Eric Akis: Simple fare of sausage and potatoes, fancied up

Childhood meal given gourmet flair with homemade mustard, honey-vinegar beets

Eric Akis

When I was growing up, one of my mother’s go-to mid-week meals was pretty simple. She would cut a large ring of garlic sausage into pieces and roast it in the oven. When the sausage was hot and sizzling, she served it with French’s yellow mustard, buttery boiled potatoes, simple cucumber salad, a jar of Bick’s pickled beets and a large stack of bread.

It was simple fare my Latvian-born father enjoyed. And so did his family, because everything was eaten up pretty quickly.

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For today’s recipes I decided to recreate that style of meal, but kicked it up a notch flavour-wise by using homemade mustard that I spiked with beer.

I made the boiled potatoes and cucumber salad a little more deluxe by adding more flavouring to them than my mother used to, adding such things as dill, lemon and horseradish. Also, rather than serve the sausage with store-bought beets, I cooked my own and flavoured them with a sweet and tangy, honey-vinegar mixture.

You can use Ukrainian-style sausage, garlic sausage or kielbasa.

When everything is ready you end up with a hearty winter meal that will sate you on a cool January night.

Roasted Ring of Sausage with Spicy Beer Mustard 

Easy-to-roast sausage, sliced and served with spicy mustard, that’s flavoured with beer, and brightened in colour with turmeric. If you serve the sausage with the side dishes below, and some rye bread, you’ll create a very hearty winter meal.

Preparation time: 25 minutes

Cooking time: about 35 to 40 minutes

Makes: four servings

For the mustard

1/4 cup dry mustard powder (I used Keen’s brand)

2/3 cup lager beer (see Eric’s options)

1 tsp turmeric

1 large egg

1 tsp cornstarch

1 tsp salt

1 tsp granulated sugar

1 tsp cider vinegar

Place the mustard, beer and turmeric in a small pot and whisk to combine. Now add the egg, cornstarch, salt, sugar and vinegar and whisk again, until well blended.

Set the pot over medium heat. Now, while whisking frequently, bring mustard mixture to a simmer, and simmer one to two minutes, until thick. Cool mustard to room temperature, and then transfer to a bowl or jar. Cover and refrigerate until needed. Mustard can be made many days before you serve it. Makes about 3/4 cup.

For the sausage and to serve

1 (375 gram) ring of Ukrainian-style sausage, garlic sausage or kielbasa

Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a baking pan with parchment paper. Prick the ring of sausage several times with the tip of a sharp paring knife. Set sausageon the baking pan. Roast the sausage 30 to 35 minutes, until hot. Fairly thinly slice the sausage and serve it with the mustard.

Eric’s options: If you can’t have beer, make slightly sweeter tasting mustard by replacing it with 2/3 cup unsweetened apple juice.

Miniature Potatoes with Lemon, Horseradish and Dill

These small spuds are flavoured with tangy and herbaceous ingredients. You can serve the potatoes hot or at room temperature.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 10 to 12 minutes

Makes: four servings

1 1/2 to 1 2/3 lb miniature yellow, red or white potatoes, washed well

2 Tbsp butter

1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice, or to taste

2 tsp horseradish

1 to 2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill

• salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place the potatoes in a medium pot and cover with cold water. Set over medium, to medium-high and bring to a simmer. Simmer potatoes until just tender, about 10 to 12 minutes. Drain well, and then set potatoes in a serving bowl. Toss in the remaining ingredients and serve potatoes hot or at room temperature.

Creamy Cucumber Salad

Thin slices of cucumber tossed with an appealing sour cream/mayonnaise-based dressing flavoured with dill. You can make the dressing, and slice the cucumbers, hours before needed. Keep both refrigerated until ready to toss the two together and serve the salad.

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: None

Makes: four to six servings

2 Tbsp sour cream

2 Tbsp mayonnaise

1 tsp white wine or cider vinegar

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1/2 tsp granulated sugar

1/2 tsp salt

• pinch ground white pepper

2 cups thinly sliced English cucumber (about 1 medium cucumber)

1 Tbsp chopped fresh dill

Place sour cream, mayonnaise, vinegar, mustard, sugar, salt and pepper in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Toss in the cucumber and dill and serve. 

Beets with Wine Vinegar and Honey 

These sweet and tangy pickled-like beets can be made quickly and served hot or cold.

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: about 50 minutes

Makes: four to six servings

1 1/4 lb beets (without tops; about 4 to 5 medium beets, depending on size)

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

2 Tbsp honey, or to taste

• salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 green onion, very thinly sliced

Place beets in pot, cover with a generous amount of cold water, and then set over medium, medium-high heat. Bring beets to a simmer, and then cook until tender, about 40 to 45 minutes.

Lift beets out of the water, set on a plate and cool until safe enough to handle. Meanwhile, scoop 1/2 cup of the beet cooking water out of the pot and pour into a large skillet. Now mix in the vinegar and honey.

When beets are cool enough to handle, peel them. Cut each beet into thin wedges. Set the beets in the skillet, season with salt and pepper, and then bring to simmer over medium, medium-high heat. Simmer beets five minutes, stirring occasionally, and then serve hot, sprinkled with green onion. These beets could also be cooled to room temperature, set in a bowl, refrigerated an hour or more, and served cold, sprinkled with green onion.

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.

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