Cider-roasted sausages and vegetables

I know my last post was about sausages, but they ARE my favourite thing. Plus they’re just so easy to conjure up into a dinner mid-week, when faffing around with other meat just seems like a lot of effort.

I got this recipe from my Mother-in-Law last year; when my husband was working away for weeks at a time last summer I ate this at least once a week. It’s so easy but really tasty, and has lots of lovely veggies in so at least feels healthy!

You can roast whatever vegetables you like really; below is what I use on a regular basis. It would be really good with some lovely young beetroot in there too, skins on and quartered up. You can obviously also accompany it with any veg you like, tenderstem broccoli or asparagus are my favourites!

Cider-roasted sausages

Serves 2

6 sausages

2 small handfuls new potatoes (I used Anya potatoes in the pictures below)

1 red pepper

1 medium red onion

1 wine glass of cider

Olive oil

1 tablespoon thyme

To serve

Green vegetables

 

Method

Heat the oven to 200C. In a roasting tin, drizzle some olive oil and add the sausages and the new potatoes, halved or cut into chunks if they’re large. Roast for around 20 minutes, or until the potatoes and sausages are turning brown.

Slice the pepper into chunky strips and cut the onion into wedges. Put these into the roasting tin and toss to get covered in oil. Sprinkle everything with the thyme.

Roast everything for a further 15 minutes, by which time the vegetables will be turning brown. Pour in the cider (you need enough to cover the base of the tin) and return to the oven for another 10 minutes or so, until the liquid has reduced down and made a sticky sauce.

Steam or boil your vegetables for serving and pile everything up together. Tuck in!

Sticky sausages, cornbread muffins and corn-on-the-cob

Yes, more cornbread. I have been obsessed with cornbread ever since I was taken to a soul food restaurant in Harlem by my brother and his wife many years ago, where we had the most awesome food; yams, fried chicken, ribs, corn-on-the-cob and of course, the most delicious cornbread. It was the first time I’d eaten it and I ate LOADS, it was an amazing discovery for me!

Recently I’ve been wanting to eat more of this kind of food, I suppose in a subconscious effort to stop eating 99% italian food and try and get away from pasta for every meal. I decided to make some cornbread muffins (using a recipe from Nigella Bites) to go with the sausages I had in the fridge at the last minute; mostly because I was too lazy to dig up a root of potatoes, wash them and then do something with them by the time I’d got home. They were amazing though, sweet, dense and with a lovely, slightly grainy texture, all of which went really well with the sticky sausages. Best of all, the whole dinner was really quick and mostly low-effort, and made a nice midweek dinner for a hot day like today. My husband was slightly dubious about the muffins though, and did actually make the comment when I put the plate on the table, “hmmm, sausages and cupcakes”. But he ate them, so they must have been good!

For the sausages I just mixed together some honey, sesame oil (not very southern admittedly, but I can’t make sticky sausages without it, the nuttiness is incredible with sausages) and a squirt of barbecue sauce. If I’d had the time or the willpower I would have also made some barbecue beans with this!

Cornbread muffins

Makes 12 muffins

175g cornmeal (or polenta)

125g plain flour

45g caster sugar

Pinch of salt

1 tablespoon baking powder

250ml milk

1 egg

45g butter, melted & cooled

Sticky sausages

Enough for around 8 thin sausages

2 tablespoons runny honey

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon barbecue sauce

Corn-on-the-cob

Method

Preheat the oven to 200C.

For the cornbread, mix the dry ingredients in a bowl, then in a jug combine the wet ingredients. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry with a wooden spoon until just combined (the less you mix the lighter the muffins!).

Spoon the mixture into muffin cases and put into the oven. Bake for around 20 minutes until golden on top and cooked through.

Put the sausages onto a baking sheet lined with foil (I do not want to be scrubbing burnt honey off a baking tray after so ALWAYS use foil). Mix up the sticky coating and drizzle over the sausages, tossing everything together well so they’re all coated. Put them in the oven until cooked.

Meanwhile, heat the grill and cook the corn on the cob. I like mine really charred, as you can see! Or serve with barbecue beans.

Enjoy! It’s more fattening, but cornbread is really good spread with butter, especially when it’s still slightly warm…

A stress-free Sunday dinner for six: toad in the hole with sticky onion gravy and roasted root vegetables and pain-au-chocolat bread and butter pudding

As we’re now in June it sort of seems wrong to be cooking roast dinners on a Sunday now. That said, I do still feel like I want to eat something ‘traditional’ on a Sunday, and as I had family coming round a couple of weekends ago I thought I’d cook the toad in the hole I posted about here. I feel I need to reiterate the sheer magnificence of this batter recipe; it earned me several ‘wows’ as I bought it to the table as it rises spectacularly. Despite saying I loved this with baked beans in my original post, I didn’t really feel like I wanted to serve up baked beans for Sunday dinner. So I caved in and made this sticky onion gravy (I admit it doesn’t look very appealing on the picture, mine looked nothing like that!), and I have to say I’m completely converted. The gravy was thick, sticky and richly flavoured with the caramelised onions, and better still took very little effort to achieve and made the house smell lovely whilst the onions were sweating down. In fact for this whole dinner I remained calm and serene, and for the last hour before I was due to put the sausages in the oven I was twiddling my thumbs because I’d already prepared everything! Most unusual.

