Italian sausage, chard and pine nut spaghetti

Italian sausages are not just your usual sausage! They are packed with fennel and seasoning and you can often find chilli versions which are equally delicious. They can be cooked whole or, as I have done in this recipe, the sausage meat can be removed and cooked separately. I have paired the sausage with chard which is in plentiful supply all year round. It can be substituted for spinach or cavolo nero if you like but I love the way the slight bitterness of the leaves balance with the rich sausage. When it comes to pasta, you really do get what you pay for. I absolutely love Garofalo’s long spaghetti which you can find here. Each strand is half a metre long so grab a fork and get twirling!

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Ingredients- serves 2
200g spaghetti
1 red onion- chopped
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp chilli flakes (optional)
4 Italian sausages- meat removed from the skin
400g passata
200g chard
Handful of pine nuts- lightly toasted in a dry pan

1. Start by bringing a pan of water to the boil. To prepare the chard you need to remove the stalks and keep the leaves separately as they both need slightly different cooking times. Roughly chop the stems and blanch for 1-2 minutes and blanch the leaves for 3-4 minutes; drain well and set aside. When the leaves are slightly cooled, roughly chop. Bring another pan of water to the boil and cook the spaghetti according to instructions.

2. Take a frying pan and add a glug of oil over a medium heat. Add the onion and garlic along with the chilli flakes (if using) and cook for a couple of minutes. Meanwhile, use the sausage meat which has been removed from the skins to form little balls. I make mine about the size of a hazelnut so you get lots of little bites throughout the pasta. Add the sausage balls into the frying pan with the onion and garlic and frying until golden.

3. Add the passata into the pan and bring to a simmer. The sauce is designed to give the spaghetti a light coating and by the time it has simmered it really does reduce down so don’t be alarmed if it seems a lot for two people. Add the drained chard stems and leaves and cook for a further 5 minutes. When ready, tip the cooked spaghetti into the pan and toss so each strand of pasta is coated in the sauce. Serve in warmed bowls with the toasted pine nuts sprinkled over and a good grating of parmesan to finish.

Italian sausage, chard and pine nut spaghetti- a celebration of Italian flavours!

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Venison sausage, cavolo nero and bean casserole

This time each year I usually come across a vegetable that then becomes a borderline food obsession and this year it’s cavolo nero’s turn. Cavolo nero, also known as black cabbage or Italian kale, is perfect for pepping up soups, stews and pastas. I have kept this recipe as simple as possible so each constituent ingredient can be tasted and savoured. I used venison sausages for this recipe as the rich flavour goes well with the irony flavour of the cavolo nero and the creamy cannellini beans. A lot of casseroles and stews use red wine in the base but I have gone for a dark ale to create depth in place of wine so give it a try!

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Ingredients- serves 3
Vegetable oil
6 good quality venison sausages
1 large red onion- chopped
2 garlic cloves- finely sliced or crushed
1 tbsp tomato puree
250ml dark ale or porter
400g tinned cannellini beans
400ml hot beef stock
400ml passata
Handful of fresh thyme
1 head of cavolo nero- washed and chopped

1. Start by preheating the oven to 180c/ 160 fan. Take a large casserole pan and add a glug of oil; heat to medium and brown off the sausages. Turn them as you go to ensure they are uniformly golden; remove from the pan when they are ready, cut into thirds or quarters and set aside.

2. Using the same pan, fry the onion and garlic together for a few minutes until they soften but don’t colour. I add salt at this point to help draw the moisture from the onions. If you have found that the sausages have given quite a bit of fat then do drain some of this away before adding the onions. Next up goes the tomato puree which should be stirred through the onion and garlic to give a coating; cook for a minute or two before adding the ale. Reduce the volume of the ale by half.

3. Add the beans to the pan and combine well with the onion, garlic and ale mix before adding the stock and passata. Drop in the thyme and add the sausage and cavolo nero; bring to a gentle boil before popping in the oven for 60-75 minutes. Don’t be alarmed if the cavolo nero looks like a lot- it will cook down as the casserole is in the oven. Serve with a creamy mound of mashed potato or hunks of bread and enjoy.

Venison sausage, cavolo nero and bean casserole- a satisfying dinner for those dark, chilly nights!

Autumnal lentil and bratwurst stew with pan fried spaetzle

This is a warming, hearty recipe that is perfect for autumn. Spaetzle are German noodles which are usually boiled or pan fried and served with a main dish. This recipe was inspired by a meal eaten in Berlin and I have used readymade spaetzle however you can easily find recipes online if you have time to give it a go. You can also add some smoked ham into the base of the stew if you like. If you can’t get hold of bratwurst then any good quality sausage will work well.

