ULTIMATE PORKY COMFORT (delicious, bangers and mash with onion gravy and mushy peas)

For the no doubt many of you who for whom egg-sucking and grandmothers comes to mind when seeing this recipe, my sincere apologies. My excuse for publishing what must seem such a basic and obvious recipe is simply the mounting number of quite awful plates of food purporting to be bangers and mash I have been obliged to eat in recent times – mostly due to the treble scourge of fruit “enhanced” sausages non-pork sausages and non-mushy crushed garden peas.

Regular readers of this blog will probably have seen my fairly recent post on cottage and shepherds pies (https://adamhalevi777.com/2017/03/16/no-raw-mince-please-sorting-out-your-cottage-from-your-shepherds-pie-and-how-to-make-the-genuine-articles/). The other two standard “British classics” currently finding favour across the globe are fish and chips and bangers and mash. The steady advance of the latter dish is aided by the fact that British and Irish pork sausages (at least the massed produced varieties) are becoming increasingly available, especially (but not exclusively) in those lands with significant British and Irish diasporas. Subsequently, and unlike with shepherds and cottage pie, it’s quite possible to get authentic bangers and mash anywhere from Singapore to Santiago de Chile.

Talking of all things “authentic”, my followers will know that in culinary matters I am something of a stickler – not say a pedant when it comes to authenticity.  And so far as bangers and mash is concerned there can only be one type of banger; the traditional British Isle pork sausage.

This is not to say that there is not a fair range of sausage types within that definition – from high-end handmade Cumberland coils and Lincolnshire links to the humble massed produced so-called “butchers” sausages produced by firms like Walls, Richmond and the big supermarkets – and they all have their merits, mostly depending what mood you and your fellow diners are in. Speaking for myself, if I’m feeling like a meaty, herby sausage I’ll cook up a batch of Lincolnshire sausages made by my pucker local butcher, with a 90% plus meat content and little-if-any filler or rusk. On other days however, I’m just as likely to have a hankering for the type of unctuous sausage I fell in love with in the canteen of my first art college, with as little as 50% pork content and loads of rusk.

The only constant I insist upon, in either a posh or the factory-produced sausage, is that it is basically plain, seasoned pork, with perhaps, just a touch of herbs such as sage or thyme.

Pork sausages with exotic inclusions such as onions, apples and even berries have no place in a classic bangers and mash, and as for sausages made from alternative meats, or even no meat at all!! Culinary blasphemy!

Beef, venison, wild boar, chicken or even Quorn sausages and mashed potatoes might be perfectly pleasant dishes (although I have my doubts), but they do not a classic “bangers n’ mash” make. Venison and boar in particular, lack the fat content essential for the production of a lush, juicy banger.

In any event, here is my take on the British and Irish classic, made with posh sausages on this occasion, plain creamy, buttery mashed spuds, and with their equally crucial accompaniments of rich onion gravy and mushy peas• (the current cheffy trend for minted, crushed fresh peas and  / or parsley-infused mash are other culinary evils to avoid)…

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Ingredients (for 2 people):

  • 1 tbsp of plain oil
  • 4 – 6 pork sausages
  • 1 large onion roughly sliced
  • 1 tspn plain flour
  • 1 tspn made up English mustard
  • 1 tspn Worcester Sauce
  • ½ litre / 1 pint of heated rich meat stock
  • 1½ lbs floury potatoes – peeled and cut up into medium dice for boiling
  • 2 oz unsalted butter
  • 5 fl oz single cream or full fat milk
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 can of mushy peas

Illustrated recipe

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1) Preheat oven to 190° c (170° c fan). 2) Bring the potatoes to the boil and then simmer until soft. 3) Heat the can of mushy peas on a very low light in a non-stick pan, stirring often and never allowing to boil. 4) Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan on a low heat…
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5) Gently fry the sausages on a low light for about 20 minutes until nearly cooked…
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6) Remove the partially cooked sausages from the pan and place them on a wire griddle in a small roasting tin and put in the oven for about 15 minutes…
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7) Meanwhile, raise the heat under the pan to medium-high, put in the sliced onion and fry until soft and starting to go brown at the edges. 8) Add the flour to the onion, stir in thoroughly and cook for a further 2 minutes…
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8) Add the stock to the onions, together with the mustard, Worcester Sauce, stir well, making sure to thoroughly deglaze the pan. Test for seasoning and adjust if required with salt and pepper. 9) Make the mash.
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9) Remove the cooked sausages from the oven – their skins should be lightly caramelised and crisp.
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10) Plate up and eat accompanied by a big red, a pint of ale or a large mug of strong English tea.

∗It’s possible to make one’s own mushy peas using dried marrow-fat peas, but they never come out as well as the canned varieties.

