Sausage and borlotti casserole

Autumn it seems has arrived.

With autumn comes the renewed need to eat warming stews and casseroles. Hooray for autumn.

When I was wandering around Ludlow Food Festival last week I spotted some very delicious looking venison, port and thyme sausages at the Legges of Bromyard stand. I couldn’t resist.  Then it occurred to me that in about an hour’s time I was going to eating quite a few sausages and they might not be the best thing to take home for my tea this particular evening.  So, as I walked out of the castle grounds and through the thronging crowds of the Castle Square I walked past an empty butchers shop ( I hope they had a very busy stall somewhere within the festival grounds).  I popped in for a hefty piece of rump for tea that particular night and saved my sausages for the next night. What a treat they were too.

We have some borlotti beans in the garden.  I had bought some Wenlock Edge Farm baked ham from the festival ready for the fidget pie I was going to be baking the next day and there is ALWAYS a bottle of red wine sitting by the Aga (it’s a very bad day if there isn’t). This was the result, served with a steaming pile of mash.  Hooray for autumn indeed.

Serves 2 hungry people

4 good quality sausages, venison if you can get them
2 onions, peeled and finely chopped
½ dsp juniper berries (I used 1 dessertspoon but it was a little too overwhelming), lightly crushed
2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme or 1 scant tsp dried thyme
300g fresh tomato chopped, or you could use a 400g can
100g ham or bacon diced
2 bay leaves
250g borlotti beans, fresh or canned
1 tbsp tomato puree
300ml red wine


If you are using fresh borlotti beans then boil them in plenty of water until tender (10-15 minutes), then drain.

Brown the sausages in a little oil in a pan and remove to a plate.  Add the onion to the fat in the pan and fry until translucent and just beginning to tinge golden. Add the ham or the bacon and fry for a minute or two. Return the sausages back to the pan and add the juniper berries, thyme, bay leaves and borlotti beans. Add the wine and let it bubble for a minute or two.  Stir in the tomatoes and the tomato puree.  Season with pepper (you probably won’t need salt with the bacon and sausages, but taste at the end and add then if you do need it).  Bring everything to a simmer and cook slowly for about 40 minutes. If you want a thicker sauce, mix 2 tsp cornflour with a little water in a cup and then pour into the casserole and stir in well.  Allow to simmer for another five minutes before serving. Serve with mashed potato or cabbage.

PS I can’t claim credit for the leaf shot, that is Mr OC doing the fancy things he does with that camera of his.


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Sausage, chard and borlotti beans

We have just come back from a two-week holiday in Madeira.  It was very warm, relaxing and enjoyable.  It is lovely to get away but I think it is even better to come home. We always look forward to getting back to the pets, including these three, who we missed a lot. The big lad is Merlin (what else could he be called?), the black kitten is Wobble and the tortoiseshell is Wibble.

The other lovely thing to come back to is the garden.  It is amazing how much things grow in two weeks. The borlotti beans have really begun to shine with masses of beautiful speckled pods hidden amongst the pale leaves.

They really are very beautiful.

The chard is a good size ( at last, it seemed to be forever germinating).  The runner beans are still coming, thanks to mum and dad picking them regularly whilst we were away.  A few tomatoes have begun to ripen, they seem very slow this year, but in contrast the damsons have begun to fall from the tree – that is the earliest we can ever remember that happening. The patty pan squash are beginning to be prolific and the cucumber is bearing some fruit too. The chillies are taking over and I may go into the greenhouse one day and never be able to get out again!

I spent an enjoyable half hour last night picking and shelling the borlotti, preparing some of the red, gold and white chard (this is the first time we have grown it and we will definitely grow it again) and discovering the treasures that can be unearthed in the potato patch.  The latter include some gorgeous purple potatoes that my dear blogger friend Choclette sent me about two years ago.  They are a heritage breed originally from Peru and whilst they really do make a marvellous mash they were also very delicious as part of last night’s tea along with some Anyas which self set from last year’s plants.

I added some sausages from the local butcher and Bob’s your uncle a delicious dinner that celebrates a much missed garden.

