A cassoulet with shortcuts.

Cassoulet is a French classic dish. So important in certain parts of France that there’s even a society in the dishes honour, the Academie Universelle du Cassoulet, which determines whether your cassoulet is truly authentic (they have some fetching costumes to boot).

Cassoulet is a casserole of sorts made from white beans, and various meats, both cured and fresh, depending on the area you find yourself in. It’s peasant food at it’s best, slow cooked and hearty, perfect for a cold winter’s night.

I have made a version of the real thing before, which took the better part of a weekend to prepare and fed a small army of people. It was delicious, but not the most practical dish to make on a school night for your family.

So I’ve messed with it. Reduced the variety of meat products, used canned beans and therefore the cooking time.

And of course, featured L’Authentique’s amazingly authentic Toulouse sausages, without which this would not be a cassoulet at all, just beans.

SHORT CUT CASSOULET STYLE BEANS WITH TOULOUSE SAUSAGES

2017-06-23 10.09.32 v12 tablespoons olive oil
4 rashers streaky bacon
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely diced
2 sticks celery, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
400g tinned crushed tomatoes
Bouquet garni of bayleaf, thyme and parsley tied together with string
500ml chicken stock
2 x 400g tinned cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
Salt/pepper to taste
Bunch parsley, leaves chopped
8 L’Authentique Toulouse sausages
1 cup breadcrumbs or half stale baguette, cut into 5mm slices
2 tablespoons melted butter or duck fat

  1. Heat oven to 200ºC.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large oven proof casserole dish over a medium/high heat. Add bacon and cook until well browned and crisp.
  3. Reduce heat to medium. Add onion, carrot, celery and garlic and cook until onion is soft, but not browned.
  4. Pour over tinned tomatoes and add bouquet garni. Bring to the boil and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated and the tomatoes are starting to thicken.
  5. Pour over chicken stock and beans, stir to combine, bring to the boil and cook uncovered for 20 minutes.
  6. Remove bouquet garni, season to taste and stir through chopped parsley.
  7. Remove from heat, submerge sausages in the beans, and either sprinkle over breadcrumbs, or layer sliced baguette to cover the cassoulet. Drizzle with melted butter or duck fat, then bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until top is golden and sauce bubbling.
  8. Remove from oven and serve.
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Taste of a French summer during an NZ winter: Merguez Sausages with Roast Vegetable Israeli Couscous

Philippe, one of the charcutiers at L’Authentique, says that merguez sausages are traditionally eaten during summer in France. The sausages are lamb with middle eastern flavours and enough heat to keep things interesting.

In keeping with France by way of Morocco, but mindful that we are knee deep in a New Zealand winter, I’ve paired the sausages with Israeli couscous, preserved lemons and coriander, and roasted root vegetables.

Now you can pretend you’re enjoying the warmth of the French sunshine, in front of a roaring southern hemisphere fire.

L’AUTHENTIQUE MERGUEZ SAUSAGES WITH ROAST VEGETABLE ISRAELI COUSCOUS
Serves 42017-06-15 11.17.57 v1

1 onion, sliced into thin wedges
1 large carrot, and;
1 beetroot, and;
1/4 butternut, and;
1 kumara, and;
1 large parsnip, peeled and chopped into 2cm chunks.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup Israeli couscous
8-12 L’Authentique Merguez Sausages
Finely grated zest and juice of a lemon
1 tablespoon preserved lemon, pith removed and finely chopped
Two large handfuls baby spinach leaves
Large bunch coriander, chopped (or substitute parsley)
1/4 cup olive oil, extra
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Heat the oven to 200°C
  2. Toss the vegetables with the olive oil and tip into a baking dish. Bake for 20-30 minutes until vegetables and cooked and caramelised
  3. Meanwhile cook the couscous. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, tip in the couscous, and cook for 7 minutes (or to manufacturer’s instructions). Drain and set aside.
  4. Heat a large frying pan over a medium/high heat. Add a little olive oil and cook the sausages until golden brown and cooked to medium rare.
  5. To make the salad, toss together the roasted vegetables, israeli couscous, preserved lemon, lemon zest, spinach and coriander. Pour over lemon juice and extra olive oil, toss again and season to taste.
  6. Serve the sausages with the couscous salad and garnish with extra coriander if desired.