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Ideal Beach Hotel LIME CHICKEN CURRY

 

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Yesterday afternoon I was pouring through my collection of Indian cookery books looking for something different to do with a chicken breast languishing in my fridge. As often happens on these occasions, after ten minutes or so of not finding quite what I was looking for,  I was about to revert to my trusty old Madhur Jaffrey butter chicken when a piece of paper being used as a bookmark caught my attention.  Frayed and food-stained, it turned out to contain a barely legible biro-scrawled recipe for a chicken curry. After further examination, I noted that it contained some unusual culinary bedfellows for an Indian chicken dish – things like  olive oil, ground caraway seed, lime juice, and most particularly, both bay and curry leaves. Then suddenly I remembered a swelteringly hot and sticky afternoon spent in a hotel kitchen in southern India in the autumn of 2003.

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We were guests at the aptly named Ideal Beach Hotel, in Mahabalipuram, on India’s Tamil coast, resting up for a few days before travelling inland to Coimbatore (where my wife Dido was to help in the establishment of a clinical education centre for children with autism).

I think it was on our first evening there, during supper, we got chatting with a very affable American couple at the next table who turned out to share our enthusiasm for the delicious local cuisine. At some point during the meal the four of us were invited by the maître d to visit the kitchen the following lunchtime to watch our food being prepared. Cathy – the lady of the American couple and a veteran of the Ideal Beach Hotel – chose the menu, including the lime chicken curry which turned out to be as delicious as it was unusual.

The rare blend of ingredients and spices was explained by the fact that our young head chef, although a Tamil, had been trained in Bengal and enjoyed fusing the two distinct culinary traditions.

2003 India Lunch with Cathy & Richard
Cathy, Richard, Dido and yours truly enjoying our curry lunch

Fortunately Dido had the presence of mind to record the preparation of the curry and – albeit thirteen years late – I was able to decipher the recipe and apply it to the chicken breast in my fridge.  And, it was absolutely delicious! The caraway, lime, bay and curry leaf are a group marriage made in heaven – a complex and unctuous harmony of savoury, fragrant bitter sweetness that transforms humble white chicken meat into a thing of olfactory delight.

There are two ways to sample this fabulous curry – either follow the recipe below, or better still, go and visit the Ideal Beach Hotel. I can recommend both.

(Chapatis and a hot lime pickle are excellent with this curry also, if using fresh curry leaves, add at the same time as the lime juice.)

 

RECIPE

Ingredients

¼ cup:                             olive or coconut oil
200gm / 8oz:                       diced chicken breast

SPICE MASALA I 

5cm / 2” stick:                                cinnamon
2 – 3:                                           cloves
2 - 3:                                    cardamom pods
1:                                             bay leaf
1:                                onion – finely grated
5cm / 2” piece:    ginger – peeled and coarsely chopped
6 cloves:          garlic – peeled and coarsely chopped
2 tbsp:                                           water
1:                           large, ripe tomato chopped

SPICE MASALA II

½ tsp:                                        turmeric
1 tsp:                                    chili powder
1½ tsp:                          ground coriander seed
1 tsp:                                     groud cumin
1 tsp:                                    garam masala
1 tsp:                             ground caraway seed
1 tsp:                               whole fennel seed
1 tsp:                                            salt
3:                                        curry leaves
½ ltr / 1 pint:                                  water
To taste:                                         salt
¼ cup:                                      lime juice

METHOD
  1. Blend the ginger, garlic and water into a paste
  2. Heat the oil in a kadai or a heavy skillet on a medium high heat
  3. Brown the diced chicken thoroughly, then remove from kadai and put aside (retaining the juices)
  4. Add masala I to the kadai and sweat for 5 minutes, stirring constantly until well browned
  5. Add onion to kadai and stir-fry until browned
  6. Add the tomato to the kadai and fry for 2 minutes until oil separates from the masala, onion and tomato paste
  7. Add the ginger and garlic puree to the kadai and stir for 1 minute
  8. Return the chicken and its juices to the kadai and stir well
  9. Add masala II and the curry leaves to the kadai and stir well, making certain the chicken is well coated
  10. Add the water, making sure to deglaze (scrape) the bottom of the kadai
  11. Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for half hour
  12. Remove cover and cook over a high heat for about 10 minutes, until the sauce begins to thicken
  13. Add more salt (if necessary) and the lime juice, stir well and remove from heat
  14. Remove cinnamon, cloves and cardamom pods before serving

    Two Chefs
    Our chef (right) and an assistant

AN ILLUSTRATED GUIDE TO MAKING GEDEMPTE CHICKEN

As with most Yiddish words and, or phrases, gedempte does not translate easily into English. The most literal meaning could be steeped, but as this sounds so unlike an actual cooking term most cookbooks go with braised. And I suppose that in a purely technical sense the chicken (or the beef in the case of gedempte fleisch) is braised, in that it is first sealed in hot fat before being cooked slowly in a covered pot. But a Jewish cook would no more refer to her / his gedempte chicken as Braised Chicken than a French chef would call her / his  Boeuf Bourguignon a beef casserole. 