 This is a dish which is very adaptable, if you don’t have potatoes use some pasta, if you don’t have chard then use cabbage, or green beans or runner beans.  I cooked the borlotti in water with a sprig of rosemary and a clove of garlic (still in its paper) for about ten minutes until tender.  I cooked the sausages in a casserole dish so that the juices gather and crust at the bottom of the dish.  I boiled the potatoes until tender.  I diced the chard stems into 1 cm chunks and cooked with a large knob of butter with a squeeze of lemon juice and salt and pepper until nearly tender, then threw in the sliced leaves for a few minutes more cooking until nicely wilted.  I added about five sage leaves, roughly chopped, to the sausages, then tipped in the beans, potatoes and chard (with all the lovely buttery juices) and cooked until everything is hot and covered in the juices. I then served with crusty bread and a vinaigrette. Lovely!


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Sausage and vegetable bake

Hunting around for ideas for tea the other night revealed that I had some Spanish style sausage meat left over from the meatballs I made earlier in the week, celery, carrots and  some potatoes busily spurting in the bag. Those potatoes really need using up! So I decided to make a layered bake.

You could replace the Spanish style sausage with any other meat that takes your fancy or you could just leave it out and maybe add a few peppers into the mix for a veggie treat.

1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
3 sticks of celery, sliced
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
250g sausage meat
3 large potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
a few sprigs of thyme
600ml stock ( I used vegetable)
salt and pepper


Butter a shallow baking dish well.  Cover the bottom of the dish with a layer of potatoes. Layer the onions, garlic, celery and carrots and sprinkle with salt and pepper and the thyme.  Break the sausage meat into chunks and place on top. Season again lightly.  Add the final layer of potatoes.  Pour over the stock and then season again lightly. Place small chunks of butter on top.

Cover the dish with foil and bake in a preheated oven at 180°c, gas mark 4 for about 1 hour, until all is tender.  Take off the foil and cook for a further 20 minutes until the top is brown and crispy.

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Spanish sausage hotpot

Winter is a fabulous time for comfort foods, but not so fabulous for taking a picture of that food, so apologies for the poor quality of this photo and all photos from now until next summer.

Anyway, my local butcher has a wonderful selection of sausages and they are hard to beat taste wise. He does a spanish style sausage which has a lovely red hue and is imbued with paprika. To do this sausage justice I like to add it to a hot-pot flavoured with paprika and tomatoes.  This time I served it with plain boiled rice, but noodles, mash potato or cabbage would also be lovely as accompaniments.

6 spanish style sausages
1 onion, diced
1 yellow pepper, sliced
1 red chilli, chopped finely
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or crushed
1 tsp root ginger, chopped finely
5 ready to eat dried apricots, quartered
1 tsp paprika
1 400g tin of butter beans in water, undrained
1 400g tin of plum tomatoes

Pour a tablespoon of oil into a large casserole dish and add the sausages and fry over a medium heat until the sausages are browned all over. I do this on the bottom of the roasting oven of the Aga. Add the onions and cook for a few minutes, then add the pepper, chilli, garlic and ginger and cook again for a few minutes more until everything is gently softened. Add the paprika and cook for a minute.  Then pour in the beans and the water they are in and give everything a good stir.  Add the tomatoes and the apricots and season with pepper.

Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 40 minutes to 1 hour until the sauce has reduced a little.  Check for seasoning and serve with something that will mop up the juices.


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Ludlow Food Festival’s Sausage Trail

Ludlow is a wonderful place to get good food, and once a year they have a fantastic festival that celebrates local and regional food.  The festival grows every year with new events and new foodie fanatics displaying their wares.

Some of you may remember that I was a judge for Shropshire’s Tastiest Sausage back in January and I blogged all about the wonderful time I had tasting delicious sausages.  Well, luckily for me, one of the expert judges, The Sausage King, had other commitments this year and found my post about judging sausages and asked if I could step in for him as an Expert Judge for this year’s Sausage Trail.  This was quite an honour, and when you take a look at The Sausage King’s website, you will see that I had a lot to live up to. The Sausage King certainly knows his sausages.

The Sausage Trail is a great part of the festival. There is a People’s Choice, where you pay £3.50, then you set off around Ludlow to taste the sausages in the competition and mark your score on the sheet you have been given.  This year there were five sausages to judge.  This is the busiest I have ever seen the festival and I can tell you that the queue I saw for one butcher’s sausages was long!

Then there is an Expert’s Choice and this year there were four judges, including me.  The other judges were Dave Gurr-Gearing, chef at The Queens, Ludlow, Howard Lyons of Taste Real Food, and Anthony Harrison, who bravely volunteered his services from the audience.

The entrants were all local or regional butchers, four from Ludlow and one from Bromyard in Herefordshire.

