Bar Woodall’s Waberthwaite Cumberland Sausage with Onion, Beer and Bisto Gravy

Grasmere, The Lake District, January 1, 2001 Happy New Year to all and I hope that everyone has enjoyed the holidays and eaten and drunk well and in the style and manner to which you are all accustomed.
For us, December’s festivities already seem almost a distant memory. Much of the last month of last year is probably best forgotten: we found ourselves seemingly cut off from the rest of the country (if not the world) with both BT phone and ISDN lines (and therefore email), as well as main line rail services to virtually anywhere all out of action for some weeks. Furthermore, we had to sandbag our house against the constant threat of rising tidal floodwaters from the River Exe combined with immense amounts of freshwater surging down from Exmoor following weeks of near constant, sometimes torrential rain. It has been a truly horrid time, and though we ourselves were fortunate not to suffer flooding or other damage, some of our neighbours were not when the River Clyst by the Bridge Inn burst its banks.
An end-of-year escape from sodden climes to the gorgeous, snowy heights of Cumbria’s Lake District thus made both a fitting end to the old year and a great start to the new. We’d rented a lovely little cottage in the centre of this tiny but atmospheric village where William Wordsworth lived and is buried, and it made a great base for walking and tobogganing. And in the evenings, a trek through the snow to the Traveller’s Rest a mile or so up the road towards Keswick helped work up both a healthy thirst and hunger, the former most enjoyable slaked with Jennings ales, the latter with truly outstanding and superior pub food.
Hearty foods after long walks on the snow-covered fells above Grasmere were just what we all needed and we enjoyed cooking some simple meals in our basic but well-equipped cottage. A favourite whenever we come to the Lakes is our old friend Bar Woodall’s superlative Waberthwaite Cumberland sausage, which we consider the finest sausage in the country: coarsely ground, seasoned liberally with salt and black pepper, very meaty, and sold in long, unlinked coils. It’s now available over the web through the Richard Woodall web site so if you haven’t tried it, we urge you to do so. We love Bar’s sausage any way, cooked over charcoal in the summer, fried, or grilled. Best of all at this time of year is to oven roast and serve with mashed potatoes and — wait for it — a rich beer and onion gravy made with Bisto (nothing else will do). For those of you who may not have encountered this peculiar British specialty, Bisto is a long-standing pre-war household favourite used for adding colour and thickening to gravy – purists may still prefer to use the original boxed version which contains a fine powder that first must be mixed to a paste, but for this gravy (and for this gravy alone), we prefer to use the more convenient Bisto gravy granules.
Haute cuisine it ain’t, but it sure tastes good after hours spent outdoors, armed with trusty Wainwright, scrambling over The Lion and the Lamb…

Bar Woodall’s Waberthwaite Cumberland Sausage with Onion, Beer and Bisto Gravy
Serves 4

700 g Waberthwaite Cumberland sausage, coiled in a single piece
2 medium onions
Butter and oil for frying
1/4 pt well hopped bitter beer
1/4 pt beef or chicken stock
4 generous tablespoons Bisto gravy granules
3/4 pt water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Freshly mashed potatoes made with creamy milk, lashings of farm butter, and plenty of salt and freshly ground black pepper – stir in a tablespoon or two of wholegrain mustard to make a tasty mustard mash

Pre-heat the over to 180 degrees C. Heat some butter and oil in a large frying pan, and brown the coil of sausage nicely on both sides. Transfer to an ovenproof dish and place in the oven for about 50-60 minutes, turning once midway through.
Meanwhile, in the same frying pan, add the sliced onions to the butter and oil. Cook briskly over a medium flame to turn golden, then turn down the heat and leave to stew and get soft and sweet, about 20-25 minutes. Add the beer to the pan, scraping off from the bottom any nice, carmelised brown bits, then allow to bubble and reduce. Add the beef or chicken stock, stir in the gravy granules and sufficient water to make a nice, thickish gravy. Season to taste and allow to cook for a further 15-20 minutes or so.
Serve with the oven roasted Cumberland sausage, mashed potatoes, the onion, beer and Bisto gravy, not forgetting a pint or two of best bitter.

Copyright © Marc Millon 2001

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Copyright © Marc and Kim Millon 2001