8th October 2012
Porky Bellies
Belly Pork

It's long overdue, but last night I extruded my first sausage!
Last Christmas (is it only last Christmas??) Mum bought me a sausage machine.
Yes, I know I put it on my Christmas list, but then I put a yacht and a motorbike on my Christmas list, so I never expected to get one. I couldn't have been more surprised to discover it hiding under my Christmas Morning pile of goodies from Santa if I'd woken up with my head stapled to the pillow!
And now a mere 10 months later I've finally taken the beast out of its box and played with it - you know I don't like to rush these things.
It turns out that making sausages is an awkward, fiddly, messy pain in the backside. In other words it requires some practice and a little skill.

I went down to my favourite butcher to talk turkey, er sausages, and buy the casings. I've always been particularly fond of tomato sausages so I thought I should have a go at those to start with, using sun-dried tomatoes, some extra tomato paste (the butcher's suggestion) and adding some basil to the mix. The butcher recommended I try belly pork, rather than the more usual shoulder (cheaper, no need for extra fat though possibly less flavour), so I bought a massive slab and saved half of it to make one of Shane Osborne's starters that I've quite fancied trying for a while.

So it's not as easy as I might have hoped to get the sausage skins onto the feeder, like trying to roll on a metre long condom. Now I know why condoms are lubricated - a thorough soaking of the sausage casing in warm water really helps (it turns out). Then you have to fill the skins smoothly and evenly - not surprisingly I ended up with a lot of hamburger meat from splitting overfilled sausages, and a lot of pork mousse from over-mincing. But I'm sure I'll get better with practice, and even the mousse tasted quite nice, even if I was a bit cautious with the tomato flavour this time.

Flora was lucky enough to be the first to be invited to taste my sausage, and I made us a nice upmarket bangers and mash for dinner. We kicked off with that Crispy Pork Belly with Apple & Frisée Salad made with the pressed leftover sausage belly (delicious!), then those sausages with seasonal mash with pumpkin and red onion, cleansing green beans with lemon and black olives, and a slightly spicy chilli ginger tomato gravy.

In classic eating-for-the-end-of-days winter meal style we finished off with a massive baked toffee apple pudding consisting of mostly hot sugar.
From belly pork to a porky belly. Now bring on the apocalypse!

For what it's worth here's my dinner plan - it failed at the point of putting in the pudding though, since we had to watch some Big Bang Theory first while waiting for the sausage to settle.

Chilli Ginger Tomato Sauce
sauce veg vegan
This is a variation of a sauce I tried once before as an accompaniment to battered fish.
I think roasting the veggies works better than grilling them, plus you end up with a hot sauce.
Although I did finish off the tomatoes under the grill to char them up a little, you probably don't need to.
I served it up without the oil (which I forgot) and it made an excellent gravy with sausages and mash.

Sauce or gravy - you decide.

Serves 4

Lay a bed of the sliced vegetables in a casserole dish.
Scatter on the sugar and a pinch of salt.
Sit the tomatoes on top and cut small crosses in the top of each one.

Bake at Gas Mark 6 (or whatever you are using) until the tomatoes are collapsing or the vegetables are starting to caramelize. Finish off under the grill to char the tomatoes a little if you can be bothered.
Whizz up with a splash or two of lemon juice in a blender then pass through a sieve.
Taste, season with salt, pepper and more lemon juice.
Whisk in the olive oil if you like.
Serve dressed with chopped chives and lemon zest if you like.
A nice sauce/gravy for your sausage and mash without the oil.
It might even make reasonable a dipping sauce for battered fish, though it's quite thin.
You could add a red bell pepper to the mix - roasted would be good too - to thicken and add a touch of sweetness.

Green Beans with Lemon and Black Olives
side veg vegan
Simple enough - and quite a clean, fresh combination.

Cook the beans briefly in boiling water until cooked, but still snappy (5-10 minutes).
Drain. Stir through the olives and lemon peel, garlic (if using), a drizzle of olive oil and season.
Not a bad combination. Different from an earlier round with lemon and capers

Toffee Apple Pudding
dessert veg
An extremely sweet apple sponge
I wanted an apple-based dessert to mirror the apples in my starter, and this came up in Google. It sounded more interesting than just stuffing some apples with raisins and baking them, which was my backup plan, so I gave it a go.
I hadn't really appreciated until it came to eating it just how much sugar is involved - 250g - that's a half-pound of sugar in old money!

Death by diabetes indeed! Probably best not served to children, though I'm sure you could cut down on the sugar quantities - particularly in the sponge batter, and add more apple.

Serves 6

Heat oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/gas 4.
Grease a 2-litre/3-pint ovenproof dish lightly with butter. Tip the flour, sugar and baking powder, along with a pinch of salt, into a large bowl.
Mix together the milk, butter, egg and vanilla extract and stir into the dry ingredients until you get a smooth batter.
My butter, and hence my batter, was a bit lumpy since I only softened it without melting, but it didn't seem to matter.
Arrange the apples in the dish, spoon the batter on top and smooth with a knife until the apples are covered.
I didn't cut my apples too thinly, which perhaps contributed to the extra cooking time.
Be sure to use tart apples - there's more than enough sweetness involved already.
For the topping, pour 250ml boiling water over the sugar and stir together until smooth. Pour the liquid over the pudding mixture, then scatter over the pecans.
This feels decidedly weird, but it all soaks through just fine.
I scattered the pecans first, which maybe gave them a better crispy coating.
Bake for about 40 mins until the pudding has risen and is golden.
Mine took an hour, and unless you used a really shallow dish I don't see it ever taking much less if you want the apples to be cooked - it's a big pudding. I also turned the oven down a little so as not to overcook the top.
Test the centre with a skewer. It should be hot, and the apples soft.
Use a big spoon to serve the pudding, making sure you get some of the gooey caramel sauce covering the bottom of the dish.
Oh yes, heaven forbid anyone should miss out on their diabetic overload!
Serve with pouring cream, warm custard or vanilla ice cream crème frâiche or perhaps a shot of insulin?.
It's pretty good actually and very simple, but a bit of a sugar overload.
And the gooey caramel sauce is really just sugary water.

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