We decided that the sausages would be judged by taste, smell, appearance, texture and the salability of the sausage.  This last one was the hardest to judge, as I think you are either a person that prefers a plain pork sausage or you are a person that loves to try the more unusual varieties and so that would form the basis of judgement on the potential for commercial success of a more unusual sausage.

All of the sausages in the competition are new flavours that haven’t been sold by the butcher before.

Ludlow butchers are very proud of their sausages and the competition between them to create the best is strong.

The Expert’s Choice this year was A H Griffith’s Pork with Wild Hedgerow Berries sausage.  It was a difficult  decision to make because all the sausages were very delicious. It was the fact that they were all so good that meant that the vote wasn’t a unanimous one and the decision was made after a tot up of the scores we had given for each sausage.

The other sausages in the competition were:

Legges of Bromyard’s Pork and Black Pudding sausage
D W Wall & Son’s Pork with Wild Mushrooms and Blue Cheese
Andrew Francis’s Rare Breed Pork with Sage and Black Pepper
Ludlow Food Centre’s Pork with Honey Roasted Onion

It was a great experience being an Expert Judge and so thank you Sausage King for finding me and asking me!

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Sausage and sage pie

This is one of my all time favourites.  I can’t remember a party from my childhood, or adulthood, when one of these beauties hasn’t been invited.  The pie in the picture is one of mum’s creations and it is from my mum that I have this recipe.  My mum makes the best sausage pies in the world!

I made one for a party we had over the May bank holiday weekend, but with all the pre party chaos I forgot to take a picture of my creation, so I have waited until my mum made her next sausage pie before posting this recipe.  Luckily for me she makes then quite often.

It is always popular and I rarely get a chance for leftovers.  It is important though that you get very good sausage meat from a very good butcher for this pie to be top notch.

500g ready-made all butter puff pastry
1 egg, lightly beaten, to glaze

1kg top quality sausage meat
6-7 tips of sage (by tip I mean the top 3 or 4 leaves of a sprig)
200g onion
salt and pepper


If you don’t have a food processor then chop the onion and sage finely.  If you have a food processor, throw them both in and whizz until finely chopped.   Add them to the sausagemeat in a bowl, add a little salt and pepper and using your hands mix really well together.

Roll the puff pastry out into a large rectangle.  I forgot to measure mine to help with this but think about the baking tray you are going to use and it will probably be about the same size as that.

Place the sausagemeat in the centre of the pastry in a line, leaving an edge of about 3cm.

Fold the pastry over to meet at the top and crimp the edges well.  Place the pie onto a lightly greased baking tray and brush all over with a lightly beaten egg.  (You may have some spare pastry that you need to trim away.  If you do then brush this with egg and sprinkle with grated cheese and cut into fingers, place onto a greased baking sheet and cook for about 8-10 minutes for lovely cheese straws)

Place in a preheated oven at 220°c for about 30 minutes until golden brown.

You can serve this hot but I like it much better cold as the flavours really develop.

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Potato, cabbage and sausage gratin

This gratin came about from a mixture of things.  I love boulangere potatoes, and a few weeks ago I had a cabbage in the cupboard waiting to be used so I added a layer of cabbage and I was surprised at how good it was.  Then Rachel from Rachel Eats did the most amazing take on Rowley Leigh’s Cabbage and Sausage Cake, her majestic oak tree, as it became known.  Now, before I had read Rachel’s words on the Cabbage and Sausage cake nobody could have convinced me to try such a thing.  However, I was convinced by her words and the art of her photography that it had to be a good thing, so I made it one night a couple of weeks ago.  It tasted divine.  Mine didn’t look as good as Rachel’s, well for one thing I nearly dropped it as I turned it out, but it tasted very good indeed and probably even better reheated the next day. So, I thought perhaps a bit of sausage may just work in my potato and cabbage gratin. And, do you know? It does. So, thank you to Rachel for the inspiration.

When Mr OC ‘phoned me today and asked what was for tea, which is his habit (sometimes he asks me this question when he ‘phones as he walks from the train station to work.  The man thinks about his stomach a great deal! ) and I suggested a potato, cabbage and sausage gratin, I could tell from his tone that he thought this may be a bad idea.  But when he was halfway through eating it tonight he declared it “actually quite good, not as bad as I thought it would be”. I suppose this may not be considered high praise, but his plate was wiped clean by the end so I am taking it as such. He even declared that it didn’t need the gravy that I had forgotten to make.  Anyway, my view on the matter is that it is delicious, and that goes for the dish with or without the sausage.

