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Sunday, 18 July 2010

Recipe: A Summertime Sausage Casserole

People place much store beside the ‘leftovers’ recipe. This is one of those, but that doesn’t mean it has to be. It happened that I had most of these ingredients in the house, that I was about to go and do a nice big veg shop, and that the tomatoes were ripened to the point where cooking seemed like the best option. Apart from the tomato, onion and lemon, most of the other components could be exchanged. The broad beans could probably be butter beans (though they might not be as pleasingly firm), the chipolatas could certainly be more extravagant, and you could serve this on bruschetta or any decent bread. The main thing is to enjoy the jammy sweetness of the tomato and onion alongside the meaty, fatty sausages and the clean, refreshing lemon. The broad beans are al dente, providing a lovely contrast with the stickyness of the rest of the dish. It’s delicious, I promise, though I’m not a chef.
6 good chipolatas (or other not too strong sausages)
A handful of broad beans
8 medium-sized tomatoes (the better, the better)
1 decent-sized onion
1 lemon
A few basil leaves
A good pinch of sugar
Salt, pepper
A glug or two of olive oil

First, remove the broad beans from their pods. Put them in a pan of boiling water for a couple of minutes, then drain and run under cold water until cool. Then you can squeeze the lovely grass-coloured beans from their paler jackets. This is very satisfying, but may leave you with some slightly squashed beans. I prefer to unzip them, ripping the join at the top of the bean and removing it in a slightly more delicate fashion. Set aside.
Peel the tomatoes – put them whole into boiling water for 30 seconds, remove, cool in cold water, and the skin should peel off relatively easily. It doesn’t matter if you can’t get all the skin off, but you do want to remove most of it. Chop the peeled tomatoes roughly, and set aside.
Brown your sausages in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Use a little olive oil to start them off, but they will leave a bit of fat in the pan, so you don’t need much oil at all. Once brown, remove from the pan and set aside.
Now for the base. Finely chop your onion, and gently fry in the same pan until softened. I often get impatient with the ‘softened’ instruction in recipes, but here it is absolutely vital. Add your chopped tomatoes, with a generous sprinkle of salt, and a good pinch of sugar. Cook on a medium to low heat for as long as you can bear (15 minutes or so), stirring from time to time until the whole caboodle takes on a slightly jammy consistency. The sugar helps with this. Then add the juice of your lemon, and if the mood takes you, a little of its zest. Bubble for a couple of minutes, then return the sausages to the pan, mixing them through the gooey mush. I put the lid on here, and leave for about 8 minutes. You don’t want too much of the liquid escaping. If you’re using larger sausages, you might want to increase the cooking time.
Grab a few basil leaves and tear them into the pot about two minutes before you’re finished. They’ll disappear into the mix, but you'll still be able to taste them. Also add the reserved broad beans, and let the whole mix bubble slowly for the final couple of minutes with the lid off. Add a lot of black pepper and a final glug of olive oil, and serve with a couple more basil leaves as a garnish.

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