 

 

A french bistro in your kitchen: Beef Steak Sausages with Green Peppercorn Sauce

As you may have realised, I’ve been working with L’Authentique Charcuterie for many weeks now. They make amazing sausages, pates and parfaits, which I am proud to be able to support. They value quality, ethical farming methods and traditional French charcuterie.

Their packaging and conversations with customers reinforce the need for quality, and treating their product with care. Direct quote about their Beef Steak Sausages: “You treat our sausages as if they were a fine cut of steak”

Which got me thinking – how do I treat a fine cut of steak? Or more importantly, how would the French treat it? In 1980?

I have always been a fan of a good green peppercorn sauce. It was a must on the menus of the French restaurants I worked in during the late 1980’s and early 90’s. It is delicious and deserves a resurgence.

And it matches surprisingly well with L’Authentique’s Beef Steak Sausages.

L’AUTHENTIQUE BEEF STEAK SAUSAGES WITH GREEN PEPPERCORN SAUCE
Serves 42017-06-09 09.57.39 v1

2 Tablespoons butter
1/4 cup shallots, finely chopped
1/4 cup brandy
1 cup good quality beef stock
1/2 cup cream
2 Tablespoons green peppercorns
6-8 L’Authentique Beef Steak Sausages (allow 1-2 per person, depending on hunger)

  1. In a small saucepan, heat the butter over a medium heat.
  2. Add the shallots and cook, stirring until soft (about 5 minutes)
  3. Add the brandy and bring to the boil, cooking until all the alcohol has burnt off
  4. Pour over beef stock, return to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer until liquid has reduced by half (about 10 minutes).
  5. Pour over cream, add peppercorns, return to the boil, then simmer until sauce has thickened (about 5 minutes)
  6. While sauce is cooking, cook the sausages as per the instructions on the pack (cook to medium rare, as with a piece of steak)
  7. Serve sausages with peppercorn sauce poured over the top, with crisp fried and salad or steamed beans. Bon appetit!

A match made in heaven: Pizza and Sausage

I’d never really considered using sausage on pizza, but this is so good! The pork and fennel flavour with mushrooms, basil and cheese works a treat. And as always, my friends from L’Authentique make the best sausages in town. They’re just meat and spices, so no danger of eating anything you really shouldn’t.

I’ve given you the recipes to make the pizza from scratch, but if you can’t be bothered or time is tight, feel free to use store bought pizza bases and sauce. It’s ok. I won’t judge you.

L’AUTHENTIQUE PORK & FENNEL SAUSAGE PIZZA

Pizza Base
This recipe is from Al Brown’s fabulous book Stoked. It’s quite a wet dough, but I’ve found that if you use strong (high-grade) flour and give it time to develop, you can handle it without too much trouble. This makes a thick crust pizza base.

500ml warm water
2 tsp dried yeast
2 tsp sugar
4 1/2 cups strong (high grade) flour
2 tsp salt

  1. Put the warm water in a bowl and add yeast and sugar. Stir then leave for 5 minutes or until the yeast begins to bubble
  2. Using the dough hook attachment on a stand cake mixer, mix together the water/yeast mixture with the flour and salt on low speed for 8-10 minutes until smooth.
  3. Transfer to an oiled bowl, cover with cling film and sit in a warm place to prove. Knock back a couple of times with oiled hands
  4. Break off pieces of dough to size required. Place on oiled tray and stretch until relatively thin (this takes a bit of effort)


Pizza Sauce
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 red onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes (optional)
2 x 400g tins crushed tomatoes
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
Salt/pepper

  1. Heat olive oil over a low heat. Add red onion, garlic, oregano and chilli flakes (if using) and cook until onion is soft.
  2. Add tins of tomatoes, bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer until reduced and thick
  3. Add red wine vinegar and cook until acidity has simmered off.
  4. Season to taste.

