I love casseroles. Why? Because they are powerhouses of flavour if you know what you’re doing, and they largely cook themselves. The other day I felt like doing something different, so I went for sausages rather than chuck steak, chicken or pork belly.
Our local butcher has a good selection of sausages, from chicken to pork to lamb and beef, from mild to hot, from thin to thick. I was also thinking about caramelized onions, which I used tom buy in a jar, so I looked up making them from scratch. I wondered if you could caramelize fennel, which I often add to casseroles instead of boring veggies like celery.
It’s really simple, it turns out: you cut up some Spanish onions and fennel bulbs into pieces about the size of those lemon slices they serve with fish in restaurants. You chuck them in a fry pan and add generous quantities of olive oil and butter.
If you’re on the side of those who believe that fat is evil, this will not appeal to you. You can add a little white wine, but the process relies on a fair amount of oil. I add some balsamic reduction as well, just to steer the outcome in the right direction.
The rest is straightforward.
- Assorted sausages
- Bacon pieces
- 2- 3 cloves of garlic
- A few small onions or eschalots
- Caramelised onions and fennel
- Green beans
- Chickpeas (tin)
- Olive oil, butter
- Sweet paprika
- Crushed tomatoes (tin)
- Red or white wine
- Worcester sauce
- 2 – 3 Bay leaves
- Chicken or veggie stock
- chili flakes
- Brown the sausages and bacon in a big pan with some olive oil
- add the small onions and garlic, then the crushed tomatoes and beans
- Add the trimmed beans with some passata and stock, enough to just cover the sausages
- Add a pinch or 2 of paprika, dash of Worcestershire sauce and seasoning
- Put the casserole dish in the oven at about 170
- Get the onions and fennel going in a fry pan – caramelizing takes about 30 mins
- Keep them coated with the sauce – olive oil, butter, balsamic, small amount of white wine
- Stir every few minutes to prevent burning any bits
- When they’re done, add them to the casserole, along with chopped leeks and button mushrooms
- Make the final adjustments for seasoning and herbs, add the chickpeas 10 minutes before serving (drained and washed) – they don’t need cooking, just warming.
Serve on its own or with some boiled or mashed potatoes