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Ingredients- serves 4
1 large carrot- finely diced
2 celery sticks- finely diced
1 large onion- finely chopped
2 garlic cloves- finely chopped or crushed
100g diced smoked ham or pancetta (optional)
400g green lentils
600ml vegetable stock
1 tsp red wine vinegar
Fresh parsley
Bay leaves
4 bratwurst sausages
400-500g readymade spaetzle- alternatively you can find a recipe here: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/german-spaetzle-dumplings/

1. Get going by taking a large pan and heating a glug of oil over a medium heat. Cook the onion and garlic for a few minutes before adding in the carrot, celery and ham (if using). Stir through the lentils so they get a light coating of the onions and garlic.

2. Pop in the stock, vinegar and a couple of bay leaves and bring to the boil. I added 400ml of the stock to start with and reserved the rest and added little by little as some lentils are much more absorbent than others to judge it as you go. I always make more stock than I think I need just in case! Lower the heat, season well, cover loosley and simmer for around 30-40 minutes until the lentils are tender and the liquid is reducing but some still remains for the next step.

3. Just before the lentil stew is ready, cook the bratwurst as you wish. Bratwurst can be boiled, grilled or fried so pick the cooking method of your choice! To finish off, you need to pan fry the spaetzle for a couple of minutes until cooked through. Serve the spaetzle and lentil stew with a sprinkle of parsley, with the bratwurst on the side and tuck in! Of course, you can also chunk the sausage and toss that through the lentils if you like.

Lentil and spaetzle stew with bratwurst- a tasty take on a German classic!  

Balsamic roasted beetroot with lentil and sausages

This makes use of some of the best seasonal ingredients around at the moment and it is sure to be a crowd pleaser. Earthy, sweet and may make up the perfect combination!

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Ingredients- serves 2
150g green lentils
250g beetroot- washed and cut into wedges
1 large red onion- peeled and cut into wedges
3 garlic cloves- kept whole
2 tbsp good balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
4 good quality sausages- I used Toulouse style sausages
Handful of watercress leaves

For the dressing
3 tbsp olive oil
4 tsp wholegrain mustard
Squeeze of lemon juice

1. Preheat the oven to 180c/ 160 fan. Get the lentils on the go by placing in a pan of cold water, bringing it to the boil for 10 minutes before lowering to a simmer for the next 20-25 minutes until the lentils are tender. When they are ready, drain and set aside.

2. For the roasted vegetables, place the beetroot and onion wedges in a roasting tray along with the whole garlic cloves (do not peel these). Add in the olive oil and vinegar and toss well to coat all the vegetable wedges. Roast for 45-60 minutes until the vegetables are tender when tested with a sharp knife. I checked the vegetables from time to time and turned them as needed to ensure even cooking.

3. Meanwhile cook the sausages until cooked through and golden on the outside. While they are cooking you can make the dressing by combining the mustard, oil and lemon juice. Remember to taste as you go and make any adjustments to suit your tastes. Take a large bowl and combine the lentils, vegetables and a splash of the dressing. You can either fish the garlic out of the roasting pan and discard or, do as I do, and squeeze the roasted garlic from the cloves and mix through with the lentils. Just before serving add in the watercress leaves.

4. Serve in warmed bowls with the juicy sausages on top of a bed of lentils and finished with a good drizzle of the mustard dressing.

Sausage, squash and sage pasta bake

Pasta has to be one of the most used ingredients in the average household however what you do with it needn’t be average. Butternut squash has to be one of my favourite autumn vegetables and it brings an appealing flash of colour to any dish. Fresh sage must be used here as the flavour of dried sage is too harsh with the delicate flavours of the squash and cheeses.

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Ingredients: serves 4  (can be halved for 2)
1 butternut squash
2 tbsp olive oil
Handful of fresh sage roughly chopped
8 seasoned pork sausages
Pinch of nutmeg
350g rigatoni or conchiglioni
50g unsalted butter
50g plain flour
850ml milk
50g parmesan
Small ball of mozzarella chopped
Drizzle of truffle oil (optional)

1. Get cracking on the squash by peeling and deseeding it. With a sturdy knife, cut the squash into small cubes and place in a microwaveable dish with a tablespoon of water. Pop it in the microwave on a high heat for approximately 10 minutes or until tender.

2. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan and cook the sage leave for 1 minute until fragrant. Pop the sausages out of their skins and roll gently into balls which are the size of hazelnuts. Add these to the pan with the sage and cook until golden.

3. Add half of the squash to the sausages. Take the remaining squash and mash with a pinch of nutmeg and season with salt and pepper before setting aside.