I decided to serve this with a pretty weird array of vegetables. I was partly using up what I had left in the fridge and partly cooking all my favourite things! I ended up with peas, broccoli, honey-roasted carrots, steamed asparagus, new potatoes, roasted baby leeks and honey roasted beetroot with balsamic vinegar. The beetroot recipe is from here, and it was the piece de resistance – It was so fresh and earthy, but the sweetness of the honey and reduced balsamic totally took it to another level. My family were pleasantly surprised when they saw the beetroot on the platter, leading me to believe it’s a rather underrated and underused vegetable in this context. I’ve got more plans for beetroot, I’m just waiting for my little seedlings to show their heads!

As for the dessert, it’s an old favourite of mine cobbled together from two different Nigella recipes: the pain-au-chocolat pudding from How to be a Domestic Goddess and Nigella’s Grandmother’s ginger-jam bread and butter pudding from Nigella Bites. I’m not really a huge fan of bread and butter pudding in its traditional form – I find it can be stodgy and cloying at the best of times, but the buttery pastry of the pain au chocolat is so light and delicate it really makes this special. The reason I’ve partly used the recipe from Nigella Bites is because in this recipe the custard requires no cooking; in fact it requires nothing more than a bit of measuring out and whisking, and the result you get is a really wobbly, tender custard which is amazing with all of the crispy bits of charred pastry that are sat proud and have got caramelised with a little help from some demerara sugar and butter blobbed on top.

To feed six I used the recipe that I posted in my Toad in the Hole post a couple of weeks ago, but increased the quantities to 150%. My husband sceptical about the size of the tin that I used; he wasn’t convinced that it was big enough for six of us compared to the tin I ususally use to feed us two. I stuck to my guns though and used it (but cooked a few new potatoes for extra carbs just in case) and it turns out we had leftovers! I used my favourite ever sausages, Lashford’s special sausages (that’s what they’re called!) in the thick variety. I usually buy the thin ones for everyday use but thought they’d be a bit weedy in this scenario and would get lost in the batter; there was no fear of that happening with these monsters though, each sausage was the size of two normal large sausages that you’d buy in the supermarket so I suppose allowing two each wasn’t exactly necessary. Oh well, the leftovers didn’t go to waste, they went in my lunchbox a couple of days later! So enough with the chat, on with the recipes:

Toad in the hole

This recipe, with half again (i.e. with 6 eggs)

Sticky onion gravy

From the recipe posted above, although I used:

3 large onions

1 tablespoon sugar

Large knob of butter

1 tablespoon plain flour

1 tablespoon thyme

Splash Worcester Sauce

1 pint beef stock (I just used a couple of oxo cubes dissolved in water)

Roasted beetroot with balsamic vinegar and honey

4 small fresh beetroot

1 tablespoon thyme

4 cloves garlic, skins removed

Olive oil

1 tablespoon runny honey

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Honey-roasted carrots

12 small, young carrots (you don’t have to use young carrots, but the skins will be so thin and tender that you don’t have to peel them)

1 tablespoon thyme

1 tablespoon honey

Knob of butter

Olive oil

Pain-au-chocolat bread and butter pudding

6 large pain-au-chocolat (I know they don’t come in “sizes” but generally the ones you get from a bakery are larger than those pre-packed ones, so if you buy those you might need more)

4 large egg yolks (freeze the whites!)

1 large egg

3 tablespoons caster sugar

500ml double cream

200ml full-fat milk

A knob of butter

2 tablespoons demerara sugar

Method

First, slice the pain-au-chocolat into slices around an inch thick. Arrange them in a dish (I tend to arrange them alternately thick side up and then thin side up as in the picture so different bits get crispy). Really pack them in tightly; the last few pieces should be a squeeze to get in! Leave them to dry out a bit, this will help them to absorb all the liquid better later.

Next, prepare the vegetables. Wash and quarter the beetroot (I didn’t bother peeling) and put into a baking tray with the oil, garlic cloves and thyme. Wash the carrots and out them in a tray with the butter and drizzle them with the oil and honey and sprinkle with the thyme.

If you’re making other vegetables prepare them now (for me this meant washing and trimming the asparagus, trimming the baby leeks, halving the potatoes and cutting the broccoli up).

For the onion gravy, heat the butter in a pan and slice the onions. Add the onions to the pan and stir. Cover with a lid (or a plate in my case!) and cook gently for around 10 minutes. By this point they should be really soft. Add the sugar and cook for a further 15 minutes or so until the liquid is gone and they’re golden and caramelised. Set aside.

