Sarah Sysum tastes her way through the pricey to the picante to find out which sausages make the grade.
Adding a slice of chorizo spices up most autumnal suppers but there are so many to choose from it's hard to know which one to buy. We select ten of the best Spanish-style sausages on the market.
1. Rodriguez spicy chorizo (Leon), approx 600g
A great all rounder that can be used for slicing and eating or cooking. It has a sweet, spicy flavour with a firm texture, which is achieved by the fine grind it uses. It consistently wins awards. I like it warmed through flamed with vodka. Somehow the piquancy is enhanced this way.
2. Fire chorizo, 900g
Some like it hot. I'm a chilli wimp and this had me running for a pint of water but if you like your food very, very spicy this one's for you. The 'Fire' chorizo actually has a very complex flavour. The heat builds on the palate, and as well as heat you get superb depth with flavours of hot paprika and cayenne pepper, mixed with spice and white wine. Best served warm. You have been warned it's tremendously hot, significantly hotter than 'picante'.
If you're after sausages to cook, these little beauties take some beating. When grilled plenty of oil leaches out, however the end (cooked) result is surprisingly greaseless and full of fabulous chorizo flavour. Brilliant thrown in salads and pasta dishes or go British-ish with pesto mash, also available in picante (spicy) flavour.
£3.50 each, www.brindisa.com
An alternative to pork chorizo, this beef chorizo has been smoked over oak wood chips, which gives it a unique meaty flavour (think a soft eating beef jerky) with a smoky aftertaste. It's an acquired taste but definitely worth a try.
Not strictly a chorizo but a Spanish salami never the less. 'Fuet extra' (also known as 'Espatec') is a specialty of Vic in Catalunya. A long, thin, sweet-tasting salami, it's firm-textured, with a sweet peppery flavour; great as an appetiser with a glass of Fino sherry, or as part of an assorted plate of charcuterie.
Proving that you can get good stuff in the supermarket. These small sausages once cooked ooze lots of sweet paprika rich oil. They don't have huge chunks of fat (as you find in some more authentic chorizos) however I find this gristle free texture very appealing. They're sweet rather than spicy. Of all the products I've tested these are the one kids really loved. Our 2-year-old tester wolfed them down!
The national sausage of Mallorca and the Balearic Islands: a soft, spreadable chorizo. It's made like this as the climate of these islands is too damp for air-drying. Made with streaky bacon, loin of pork and spices, mainly paprika. It can be eaten uncooked however it's best spread on toast and sprinkled with honey for breakfast.
British chorizo - who'd have thought it eh? It contains British pork, salt, smoked Spanish paprika, black pepper, ginger, paprika extract and garlic. It has a smooth texture with a slight nuttiness to it, snacking sausage at its high-class best.
9. Sainsbury's Taste the Difference chorizo Iberico Bellota, 40g
Another good supermarket line. Chorizo Iberico Bellota is made from the meat of the black-footed (pata negra) Iberian pigs that roam freely and feed on acorns. The nuttiness of the acorns comes through in the meat and fat, and even better the fat is actually good for you as it is rich in oleic acid - just like olive oil! The creamy, nutty taste is so good no cooking is necessary.
OK, I appreciate this isn't going to appeal to everyone but this is a pioneering product - it's the first air-cured vegan sausage. The sweet smoky flavour is achieved by using red pepper and natural beechwood smoking. As veggie alternatives go this is pretty good stuff.
If you have a favourite chorizo, please share it below. Or, if you need some inspiration, check out our chorizo recipe collection.