Go for an indie

Saturday was a pretty indulgent day as far as food and drink go. After settling into Caffè Nero with two cappuccinos and the morning papers, Luke and I wandered around Borough Market, had tapas and sherry for lunch in Brindisa, and then spent some time in Laithwaites pondering what to pair with our planned dinner of sausage and lentil casserole (recipe below, adapted from The Daily Mail Weekend).

Since we usually browse the somewhat limited wine aisle in our local supermarket during our weekly shop, this was something of a treat for us. After explaining to the cheery sales rep what we were having for dinner, we were offered several generous samples to try. We eventually decided on two bottles of the 2009 1842 Cabernet Sauvignon from the Barossa Valley (reduced from £14 to just £6.99 per bottle). Full of rich black fruits, subtle menthol flavours and a silky finish, we both agreed it would work well with the food and on its own.

Unfortunately, there was just one bottle of the 1842 left (‘here we go’ I thought – he’s going to pull out a more expensive alternative), but we were offered a bottle of 2002 Wild River Cabernet Sauvignon from the Yarra Valley for the same price. Smooth, blackcurranty and well rounded, this was equally enjoyable, and accompanied the rich sausage casserole perfectly!

Sausage and lentil casserole

Ingredients (serves 4)
8 sausages
2 large onions, finely sliced
2 whole red peppers
2 cloves garlic, crushed
400ml red wine (if you’re serving the food with a Cabernet Sauvignon, stick to the same grape variety – we used the Wild River)
200ml beef stock
250g puy lentils
400g tin chopped tomatoes
300ml vegetable stock
2 tbsp olive oil

Method
1. Heat the oven to 180°c. Rub the red peppers with a little olive oil and place on a baking dish. Cook in the oven for 20 minutes until the skins start to blacken. Remove from the oven and put in a sealed plastic bag
2. In a large saucepan, heat the vegetable stock until almost at boiling point. Add the lentils and simmer for 15-20 minutes until softened slightly. This shortens the cooking time later on. Drain the lentils and leave to one side
3. Grill the sausages until cooked through and brown all over. Set aside
4. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large pan. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes until soft
5. Add the crushed garlic, red wine, beef stock, lentils and tomatoes
6. Reduce the heat so that the mixture is simmering away and, using a pair of scissors, snip each sausage into four pieces and add to the pan
7. Simmer for a further 30-40 minutes until the lentils are soft and the sauce is nice and thick
8. Meanwhile, remove the peppers from the bag, peel off the skins and deseed. Thinly slice and add to the sausage pot. Simmer for a further for 5 minutes until the peppers are heated through
9. Serve with broccoli, green beans and crusty bread

I know it’s not always convenient but I highly recommend visiting an independent merchant such as Laithwaites or Oddbins every once in a while. Both are in walking distance of London Bridge underground station and there are a lot more littered around the UK (Jamie Goode’s website contains a rather useful list).

The staff are friendly and highly knowledgeable in their field and the experience is personalised to your tastes and requirements. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been offered to try before I buy in the wine aisle at Tesco!

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