4 – 5 medium-sized potatoes
5-6 leaves from a savoy cabbage
4-5 good quality sausages
2 cloves of garlic
25g butter
570ml (1 pint) chicken or vegetable stock
½ tsp dried thyme
salt and pepper


Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and blanch the cabbage leaves for two to three minutes.  Drain and rinse under cold running water to cool quickly and fix the green colour.  Shred the cabbage.

Peel the potatoes and slice thinly.  Chop the garlic finely.  Skin the sausages.

Generously butter a gratin dish and layer half the potato, topped with a layer of half the cabbage.  Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle over the chopped garlic.  Dot lumps of the sausage meat over. Layer the remaining cabbage, followed by the remaining potato.  Pour over the stock.  Season and sprinkle with the thyme and dot with the remaining butter.

Cover the dish with foil and cook in a preheated oven at 200°c (gas mark 6) for 30 minutes.  Remove the foil and return to the oven for a further 30-40 minutes until the top is golden and crusty. Serve with good bread to mop up the juices.

Preparing the gratin

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Scotch egg

The inspiration for making scotch eggs for the first time a few weeks ago was my daughter asking me to buy one when we were in the supermarket.  I didn’t like the look of the orange breadcrumbs and I am fussy about sausages, so I determined to make my own.  Whilst we were making them my daughter insisted that her friend at school had four scotch eggs every lunchtime. Not quite believing this, I told her that no, her friend couldn’t have four scotch eggs, surely she must have only have one.  I had to ask said friend’s mother the next day, and in a way we were both right as she does have four scotch eggs, or at least one quartered, which does look like four.

Anyway, my first attempt was a great success, with Mr O C declaring that they were the best scotch eggs he had ever tasted, which I take as a very big compliment as his Mum used to make them a lot, and it’s always hard for a wife to compare with a mother!

I made them for tea again tonight, with chips and baked beans – now there is a healthy balanced diet for you.  My excuse is that it is winter and it is cold and it is dark – is that enough excuses? Anyway they are delicious.

As they are called scotch eggs I have gone as Scotch as I can and added oats to the breadcrumbs, but feel free to just use more breadcrumbs and leave out the oats.

6 eggs, plus 1 egg for the coating
600g sausagemeat
75g breadcrumbs
25g oats
plain flour


Boil six of the eggs for six minutes.  You want them not quite hard-boiled. As soon as they are done, rinse under running cold water until completely cold to prevent the grey ring between the yolk and white, which will occur if you leave them to cool slowly.  Peel the shell of the eggs.

Divide the sausagemeat into 6 portions.  Take one portion into your hands and flatten into a rectangular shape that is large enough to wrap around an egg.  Take the egg and shape the sausagemeat around it making sure it is well sealed.  Repeat with the rest of the sausagemeat and eggs.

Sprinkle the plain flour quite thickly onto a plate.  Break the remaining egg into a bowl and beat well. Mix the breadcrumbs with the oats and put this mixture into another bowl.  You now need to dip each sausage-covered-egg into the flour until lightly covered, then dip into the egg and then lastly into the breadcrumbs until well covered.

I cook mine in the roasting oven of my Aga, which is equivalent to about 220°c (gas mark 7) placed on a baking tray drizzled with rapeseed oil.  I turn them a couple of times during the cooking and they take about 30 minutes to become golden brown all over. However they are normally deep fried in oil for about 6-8 minutes until golden brown and then drained on kitchen paper.

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The Shropshire Sizzle Off

When sausages on a stick become a serious affair!

It has been an exciting morning!  I have been part of the judging panel for Shropshire’s tastiest breakfast sausage and Shropshire’s tastiest speciality sausage today.  In all 21 sausages were sampled – that’s a fair few sausages.

Just before Christmas Heart of England Fine Foods (HEFF) asked for judges for this competition and regular readers of this blog will know that I love a good sausage and so couldn’t resist this invitation. There were six of us judging today and no doubt the other judges have a great deal more experience than me of this sort of thing.  The other judges were John Holden of Lucas Ingredients, a man with a wealth of experience of the meat trade; Jamie Yardley, chef and proprietor of The Boyne Arms in Burwarton; Richard Fletcher, chef and proprietor of The Pheasant Inn at Admaston; Eluned Watson of Shropshire Kitchen Magazine and Jenny Griffiths of the Aga Shop.  The competition was held at the Aga Shop in Ketley, Telford, which of course offered me a chance to gaze longingly at the lovely Aga pans and pretty much everything else in the shop. Oh to win the lottery!

