Happy New Year everyone!
For 2013, I have two New Year’s food resolutions:
(1) To eat less cake and bake more bread (to fill the void left by aforementioned cake.)
(2) To eat less meat and more veg.
Number 2 is something that the OH has been on at me about for a while. I have fallen into the stereotypical habit of thinking that I must feed my OH meat for every meal ‘cos that’s what “real men” eat. And I think, if the OH was honest, he has turned up his nose at some of my veggie creations in the dim and distant past.
But, as we both become more interested in the provenance of our food, it has dawned on us that whilst neither of us will ever be vegetarian, we are increasingly reluctant to eat meat farmed by dubious methods.
I do only ever buy free-range chicken and luckily my local supermarket is fairly forward thinking and often stocks other free-range meats too. But these products are expensive. And there are the health aspects of eating meat vs veg to consider too. So I am going to make a concerted effort to mix up my weekly meals and not fall back on meat as the default setting.
Obviously this recipe for sausage stuffed onions isn’t vegetarian (although you could use veggie sausages if you wanted to) but it does contain just a very small amount of meat. The dish is inspired by an April Bloomfield recipe of the same name in her book A Girl and Her Pig. I made April’s recipe and it was really tasty but, quite frankly, looked friggin’ unappetizing so I adapted it to make it more pleasing to the eye. I’ve also jazzed up the stuffing with some apple and fennel seeds.
I’ve served the onions alongside a butternut and sage gratin which makes a delicious accompaniment. Try forgoing the sausage stuffing completely and stuff the onions with the butternut mixture instead for a veggie version of this dish.
Sausage stuffed onions with a butternut and sage gratin
(Serves 2 as a main course)
For the onions:
- 4 red onions (about 150g each)
- olive oil
- 1 bulb garlic
- fresh thyme
- 2 good quality pork sausages
- 25g breadcrumbs
- 1 apple, grated
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- knob of butter
- splash of white wine
- 220ml reduced fat cream or creme fraiche
- 225ml chicken or veg stock
- sea salt and black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan. Peel the onions. Trim the roots slightly so the onions stand upright then trim the tops. Using an apple corer, push the corer through the top of the onion to remove the central core, being careful to not make a hole in the bottom. Once you have removed the core, insert a a sharp knife into the hole and scrape out a little more of the onion to make space for the stuffing. Reserve these bits of onion for the sauce.
2. Place the onions in an ovenproof dish and rub with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Peel off the outer layers of the bulb of garlic to expose the cloves then place in the dish with the onions. Drizzle with a little more oil and scatter with fresh thyme sprigs. Add 75ml of water then cover and bake for 50 minutes until the onions have softened. Once the onions are cooked set aside until cool enough to handle, reserving the garlic for the sauce.
3. Remove the meat from the sausage skins and mix with the breadcrumbs, grated apple, fennel seeds, some thyme leaves and a twist of black pepper. Fry over a medium-high heat for a couple of minutes, breaking the mixture up every so often with a wooden spoon. The sausage meat needn’t be cooked through but you do want some nice crispy golden bits to start forming. Remove from the heat and set aside.
4. Scrape out a little more of the inside of each cooked onion if necessary. Stuff with the sausage mixture, drizzle with olive oil then return to the oven for 20 minutes until golden brown.
5. For the sauce, finely chop the reserved pieces of onion and soften in the butter. Add a splash of white wine and some thyme leaves then squeeze the contents of the roasted garlic cloves into the pan. Add the cream and stock then bring to the boil and simmer until thickened. Drizzle over the onions to serve.
For the butternut gratin:
- 500g diced butternut
- a few knobs of butter
- 2 tbsp reduced fat cream or creme fraiche
- a pinch of cayenne pepper
- small handful of sage leaves
- 50g breadcrumbs
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 2 tbsp parmesan
- salt and pepper
1. Boil or microwave the butternut until tender (about 10 minutes). Mash with a knob of butter and the cream then season with cayenne, salt and black pepper. Spoon into a small baking dish.
2. Heat a knob of butter over a medium-high heat and fry the sage leaves until crisp. Set aside.
3. Mix the breadcrumbs with the garlic and parmesan then crumble in the crispy sage leaves. Sprinkle the mixture over the butternut, dot with a little more butter and bake for 20 minutes at 200C/180C fan until the top is golden and crisp. (The gratin can be cooked alongside the stuffed onions.)