What I want from a mid-week meal after work is something tasty, simple and, as it’s winter, a bit hearty. Sausages meet all those requirements, particularly the plump meaty pork and leek ones I picked up from De Beauvoir deli on the walk home. Bursting with juicy, fatty, tasty pork they looked they would provide a feast in themselves without me having to do too much. There’s something about well-made sausages that sends me off to some sort of gustatory nirvana. They’re just so juicy and tasty and meaty and…and…and you get the picture.
I didn’t fancy mash, and didn’t have any potatoes anyway, but there was a big jar of nutty Puy lentils sitting on the counter top. And I love lentils. They’re just so versatile and tasty, nutty and earthy and intrinsically healthy too. You can eat them warm or cold, in salad, with salsa, a spicy tomato sauce, gravy, fish or indeed, sausages. As I had an onion to use up I decided on some gravy too. All in all a properly simple mid-week meal.
While I was preparing everything I came across some salsify. I’ve eaten, but never cooked Salsify so I thought I’d give it a go. Somewhere akin to Jerusalem artichokes and swede in taste, it’s an unusual root. After a little internet research I scrubbed it, top and tailed it, then boiled unpeeled for 30 minutes. After that the skin just sloughed off in my hands.
To finish it off I fried it in the sausage pan for about five minutes to brown the edges add a bit of meat to its earthy flavours. It worked well with the gravy. The only downside was that it left a sticky residue after boiling that was a bit of a bugger to clean.
sausages and lentils
For two, with some lentils left over for a salad the next day
This is the heart of the meal and is great just on its own. The tomato and courgette add a little sweetness and textural variation to the lentils. If you have then, then mushrooms and celery make great additions, Freshly chopped parsley and spring onions stirred in at the end can make the lentils really special.
1 cup Puy (or similar) lentils
Water or stock
1 bay leaf
1 clove garlic, whole but a bit squashed
Put the sausages on a low heat to gently fry away. I use a non-stick pan because I hardly need any oil and can just leave the sausage for a while before turning them without any danger of them becoming welded to the pan. Cook as slow and low as you can. I usually fry them for about 30-40 minutes, turning about four times. You want to be left with them sitting in a thick molasses like treacle, all sticky and savoury, by the time you’re ready to serve them.
Put a large pan of water or stock on to boil and finely dice the tomato and courgette. When the liquid in the pan is merrily bubbling away pour in the lentils and vegetables, ad the bay leaf and clove or garlic and bring the pan down to a simmer and leave it to simmer away for 25 minutes or so. The lentils should then be perfectly al dente. Serve hot or just warm on to the plates, stick the sausages on top, pour over any gravy or sauce and you’re good to go with a wholesome winter warmer of a meal.
The main thing with this gravy is to leave enough time for it to bubble away for at least 30 minutes. This deepens the flavour. To enrich it further (and obviate the need for balsamic vinegar) you could add a glass of dry vermouth, white wine or marsala to the buttery flour mix before you add the stock. The latter would add more depth and sweetness, but the former two would give you a slightly tarter, lighter gravy. Another useful addition is a teaspoon of Dijon or grain mustard to add a little piquancy. I tend to use these when I’m doing mash of any sort because the rich creamy potatoes/celeriac/parsnips etc combine so well with the deeply piquant-sweet-savoury gravy to create a smoothly luxurious mouthful.
1 heaped teaspoon white flour
Slice the onion into fine quarter rings simply chop it into small pieces. Heat the butter over a low heat (ensure it doesn’t burn – I add a wee bit of oil to stop it happening so easily) and add the onion. Let it fry very slowly for 10-15 minutes, a bit longer if you have time, until it is soft, sweet and aromatic, but not coloured. Add the flour and stir it in until it has gone a light biscuity brown.
Start adding the stock (or wine/marsala if you’re using it) – a little at a time to prevent lumps forming – stirring it all in as you go. Splash in some Worcestershire sauce and about a teaspoon of balsamic. Grind over plenty of black pepper and, keeping the heat on low, let it bubble as long as you can. If it looks like it’s reducing too much simply stir in a bit more water or stock.