FRUGAL FOODIE: Getting ready for snuggles in front of the fire

Frugal Foodie's sausage cassoulet.
Frugal Foodie's sausage cassoulet.
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My cooking is very much affected by the weather. As is my mood!

When it’s hot, like most people, I want fresh and zingy and when it’s a bit cooler I want warm, hearty, wholesome food.

We’ve had such a great summer that I’ve definitely become too accustomed to vests and flip-flop living. The change in temperature of the last few days has been a bit of a shock to the system. I’ll admit to getting a little too excited by the extreme drying conditions and to getting the fire on for a snuggly afternoon watching TV with the kids, though. It also had me craving the warmth of a hearty sausage cassoulet.

Is there anyone (ok, except for vegetarians) who doesn’t like sausages? Whether it’s bangers and mash or a plain old sausage sandwich (it has to be on white with lashings of butter and tomato sauce), they are so comforting I think they could heal almost anything.

Add a tin of chickpeas or cannellini or butter beans and it makes it so much more filling and nutritious too – the perfect family meal.

I almost didn’t include this recipe as I thought it was too simple and obvious, but it is so flavoursome and loved by everyone in our household that I thought I’d throw caution to the hurricane (sorry!).

Before I do that, I wanted to give you my favourite bangers and mash recipes. It is very rare (if ever) that I’ll make a plain mash. I think it comes from spending most of my life detesting mash (don’t judge me) because it was too, well, potatoey! I was also very much put off by the lumpy mash from school dinners of my childhood. The thought of it turns my stomach to this day.

Nowadays, as I mentioned, I take a lot of comfort from mash and here are my favourite ways to make it.

Although I do love sweet potato mash, I tend to stick to the humble potato for my bangers and mash. My basic mash is with milk, butter and seasoning and I always use a ricer to get a lovely smooth mash.

For garlicky, cheesy mash I’ll add a large handful of grated cheddar and I will swap the butter for garlic butter (make your own though). Or you could just use a soft cheese that has garlic and herbs in it already.

Or don’t add the cheese and just add the garlic butter or substitute butter for garlic olive oil. Wholegrain mustard gives it a lovely zingy flavour and is fantastic with chicken and other pork dishes, as well as sausages.

Crispy bits of bacon and buttery greens make it into colcannon. I also stir through some chopped spring onions. My favourite, and most commonly made, bangers and mash tends to be buttery mash topped with sausages and then I top it all with a thick tomato sauce by caramelising sliced red onions in butter (I speed this up by adding balsamic vinegar), a tin of tomatoes, salt, pepper and pinch of sugar and smoked paprika and leaving to reduce.

But back to the cassoulet. This would be delicious with mash but I’m trying to keep it at least a little light and summery as we are only just in September!

** Follow The Frugal Foodie, Christine McAllister, on her blog Link to The Frugal Foodie’s blog. or on Twitter: @thefrugaldiary

RECIPE: A WARMING SAUSAGE CASSOULET

Ingredients

Olive oil

8 pork sausages

Chorizo or salami chunks

1 onion, diced

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

2 sticks celery, sliced

Handful of mushrooms, sliced

A good glug of red wine

2 tins chopped tomatoes

1 tin chickpeas, drained not rinsed

Handful chopped green beans

1 tbsp tomato ketchup

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tsp sugar

A few springs of thyme, leaves picked (reserve the stalks)

Chopped parsley

Stale bread

Oil

1 clove of garlic, crushed

Cous cous

Method

Fry the sausages in a little oil over a medium/low heat until they’re starting to colour. Add the spicy sausage, onion, celery and garlic. Cook for a few minutes, keeping everything moving in the pan. Add the mushrooms and a knob of butter. Cook for another couple of minutes.

Add the wine, turn the heat up and when it starts to boil, reduce heat to low. Give it a good stir, making sure you scrape any crispy bits from the bottom of the pan!

Add the tinned tomatoes, green beans and the chickpeas. Season with salt and pepper, add the sugar, tomato sauce, balsamic vinegar and the thyme leaves. Give it a good stir, bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer. Nestle in a couple of thyme stalks for extra flavour and leave to simmer for 20-30 minutes until the sauce has thickened or until you can’t wait any longer! Add the chopped parsley and remove the thyme stalks.

About 10 minutes before the end of the cooking time, prepare the cous cous by covering it with boiling water, a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkling of salt and pepper and add the remaining, unused, thyme stalks and cover.

Now make some crunchy, garlicky, breadcrumbs. Whizz some stale bread (crusts are fine) to chunky breadcrumbs. Put them in a bag with a good glug of oil and a crushed clove of garlic and mix it all up well. Heat a frying pan and add the crumbs. Keep a close eye to make sure they don’t burn. Keep them moving and remove from the heat when they’re all crisp and golden.

Serve the sausages over the cous cous and sprinkle the crumbs over the top.