If you've loitered around this blog for any time and you're still here, you're probably aware I talk about food a fair bit and even throw in the odd recipe.
There's a few reasons for this, a little to do with wanting to share how easy and wonderful proper food can be, but mostly because cooking is one of my favourite things to do - I mean it's creative, it's making something, it's losing yourself in a task, it's showing people you love them and it's as endlessly exciting as world culture itself.
There's so much story in food where the recipe came from, your own experiences that wrap around it and the ingredients too - along with where it came from, how it was introduced and what context it once had.
I love this Gladwell article on coffee for that reason and I'm a fierce champion of bread in these low GI, post Atkins times (if I may, carbs are essential, it's only personal greed that makes them bad, there's nothing more satisfying that simple, well make bread, nothing filled with so much history and ritual).
Then, in a wierd confluence of seperate threads, my thoughts have returned to the sausage. Partly to do with the call to return to proper blogging, the nostalgia for the Meat Bracket that signifies that golden age, along with the fight for the sausage, but also thoughts about Marcus, the sausage champion and his heroic walk.
Any way, there are two types of sausage in my book. The great sausage that is made with quality ingredients, is probably bought from an independent butcher or a small firm that has got distribution in a large supermarket, and the mass produced, big brand or own label rubbish that is made of all meat that is only called meat thanks to dubious legal tapdancing.
The former is made with craft, care and attention, the other isn't. Trust me, you can taste the difference.
Just look at this commercial for Richmond Sausages (mass produced rubbish). Dwell for just a second on the horrific theme of nostalgic home cooked food, a generic space any food brand could fiddle with, and hopefully with a fresh point of view rather than thus dross, but lo, tear your attention away from the strategy (that was artfully proved by TGI and other wonderful data I'm sure) and just look at the sausages themselves. Perfect, each exactly the same size, with an unearthly pink hue that makes each identikit sausage look like a sunburned penis cloned from a cavalier nude sunbather. Horrific, processed rubbish. An insult to the amazing good stuff that's out there...
There's is just too much variety to pick a favourite - the Germans, the Polish, Spanish and the French have amaxing examples of smoked, cured and even just normal varieties. I love chorizo in stews, a Cassoulet can never be acceptable without good Toulouse sausages and the Italians produce sausages with a course texture that electrify pasta in a way no others can.
MY favourite happens to the ones my local butcher makes. Big juicy cumberland ones, the epitome of British sausageness. They are amazing when:
You roast them at around 170 degress for 25 minutes and put them in between two slices soft, lovingly buttered bread, with piles of onions fried slowly so they caramelise, making them outrageously sweet, with lashings of Dijon mustard cutting through that sweetness and complementing the juicy meat.
Or when you roughly peel and chop enough carrots, potatoes and sweet potato to feed you and yours well, along with a head of garlic, putting them in a casserole dish, pouring in enough hot chicken stock to nearly cover the veg, with the lid on for 40 minutes at 180 degrees, then taking the lid off, covering the veg with sausages and putting back in the oven for another half hour (or until the sausages are sizzling and nicely brown) serving with good crusty bread
Or when they're roasted on a bed of red onions, which, once the sausages are cooked, gets mixed with a bit of flour and some great quality chicken stock to make an incredible gravy (and is perfect with a dash of balsamic vinegar) - and a pile of creamy mashed potato, made with lots of butter and hot milk, or even mixed with cooked cabbage to make colcanon.
Or cooked on a barbeque, with the grill high so they cook through, served in floury buns with the humbly fantastic Heinz ketchup.
And then there's chorizo, the king of cured sausage.
Incredible just eaten as it is of course, turns a chicken sandwich into a feast, especially with good mayonnaise (and make it yourself, it's so easy and a different planet to what you can buy in a jar -
Break the yolks up. Now pour in the olive oil very, very slowly at first, almost drop by drop, stirring as you do until the mixture starts to thicken. If you get impatient and add the oil too quickly you will never get it to thicken, believe me.
Once you have a small amount of thickening mayonnaise you can turn up the speed a little, adding the oil in a long, thin trickle, stirring all the time. Stop when you have a thick mayonnaise. It need not be so thick you could cut it with a knife, but it should be well on the way. Squeeze the lemon juice in at the end, still stirring. The colour will fade, but should be almost crocus yellow.)
But gently fry it and it will transform and tin of tomato soup, a bowl of pasta with a tomato based sauce, a risotto of you fry it with the onions at the beginning.
Ladies and gentlemen, the sausage. My God I love it it.