My Lincs links
Our home chef of the year cooks up a storm at the Big Norfolk Sausage Bash
This month’s column results from the first of two invitations I have recently received from Norfolk food champion Charlie Hodson. On the best day in May weather-wise so far, I am making my way to Aylsham to provide a cooking demonstration at The Big Norfolk Sausage Bash.
The market place is crammed with people enjoying the sun, the sausages and many other stalls, including curries, vegan offerings and various Norfolk-based drinks companies. The Black Boys Hotel outside bar is also doing a great trade. So why is it that when I take to the stage, I am not cooking with good old Norfolk sausages? The answer is I was doing as I was told.
The host’s culinary feelers reach far and wide. Charlie won the national sausage roll prize in 2017 and today, I share the demonstrating bill with the current champion, Adrian Oliver, who has travelled from Plymouth.
I was therefore asked to give another geographical dimension to our favourite porky treat and I didn’t need asking twice to pop over the border to my roots in south Lincolnshire.
My butchery of choice, which I visit when I can, is G Shearer & Son in Holbeach. It has been in business since 1974 although its sausage recipe goes back over 100 years.
While all Lincolnshire sausages feature sage heavily, the exact mix of ingredients is a closelyguarded secret and when recipes do come up for sale, they change hands for significant money. I am served by manager Ben Tindale with Mark Shearer with two other staff members in attendance. Business, even at 8am on a Saturday, is brisk.
Back in Aylsham, I’m on stage after Tim Allen, a pig farmer from South Creake. His knowledge is awesome and his wit as dry as pig skin should be for that all important crackling. Another Norfolk food hero, whose pork I have eaten many times with gusto.
My dish – perhaps not the most
apt for what feels like the height of summer – is my creamy, cheesy, spicy sausage pasta. I’ve made the tagliatelle the day before, on my return to Norfolk, my home county for the last 26 years with 300g of 00 flour, three eggs and a handful of chopped oregano. Pretty simple.
The sauce prep starts with frying off an onion and garlic clove. I then de-skin six of Lincolnshire’s finest, which take the vegetables’ place in the frying pan. Their crumbly nature helps me get a good browning. After I have loosened the pieces into something resembling a coarse mince, I de-glaze with a big slug of vermouth. It’s then a matter of adding basil, mascarpone, Dolcelatte, single cream and some dried chilli. A ladle or two of the pasta water, (the pasta takes around 12 minutes to cook) and we’re there, subject to a final sprinkling of more basil and a few Parmesan shavings.
I didn’t say this was going to make you any friends at your local WeightWatchers club, but if you have earned a treat, this, in my humble opinion, is sausage heaven...
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ABOVE: Mark in full-on cookery action in Aylsham
BELOW: At Shearers, the source of the chef’s sausages of choice