Sunday, 4 March 2012

Spring cassoulet

Well hello there, Spring! Man, am I glad to see you. Don't get me wrong, I am not adverse to winter; I think we can all agree that Christmas is pretty swell and I particularly enjoy wearing clothes that you can hide in (and the rich hearty food which makes you need clothes which you can hide in).  Autumn is all very picturesque and cosy, and at this stage the prospect of it getting colder just makes you think of the good bits, like log fires and mulled wine.  Summer, meh, I can take it or leave it; the weather is always disappointing, a fringe becomes entirely impractical and an overwhelming preoccupation with how to cover my upper arms overtakes me.  But spring, spring you are excellent.  So much promise; all the grey and brown starts to be replaced by colours and everyone becomes totally posi.  I walk down the street with an urge to shout out, "Hey, nature, I'm not wearing a coat, HOW DO YOU LIKE THEM APPLES?".  Then nature usually decides to put me in my place with a freaking apocalyptic rain storm.

So to celebrate, a lovely seasonal sausage cassoulet! What do you mean you see sausage cassoulet as more of a winter dish? Every season is processed pork season! Alright alright, I had a load of beans to use up, get off my case.

And yes, I know this looks like those tins of baked beans and sausages in a can.  But that is essentially what this is, albeit slightly more labour intensive. 

To serve two with a bit left over

2 tbsp oil
6 pork sausages, they need to be a sturdy size, no wincy chipolatas
1 red onion, sliced into half moons
4 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
1 glass red wine
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
pinch chilli flakes
Sprig rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 beef stock cube
1 tin of beans (cannelini are ideal, but I wasn't concentrating in the supermarket and bought flageolot. Chickpeas are also good)

First off, in a heavy casserole dish (or big saucepan if you use your pocket money for things like beer and lipstick rather than le cruesets) fry off the sausages until browned.  They don't need to cook through, they'll do that later, but this stops them looking like poached fingers and adds a bit of flavour.  Oh and remember to prick the skins, otherwise, KABOOM.  Once coloured, take them out and put to one side. 

To the same pot, add your onions. There should be lots of sausagey fat, but if the pan is dry add some oil.  Once the onions are softened add your garlic and fry for another minute.  Then add your glass of wine and bubble till reduced by about half.  If you happen to have had a really long week and somehow, by a stroke of unfathomable sorcery, the glass of wine becomes half a glass of wine before you have a chance to put it in the pot, nay worry. 

Once the wine has reduced, add your tomatoes (plus a tomato tin full of water), stock cube, sugar, vinegar, chilli flakes, rosemary, bay and of course your sausages.  Bubble away on a low heat for about an hour, checking regularly and adding more water if needed.  After an hour, taste and adjust seasoning if needed.  The sauce should be rich and thick. Add your beans and cook for another five mins (if you're using chickpeas then add them in earlier but beans will tend to fall apart if left too long). 

Serve with a hunk of bread, or a good spoon of mash if you're in need of some ultimate comfort. 

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