For the pudding, whisk together the egg yolks and egg with the caster sugar, then whisk in the cream and milk. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 220C. Mix up the eggs and milk for the toad in the hole and leave to rest for at least 15 minutes. Whilst it’s resting, put the sausages in a pan and put them into the oven to get browned. At this point, put the beetroot into the oven. Turn the sausages after about 10 minutes to get evenly browned.

After about 20 minutes the sausages should be nicely golden brown and the beetroot should be on its way to being roasted. Take the beetroot out of the oven and add the butter to the sausages and put back into the oven to get hot. Add the balsamic and honey to the beetroot and toss everything together. Whisk the flour into the batter for the toad in the hole, then take the sausages out of the oven and add the batter. Once the batter is in the tin, put it back into the oven, along with the beetroot and the carrots. Cook for 20 minutes or until the batter is risen and golden, and the vegetables should be nice and roasted and burnished.

Whilst the everything is in the oven, add the thyme and Worcester sauce to the onions and reheat gently. Once they’re hot again, add the flour and stir, and cook for 5 minutes. Then add the beef stock and stir gently. Simmer the gravy for 10-15 minutes until it’s thickened. Cook any other vegetables you’re serving.

Just before you serve up the dinner, pour the custard mix over the pain-au-chocolat and really press down so that they soak up the custard. Leave for a minute, then pour more (it should just about hold this much mixture). When you’ve got all the custard in, dot the bits of pastry that stick out with butter, and sprinkle the top with demerara sugar.

Once the vegetables are cooked, the toad in the hole is browned and puffed-up and the gravy is thickened, you’re ready to serve! Serve the toad in the hole as quickly as possible so it doesn’t sink and you’ll get more compliments! I took mine to the table before I plated up the vegetables.

The last thing to do is reduce the oven temperature to 180C and put the pudding onto a baking sheet. Cook for 45 minutes (it can cook whilst you eat) and then take out the oven and let sit for 10 minutes. The pudding should be really wobbly in the centre and really wonderfully golden and crunchy on top. Serve with cream or custard.

See, easy!

Toad in the Hole

Toad in the Hole is one of those things I don’t think I could ever tire of eating. For one, it’s got SAUSAGES in. Sausages are my absolute weakness, and the reason I could never be a vegetarian (I tried vegetarianism when I was about 10 years old, in one of my ~save the animals~ phases, and made it about 4 days before I caved because I wanted to eat sausages despite LOVING Linda McCartney veggie sausages). ANYWAY, I love it with any kind of sausages, and with onions in the batter it becomes this wondrous creation that combines everything I love most. My husband won’t eat bits of onion in ANYTHING though, so I either coax the onions onto one side of the tin which I’ll be having, or just use pork and leak sausages which, in my opinion, are every bit as good.

This recipe is from Nigella’s How to Eat (I worry that the more I post here, the more obvious it’s going to be that I mostly only use Nigella recipes for EVERYTHING); previously I used a recipe from my beloved Dairy Cookbook, but the yorkshire pudding always turned out flat. After a while I figured it was the recipe that wasn’t right rather than any fault of my own, so I hunted out a new recipe and as Nigella never lets me down I figured she was the obvious place to start. This recipe uses way more eggs than the previous one I used, which is obviously the key to this turning into an epic giant batter. She also says to whisk the eggs and milk first, then add the flour which is backwards from the usual batter-making method. I’m not sure how it works but it definitely does, and I’ve seen Jamie Oliver do the same recently so I can only see this as a positive thing.

This amount of batter would serve 4, but I make 3/4 of the quantity for two people and, if you’re really hungry, it is possible to eat it all. The rest of the time, I leave some of the batter in the tin and eat it for pudding with a scoop of ice cream and drizzled with golden syrup (it is for this reason that I use butter as the fat rather than dripping or vegetable oil which I think tastes particularly disgusting in this scenario). If you’ve never eaten yorkshire pudding this way, I IMPLORE you to do so.

Toad in the Hole

Serves 4

8/12 sausages (depending on how many you want each, obviously)

300ml milk

4 eggs

250g flour

Salt and pepper

A knob of butter

Half an onion, sliced (optional)

Method:

Preheat the oven to around 200C and cook the sausages in a roasting tin for around 20 minutes until they’re brown on all sides.

Meanwhile, whisk the milk and eggs with a pinch of salt and pepper. Leave the mixture for about 15 minutes whilst the sausages are cooking.

Once the sausages are brown all over, if you’re adding onions to the batter then slice them up and add them into the roasting tin. Turn the oven up to 220C (whether you’ve added onions or not). After the onions have started to cook (or once the oven is hot), add the knob of butter and return the tin to the oven until the butter is sizzling and hot.

While you’re waiting for the butter to get hot, sieve the flour into the egg and milk mixture and whisk until it’s a smooth, thick batter. Pour the batter into the tin and cook for around 20 minutes until risen and golden!

I know it’s traditional to serve this with onion gravy, but I’ve gotta say, I’m not a huge fan. I’m not really a gravy person unless it’s with a roast or something. When I was a child I went round to a friend’s house for tea and was served this with mashed potato and baked beans and it was fabulous. I’ve never looked back.