|Difficult to make sausage lumps look appetising - but it was sublime!|
You know how, some days (usually middle of the week), you are looking for an easy yet completely scrumptious main course to serve to your family and you're thinking "pasta" but are fed up with tomato sauces? Well, this is your recipe of choice. No, honest, it absolutely is!
I was having a little click through the latest recipes that had been added to BBC Good Food's website and there was "Pasta with sausage, mustard and tarragon". I was attracted to the idea but a little bit dubious about how the tarragon would suit the pork sausage. However, having read through the ingredients list, everything was exactly the sort of thing we like - and I do enjoy being challenged with new combinations, so decided to give it a go.
Now I don't know about you, but I've been seriously disappointed by sausages just lately. It seems to me that sausages have gone too far the other way now. At one time they were disgusting in that they contained more cereal and fat than meat - they were little more than tubes of stuffing. My old friend Mick Ford used to call them "tubes of plastic stuffed with horrid surprises". These days, although you can still get those horrid pappy sausages, we opt for a more "Butcher's" type of sausage with a 85% or more meat content. At one time, these were gorgeous and would burst in your mouth with a delicious juiciness that spoke of just enough fat to keep the meat content moist. These days, however, it seems as though the fat content of a sausage has been demonised to such an extent that a supposedly "good" sausage is now a bag of meat-flavoured dry sawdust with no "juiciness" at all. Where did the good juicy sausages that the Perishers' dog, Boot, used to pine over go? What happened to a lovely tasty sausage that would go so well with fluffy mashed potato, onion gravy and peas? I can't remember the last time I experienced such a sausage. (No laughing at the back, please!).
|Look at that mustardy sauce, tarragon shreds, sausage - where's my fork?|
However, when it came to using the other half of the pack as sausage meat (i.e. out of their skins and formed into sausage balls), they were perfect.
I can only put this transformation down to the fact that the sausage balls are cooked in a frying pan with olive oil - thus injecting the longed-for "juiciness" factor. Maybe I should strip all my sausages of their skins and cook them in the frying pan!
Now dear ole hubby has a firmly held belief (and I think he has a point) that if a recipe contains something, then that thing should be able to be tasted in the end result. Bearing this in mind, I was conscious that I needed to make sure that the tarragon could be tasted. As such, I included half the chopped tarragon at the "adding the mustard/cream/stock" stage - and added the remainder at the last minute, as per instructions. This allowed the tarragon to really become part of the sauce, as opposed to being almost an afterthought.
I see from the comments on the original recipe that folk have omitted the fennel seeds. Now, to me, this is omitting a quite fundamental part of the flavour base. Fennel has such a particular flavour, that with the two inclusions of tarragon, it completes a flavour triangle. You have the earthy fennel seeds, the rich aniseed of the early included tarragon and the fresh greenness of the later tarragon. I am sure the recipe would be quite different without them.
Another point that's worth mentioning, is to use the best Dijon mustard you can afford. We have recently discovered Maille Dijon Mustard and its fabulous flavour just has to have helped in making the overall dish so gorgeous. For gorgeous it was - and we all gave it a resounding thumbs up and resolved to have it again - soon!
16 April 2013 : Well, it wasn't soon, but I have got around to cooking this recipe again - and it turned out to be just as successful the second time around. I currently have a nasty cold and, to be able to cook something so simple yet so satisfying and something that the family all enjoy, is fantastic. Son and heir declared that it was "giving him a happy", eating it. Can't argue with that.
I had forgotten how frisky the sauce got - very mustardy and definitely the sort of thing that warms the cockles of your heart. The tarragon worked very well and was very definitely part of the sauce, this time around.
I also thought of a neat little trick for dividing up the sausages - poultry shears. What you do is whip the skin off the sausage, then run your poultry shears under the cold tap and snip, snip, snip - cut each sausage into five equal sections. Works perfectly - and with no mess. If the shears start to get gummed up with sausagemeat, just run them under the tap again. This makes serving easy, too - as two sausages equals ten meatballs. Just keep count as you serve it up!
SAUSAGE & MUSTARD SPIRALI (feeds 3)
6 herby sausages
2 cloves garlic, sliced finely
1 tsp fennel seeds
a pinch of chilli flakes
1.5 tbsp Dijon mustard
200ml single cream
200ml chicken stock
250gm spirali pasta (or penne)
35g parmesan, grated
2 big tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped.
1. Take each sausage and with a sharp knife, slit the skin along the length of the sausage, then remove the skin. I find this so much easier than squeezing the sausagemeat out, as that always seems to leave so much in the skin - and the price sausages are, I want to use every little bit!
2. Once you've skinned all the sausages, break each into three (or less) pieces and roll each piece into a ball (or just tidy the ends up!).
3. Heat 2 tbsp of the olive oil in a non-stick frying pan, then cook the sausage on a medium heat until they are crisp on the outside, golden and cooked through.
4. Add the fennel seeds, chilli flakes and garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Take care and reduce the temperature if necessary, so as not to let the garlic burn.
5. Stir in the stock, cream, mustard, half the tarragon and season really well. Simmer for as long as it takes to reduce the sauce to a double cream consistency, that will coat the back of a spoon.
6. Cook the pasta following pack instructions (in a big pan, lots of salted boiling water, for around 9 minutes or so, usually). Once cooked, drain well and return to the pan. Add the sausage mixture, parmesan and the remainder of the tarragon (keeping some back to sprinkle over as you serve, if you like). Gently stir to ensure the pasta is coated in the sauce.
7. Serve in warmed bowls.