 

Topping (per pizza):2017-04-05 14.25.23 v1
1/2 ball fresh mozzarella
¼ cup grated parmesan
1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
4 mushrooms, finely sliced
2 L’Authentique Pork & Fennel Sausages, casings removed
Handful fresh basil leaves

  1. Heat oven to 220C.
  2. Shape the pizza base to fit a 30cm diameter pizza tin, and brush the top of the base with olive oil.
  3. Spread pizza sauce over the base until evenly covered (use about ¼ of the above recipe).
  4. Arrange slices of mozzarella over pizza, sprinkle over parmesan and rosemary.
  5. Top with mushrooms, then break up sausage and dot all over the pizza.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes or until base is golden.
  7. Remove from oven and scatter over fresh basil leaves. Serve immediately

L’Authentique Time: Toulouse Sausages with Red Wine and Cabbage Lentils

This is one of my favourite ways to cook sausages. Well technically, the sausages are cooked the same way they often are – fried in a pan until golden and juicy. And since I’m using L’Authentique sausages, the quality cuts of meat they use mean their sausages should never be overcooked! I’m on pain of death if I dare to leave them a minute longer than I should.

It’s the lentil braise that makes this dish. Lardons of bacon, red wine, garlic, herbs, all cooked to perfection. And the addition of half a head of cabbage means you don’t need to fuss with extra vegetables. It’s all there on the plate.

If you really felt that you need more carbs, you could make like the French and serve this with a crusty baguette to soak up the juices.

L’AUTHENTIQUE TOULOUSE SAUSAGES WITH RED WINE AND CABBAGE LENTILS
Serves: 4-6

2 Tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for cooking sausages2017-05-24 11.35.34 v1
4 rashers streaky bacon, chopped into lardons
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely diced
2 sticks celery, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 bay leaf, a sprig of thyme and parsley, tied together with string (bouquet garni)
1 1/2 cups puy lentils
2 cups red wine
1/2 green cabbage, finely sliced
2 Tablespoons sherry vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
10g butter
Extra parsley to garnish
8 L’Authentique Toulouse Sausages

  1. In a heavy based casserole dish, heat the olive oil. Add bacon and fry until crisp
  2. Reduce heat, add onions, carrots, celery and garlic. Cook slowly, stirring, until vegetables are soft.
  3. Add puy lentils, bouquet garni and red wine. Bring to the boil so alcohol evaporates, then add cabbage and stir to combine.
  4. Reduce heat, cover and cook for 30 minutes adding extra water if the lentils start to dry out (there should be sauce).
  5. While lentils are cooking, cook the sausages as per the instructions on the pack. Remove from pan and keep warm.
  6. Check that the lentils are cooked (they should be al dente). Add vinegar and butter, stir to combine and cook for another 5 minutes.
  7. Season to taste, then serve lentils with sauce, sausages piled on top.

Harvest Chicken, L’Authentique Style

The first time I made a real Harvest Chicken, it was a Ray McVinnie recipe featured in Cuisine magazine I don’t even know how many years ago. The combination of flavours in my version remains the same – tomatoes, lemons, rosemary and chicken.

Although this time I’ve used L’Authentique Chicken and Bacon sausages. The flavours still work as they should, but the sausages make the process a little faster. I’ve also added potatoes to make this a one dish meal, that can go straight from oven to table.

L’AUTHENTIQUE HARVEST CHICKEN2017-05-09 18.52.35 v1
Serves 4-6

4 potatoes, cut into 2cm chunks
½ cup olives
1 red onion, sliced
2 lemons, cut into wedges
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves stripped from stem
4 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 cup chicken stock
1 punnet cherry tomatoes
12 L’Authentique chicken and bacon sausages
Salt and pepper to taste
Bunch of parsley, leaves finely chopped

  1. Heat oven to 200C
  2. In a large roasting dish, toss potatoes, olives, onion, lemons and rosemary with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Pour over chicken stock and roast in the oven for 25 minutes.
  3. Add cherry tomatoes and roast for another 10 minutes
  4. Lay sausages on top and roast for a final 7 minutes. If you want extra colour on your sausages, turn the oven to grill for the last 2-3 minutes.
  5. Remove from oven and season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle over parsley and serve.

Silence in the face of adversity. With chorizo croquettes.

Last week I was chatting with a friend. The conversation turned to criticism of another friend of ours.

More specifically, a child of that friend.

As we kept talking, I found myself becoming more and more uncomfortable with the direction we were going in. I’m deliberately being light on detail, because what was being said was the kind of judgement you shouldn’t be passing on an adult, let alone a child. My discomfort was in a combination of the judgement, the age of the judgee, the lack of sympathy for and understanding of our mutual friend.

And that I didn’t push back.

