It's no secret that Walthamstow is great for food. It's home to a number of great pubs and restaurants, with Walthamstow Village at the heart of this vibrant food and drink scene. Eat17, Orford Saloon Tapas Bar, The Chequers and the Village are all great places to spend an evening, but this is well worn territory that is known to everyone across E17. It's not really a secret anymore.
What I've wanted to try lately is to actually explore the food scene in terms of local produce, and have a stab at creating dishes that are my own little piece of Walthamstow. With that in my mind, I head out today to the East London Sausage Company on Orford Road to pick up 6 juicy pork and leek sausages (a steal at £3.78), before nipping over the road to possibly the greatest SPAR in the United Kingdom, which is something you don't get to say very often. It deserves the praise though; it's owned by Eat17 and stocks a host of delights from their kitchen, along with other local produce that you simply won't find in Sainsbury's.
It also has an in-store pizzeria so... yeah. 'Nuff said.
What this SPAR also stocks are ales and beers from Walthamstow's own Wild Card Brewery. I've been a fan of Wild Card since I moved here last year, and am particularly fond of the Jack of Clubs Ruby Ale. I've wanted to use it in my cooking for a while, so with winter just around the corner it seemed the perfect time to try out an E17-inspired casserole for those cosy evenings in. This goes great with fresh, crusty bread, of which there's plenty in the Orford Road SPAR, but this time I went for a baguette from Le Moulin, who have a stall at Walthamstow Farmers' Market every Sunday.
Ruby Jack's Sausage Casserole
Serves 2-3 (it can stretch to 4, but the portions will be on the small side)
6 quality pork sausages, courtesy of the East London Sausage Company (I used pork & leek, but anything with lots of herbs is also a winner)
1 large onion, diced into chunks
2 cloves garlic, chopped
A handful of closed-cup mushrooms, roughly torn
330ml Jack of Clubs Ruby Ale, courtesy of Wild Card Brewery
400g tin chopped tomatoes
400g tin butter beans, drained
2 tsp paprika (or more because paprika rules)
Salt and pepper
Fresh, crusty bread to serve
- First, heat a little oil in a large saucepan and add the sausages whole. Fry on a medium heat until nicely browned all over (don't worry too much about cooking them through - they'll cook in the sauce later)
- Using some tongs or a fork, remove the sausages and set aside for now. Add the onion and garlic and cook for five minutes until golden (there should be plenty of fat from the sausages, but feel free to add a little more oil if necessary.
- Add the mushrooms and cook for a few minutes until brown and squishy.
- Add the paprika. Turn up the heat and cook for another minute, stirring frequently.
- Add the sausages back to the pan, and tip in the Jack of Clubs ale (yep, the whole bottle! sob!). Bring to the boil and allow the alcohol to cook off (about five minutes), stirring occasionally. A good way to judge this is how much 'head' you've got on your casserole. You'll find a lot of beery foam gathering on the surface to begin with, but as the alcohol cooks off, you'll notice less and less foam gathering after each stir.
- Add the tomatoes, stir well and turn down the heat. Bring the casserole to a gentle simmer before putting the lid on the pan. Leave it simmering for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally (the longer the better; I'll usually leave it on a low heat for at least an hour). Pre-heat the oven to 150 degrees.
- 10 minutes before serving, drain the butter beans and add to the casserole, stirring well. Give it a try and season to taste before putting the bread in the oven.
- Divide into bowls and serve! Be sure to put the bread out last so it's still warm and crusty as it hits the table.
- Eat! Preferably with way too much butter on the bread.