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I love a sausage


Whether you prefer the traditional Irish banger or some Spanish chorizo, says Brenda Costigan, sausages are a tasty and versatile treat.

A super comfort food, sausages are delicious in many forms, whether they're in a mixed grill, a casserole, or served with mashed potatoes and gravy. Sausages are not a recent invention. Apicius, which is perhaps the oldest known cookbook in existence, includes a recipe for the sausages which were enjoyed by the citizens of ancient Rome.

If you have ever wondered why we have no salami or chorizo-type sausages native to our cuisine, it is actually a question of climate. Traditionally, it was the dry, warm winds in the hotter countries that enabled these types of sausages to be air-dried. With our damp, unreliable climate this was out of the question, and consequently fresh, raw sausages are typical here in Ireland.

Most good butchers and supermarkets carry a wide range of different sausages. Sausages have become a craft industry, and many tasty combinations of meats, spices, vegetables and fruits -- such as pork with apple and leek -- are available. Have fun trying different types.

Toulouse sausages with dijon mash

This popular French sausage has a high proportion of meat and makes a good meal. Serve with onion gravy. Serves 4.

You will need:

3 tablespoons olive oil

4 onions, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon sugar

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

700g (1 1/2lb) peeled potatoes, diced

1 garlic clove

4 tablespoons creme fraiche

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Lump of butter

8 Toulouse sausages

300ml (1/2pt) beef stock or tinned beef consomme

1 tablespoon redcurrant jelly (optional)

Put two tablespoons of the olive oil into a pan or saucepan, then fry the thinly sliced onions over a moderate heat until they become deliciously brown, adding the teaspoon of sugar along the way. This will take a little time. Season with some salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Put the peeled, diced potatoes and the garlic clove into a saucepan of boiling, salted water. Bring the water to the boil again and then simmer the potatoes for about 15 minutes until they are tender. Drain the potatoes well and, if you can find it, discard the garlic clove. Return the potatoes to the saucepan and heat them gently to drive off any extra moisture. Add the creme fraiche, the Dijon mustard and the lump of butter and mash until smooth.

In the meantime, fry the sausages in the remaining tablespoon of the oil until they become golden and cooked through. Then lift them off and keep them warm. To make the onion gravy, add the beef stock or the tinned beef consomme, whichever you are using, to the onions. Also add the redcurrant jelly, if you are using it. Stir and simmer to reduce the stock a little. Serve the sausages and mash with some of the onion gravy poured over them.

Sausage and bean pot

This casserole combines sausages and beans in a rich tomato sauce. It can be made in advance, but do not put the crumb topping on until just before putting the dish into the oven, otherwise it may go soggy. This recipe is inspired by one of Antony Worrall Thompson's. Serves 3-4.

You will need:

2 tablespoons olive oil

8 favourite pork sausages

1 onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

4 rashers, back or streaky, chopped, see note

1-2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

600ml (1pt) tomato passata (see basic tomato sauce recipe below or use your favourite shop-bought jar of passata)

1x400g tin butter beans, drained

1x400g tin kidney beans, drained -- or other beans of your choice such as flageolet or cannellini

For the topping, you will need:

110g (4oz) breadcrumbs

25g (1oz) Parmesan, grated

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

2 sage leaves, chopped, or ? teaspoon mixed herbs or thyme

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

40g (1 1/2oz) butter, melted

Green salad


If you're going to make the basic tomato sauce and use it instead of a shop-bought passata, it already contains rashers, so you can omit them from the sausage and bean pot ingredients.

Preheat the oven to 180 C, 350 F, Gas 4.

Use half the olive oil to fry the pork sausages until they become golden brown all over. Set the sausages aside and, when they are cool enough, cut each one into three. In the same pan, heat the remaining oil and fry the chopped onion and the garlic. Then add the chopped rashers and cook until the onion is soft and the rashers are cooked. Add the Worcestershire sauce, the tomato passata and the drained butter beans and kidney beans, or whichever beans you are using. Bring to the boil, add the sausages and then pour the mixture into a preheated ovenproof dish. Blend the breadcrumbs, the grated Parmesan, the chopped parsley and the sage or the mixed herbs or the thyme, whichever you are using -- with the salt and freshly ground black pepper, and scatter over the top. Drizzle the melted butter over the lot. Bake in the oven for about 25-30 minutes until golden and crispy. Serve with a green salad.

