© David Loftus
quick-time sausage cassoulet
This year I seem to have been working around lots of builders, and every time they put a request in for some grub it’s been “sausage this” or “sausage that.” A foreman called Dusty, who was working next door, kept on talking about a sausage casserole. So I made this one up very quickly, basing it on a French cassoulet-type thing. It’s nice and easy to cook for a group as it’s all done in one dish. While I was going sausage-mad, I realized that we’re fan- tastically lucky these days to have great sausages available in the supermarkets, farmers’ markets and good local butchers. In this dish feel free to use any sausages you like.
Preheat your oven to 425°F. Put your porcini mushrooms into a dish, cover with 2 cups of boiling water and allow to soak until soft. Heat a large casserole-type pan or roasting pan on the stovetop. Slice the bacon across into strips — called “lardons.” Fry in 4 tablespoons of olive oil until crisp and golden. Tie your herbs together with some string and add to the bacon in the pan with your onions, garlic, carrot, celery and bay leaves. Drain the porcini, reserving the soaking liquid, add them to the pan and fry nice and slowly for about 5 minutes. Add the red wine and simmer until the liquid has reduced by half.
Add the tomatoes to the pan, breaking them up with a spoon, then add your strained porcini soaking liquor and the beans. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Lightly season with salt and pepper before laying your sausages on top — all higgledy piggledy. Break up your bread into coarse, chunky bread crumbs, toss with the thyme, a little salt and olive oil and sprinkle on top of the sausages. Place in the oven for around 1 hour, until the sausages and bread crumbs are golden and crisp. Remove the bunch of herbs and serve with something like mashed pota- toes or polenta.
Try this: Any combination of beans and lentils works well in this cassoulet, so feel free to use what you fancy.
And this: Sometimes, if I want to make this a bit more healthy and get some greens involved, I will stir in a couple of handfuls of fresh spinach right at the end when serving up. The heat from the dish will make the spinach wilt.
• 2 handfuls of dried porcini mushrooms, broken up
• 8 thick slices of bacon
• extra virgin olive oil
• 1 large bunch of mixed fresh rosemary, thyme and sage
• 2 red onions, peeled and roughly chopped
• 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
• 1 large carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
• 1/2 celery heart, finely chopped 2 bay leaves
• 1/2 750 ml bottle of red wine 3 4oz cans of plum tomatoes
• 2 14oz cans of borlotti or cannellini beans, or use a mixture
• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 24 chipolata sausages or 8 larger sausages
• 1 large, stale loaf, crusts removed
• 1 small handful of fresh thyme, leaves picked