The sausages were cooked in the roasting oven of the Aga – the best way to cook a sausage, of course.  They were then sliced and put into numbered dishes. We had to judge based on taste, internal appearance and texture.  It was really interesting to hear the comments of the other judges and whether they agreed with you, or not, about the merits of the particular sausage.  Judging the merits of a sausage is largely a matter of taste and what was good was that the judges tastes did seem to differ, some loved a particular sausage, others didn’t find it so appealing.

I found the breakfast sausages the most difficult to judge.  There were ten sausages in this category and there wasn’t a great deal of difference in a lot of them, some had been over seasoned, some weren’t quite the texture that you want in a sausage and one was judged by everyone to be ‘not a good sausage’. The winner of this category was Wenlock Edge Farm’s Proper Pork Sausage, which whilst it is indeed a good sausage, wasn’t my favourite, but it scored top marks with one of the judges and highly with the rest – as I say judging a sausage is a matter of taste. Highly commended was Shepley’s Pork Sausage and commended in this category was Maynard’s Farmhouse Pork Sausage.

The speciality sausage competition was very interesting as there were some very different sausages including Old Spot, Honey and Mustard Sausage; Pork, Cranberry and Sage; chilli flavoured sausages, beef sausage and venison sausage.  So this was definitely a matter of taste and depends on whether you like your sausage messed with or if you prefer a proper pork sausage.   There were some very tasty sausages in there and some which may be an acquired taste. Again Wenlock Farm won the day with their Wenlock Farm Pork, Bacon and Leek sausage.  Highly commended was Ludlow Food Centre’s Spanish Hot Spot ,which I will definitely stop off for next time I am passing as I think it would be a lovely sausage in a sausage hot-pot, (there’s a tongue twister for you, a Spanish Hot Spot Sausage Hot-pot).  Commended in this category was Moor Farm Shop’s Gloucester Old Spot Pork, Honey and Mustard sausage, which I thought was a very tasty sausage indeed if you want something a bit different.

So, well done to Wenlock Edge Farm, their winning sausages will now be judged at the Grand Final of the West Midland’s Sizzle Off at the Aga Shop in the Mailbox in Birmingham next Thursday.  I hope they make Shropshire proud.

I really enjoyed taking part in the judging process. I had a great morning and I now know which sausages I need to track down in the future.  However, I must admit that my local butcher is very hard to beat and had he entered his breakfast sausage that would have been the winner for me.

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Bangers and mash with onion gravy

This was Thursday night’s tea. I am a big fan of sausages, so much so that I have volunteered my services to be a judge for Shropshire’s Tastiest Sausage this Tuesday.  I will tell you all about it when it’s all over. Back to our tea, bangers and mash is a classic combination and for very good reason, it’s the ultimate comfort food with fluffy mash, savoury sausages and rich onion gravy. I roast my sausages in the roasting oven of the Aga rather than grilling them, but really it’s the same thing. The onion gravy depends on getting the onions to caramelise and for this a slow cook over a gentle heat makes them meltingly tender and then a short blast over a medium heat finishes off the caramelisation.  Make sure you use the best quality sausages that you can afford, your local butchers are usually your best bet for a really good sausage.

Serves 2
4 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
20g butter
6 sausages

For the onion gravy:
1 medium onion, peeled, cut in half and sliced thinly
25g (1oz)butter
2 tbsp plain flour
glug of Marsala or Madeira wine
(275 ml) ½ pint  hot stock ( I used chicken because that is what I had in the freezer)


First start the gravy by putting 25g of butter to melt in a large pan and add the onion.  Cook the onions over a gentle heat until very soft and translucent. Turn the heat up and stir the onions in the pan until browned at the edges. Stir in the flour until it has been soaked up by the buttery onions and add the Marsala, stirring all the time.  Add the stock gradually, still stirring until the gravy is smooth.  Allow the gravy to simmer for five minutes or so until thickened.  Season with salt and pepper.

Whilst the onions are cooking, put the sausages onto a grill rack on a baking tray and place under a medium grill or into an oven preheated at 200°c and cook for 25-30 minutes until nicely browned all over.

Whilst the onions and sausages are cooking, place the potatoes in a saucepan and cover with cold water.  Bring up to a boil and simmer until a knife can be inserted easily all the way through. Drain and place the potatoes and 20g of butter back into the hot pan and allow the butter to melt over the potatoes. Mash with a potato masher or ricer until really smooth and creamy.

Serve the mash, sausages and gravy on warmed plates and enjoy.

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