Sausages, pears and parsnips baked with rosemary are a gorgeous one-tray dish perfect for a gloomy autumn day.
Sausages are a contentious issue. There isn’t a shadow of doubt that they are, the world across, one of the most processed ergo the unhealthiest foods.
Take the English sausage: even though it is virtually a vegetarian product, considering the tiny traces of meat it contains, it is an ultra-processed nightmare. I am being sarcastic here but truth needs to be told: they are made mainly from cereal plus meat bits that nobody else could use for anything half-decent.
So to fashion the concoction into something appetising and digestible, it takes a huge amount of pulping the meat-bits, adding staggering amounts of salt and sugar, plus all the additives the producers can lay their hands on.
On top of that they (sausages, not producers though I’ve not sniffed their aftershave) are usually flavoured with more sage essence than is sensible and stuffed into a combination of toilet paper and face cream (collagen and cellulose).
Around the world with a sausage
Other countries don’t fare much better in the sausage science, though I must say the English excel at the rubbishness of theirs.
German Wursts, Italian salsiccias or salamis, French saucissons and Polish kielbasas are at least made predominantly from meat, though obviously not the choicest quality.
The cross section of a Bratwurst, a Toulouse sausage or a chorizo shows small chunks of meat and fat, while all the frankfurter-style ones (the original Frankfurters are actually more decent in quality) are a smooth, uniform, preternaturally pink gelatinous mass.
And yet, and yet. Who can resist a burnished, crispy sausage, dripping fat onto a barbecue, whose smell deceives you into thinking it is pure meat?
Or a steaming juicy hot dog in a fresh bun, with parallel lines of mustard and ketchup and, depending where in the world you are, a garnish of gherkins, pickles, remoulade or sauerkraut?
Sausages are truly a guilty pleasure, a ‘you know you shouldn’t’ snack and the proof that best things are bad for you.
Still, since my mantra is ‘everything in moderation’, an occasional sausage can do you more good than evil by satisfying a craving.
This tray bake is not really so bad as the sausages in it are balanced by the vegetables and pears in the mix (balanced diet is my other credo).
It is a cheap meal, very easy to prepare and extremely satisfying, all three factors thus offsetting the evil of the sausages.
How to prepare sausage tray bake
All the same, make sure you buy the best quality sausages you can, they will at least have fewer additives and marginally better (traces of) meat. A local butcher who makes their own sausages is usually the best bet, an online source or supermarket’s top range the second best.
Parsnips, pears and mushrooms are a great combination to go with sausages.
After you’ve peeled the first two, cut them into chunks that will be about the same size as your sausage halves or thirds, depending how large the sausages you bought.
The mushrooms can be kept whole if not too huge, and all the vegetables and fruit chunks should be generously seasoned with salt and black pepper, smoked paprika and a little cayenne, and tossed with the olive oil, maple syrup and lemon juice.
You can prepare this mix a few hours ahead so it marinates – it’s a fallacy that only meats need marinating.
When ready to cook, spread the vegetable mix in a large baking tray. Tuck the sausage chunks amongst the veggies and – the most important part – add rosemary sprigs to the tray. They will grant the gorgeous, non-sausagy aroma.
The bake takes about fifty minutes and will benefit from a stir and toss about halfway through, so the sausages and parsnips caramelise all over.
And that’s it, bar a side dish of condiments and some good bread. A truly comforting food can’t be that bad for you, occasionally.
You can add cooked chestnuts into the tray bake, instead or as well as the chestnut mushrooms.
If you need potatoes there, parboil them in wedges or thick slices. Otherwise they might not cook properly, though it depends on the variety.
For a more Mediterranean flavour, swap the parsnips and pears for peppers and courgettes, with a few cherry tomatoes for company – but that will make it an entirely different dish, you know.
More tray bake recipes
Potato and chorizo tray bake: potatoes, chorizo, cauliflower and spices. If that does not sound enticing enough, I'll add that there's minimal washing up afterwards.
Cheesy sweet potato tray bake with a lively topping of peppers, tomatoes, bacon and cheese. A one tray dish ready in under an hour.
Chicken and vegetable tray bake with Asian flavours. You can call it a tray bake, a sheet-pan dinner or dump-and-go – either way it’s an impressive easy and tasty chicken dinner.
More sausage recipes
Sausage rolls in puff pastry: these take minutes to prepare and taste better than any shop bought. Use best quality sausages and good all-butter puff pastry.
Mini sausage rolls or tiny ham and cheese pastries are the classic party fodder, and completely deservedly so. Make ahead, bake on the day, disappear in minutes.