Whenever I attempt a totally vegetarian diet, the foods which tempt me most and invariably bring me back are not the ones I think I love most, i.e. seafood, but pork products like bacon and sausages. I grew up in England and this lust for sausages must have something to do with culinary nostalgia. It certainly has nothing to do with great taste. I remember some vile, tasteless sausages served up for school dinners with horrible greasy chips.
In the last few years food products have dramatically improved in the UK and London is abuzz with fantastic, organic British produce. On this trip, I discovered the Whole Foods Market on Kensington High Street, a real ode to gourmet food. There is no pretence of trying to be vegetarian or solely organic. They simply have the best produce, from around the world, that I have ever seen under one roof—20 different varieties of olives in wooden buckets (in addition to the pre-packed varieties), a cheese room, fresh bread coming out of the oven, meats and seafood. I drool as I think about it.
Borough Market near London Bridge is another great foodie spot in London that serves extraordinary British and European cheeses, meats and wines. I did a little research and bought a variety of sausages from Marks and Spencer, Waitrose etc., to see what we actually liked best. To my surprise, the ones that came out on top were the ones from the Duchy of Cornwall Estates (aka Prince Charles’ place). They were meaty, but not too coarse, juicy on cooking with just the right amount of seasoning and bite.
The sausages I am talking about are commonly called “wet” sausages because they need to be cooked, either in a frying pan or grilled. This has become so much part of the baggage of British national sentiment that people are often referred to as “you silly old sausage”. It is also called “banger”, and in Germany it is called “wurst”. These sausages have nothing to do with the European dry sausage (or saucisson in French), which are hung, smoked until dry and then thinly sliced and eaten as is.
I went around my local shops in Pune, trying to find the best sausage available here. Alas, most were fine meat pastes which, when cooked, tasted like pasty, flavoured meat with too much seasoning. Many were more like frankfurters or hot dogs, better suited to boiling and stuffing in a hot dog roll. I found no real, slightly coarse, meaty ones made in India, which were perfect imitations of the British counterpart.
On a recent trip to Australia (plenty of good bangers available there), I was offered a lovely moist, meaty sausage at a beach barbecue. The gentleman who offered them to us was a friend of my hosts and when I asked him politely where he bought them, he replied that he made them himself. I thought this was a bit far-fetched but his wife confirmed this. I asked for the recipe and dear Richard Johnson sent it to me a few days later. I thought I would never go this far to get a decent sausage but I am toying with the idea of making them myself given what I have tasted here. Johnson assures me that it works if you stick firmly to the recipe without any deviation.
Dick’s Bratworst Mix
Pasted: ‘Wet’ sausages (made from pork) need to be fried or grilled.
For 1kg meat
500g lean beef
400g pork belly
100g pork fat
I teaspoon emulsifier
I tbsp salt
2 teaspoon white pepper
2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
2 cloves garlic
Break peeled garlic with meat hammer, then mince it finely. Add to the fat and keep aside. Mix spices together and sift twice until mixed well. Cut meat into cubes and stir in all the spices. Run through a mincer with a large hole until you get a coarse mince. Mince once more, adding the fatty meat with garlic.
Run mix through fine mince plate once only. Re-run only half of the batch through the fine plate again. This will help binding and also leave some larger meat section.
Knead fine mince mixture by hand until very sticky and the mix binds well together, for 10 minutes.
Add a small amount of cold water to mix and blend in well. Keep mixing to get the mixture to bind. Don’t exceed 400g water. The binding process is the most important stage and can take 10 to 15 minutes if done by hand.
To fill sausage stuffing, ball up the mince into softball size and press through 38-42mm skins. Don’t overfill as pressure will be too great while twisting. Use a pin to prick any air bubbles. Chill sausages immediately after filling, and let them stand for 12 hours.
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