This is one of those prepare-ahead dishes that the Americans tend to call casseroles, or strata. But really, it's a bread and butter pudding, made savoury with a layer of all the delicious elements of a full English breakfast. For a brunch or special breakfast where you don't want to be jumping up and down frying eggs for 6 people, make it the night before and refrigerate it. We had it for dinner over a couple of evenings - reheating it didn't totally destroy it, although it was nicer fresh, of course.
500g stale bread (I used a poppyseed bloomer)
1 medium onion, finely diced
450g pork sausages, removed from their casings and rolled into walnut-size balls
100g bacon, cut into small pieces
200g mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 spring onions, sliced
1 big handful parsley, finely chopped
150g black pudding, crumbled (optional, but really good)
handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
150g grated cheese (something that melts well. I used gruyere)
Nutmeg (optional - but I am almost incapable of seeing cheese without reaching for nutmeg)
The first bit is the most difficult - figuring out how many slices you need to cut your bread into in order to make two layers of bread slices. That will determine how thickly you need to cut it. Slice the bread and set aside.
Saute the onion in the olive oil until translucent, then add the balls of sausage meat and brown well. Add the bacon, mushrooms and garlic and saute for another few minutes or until the sausage balls are cooked through and the mushrooms have given off some of their liquid and reduced a bit. Stir in the spring onions and parsley, season with black pepper and allow to cool.
Place a layer of bread slices on the bottom of a deep-ish ovenproof dish (I used a pyrex lasagne dish). Spread the cooled mushroom and sausage mixture over the bread, then scatter with the black pudding and cherry tomatoes. Top with the second layer of bread.
Beat the eggs into the milk. If you have some on hand and you are making this for supper, you could add a slosh of vermouth at this point. It's a good addition but I didn't have any. Carefully (because it's going to want to skate off the top of the bread and make a mess) pour the eggy milk all over the bread. It should come up to the top of the sausage mixture.
Sprinkle with grated cheese, a grating more black pepper and a grating of nutmeg. Cover with clingfilm. Now, gently but firmly, press it down with both hands so that the top layer of bread gets pushed down into the custard mixture. Leave in the fridge for a bit - an hour, two hours, overnight, whatever suits you, but it does need a little rest to allow the custard to soak into the bread.
When you are ready to cook it, remove the cling film and bake it at 180 for 45 minutes or until it looks bubbly, golden and set. Serve hot.