Ask Peter: Making sausages go further
Can you help me sort out a “discussion” I’ve been having with my friend. She thinks that with a big family, you’re better off buying the cheapest barbecue or pre-cooked sausages to keep everyone full. I think buying fewer butcher-made sausages with good flavoured pork or beef, even chorizo or Italian flavour, is a much tastier option, if you can spin them out. Can you suggest some ways to make a good, expensive sausage go further? Thanks, Sophie.
As a chef and restaurateur, with customers to feed as and when they feel like it, rather than a family that needs to be fed three times a day, my view will be different to many.
However, as I do when buying eggs and chicken, pork and milk, in fact pretty much any ingredient at all, my philosophy has always been to buy the best you can afford and then “bulk it out” if needed with grains, veges and the like.
Personally I prefer to have a well-rounded nutritional meal with slightly less meat (in your case, sausages) but with best-quality sausages. There will of course be a price difference between “bulk load” sausages with a lower percentage of meat than “butcher-made” quality ones and that needs to be addressed if you’re on a budget.
But there are ways to extend your meat, if you’re prepared to cook and if you have a little extra time.
The easiest way to bulk out a meal is, of course, using carbohydrates.
This could be something as simple as potatoes, kumara, bread, rice or pasta. As they’re fairly inexpensive they can stretch the budget and fill the stomachs but they also load on the carbs and therefore weight.
If you feel like being a little more adventurous you can move into grains and this helps bulk up the meal, but also adds relatively more nutrition.
Lentils must be one of the easiest tasty fillers — you can simply rinse them then simmer in water with some herbs and a little seasoning until cooked. They’ll taste delicious, because lentils do.
Couscous is another simple-to-prepare accompaniment — the key to successful couscous is to pour on enough tepid water to cover by 1cm and leave it to soak. NEVER EVER use boiling water as it simply causes the couscous to become pasty. Mix in some seasoning, olive oil and freshly chopped herbs and you’ll love the ease of making it.
Rice, of course, is also easy, and you can make that more interesting by adding chopped fresh ginger, garlic and lemongrass to the water as well as mixing in fresh herbs such as basil, mint and coriander — all of which can be grown on the windowsill or in the garden so should be of little cost.
As for potatoes and kumara, of course you can just boil these but roasting them with garlic, lemon slices or chilli, and herbs such as thyme, rosemary and sage, will make them so much more tasty. Mix in baby spinach or peas once cooked and your sausage seems more like a meal than a cheap banger.
As a child my favourite way to eat sausage was the way Mum’s local dairy made them.
They would make buttery mashed potatoes and then pipe this down the middle of a sausage, which was cut open like a finger doughnut piped with cream. Then they’d sprinkle it with grated cheese and bake it till golden and crispy. I’ve done this myself over the years, and I have to say it’s a terrific way to eat bangers and mash, but it really only works well with good sausages.
So, in summing up, I’m with you on the sausage query. Fewer sausages of better quality are much better than the other way around.
In our Ask Peter series, executive chef Peter Gordon answers your curly culinary questions. If you're stumped over something food-related, send your question to email@example.com and keep checking in for answers. You can read more on Peter on his website, have a read of his Ask Peter articles or check out his recipes here.