Thursday, 5 November 2009

Delia's sausages braised in cider with apples and juniper

I am a simple person at heart, and once I find what I see as the perfect recipe for a certain ingredient (sausages, for example..) I will tend to cook that recipes every single time I have that ingredient in-thank god for cooking seasonally, as this forces me to change every now and then! As it is, this is the recipe I cook every single time I have sausages whilst British apples are available. It is devine.

I adore British sausages and I think they are what I would miss most should I ever move away from the UK-other countries have lovely sausages too but British bangers are quite different to any of them. Sausages are also such a good-value meat, even the posh ones I get from my local farmer's market cost less than £4 so good quality sausages are within every budget's reach, so go and get the best you can from a good butcher or the supermarket.

I love using juniper berries, they feel like such a northern european ingredient which is somewhat unusual with today's mainly Mediterranean-obsessed eaters. I am always transported to the time I spent working on a sheep farm during lambing time on the north German moors, deep in snow and surrounded by tall juniper bushes. We would come back to the farmhouse freezing and eat a warming, juniper-scented mutton stew. You can change the herbs around in this recipe using any of the hardy herbs, and you can leave out the pancetta successfully, but the juniper berries are close to essential-I think they are the base note securing the apples into this savoury dish. You can also use juniper berries in most stews and braised meat dishes, and they will last over 12 months without diminishing in flavour so don't worry if they're a new addition to your cupboard.

I know some people have a bit of a downer on Delia, especially since her horrific last book but please don't let that put anyone off this particular recipe. It's from How To Cook: Book One, which is one of the books I used to give me a good grounding when I first moved away from home. It was great for explaining technique but I rarely use any of the actual recipes these days-except for this.

6 pork sausages (0r 450g)
1 large onion, sliced into rings
1 garlic clove, chopped
225g of streaky bacon or pancetta, chopped
450g apple (one large cooking and one eating apple, or whatever is available), unpeeled
1 tablespoon plain (all-purpose) flour
1 tablespoon cider (or white wine) vinegar
420ml strong dry cider (I use Westons Organic)
A few sprigs of fresh thyme, or a teaspoon of dried
1 large bay leaf
1 desertspoon of juniper berries, slightly crushed


1. Place a small amount of olive oil into a frying pan and place in on a medium heat. Fry the sausages until nicely browned-you don't need to worry if they are fully cooked at this stage. Remove from the pan and place in your casserole dish, a large saucepan, or a slow-cooker.

2. Add the onions, garlic and bacon to the frying pan and fry until golden. Remove and place in your dish.

3. Now core and thinly slice your apples, and place in the frying pan for a few minutes to brown slightly. You may need to add some extra oil to the pan. Remove and place in your dish.

4. Have your chosen dish on a moderate heat, add the flour and stir. Add the cider vinegar, followed by the cider a little at a time whilst stirring. There will be a little cider left if you are using a standard sized bottle-pour it into a glass as your cook's privilege!

5. Add the herbs and the crushed juniper berries (use a pestle and mortar or the back of a spoon) and season (be careful as the bacon will also be salty).

6. Put the lid on your chosen dish and simmer very gently on a low heat, 1 hour on the hob or several in the slow-cooker. Serve with mashed potato to soak up the delicious sauce.

My mashed potato
If you're happy making mashed potato then ignore this, but many people seem to find it a little more difficult than it should be. Making good mash is less about a recipe than it is about good observation though. I'm going to come right out and say that I can't stand mash made with an electric whisk, it tastes so watery! Mash shouldn't be lumpy, but it shouldn't be overly smooth either-it should have some texture. I don't peel my potatoes for mash, as I think it adds to the flavour (and also most of the potato's nutritients are in or just below the skin), but it's up to you.

Firstly estimate how much mash you will want from the raw potatoes-I always make too much (which I either freeze, or warm up the next day with grated cheese on top and eat it for lunch with a poached egg) but I'd go for 4-5 large potatoes, do less if you've got a small stomach! Boil the potatoes until thoroughly cooked, then drain. Season the potatoes then add a desertspoon of butter and mash roughly with your potato masher (or a wooden spoon). Add 100ml (or less scientifically, a splash!) of milk (preferably whole or full-fat milk as it actually has a flavour) and beat more carefully using a fork. Your arms should hurt! Stop to consider the texture of the mash. It will probably require at least 50ml more milk. Add any extra milk in small quantities so you don't drown the potatoes, but I usually find that the best textured mash had at least a tablespoon more milk than I expected to need-it stops the mash being too heavy. Taste, season again if neccessary, or add some grated cheese for extra flavour (to my mind Lancashire, or another white crumbly cheese, works best).

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