I won’t lie to you. This is not a dish that’s light on calories. But my word it is worth every one of them. My fennel and sausage ragu is exactly what the doctor ordered for mid-February. It’s full of good, hearty ingredients and it can’t fail to cheer you up from the inside out on a chilly evening. This dish is all about the sausages; the better the sausages you can get your hands on, the better the finished dish. Head to your local farmers’ market, butcher or farm shop to get hold of something spicy and Italian, they may be a little more expensive but trust me, you won’t regret it.
I often get left with a collection of fresh herbs. I don’t have a freezer so can’t freeze them for future use and even if they come in a pot, they always seem to die on me. This recipe is a great one for using up almost any fresh herbs you have hanging around (except maybe mint, keep that for the gin). As if this recipe wasn’t useful enough already it also contains super easy meatballs, made from sausages, for minimum fuss and maximum taste.
You will need (for four):
- 4 large herby sausages
- 350g tagliatelle (you can use any other pasta)
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 small garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 can chopped tomatoes
- 2 medium tomatoes, chopped, most of the seeds removed
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- Small handful fresh basil and parsley, large stalks removed, roughly chopped
- Oil for cooking
- Salt and pepper
Get a large frying pan onto a low heat and add a little oil. Add the onion and garlic to the pan and cook gently, stirring occasionally until softened, about 10-15 minutes.
I had a grand vision. A toad in the hole to rival all others; one that brought together two of my favourite parts of a Sunday roast in one delicious meal. Pigs in blankets meet Yorkshire puddings sounds pretty amazing to me and so sausage and bacon Toad in the Hole was born. One slight issue with the version that I made was that it was almost a total failure. However, I decided to post this anyway (I think these posts are just as useful as those that are successful) so that if you try it for yourself you can use my ideas at the end to have more success than I did.
To kick the picnic off to a good start I made some spiced cider. The reason for this was twofold; it’s a marriage made in heaven when mixed with cinnamon and I thought if my guests drunk a little cider they might get their cider jacket on and forget it’s cold.
When the BBQ is good and hot, put the cider into a saucepan and add a few cloves, a stick of cinnamon and some star anise. Keep on the heat until lovely and warm and then pour into cups and warm up your hands and your insides.
Originally I was just going to put a few caramelised onions in with the sausage meat but then I started thinking of other flavours; rosemary and fennel to start. With these new found thoughts I made a batch of eight sausage rolls, two of each of the following flavours; caramelised onion, herbs, fennel and olive. I think a nice spicy tomato chutney would have been brilliant too.
First of all make the caramelised onions. I used a whole onion, fried gently in butter for 20 minutes until soft and starting to brown then added sugar, salt and pepper. They were wonderfully sticky. While the onions are cooking; crush some fennel seeds, chop a few sprigs of fresh rosemary, parsley and chives and finely chop a few olives.
The sausages I had for this were some lovely, local chipolatas from a fantastic butcher. My butcher not only knows everything there is to know about meat, he knows a fair few things about vegetables. I heeded his advice about cooking the spring greens and they turned out brilliantly – see below.
Jerusalem artichokes aren’t very big and to make the most of them I needed a helping hand from the potato. In total you need 450g finely sliced and peeled artichokes and potatoes. You don’t have to peel the artichokes if you give them a good scrub but I did. They have a tendency to go brown very quickly once peeled so speed is of the essence here.
Layer the finely sliced potatoes and artichokes in a baking dish, seasoning between each layer. Mix together 120ml cream and 180ml milk and pour this over. Place in an oven at 170C for an hour and twenty minutes.
It’s been getting colder, the days getting shorter and the need for all things comforting increasing. I went to the butcher and managed to get hold of some local recipe sausages. Toad in the Hole would be it. With some gravy and mash. Proper British.
What you will need (for two)
Sausages of your choice
1/2 pint of milk
Pinch of salt and pepper
2 garlic cloves
90ml balsamic vinegar
I started off by frying my sausages and made the batter while they were cooking. I find the best way for Yorkshire pudding batter is to put it all in a bowl and whisk furiously. It’ll all come right in the end. I was also clever enough to plan ahead, pre-heat the oven as hot as it would go and heat some oil in a dish.