It was the sort of winter night when only sausages would do, and I came home with both my favourite butcher’s variety and a packet of plump Italian ones – coarse textured and seasoned with fennel seeds and dried chilli. I cooked the lot slowly, so that their skins were glossy and sticky as Marmite.
For want of potatoes – which I forgot to pick up at the grocer’s– I crushed white haricot beans with a bunch of steamed spinach leaves and turned them into a mound of fluffy, green-freckled mash.
I must say that pretty much any sausage and mash is welcome at my table, but the best will always be those whose meat is coarsely ground and open-textured, cooked with care and a watchful eye. The mash can be anything that is soft and silky – pumpkin, potato, chickpea or cannellini bean, or even a mixture of roots, such as parsnips or swede – the latter being welcome only when served with copious amounts of salted butter and coarsely ground black pepper.
I will sometimes mash chickpeas to go with merguez sausages (I also stir in a little za’atar), and creamed haricot with garlicky Toulouse sausages. Rosemary-spiked cannellini mash is gorgeous with Italian fennel sausages.
Last winter a puddle of buttery parsnip purée sat especially well with a plate of black pudding and I suspect it will again this year.
Baked sausages with spinach cannellini
If you are mixing your sausages, then I suggest you put the plumper sort in to cook first before adding the thinner ones. (Those with a good girth need a lower heat if they are not to split.) You could add cream to the spinach and haricot bean mash – not much, but it is good as it is. A knob of butter stirred in at the end is a nice touch, but better still would be hot juices from the sausage pan.
Enough for 4
groundnut or vegetable oil 3 tbsp
assorted sausages 1kg
rosemary sprigs 8
garlic 8 cloves
bay leaves 3
For the beans:
spinach leaves 200g
chicken stock 200ml
cannellini beans 2 x 400g cans
Wash the spinach leaves and discard any thick stems. Put the leaves, still dripping wet, in a deep pan, covered by a tight lid, over a moderate heat. Let them steam for a minute or two, then turn the leaves over with tongs and steam for a further minute until they are collapsed and bright green. Remove from the heat and rinse the spinach briefly in cold water, squeeze firmly, then leave to cool.
Put the spinach in the bowl of a food processor or blender.
Pour the chicken stock into a deep pan. Drain the cannellini beans, add to the chicken stock and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and let the beans simmer for about 5 minutes. Add them and their stock to the spinach and process briefly, until you have a coarse purée. (Take care not to overprocess or it will become gluey in texture.)
Cook the sausages: put a large frying pan over a moderate heat. Warm the oil in a shallow pan to which you have a lid over a low to moderate heat. Add the sausages, starting with the fat ones first before adding the thinner, smaller ones a few minutes later. Tuck in the rosemary sprigs, garlic cloves and bay leaves, then let the sausages brown lightly. Keep a close eye on them, turning when the underside is a glossy, golden brown.
Spoon the spinach and bean purée into a small saucepan and warm over a moderate heat, stirring so it doesn’t stick, then serve with the sausages.
Panna cotta with blood orange and pomegranate
Pomegranates and deep carmine blood oranges make a cracking accompaniment for panna cotta. The dessert is at the perfect wobble after about 4 hours in the fridge, but will come to no harm if you leave it longer, even overnight. The portion is small – I use a pretty mould that holds 175ml, which I find is just enough for one.
Makes 4 small dishes
For the panna cotta:
green cardamom pods 12
double cream 400ml
full-cream milk 125ml
caster sugar 90g
gelatine 2 sheets
For the fruit:
blood oranges 2
Crack open the cardamom pods and extract the seeds, then crush them to a coarse powder using a pestle and mortar. Put the cardamom in a small, nonstick pan with the cream, milk and sugar, and place over a moderate heat. Bring the cream almost to the boil, then remove from the heat, cover with a plate and leave to infuse for 30 minutes.
Soak the gelatine in a bowl of cold water for 10 minutes or until it has become soft. Warm the infused cream gently, stirring continuously, for 2 or 3 minutes, but on no account let it come to the boil. Lift the gelatine from the water and drop into the cream, stirring with a wooden spoon until it has dissolved, then remove from the heat.
Pour the cream through a sieve suspended over a jug. Pour into 4 small ramekins and refrigerate for 4 hours, or until lightly set.
Halve the pomegranate, remove the seeds, discard any with pith, and save as much juice as you can. Slice the peel from the oranges and remove any pith. Slice into segments, removing the skin as you go and mix with the pomegranate.
Warm the ramekins briefly by dipping them for a few seconds in hot water, then turn out the panna cotta into small dishes. Spoon the pomegranate, orange segments and their juices over the little puddings at the last minute.
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