There are a couple of posts I want to do before our return to France which is imminent. To say we're looking forward to it would be the understatement of the decade so far, what with the toxic atmosphere of living in Brexit Britain and the lousy weather we've been having lately.
Having said that, we have enjoyed our months back in the UK. Knowing that for much of the time the weather back in our part of France is not much better than it is here, and that keeping the two log fires there going all winter is hard work compared with just tweaking the central heating control, has definitely helped. We have achieved a lot in the house, decorating the hall, stairs and landing, which is a big job (especially when you change your mind about the colour of the paint when half of it is done).
We had a new staircase last spring, replacing the bouncy open tread job with the wrought iron banister for a modern, light oak version with chrome spindles. Having that done was a big job in itself, not to mention moving the whole thing back a couple of feet and moving the radiator. We started to tackle the decorating as soon as the Christmas decorations were put away and now that it's all finished we can hardly remember how horrible it was before.
The end of the work coincided with the couple of weeks of really nice weather that we had here in February. We put the outdoor table up, ate our lunch outdoors and sat in the sunshine for a couple of hours for several days. It felt so wrong to be doing that in February - in Derbyshire - but we made the most of it, knowing it couldn't last much longer and luxuriating in the warmth in the middle of the afternoon when all around us were out at work. Sure enough, wintry weather has returned and salad is off the menu again to be replaced by traditional cold weather fare.
With family coming for lunch we decided on something hearty but not too taxing so that we could spend time catching up instead of cooking and I spotted a recipe for a sausage traybake in Mary Berry's book "Absolute Favourites". I adapted it slightly using different veg but the one thing I did do was to get sausages from the butcher instead of the supermarket. What a revelation that was! I had almost forgotten how good real, plump sausages could taste! I bought a Cumberland and a Lincolnshire sausage for each person.
I got it ready to go in the oven well in advance, prepared some greens to go with it and set the table. When the guests arrived all I had to do was turn on the oven and enjoy a glass of wine!
You can see the original recipe here and you could easily adapt it for more people by increasing the amount of veg and number of sausages, using a bigger dish.
Another, slightly different version, same recipe.
2 tblsp olive oil
1kg baby potatoes, or small potatoes halved
1 large leek, washed and cut into thick slices
1 large red and 1 large white onion, peeled and cut into wedges
1 red pepper, seeds removed, cut into thick chunks
1 stick celery, washed and thickly sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and quartered
8 large butcher's sausages, pricked with a fork (I used two different flavours)
200ml white wine
1 tblsp fresh thyme leaves (optional)
Preheat the oven to 220 C / 200 Fan / gas mk 7.
Put all of the veg into a large bowl with the oil, season with salt and pepper and swish around until they are all coated with oil. Tip them into a large roasting tin or baking dish and arrange evenly.
Put the sausages into the same bowl and roll around so that they are also coated with the oil and arrange on top of the veg.
Roast for 30 minutes until the sausages are browned on top, turn them over and toss the veg around, making sure the sausages are back on top. Add the wine and roast again for 20 minutes or until the sausages and potatoes are completely cooked.
Serve immediately with more veg of your choice.