Worse that that, I found myself retelling a couple of extra examples to support the outrageous accusations.

I kept quiet because I was afraid of losing a friend and I didn’t want to invite conflict.

This isn’t the only time this has happened, and this situation is most certainly not exclusive to me. I’ve watched many similar situations with friends and family where highly prejudicial or discriminatory stories are told, and no one says anything, because our reluctance to rock the boat outstrips our sense of outrage. We all sit quietly, seething on the inside, or looking around in embarrassment, hoping to God that no one else is listening in.

I wondered whether this is a cultural flaw. New Zealanders are inclined to say nothing in uncomfortable situations. We can make ill advised friendships last a lifetime, rather than standing up for what we believe in. And yet we’ve stood on the world stage in defiance of super powers. We protest against injustice. So I’m not sure it’s that.

I have no issue with pushing back on older members of my family when they come out with enormously inflammatory comments. I’ll vociferously castigate them for their outdated views on race, class and gender (or a combination of all three). Apparently I’m only tolerant of my friends’ prejudice.

It feels like a throwback to the school yard. To the days when you remained friends no matter what. I remember one friend who mercilessly picked on my younger sister. She was redirecting her own frustrations with being the youngest child on someone who was younger than her. I loved (and still love) my sister almost more than anyone else (now my children have taken that place), yet I could let someone who proved to be a short-term friend terrorise my only sibling. I’m not going to be too hard on myself here – I think I was about 9 or 10, but the example works for the narrative.

The only solution I think, is to honestly assess the state of the person you’re friends with. To question whether this was a one off, badly judged comment, or part of a long term pattern of opinions and behaviour. After all, we all have our moments when we speak without thinking. There’s a vast divide between a single foot-in-mouth incident, and a lifetime of bigotry.

If the gap between your standards and theirs is getting too wide, maybe it’s time to look for a new friend.

CHORIZO CROQUETTES
Makes 12

These croquettes were my favourite things to eat in Spain. They can be filled with 2017-04-13 10.38.15 v1.jpgserrano ham, salt cod or cheese, or chorizo sausage, as per my recipe below.

I made these for my family as a light dinner, served with a green salad. You could also serve these as a tapas plate, or as an entree.

1 pack L’Authentique chorizo sausages, casings removed
100ml olive oil
1/2 cup flour
600ml milk
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 tsp salt
Pepper to taste
1/2 cup flour, for coating
2 eggs, beaten with 2 Tbsp water
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
Additional olive oil for frying

  1. Heat a non-stick frying pan. Cook chorizo, breaking up with a spoon, until browned and cooked through. Set aside.
  2. Heat a saucepan over a medium heat. Add olive oil. When heated, add flour and cook for approximately 2 minutes, stirring to combine.
  3. Gradually add milk, stirring briskly with a wooden spoon to avoid lumps. The sauce should be very thick and shiny.
  4. Stir in chorizo, parsley, salt and pepper.
  5. Refrigerate for an hour to set, or if you’re in a hurry, place in a freezer for 15 minutes.
  6. Prepare coating by placing flour, eggs and water, and breadcrumbs into separate bowls.
  7. With floured hands, form spoonfuls of the chorizo mix into small sausage shapes, about 6cm long and 3cm thick. Dredge in the flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs. Set aside on a large plate in a single layer.
  8. Heat extra olive oil, about 1cm deep, in a heavy based pan. Fry the croquettes until golden brown all over. If they are started to colour too quickly, reduce the heat. Set aside on kitchen towel to drain. Serve hot with home made mayonnaise if desired.

Don’t believe the hype. And spaghetti with a sausage, mushroom and cream sauce.

A few weeks ago some friends and I were having a discussion about why I’d left my job in advertising. Amongst the many positive reasons (stress reduction, life balance, a love of food), I explained that I was a “people pleaser”. My desire to please people meant that criticism of my work, justified or not, left me feeling devastated, made me feel that I was letting my employers and clients down. That I wasn’t good enough.

My friend rolled her eyes – “Stop believing your own narrative”, she said.

When I asked what she meant, she talked about how we create a narrative for ourselves that gives us an excuse to explain away difficult situations in our lives. How this narrative becomes our “get out of jail free card”. How it allows us to level the blame at anyone but ourselves.

