs dry). You could do this at the start of the recipe to save watching 2 slices of toast go cold - the epitome of a waste of time. 
Chuck them in a blender or hand-whizzy thing with a pinch of salt, tsp thyme, black pepper. 
Whizz until they're mostly little crumbs, the odd big chunk is fine as it just adds to the texture. Mix in a drizzle of olive oil.
Pour the casserole into a pyrex dish or other ovenproof vessel and top with the bread crumbs. 
Bake at 200C for 15mins or until the breadcrumbs are toasty.

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