Beer-braised sausages is one of the most straight forward and obvious ways to incorporate beer into cooking. Google it and you’ll find pages and pages of results; even Stella Artois appear to have a recipe for it (although the link doesn't appear to work in the UK. Probably no big loss; fizzy macro beer may be snidely referred to as ‘cooking lager’, but actually following through with that idea seems kind of nuts). I've been wanting to make a version since having a sausage dish cooked in cider. I wanted to make a similar meal at home, but didn't want to be stuck with the remaining half bottle; I don’t like cider, and it would most likely end up down the sink. And as my mind turned to beer alternatives, I remembered Harvey’s Priory Ale, a beer that has seemed to be screaming out for an accompanying banger every time I've tasted it.
Priory Ale is an interpretation of the kind of beers that might have been produced at a brewery at the Priory of St. Pancras in the Sussex town of Lewes in 1264. It uses only ingredients that would have been available to these brewers; these include hops, but also yarrow, rosemary and thyme, with a grain bill mixing barley, oats and wheat. I first picked up a bottle from Harvey's brewery shop on a whim, simply because I’d never seen it before. I expected little more than a dusty historical curiosity, but was caught out by how unusual this beer is; amongst other things, I taste shandy, Parma Violets and menthol eucalyptus in it, but in this dish, the odder flavours fade into the background and the herbal and citrus notes shine through, working perfectly with the sausages.
My base recipe is this one from the Waitrose website, though I've made several tweaks beyond my selected beer. Perhaps most significantly, I used vegetarian sausages, as I don’t eat meat. I say this knowing full well that Harvey’s beers, amongst countless others, are filtered with isinglass, and therefore not strictly vegetarian. I am personally happy to look past this tiny trace of animal produce in my beer and don’t consider this a contradiction – and in any case, this recipe isn't set in stone, and can be easily produced with a fully vegetarian-friendly beer, or with genuine pork sausages in place of the soya substitute. Whilst I do think the particular beer I used leant a certain richness to the dish, I think just about any ale with a decent depth of flavour will have something to offer.
I made another couple of minor changes – I swapped onions for leeks, for example, because I don't want too much sticky sweetness, and omitted wholegrain mustard from the beer and sausage broth. Instead, I stirred a teaspoon of it through the mashed potatoes than accompanied the dish but, if I were to serve it without mash, I’d include it as per the original Waitrose recipe. Another tweak I made, which might seem a little odd, is the inclusion of a splash of soy sauce. I always do this with veggie gravies, as it adds richness and a little seasoning but the soy sauce flavour per se is not detectable. Apart from anything else, it transformed this dish’s slightly anaemic translucent golden brown colour to something much more befitting a sausage casserole. This step may not be necessary if you're cooking with meat.
This is great comfort food, best consumed on the sofa in front of the TV. My one regret is that I didn't have the foresight to procure a beer to accompany the meal; as I ate, I wished I had a bottle of Fuller’s London Porter on the side.
Harvey’s Priory Ale-braised sausages
Recipe serves a greedy lone diner, but quantities are easily multiplied
3 sausages (vegetarian or otherwise)
1 ½ trimmed leeks, sliced
1 tbsp plain white flour
225ml Harvey’s Battle of Lewes Priory Ale
150ml vegetable stock
Splash of dark soy sauce
1. Heat oil in a frying pan or casserole with a lid, and cook the sausages slightly short of manufacturer’s instructions, until cooked through but only just golden brown. Remove from the pan and set aside
2. Add the leaks to the pan and cook for 5 or 6 minutes until softened. Add the flour and fry off for a brief minute, then add the beer and bring to a simmer. Add the stock and soy sauce, then return the sausages to the pan and place a lid on for around 15 minutes. Taste a few times, adjusting the seasoning as necessary.
3. Remove the lid and cook for around 5 more minutes, until the liquid has thickened and acquired a rich, sticky texture. Goes very well with a creamy mustard mash.