Of course, I resented what she was saying enormously. How dare she! Doesn’t she know how tough it was for me? Doesn’t she know that my former employer was an industry renowned bully? That my clients were some of the most difficult in town? That I’m just a really nice person who doesn’t deserve to be treated like that….

So many excuses. And she was right. The reality is that the only person making me feel the way I did was me. No one else can be held responsible for my feelings. I’m the one who feels them. I’m the one who creates the way I respond. The narrative is the story we tell ourselves to justify our responses, to give ourselves a reason to never change the way we respond.

That’s not to say that there aren’t situations beyond our control. We can’t predict the future, we can’t control the way others will act, we can only control the way we react.

I have a friend who is continually busy. So busy. So overworked. So unappreciated. So overloaded. For many years, I listened to her many tales of hours worked, pressure applied, late nights and early mornings in the office, too many deadlines, impossible to meet. It was odd though – she moved to different companies and the pressure and long hours remained. No matter where she worked, she told the same story of unappreciative employers, pushing her to work to breaking.

The reality is that my friend is the common denominator. I have no doubt that her job was intense, that the role was demanding. But she has never tried to change it. She’s accepted this situation as her narrative. It gives her a story to tell, makes her a sympathetic figure, means that she never has to take responsibility for the place she finds herself in. There are other people performing the same role across her industry, without these issues. This is not a professional problem, this is her problem.

Conversely, I have a friend who is in a very demanding role, at an extremely senior level in the corporate world. I’ve never been brave enough to ask what she earns (a lot!). I know roughly the value of her role, the vast sums of money and people she’s responsible for. She transacts with governments and heads of industry all over the world. On any given day, she can be flying in or out of New York, Shanghai, London, Tokyo, Auckland or Sydney. On top of that, she has a husband and two very active children. And friends and family who like to see her when she’s able.

It would be easy for her to cry busy. To complain that her work is crushing down on her, to tell everyone she doesn’t have time to spend. To prioritise her work above all else. But she doesn’t. She sets boundaries. She works so hard, but she also accepts that she chose this life, she chose this work, she chose a family. She doesn’t let busy become her narrative. She defines her life, rather than letting life define her. It’s part of what has made her so successful in so many aspects of her life.

It’s not just work. We apply our narrative to our romantic lives, our financial situations, our children, our friendships. There are so many stories of people who have overcome extreme hardship, while so many others retreat into themselves, looking for someone else to blame. Their parents, their ex-husbands, the government, a religious minority, a different ethnicity.

Two similar situations, two different responses. Another friend has now filled the role I previously held. Where I found the criticism crippling, she takes on board constructive criticism and makes the appropriate changes. She lets unjustified criticism fall off her, or fights to dispel it, if it’s important enough. While there are aspects of the role she doesn’t like (no role is perfect), she is thriving, where I was withered by my own narrative.

Our success in life is not the situations we find ourselves in. It’s how we react to those situations.

I am trying hard not to take every piece of criticism leveled at me as a personal attack. I’m trying less hard to please others, and am pushing back where I think it’s justified. I’m changing my narrative from being the woman who worked for a mean boss and a tough client, to being the woman who’s learnt a lot from her years in advertising and had some good times and some bad. And who’s really happy with the way her new life is going.

 

SPAGHETTI WITH L’AUTHENTIQUE SAUSAGE, MUSHROOM AND CREAM SAUCE2017-03-08 19.25.11 HDR v1
Serves 4

250g spaghetti, cooked to manufacturer’s instructions
2 Tbsp olive oil
450g L’Authentique Pork and Fennel or Toulouse Sausages (casings removed) or French Grind
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1/4 cup white wine
1 cup cream
200g mushrooms, sliced
3 handfuls fresh spinach leaves
1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves, roughly chopped
salt/pepper to season

  1. Heat olive oil in a deep sided frying pan.
  2. Add sausage and cook, breaking up with a spoon until lightly browned. Remove from pan and set aside.
  3. Reheat pan, and add garlic and rosemary. Cook until garlic is soft and fragrant. Be careful not to brown.
  4. Pour over white wine and allow to bubble up.
  5. Add cream and mushrooms, and cook until sauce is reduced by a third and starting to thicken.
  6. Return sausage to the pan, and stir through spinach and parsley.
  7. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve with hot spaghetti. Garnish with extra chopped parsley if desired.