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Here it is: my last non-festive recipe of 2020! I’m so excited to share all of the festive recipes I’ve been creating over the past month or so (honestly, all this Christmas and Chanukah baking has done wonders to lift the spirits) but today I want to bring you the recipe for my latest favourite thing to put in the slow cooker around Saturday lunchtime to have for dinner: my Slow Cooker Sausage & Butterbean Casserole.
It started life as a Slow Cooker Cassoulet recipe in an issue of BBC Good Food Magazine but morphed a little as I kept on making it, firstly because the original was definitely not a cassoulet (just compare it to the traditional one I enjoyed in Sarlat a few years ago), because I found the original, even already cut down to serve two a little sharp, and because I learnt some important lessons about the type of sausages you need to use to make this dish a success.
The first time we made this Slow Cooker Sausage & Butter Bean Casserole we were testing a local butcher. The sausages were flat and boring, which ruined the whole dish. However, when we made it next time with my favourite butchers sausages from the counter at The Goods Shed, they were too good, falling apart in the slow cooker into the sauce. I’m not saying all butchers sausages will do this – I think, for example, my beloved classic pork bangers from William Rose in East Dulwich (which was at the end of my old road) would be fantastic in this – but my point is that you don’t need to splash out; your favourite supermarket brand will do, but be sure to choose something you already know you like. I’ve used Porky Whites here, a fantastic classic pork sausage my Dad put me on to you can find in Sainsbury’s and Asda.
It turned out the quality of the lardons you use matter, too. We were in a rush the first time, and needed to go to the pharmacy, which, local to us, is in a massive Asda. Trust me, while you can get those good Porky Whites sausages there, their smoked bacon lardons are like lardons. The version of this I made using Sainsbury’s lardons was pretty decent, but the very best lardons come from France. If you’re an Ocado shopper, buy Herta brand, which used to be in every shopping basket of mine in Brittany, and really are the best. You need exactly half a pack here to serve two; you can freeze the rest, or they’re excellent with mushrooms and creme fraiche on toast.
My final little ingredient tip here is if, like me, you buy 400g tins of chopped tomatoes in bulk and you don’t want to get a small tin just for this recipe, you can happily use half a tin in this, then freeze the other half in a plastic tub in the freezer for later.
This hearty Slow Cooker Sausage & Butter Bean Casserole is perfect for lazy autumn suppers, served with lots of crusty bread and a generous sprinkling of flat leaf parsley.
1/2 tbsp light oil
4 good quality pork sausages
100g (3.5 oz) smoked bacon lardons
1 brown onion
1 celery stick
1 large garlic clove
1/2 tbsp sweet smoked paprika
6–8 thyme sprigs
100ml (1/3 cup) white wine
100ml (1/3 cup) chicken stock (made with 1/2 a stock cube if you don’t have fresh)
1 x 220g (7.5 oz) small tin chopped tomatoes
1 x 400g (14 oz) tin butter beans, drained
1/2 tbsp golden caster sugar
1/2 tbsp sherry vinegar
freshly ground sea salt and black pepper
small handful roughly chopped flat leaf parsley, for serving
crusty bread, for serving
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium high heat. Alternatively, if you have a sear-and-stew model slow cooker, simply heat the oil in the metal insert. Add the sausages and cook for 5 minutes or so until well browned. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Meanwhile, peel and finely chop the onion along with the celery stick. Add these to the pan once the sausages have been removed along with the lardons a generous pinch or few grinds of salt. Cook for 8-10 minutes or so until the vegetables are soft, frying rather than sweating, and the lardons have started to brown.
Stir in the paprika, the garlic clove, peeled and then grated or crushed, and the thyme sprigs. Cook for a further minute until aromatic. Add the wine, and allow that to reduce by 1/2.
Transfer the cooked vegetables to the slow cooker or simply remove the insert from the heat. Return the sausages and stir in the chicken stock, chopped tomatoes, the butter beans, sugar and sherry vinegar. Season well with salt and pepper before setting to cook for 6 hours on low or 3 hours on high.
Check the seasoning and fish out the thyme sprigs before serving in two warm bowls, sprinkled with parsley and served with crusty bread on the side.
I'm a food writer living in London and the English Countryside. Welcome to my online diary where I share easy, weeknight recipes, foodie travel diaries and some of the best places I've eaten out recently.
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