4. Heat the oven to 200c/ 180fan and cook the pasta according to the packet. Rigatoni works well with the sausage but conchiglioni also works well as the sauce fills the shells so choose whichever you prefer. Whilst the pasta simmers, take a saucepan and melt the butter before adding the flour and keep it moving until it forms a base. Carefully and slowly add in the milk and continue to stir to avoid any lumps forming. Next add the mashed squash, parmesan and more seasoning.

5. Take a large baking dish and layer the left over squash over the bottom. Drain the pasta and stir through the sausage and cheese sauce. Grate over the parmesan and dot on the chunks of mozzarella before baking for 30 minutes until golden and bubbling. You may also drizzle over a little truffle oil before baking to give it an extra richness.

An indulgent pasta to warm up a chilly Autumn day!

Sausage and barley roasted butternut squash

Make the most of the new season’s vegetables in this colourful, vibrant recipe. You can also make the recipe vegetarian by omitting the sausages. You will need to use a hard veggie friendly cheese as parmesan is not suitable for vegetarians.

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Ingredients- serves 4
2 butternut squashes- cut lengthways and with seeds scooped out
100g pearl barley
100g kale or cabbage greens
4 sausages- Lincolnshire work well
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 red onion- sliced into small wedges
200g feta- crumbled
1 tbsp harissa paste
Handful of chopped flatleaf parsley
100g cherry or baby plum tomatoes
20g grated parmesan
1/2 tsp chilli flakes

1. Preheat the oven to 200c/ 180 fan. Place the halved butternut squashes cut side up on a roasting tray, give them a light drizzle of oil and cook until tender. This will take around 50 minutes.

2. In the meantime, bring a pan of water to the boil and pop in the pearl barley. Cook the barley for 40 minutes or until tender. Towards the end add in the kale or cabbage greens for a couple of minutes; drain and then set aside in a large bowl.

3. Heat the oil in a pan and cook the sausages for 12- 15 minutes until golden and cooked through. 5 minutes from the end, add the red onion in and cook together.

4. Cut each sausage into 3- 4 chunks and add to the bowl with the pearl barley in along with the red onion. Mix the barley and sausage together with the feta, harissa, parsley and tomatoes. Season to taste.

5. Scoop out the tender flesh from the squashes leaving a 2cm border at the edges to the squashes hold their shape. Stir the flesh into the barley mixture and then divide between the squashes to stuff them. Sprinkle over the freshly grated parmesan and chilli flakes and roast in the oven for 10- 15 minutes until sweet and golden.

A seasonal celebration of autumn veg !

Autumnal sausage and bean stew

There’s a distinctive chill in the air so this recipe is a perfect autumnal warmer. I have used a good quality beef sausage as a bit of a change but you could easily swap it for pork sausages if you prefer. I have used beef sausages from Chiphall Farm who use Woodland Jersey herd meat so check them out http://www.chiphallfarmshop.co.uk to support excellent Hampshire producers.

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Ingredients- serves 4
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion finely sliced
2 garlic cloves crushed
3 celery sticks finely sliced
1 tbsp tomato puree
100ml red wine
300ml beef stock (vegetable stock if using pork sausages)
400ml tinned tomatoes
400g tinned butter beans and 400g tinned cannellini beans drained and rinsed
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
Pinch of caster sugar
Salt and pepper to season

1. Preheat the oven to 190c/ 170 fan and leave to warm up whilst you get started with the rest. Heat the oil in a heavy based casserole pan over a medium heat and brown the sausages until they are golden all over; this should take about 10 minutes to get a good colour on them. When they are ready, set them aside to keep warm.

2. I then add the onion to gently fry off in the residual sausage fat as this adds an extra layer of flavour. If you find that a lot of fat has come out of the sausages you can drain some of this off if you lilke. A higher quality sausage usually produces less fat so that’s worth remembering. When the onions are nearly ready, add the garlic and celery and cook for 1- 2 minutes.

3. Squeeze in a tablespoon of tomato puree and cook this off well for another couple of minutes. Add in the red wine and simmer this to reduce it by half to cook off the booze. If using pork sausages you may also like to try using white wine for a lighter flavour to balance the pork.

4. Add the stock, tomatoes, bay leaves, thyme, pinch of caster sugar and season well. Bring it back up to a gentle simmer for a few minutes before adding the beans and sausages to the pan. Cover the pan and cook in the oven for an hour. The stew will have thickened and a rich, comforting meal will be your reward. Serve in warmed bowls with some bread on the side to soak up the juice.

Autumnal sausage and bean stew- a perfect meal for the changing season!