In any event, this is my recipe for Gedempte Chicken, or more properly, my recipe based closely on my late Great Auntie Ray’s recipe…

As with cholent (see my earlier post: https://adamhalevi777.com/2014/12/27/an-illustrated-guide-to-making-oxtail-cholent/) there are many subtly different recipes for Gedempte Chicken, mostly influenced by from which part of the old Ashkenazi world the given recipe originated. For example, Jews of Hungarian decent always add large amounts of sweet paprika, whereas Yekkes (Jews hailing from the German-speaking lands) tend to use celery and tomato puree. However, my maternal great aunt’s grandparents (she was third generation British) were from Latvia, and her cooking, although always excellent and delicious was highly minimalist. She considered vegetables/fruits/herbs such as celery, tomatoes and even paprika as exotic and unnecessary and thus her Gedempte Chicken was incredibly simple. Nevertheless, the handful of times I was privileged to sample it remain some of the most precious culinary memories from my childhood.

But whatever its embellishments, the template for all Gedempte Chicken is the same: Chicken, onions, garlic and heaps of schmaltz (rendered chicken fat which, as my auntie always knew, is very good for you! http://www.huffingtonpost.com/judith-j-wurtman-phd/saturated-fat_b_5107298.html ).*

The recipe presented here uses that template, with those basic ingredients processed as closely as possible to Ray’s recipe – with just a few tiny embellishments of my own…

INGREDIENTS (serves 4)

1 Main Ingredients

2 generous tablespoons  – schmaltz (rendered chicken fat – now available ready-made)

8 – large chicken thighs (skin-on)

2 – large cooking onions – halved and finely sliced

1 – large carrot – roughly sliced

1 – medium-sized head of garlic – peeled and finely chopped

1 cup – chicken or meat stock

salt and ground white pepper to taste

(Optional additions include either; a large stick of celery – thinly sliced –  or 2 tablespoons of Hungarian “Noble” sweet paprika, or 1 tablespoon of tomato puree, or any combination of the three)

2 Prepared Vegitables

METHOD

1) Choose a wide heavy pot and melt the schmaltz over a medium heat…

I make my own schmaltz but these days most good supermarkets have it as do most kosher butchers
I make my own schmaltz but these days most good supermarkets have it, as do most kosher butchers

2) Brown the chicken pieces in two or three batches – don’t crowd the pan…

Ray used the whole bird quartered, but I find that the breast meat tends to be a little dry from the cooking process. The dark meat works best
Ray used the whole bird quartered, but I find that the breast meat tends to be a little dry from the cooking process. The dark meat works best

3) Once browned and sealed, set the chicken pieces aside…

Make sure you really brown the chicken well. This ensures a lovely caramelized skin at the finish
Make sure you really brown the chicken well. This ensures a lovely caramelized skin at the finish

4) Add the onions and carrots to the same pan and saute until well browned, stirring every-so-often – about 10 minutes…

Here, I've used a blend of white ("Spanish"), baby and red onions to get a richer onion flavour. However, if you can get your hands on Roscoff onions, they work best of all
Here, I’ve used a blend of white (“Spanish”), baby white, and red onions to get a richer onion flavour. However, if you can get your hands on Roscoff Onions (the kind that Frenchmen with berets dressed in hooped shirts sell on strings dangling from their bicycles) , they work best of all

5) When the vegetables are well browned add the chopped garlic, and cook stirring for a further 2 minutes…

As always - the fresher garlic the better
As always – the fresher garlic the better

6) Return the chicken to the pan, placing the pieces on top of the vegetables…

It's vital that the chicken sits on top of the veg
It’s vital that the chicken sits on top of the veg

7) Add enough stock to just cover the vegetables and bring to the boil – then add the seasoning and cover the pot with a tight fitting lid. Finally turn down the heat to very low and simmer for about 80 minutes…

Remember - use the bare minimum of stock. This is not a stew. Rather the chicken steams/roasts in the vapour from the stock
Remember – use the bare minimum of stock…
It's vital that the chicken sits on top of the veg
It’s vital that the chicken sits on top of the veg. This isn’t a stew and the chicken steams/roasts in the vapour from the stock

8) Ready to serve!

10 Ready to Serve

(At this stage, if you are making the dish for a dinner party and you want to impress, you can make a thickening einbren – a kind of Jewish beurre manie, only made with schmaltz, not butter. Firstly remove the chicken and all the solids from the pot and place neatly onto 4 heated plates. Then, simply melt another 2 tablespoons of schmaltz in a small saute pan before adding two tablespoons of plain white flour. Cook until the flour goes brown and just begins to burn. Then, a small ladle at a time, add the liquid from the chicken pot until it is all incorporated and you have a rich, emulsified sauce. Finally, spoon a portion of the “einbren” over the chicken on the plates.)

9) Plate up and serve…

11 On the Plate

Here, I served the chicken with a tzimus of carrots and beans and mashed potato. Mash is fine but this works best with potato latkes.

Make sure you have a hearty red wine to wash it down and enjoy.

Betay avon!!

*https://adamhalevi777.com/2017/08/15/jewish-alchemy-or-how-to-make-schmaltz-and-grieven/