In anticipation of my forthcoming long weekend of gastronomy in Liguria, I cooked Italian sausages and polenta for supper last night. Italian sausages are made from the ham/bacon parts of the pig (i.e. different to traditional English pork sausages), and are often seasoned with fennel or aniseed. The very high pure meat content makes them particularly delicious. They are stupidly easy to cook, and are traditionally served with lentils on New Year's Day in Italy (recipe here). Because I was serving them with fluffy polenta (also stupidly easy to make, despite the 'food mystique' which seems to surround it), I made a rich tomato sauce, spiked with fresh chilli and garlic. The sausages were baked in the oven, while the polenta was bubbled and whisked on the hob 5 minutes before serving. I use instant polenta - just follow the instructions on the packet and be aware that polenta has a habit of expanding during cooking!

To make the tomato sauce, fry a couple of cloves of peeled and sliced garlic and half a fresh red chilli, finely sliced, in olive oil until soft. Add a tin of tomatoes and then wash the can out with water and add that. A little tomato puree only adds to the depth of flavour. Season with salt and pepper, some chopped fresh rosemary or oregano, a dash of balsamic vinegar and about a teaspoonful of caster sugar. I also added a spoonful of M&S Fire Roasted Tomato Sauce from the Terribly Clever range (it's been advertised on telly a lot lately). Simmer until the sauce reduces, then set aside until you need to serve it. It only needs heating through.

In the region of Italy near the top end of Lake Garda, where I had a holiday a few years ago, the polenta is served with a big slab of Taleggio or Gorgonzola cheese across the top of it (the heat from the polenta makes the cheese melt) and then a rich venision, wild boar or mushroom stew is spooned over it. I always add lots of grated fresh parmesan and butter to my polenta. Put a mound of yellow fluffiness on a plate, place the sausages on top and spoon over the tomato sauce. Eat.

We had freshly baked rosemary focaccia (I have perfected my version of this, thanks to some advice about keeping the dough wet from The Great British Bake Off on BBC2), and for pudding Laverstoke Park Farm coffee ice cream and chocolate amaretti biscuits.

You can buy Italian sausages in Italian delis. Girasole on Teddington High Street keeps them, though I had to charm the owner to sell me two packs yesterday (he wanted to keep one back for himself, for some reason). You can also get them in Giuliano's in Kingston or Fratelli Camisa. Incidentally, Girasole also occasionally stocks the most wonderful frizzante red wine from Lazio, which should be served chilled. Unfortunately, there was none to be had, not even for ready money, yesterday and Noble Green Wines on Hampton Hill High Street drew a blank too, but it's worth looking out for. I will be drinking something similar next weekend, no doubt: a local vino rosso from the lower slopes of the mountains around Molini.

The dining room at the Hotel Santo Spirito, Molini di Triora

Molini di Triora


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