Butcher's choice: Mark Hix gets creative with sausages

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Bangers don't have to be boring, says our resident chef – why not get creative with the more bold and exotic breeds of this popular staple?

Although sausages are a perennially popular food in the UK, far too many people are still consuming budget varieties made with low-grade meat and lots of filler.

Fortunately, increasing numbers of producers are coming up with better-quality products which involve less processing, have few additives and taste better – as well as being healthier.

One of the problems for me is their cheapness – sausages have always had a very low price tag, which is a bit of a giveaway as to the quality of the ingredients inside them. I would happily pay more if I really knew what they were made from.

On the Continent, the sausage system is very different to the English banger culture and their varieties tend to be full-flavoured, spicy and meatier.

Bratwurst with wild garlic mash and mustard sauce

Serves 4

I do love bratwurst. They are generally made of pork, veal or both and these days you can find them in good supermarkets and specialist food shops.

4 bratwurst
A little oil for brushing
A handful of wild garlic, roughly chopped
4 servings of good buttery mash

For the mustard sauce

A good knob of butter
2 medium shallots, peeled, halved and finely chopped
2tbsp white wine
1tbsp wholegrain mustard
1tsp Dijon mustard
100ml beef stock
60ml double cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

First make the sauce. Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan and gently cook the shallots for a minute, add the wine, mustards and beef stock and simmer until it's reduced by two thirds, then add the cream and continue simmering until the sauce thickens; season to taste and keep warm. Meanwhile, preheat a grill, score the bratwurst about 4 or 5 times (not too deep), brush with oil and grill for 4-5 minutes under a medium grill.

While the sausages are cooking, add the wild garlic to the mashed potato and heat on a low temperature until the wild garlic wilts.

To serve, spoon the mashed potato in the centre of warmed serving plates, place the bratwurst on top and spoon the sauce around.

Zampone with pulses

Serves 4

A zampone is a stuffed pig's trotter and is sold all prepared and ready to serve in most good Italian delis. I must say that every time I have bought one, the meat has been of the most fantastic quality and it makes a delicious and effortless main course or starter. Your guests will think you have been hard at work, carefully boning and mincing.

While you are in the deli, just grab some of these small Italian soup pulses which make a great alternative to the traditional lentils the zampone is served with. If you serve this as a main course, then creamed polenta would be the perfect accompaniment. If you have any zampone left over then freeze it for next time.

If there are a few of you, then heat the zampone whole by simmering it in the bag it comes in – there will probably be heating instructions with it.

4 slices of zampone about 1-1 cm thick
A couple of good knobs of butter
2 shallots, peeled, halved and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into cm dice
80g small Italian soup pulses, soaked for two hours
300-400ml beef stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

First, make the sauce: heat a knob of butter in a heavy-based saucepan and gently cook the shallots and garlic for a minute.

Add the carrots, drained pulses and 300ml of the stock, season, bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 30 minutes or until the pulses are tender and the stock has reduced and just coating the pulses. You may need to add some more stock during cooking. Cover and keep warm.

To serve, melt the rest of the butter in a pan and gently cook the slices of zampone for a minute or two on each side or, alternatively, you could heat it whole.

Spoon the pulses on to warmed serving plates or bowls with the zampone on top.

Sweetbreads and chorizo

Serves 4

You can find cooking chorizo in good supermarkets and delis and keep them in the freezer for last-minute dishes like this.

12 mini cooking chorizo
300g plump lamb's sweetbreads, washed
1tbsp chopped parsley
A knob of butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce

2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
A good knob of butter
2tsp flour
100ml white wine
250ml chicken stock

First make the sauce. Melt the butter in a thick-bottomed pan and gently cook the shallots for 2-3 minutes until lightly coloured. Add the flour and stir well over a low heat for a minute. Gradually add the white wine, stirring to avoid lumps forming, and then gradually add the chicken stock. Bring to the boil and simmer very gently for about 20-25 minutes, whisking every so often, until the sauce has reduced by about two thirds and thickened. Cover; keep warm.

Meanwhile, put the sweetbreads in a pan, cover with water, add a teaspoon of salt and bring to the boil. Simmer for 2-3 minutes then drain and refresh under the cold tap for a few minutes; drain and dry on some kitchen paper. Remove any fat and membrane from the sweetbreads and cut any very large ones in half. Season them, melt the butter in a pan until it begins to foam and cook the sweetbreads for 3-4 minutes, turning them as they are cooking, until they are golden.

While the sweetbreads are cooking, cook the chorizo under a medium grill for 3-4 minutes, then drain on some kitchen paper. Add the sweetbreads, chorizo and parsley to the sauce, bring back to the boil and simmer gently for a couple of minutes and re-season if necessary. Spoon into warmed serving bowls and serve.

Brunch salad with hog's pudding, bacon and a poached egg

Serves 4

Hog's pudding is a delicious white pudding found in Devon and Cornwall made with pork, oatmeal, suet and barley.

120-150g streaky bacon in 1 -2cm cubes
120-150g hog's pudding, cut into cm-thick slices
Vegetable or corn oil for frying
Salad leaves like frisée or watercress
4 hen's or duck's eggs

For the dressing

1tbsp white wine or cider vinegar
tbsp Dijon mustard
2tbsp olive oil
2tbsp vegetable or corn oil

Put the bacon in a pan, cover with water, bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes; drain. Whisk the ingredients together for the dressing; season. Heat some of the vegetable oil in a frying pan and fry the bacon for 3-4 minutes until crisp; drain on kitchen paper.

Fry the hog's pudding in the same pan for a minute on each side; keep warm with the bacon. Poach the eggs. Toss the salad leaves with the dressing and arrange on plates or bowls with the bacon and hog's pudding and place the egg in the centre.

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