Sausage & Borlotti Bean Stew

This is a great little recipe, because it’s so different from most stews and casseroles – it isn’t based on a gravy or tomato sauce, but rather a delicious liquor made with chicken stock and white wine. The borlotti beans bring a wonderful smokiness that contrasts with the rich sausages and salty bacon – it’s heavenly. Plus, although you need to leave plenty of time for it to cook, it’s really easy, and because it’s delicious and original, is the perfect recipe if you need to impress on a cold winter evening.  Serve with some crusty white bread and unsalted butter, or with mash if you want a really hearty meal (check out the How To page for my mash tips), although it’s nice to dip the bread in the stew.

5 or 6 fat pork sausages
About 200g bacon lardons
1 400g can of borlotti beans
1 large onion
A couple of cloves of garlic
400ml chicken stock
A glass of white wine, or a big slug of Vermouth/similar
Dried rosemary and sage
Salt and black pepper
Olive oil
Good-quality fresh bread and butter, to serve

Serves 2-4, depending on how hungry you are.

First of all, select a large, deep casserole dish or another saucepan which can go in the oven – this is a one-pot dish so that you can save on washing up! Add a splash of oil and put on a high heat, then pop the sausages in and fry for about five minutes, stirring every now and then, until they’re golden brown on each side (although don’t get too overzealous – stop before the skins start to wrinkle). Dice the onion and chop the garlic while they’re cooking. Then scoop them out and put to one side on a plate. Use a knife (or a pair of scissors!) to chop them into bite-sized pieces. Don’t worry if they’re still a little pink on the inside – they’re going to have plenty more cooking time.

Next, using the same pan, fry the bacon, onion and garlic until they start to colour. Drain the borlotti beans and rinse well – if you want to make this stew a bit more nutritious, you could add cannellini beans too, although you might need a little more liquid as they will absorb it during their cooking. Beans are a pretty good way to add another of your five a day into your diet (generally, half a can counts as one portion), because they’re cheap and delicious too, adding a nice bulk and texture to stews and casseroles.

Once the bacon, onion and garlic is ready, put the sausages back in and add the rinsed borlotti beans. Sprinkle generously with dried rosemary and sage, and stir well. Next, add the wine or the Vermouth – using Vermouth is a Nigella Lawson trick which is really handy if you don’t want to keep buying white wine for use in recipes. One supermarket own-brand bottle of Vermouth (I find the Sainsbury’s version perfectly acceptable!) costs £10-£15 but because it’s so much stronger in terms of flavour, you need less in each recipe and so it will last quite a long time. There should be a nice sizzle as the alcohol goes into the pan and then a lovely scent rising from the dish – stir well until the liquid has mostly disappeared (by this point, the alcohol itself should have sizzled away, leaving only the delicious flavour).

Use boiling water and 1 chicken stock cube to make up the stock, then add enough to cover all the ingredients in the pan, but don’t drown them – you might not need to use all of the stock. Bring the stew to the boil, then cover and leave to bubble for 15 minutes. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 140˚C, and then once the 15 minutes are up, pop the stew in the oven and leave to simmer gently for about 2 hours.

By the time it’s ready, the liquor should have thickened and the stew become dark and gooey, and a wonderful smell should be filling the kitchen. Serve up a big comforting bowl with crusty bread and butter on the side, and use the bread to soak up the stew – gorgeous.