I was asked recently for a magazine article how I would describe the food on my blog. It's a tricky one, but eventually I decided to go with 'comfort food for vegetarians and vegans'. This is far from a health food blog, (not a green smoothie in sight), and is more about the sort of food we eat at home every day, hoping to give others some ideas if they are looking to reduce the amount of meat in their diet either a little or a lot.
And when it comes to comfort food, I'm not sure you can get much better than a great big bowl of bangers & mash, slathered in red onion gravy.
I'm not a huge fan of many of the vegetarian sausages available in supermarkets, but despite making hundreds of homemade veggie burgers I've never made my own sausages until now. I liked the idea of using polenta as a bulking and binding ingredient, and decided to use the porcini soaking juices to make it up, rather than stock or water. I think it works really well, and gives the sausages a deep, mushroomy 'umami' flavour.
The mixture makes 16 sausages, and these freeze really well, so perfect batch cooking for a weekend, with plenty left over for the freezer. You can cook them straight from frozen, for a quick, hassle-free supper.
Porcini & Polenta Sausages
- 25 g dried porcini mushrooms
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 red onion peeled and chopped
- 2 garlic cloves peeled and crushed
- 4 large flat-cap mushrooms thickly sliced
- 40 g polenta (quick cook)
- 400 g tin cannelini beans drained and rinsed
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 150 g breadcrumbs
- 1 lemon zest and juice
- ½ tsp salt
- Pour 200ml boiling water into a measuring jug, then add the dried porcini mushrooms. Press down so they are all submerged in the water, and set aside to soak.
- Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan, and add the onion. Cook gently for 3-4 minutes until starting to soften, then add the flat cap mushrooms and garlic. Cook on a medium heat until the mushrooms juices have released and then cooked off - you should be left with a fairly dry pan. Set aside to cool.
- Drain the porcini soaking liquid into a small saucepan, and add the porcini themselves to the frying pan with the rest of the mushrooms. Bring the liquid to the boil, then pour in the polenta, stir vigorously and return to a gentle heat for 1-2 minutes until thickened. Set aside to cool.
- In a food processor, blitz together the cannelini beans, mushroom and onion mixture, soy sauce, thyme, breadcrumbs, lemon juice and a generous pinch of salt. Finally, stir through the polenta.
- You now have two choices - I filled a large disposable piping bag with the mixture, and cut a wide opening to pipe sausages directly onto an oiled baking tray. This makes them really neat and uniform, and I just patted and squeezed the ends into a sausage shape. If you prefer, just take golf-ball sized balls of the mixture and roll each one into a sausage shape by hand, then place on a baking tray. You should end up with about 16 sausages.
- Chill in the fridge for half an hour, and during this time, pre-heat the oven to 200°C / 390°F / gas mark 6.
- Place those you will be eating immediately onto an oiled baking tray, spray or brush with a little oil, and bake for 15 minutes until golden brown.
- Place the baking tray with any remaining sausages in the freezer, and once they are frozen solid, place into a freezer bag. Just cook these from frozen for 20-25 minutes.