Fennel & manchego Glamorgan Sausages (sort of)

The name “Glamorgan sausage” hides a fair old whack of sin. “Leek and cheese croquettes” are something you might legitimately feel bad about having for dinner, something you might be passingly moderate about; or nibble fussily from a hot buffet. Balls to that, says Wales. This is real food, and we’ll treat it as such. It’s a sausage, get on with it.

And sausages they are. Heavy and filling, tending to rich, and with a pleasing bite from the leeks, Glamorgan sausages are the only veggie banger not to feel like a limp apology.

Fennel & Manchego Glamorgan sausages

What they are not, however, is the best sausages. The best sausage is finocchiona. (Although in the spirit of diplomacy, I’d also consider a good, mealy, rustic Lincolnshire for the top spot.)

Being as you can’t really add fine-ground pork and still have Glamorgan sausages be either vegetarian or remotely similar to their origin, it’s hard to see a path to a finocchiona mash up. But I do wonder if we can get in some of that gorgeous fennel flavour in there, along with the deep, winey richness.

Let’s have a go.

This recipe owes more than a small debt to Felicity Cloake who has been over Glamorgan sausages in some detail, and saved me hours of bother perfecting the base recipe. If you want that straight up Glamorgan hit, all cheddar sharpness and leek, cook her recipe first.

Right, now to the arsing about with fennel.

Ingredients:

  • Leeks, 1 large one (aiming roughly at 150g)
  • Fresh breadcrumbs, about 200g
  • Fennel seeds, at least 1tsp
  • Caraway seeds, a sturdy pinch
  • 2 large eggs
  • Cheese
    • ~100g Manchego (see note below)
    • ~50g strong Cheddar
    • ~20g Parmesan
  • Red wine, a solid splash of a robust one (say 50ml?)
  • A clove or two of garlic
  • Salt, pepper, and butter/oil for frying

A word on the cheeses. It doesn’t have to be Manchego. I used this to get a good meting balance, and because it’s got a bit of richness. The cheddar then gives a bit of acidity. You could use any solid European cheese that melts like that. At the firm end: Manchego, or something waxy/solid like Ossau-Iraty; at the softer end: Raclette, Gruyere, or even Fontina. The great thing about Manchego is that it melts firm and stringy, which really helps the whole thing bind. Obviously, they’ll all influence the flavour, too, and you can adjust the Parmesan to bring up the umami & salt.

Instructions:

Prep work: Turn some bread into breadcrumbs. Finely slice the leeks. Grate the cheeses. Separate the eggs, keeping both white and yolk – we’ll use all of it. Finely slice the garlic. Toast the fennel seeds in a hot-ish pan, until they darken slightly and release the aroma. This doesn’t take long.

Gently fry the leeks in some butter until they soften and cook down a little. Add the garlic, a pinch of the fennel seeds, and the caraway seeds towards the end. Once they’re done (cooked, but not coloured) put them to one side to cool. Grind the rest of the toasted fennel seeds into a rough powder in a pestle and mortar.

Fennel & Manchego Glamorgan sausagesMix most of the breadcrumbs (say, 150g, maybe a little more) with the cheese, fennel, and cooled leek mixture. Mix in the egg yolks and the wine (I used a Chianti I had open, anything robust will do), making sure everything is well amalgamated. It should start to come together, getting sticky and clumpy.

Shape it into sausages, there should be enough for six squat ones the size of a modest handful.

Put the remaining  breadcrumbs in one dish, the egg whites in another. Whisk the whites a little with a fork, to make sure they’re well mixed. Gently heat a pan with some oil. Put the oven on 170c or so.

Roll each sausage in the egg whites, then dip it in the breadcrumbs, making sure it gets a good coating. Then transfer to the frying pan. The sausages want a few minutes frying on each side at a medium heat. Get a bit of golden colour on the breadcrumbs on all sides, and once they’re done, transfer them to the oven to finish. You may need to fry them in batches. Make sure they all get at least 10 minutes in the oven, ideally a bit longer. They should hold their shape pretty well, so it’s easier than something like croquetas.

I’d serve these with a basic light tomato sauce – say, halved baby plum tomatoes fried in oil with garlic and shredded basil, or something. Maybe some steamed and fried greens, too.

They taste, well, like Glamorgan sausages with lots of fennel. The leeks give a bit of bite and body, and the fennel and wine do come together a bit like finocchiona, but to get much closer you’d need a lot more wine and a bigger punch of umami. The Parmesan does some of that heavy lifting, and the way the Manchego melts is a joy. It’s firm and stringy, binding the whole thing together and adding richness. I’d definitely consider upping the garlic.

These would make a great starter with a light sauce, or, if you really feel like wanking around, how about a trio of sausages type deal. Switch the cheeses and herb flavours around, and maybe go with these, a classic Glamorgan with a really sharp cheddar, and one with Stilton and maybe a little broccoli? Or Gruyere with chopped dates? The breadcrumb base makes them pretty resilient, so you can muck about quite a lot without them collapsing in the oven.

Just don’t do what I did and have them for a late lunch when you’re intending to go to the gym. They’re not light.

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