At 43 degrees north, 650 meters above sea-level, and almost perfectly halfway between the two Italian coasts, Caprese Michelangelo enjoys four, very distinct seasons. So, after one of the hottest summers on record, we are now halfway through autumn and preparing for, perhaps, two weeks of forced hibernation, when the snows come in January.
Although the sun is still quite warm—when we see it—mornings tend to start out misty and any clear evenings drop the temperatures dramatically. We’ve already started working through the cellarful of firewood we bought a few weeks ago.
Happily, all the winter vegetables have now come into season, and when I went food shopping yesterday I was greeted by rows of cannonball cabbages, frilly cauliflowers, and every kind of squash: and there, I saw what for me are the true gems of winter—brussels sprouts. I know they aren’t to everyone’s taste, but to be honest, I think a lot of that is to do with having been force fed over-boiled sprouts at school. Believe me, in this house, sprouts are not for boiling.
So last night, to celebrate the return of these belgian beauties, I cooked them in one of my favourite ways. It’s a simple one-pot stove-top meal and perfect for mid-week cooking. I used Tuscan sausages, which have a slight piquant quality to them but any good-quality sausage, from the Great British banger, to a gallic Toulouse would do.
Salsicce con cavolini di bruxelles e noci
6 Tuscan sausages
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
200 g (7 ounces) smoked lardons
75g (5 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
6 cloves of garlic, peeled
100 g (3 1/2 ounces) walnut kernels
1 1/2 kg (3 1/2 pounds) brussels sprouts, peeled and cut into halves
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
- Using a dutch oven over a medium heat, fry the sausages in the olive oil until they are gently browned, turning often, about 10 minutes. Remove them from the pot and place to one side.
- Fry the lardons gently in the oil and the juices of the sausages until they turn rose pink. Remove them with a slotted spoon being careful to leave all the cooking liquid in the pot, and place to one side with the sausages.
- Add the butter to the pan and melt into the juices. Add the onion, and the cloves of garlic to the pot and fry them in the juices until golden with the juices, but be careful not to brown them. Then add the walnuts and coat with the oil and butter mixture.
- Now toss the sprouts into the pan and stir them through so that they are coated in liquid. If there is not enough add a dash more olive oil or a knob of butter (or both).
- Turn the heat right down, place the lid on the dutch oven and cook for 20 minutes.
- Add the balsamic vinegar, adjust the seasoning, and return the sausages and lardons to the pot. Cover again and cook for a further 10 minutes or until the sprouts are al dente. Leave to cool for a few minutes and serve directly from the pot. Buon appetito!
What’s your favourite winter warmer dish? Let me know in the comments below.