It’s British Sausage Week, so I’ve been racking my brains for something that can really show the versatility of our sausages in alternative cuisines to the usual British classics. I’ve had about 100 different ideas, ranging from the already popular (sausage pasta bake), to the really weird (sausage sushi…!), and many places in the middle (sausage fajitas may come in a few weeks!). I finally settled on my British Sausage Bunny Chow because while being a great showcase of the sausages as an integral part of a wider dish, it’s also nowhere near popular enough here in the UK, which is a tragedy I’m trying to overturn!
Bunny Chow is a classic South African dish, reportedly from Indian peasants making the best of very cheap ingredients. So much so that they even dispensed with crockery and cutlery – it is essential that this dish is eaten with the hands! Doing so makes it amazingly fun, while still tasting and looking delicious. And let’s be honest here – Sausage Bunny Chow is the best name for any food I’ve ever heard.
The concept is really simple: a curry served in a hollowed out loaf of bread. The bread then turns from the crockery to the cutlery, as you break off pieces of it to eat through the dish. It’s a very hearty dish, and the serving portion can be massive so do allow for this! Smaller portions can be made using large crusty rolls if you’ve got little ones to consider. I first heard of this from my boss at my old workplace who was South African. To begin with it sounded like just a novelty, but eating directly from the dish that’s holding the curry really does add to the experience.
I didn’t go to town on the creating the sauce, instead just going for a tried and tested simple curry set up. Heat the meat, then fry the onions, then mix in the spices for a gentle heating, add everything else and bubble it away to infuse the flavours. I also picked this rich and fruity curry as it seemed to fit in with the bread we’re serving it in and the sausages – something like a tikka masala didn’t seem right. If you’ve got a different technique or another curry you prefer then feel free to mix it up!
The sausages I used were Oxbridge sausages bought from Turner & George butchers near Angel station in London. I’d heavily recommend paying them a visit if you live or work in this part of town! I also got some fabulous hanger steak, but that’s for a later noodle recipe I’ve not yet perfected… I opted for the Oxbridge sausage as it contains both rare breed pork and rose veal – a rich, meaty flavour that would certainly benefit a curry. However I also got a pack of their standard pork sausages, and these did work in the curry as well, so don’t feel like you’re missing out if you can’t get a pork & beef mix!
Word to the wise – this recipe makes two VERY large portions, but in reality this is easily 4 dinners. The reason I’ve portioned it as 2 is because it gets a little lost in the bread should you split it across 4. If you were to use large crusty rolls or small loaves, or even to share half a loaf between two people, then it’s closer to proper sized meals.
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British Sausage Bunny Chow
- 1 tsp Coriander seed
- 1 tsp Cumin seed
- ½ tsp Fennel seed
- 1 tsp Garam Masala
- ½ tsp Turmeric
- 2 cloves Garlic thinly sliced
- 1 Red Chilli finely sliced
- ½ inch piece Ginger very finely grated
- Olive oil
- 1 tbsp Ghee
- 6 British Pork Sausages best quality available
- 1 medium onion finely chopped
- 1 stick Cinnamon
- 2 leaves Bay
- 3 Cardamom pods pierced
- 2 tins Tomatoes chopped
- 1 large square Loaf of Bread
- Dry toast the coriander seed, cumin seed, and fennel seed in a frying pan until fragrant (about 30 seconds to 1 minute). Remove immediately.
- Grind up the toasted spices until as fine as possible or crush in a mortar and pestle. Mix in the garam masala and turmeric, then pound in the garlic, ginger, and chilli until a thick paste is formed and no large pieces remain. Add a small dash of olive oil to bring everything together.
- In a large saucepan over a low heat, melt the ghee then slowly cook the sausages (approx. 15-20 minutes), until very caramelised and crisp in places. Turn frequently, and don’t fret if the sausages break open. Turn the heat even lower if they look like burning. Once fully browned outside, remove from the pan and set aside. (We’ll cook them through later, so no worries if they’re still not done on the inside). Slice sausages into quarters or smaller.
- Turn the heat up to medium and add the onions to the pan. Add extra ghee if needed, or pour some oil away if there is too much. Cook until softened, approx. 3-6 minutes. Don’t allow the onions to burn, turn the heat down if so.
- Lower the heat slightly. Add the mixed curry paste from earlier, cinnamon stick, bay leaves, cardamom pods, and cloves. Fry for a few minutes. The paste should become very fragrant and slowly start to darken.
- Add the tomatoes to the pan and mix everything in thoroughly.
- Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes.
- Half the load of bread, and hollow out the inside to create a thick walled bread bucket. Reserve the inside bread.
- Remove the whole spices from the curry (cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and bay - try and get everything out!)
- Pour in the curry to the two halves to serve. Use the reserved bread to eat the curry, and break off the bread bowl as you go. Do not use cutlery with Bunny Chow!
So let’s explore what I’m doing in this sausage bunny chow!
Why dry toast certain spices first? Why not the already ground ones? Why then grind these to a powder? Dry toasted whole spices give a different flavour and aroma to the pre-powdered stuff, and I am addicted to the smell of them! They need to be powdered so they mix into paste later, plus they’ll be unpleasant if left whole in the dish.
Why do we make a paste? Why do we fry this paste, and why with the whole cinnamon, cardamom, bay and cloves? This is just one method of dispersing the complex flavours of the spices into the oil and onion so they can impart their deliciousness on the dish. Throwing the spices straight into the tomatoes is grim – it simply doesn’t work in this case. Sometimes you can get away with it, but this is not it. Other dishes cook the garlic and chilli at the same time as the onions, then add the dry spices to them. Either works. I’m not entirely sure why frying the spices in oil brings them to life so well, and why adding spices to a sauce without frying them tastes so wrong sometimes. I’ll report back if I find out why! The cinnamon, cardamom, bay and cloves only need to pepper the dish with their subtle flavours – grinding them up and cooking them in would give a totally different array of flavours, and could be quite unpleasant.
Why fry the sausages first, then remove them, then put them back in again? We’re employing the Maillard Reaction here, charring the amino acids and sugars in the outside of the sausage to give them their delicious caramelised flavour. If we fried the sausages at any other stage, this important flavour step would be missed. We whip them out the pan so they don’t burn or interfere with the rest of the cooking, but we do want to use all them juices they’ve left in the oil, so we keep hold of the same pan.
Why slow fry the sausages? We want the sausages to deliciously caramelise, which frying achieves. Plus sausages burn really easily over high heats, so low and slow wins hands down. See my post on cooking sausages right for more details.
Why cut the sausages up? We’re eating this curry with the very bread we’re serving it in, and as such the sausage pieces need to be small enough to fit into a small bit of bread. The sausage bunny chow I did in the photos only had the sausages cut in half, which turned out to be a right pain in the behind. We ended up having to fish the sausage out with our fingers and place it into pieces of bread!
Why haven’t I heard of Bunny Chow before? No idea – everyone should try it! I mentioned this blog post to my friend last night and he said there’s a bunny chow restaurant just opened in London, so the word is spreading!
Why do you keep mentioning British Sausage Week??? Because British sausages are the best! When I’m travelling abroad I love trying out there every culinary delights, but to date I’ve never found anywhere that does a sausage quite like us Brits. I also think this is a good opportunity to celebrate good British butchers and the excellent meat we produce in this country.