Basic tomato sauce

If you would like a change from ready-made tomato passata, try this tasty recipe. This should end up as a nice chunky sauce, and it's great with pasta.

You will need:

3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

125g (4 1/4oz) rashers, chopped

1 medium carrot, grated

450g (1lb) fresh, ripe tomatoes, skinned and chopped (see note)

1x400g (14oz) tin chopped tomatoes

1 tablespoon tomato puree

1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon sugar


To skin tomatoes, dip them whole into a bowl of boiling water and leave them for about 60 seconds. Lift them out and the skin should peel off quite easily.

Put the finely chopped garlic and onion into a saucepan with the butter and the olive oil. Fry until softened. Lift out with a perforated spoon. Add the chopped rashers and fry until golden. Add the grated carrot, the skinned, chopped, fresh tomatoes, the tinned tomatoes, and the tomato puree. Add the balsamic vinegar. Return the cooked garlic and onion to the pan. Add the dried oregano and season well with some salt and freshly ground black pepper and the sugar. With the lid off, cook until everything becomes soft, and until a nice consistency is obtained.

Pasta bake with italian sausage

Comforting and versatile, it is easy to ring the changes with this dish. Use mild sausages or spicy ones, or include a little chopped chorizo to add a bit more punch to the flavour. Serves 4-6.

You will need:

350g (12oz) penne

1 cube chicken stock (optional)

450g (1lb) Italian sausages

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, chopped

350g (12oz) fresh, ripe tomatoes, chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

350ml (3/4pt) tomato sauce

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

150-175g (5-6oz) mozzarella, thinly sliced or grated

2-3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan

Tossed salad, to serve

Preheat the oven to 190 C, 375 F, Gas 6.

Cook the penne according to the directions on the packet -- if you like, add a chicken stock cube to the cooking water for extra flavour. Drain the cooked pasta well. In the meantime, fry the Italian sausages in the olive oil until they are golden and just cooked. Set them aside and cut each one into three.

Add the chopped onion to the pan and fry it until it is lightly golden. Add the chopped, fresh tomatoes to the onion. Put the drained penne back into the empty saucepan. Add the sausages pieces, and then pour in the onion and tomato mixture and the tomato sauce. Flavour with the balsamic vinegar. Season with some salt and freshly ground black pepper. Pour into a greased, shallow ovenproof dish, and spread it out. Scatter the thinly sliced or grated mozzarella on top, then add a layer of freshly grated Parmesan. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes until the cheese melts. If you make this in advance and the ingredients are cold, it will take at least 45 minutes to cook in the oven. Lower the heat to 180 C, 350 F, Gas 4 after 20 minutes. Serve with a tossed salad.

Sausages in cider or apple juice

Use good-quality sausages. If you like, 1-2 tablespoons of tomato puree can be included -- add it at the same time as the cider. Serves 4-6.

You will need:

450g (1lb) sausages

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, thinly sliced

1 small garlic clove, chopped

2 crisp eating apples, peeled, cored and diced

2 small sticks celery, chopped

2 teaspoons brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon mixed herbs

1 small teaspoon Dijon mustard or 1 tablespoon mango chutney

300ml (1/2pt) cider or apple juice

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2-3 tablespoons cornflour (optional)

1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

Potatoes, to serve

Fry the sausages gently in the oil until they are golden, then add the thinly sliced onion and the chopped garlic and fry until they are soft. Add the peeled, cored and diced apples, the chopped celery, the brown sugar, the mixed herbs, the Dijon mustard or mango chutney, whichever you are using, and the cider or apple juice, whichever you are using. Season with some salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat right down and simmer with a lid on for about 15 minutes.

If you like, the juices can be thickened by adding 2-3 teaspoons of cornflour that have been blended with a tablespoon or two of cold water. Add some of the hot liquid to the blended cornflour and then add the lot into the sausage mix. Stir, and bring to the boil to thicken.

Sprinkle the chopped, fresh parsley over the top. Serve with potatoes.