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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NO RAW MINCE – PLEASE! Sorting out your cottage from your shepherd’s pie and how to make the genuine article/s…

What many people beyond the shores of the British Isles may not know, is that the humble shepherd’s and cottage pies are directly linked to the British Sunday roast — roast lamb and roast beef respectively. For generations going back into the hazy past, Monday night evening meals (suppers, dinners, teas – depending upon what part of Britain one inhabited, geographically and / or socially) were typically made up of the scraps from the previous day’s lunch and more often than not the main constituent would be the leftover meat. And if this meat happened to be lamb or beef then normally it would be minced or finely chopped, mixed with cooked vegetables, roofed with a thick layer of mashed potato and ultimately emerge from the oven as either of the aforementioned pies.

Simple to make, thrifty on the wallet and tasty enough for even the fussiest eaters, shepherd’s pie has joined the “English breakfast”, fish and chips and bangers and mash as one of the few British dishes to gain global popularity. Over the past few decades it’s become a staple of the comfort food menu and an international culinary superstar.

But, at the risk of sounding like Sheldon Cooper pointing out what makes — and what doesn’t make — a true Texas Chilli (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42NYgA85Wck), there’s a problem; a problem of misrepresentation:

I’ve eaten concoctions of meat and mashed potato, purporting to be shepherd’s pie everywhere from Perth in Australia, to Seattle in the USA, and at all stops in between, including places as diverse as Chennai, Stockholm and Tel Aviv. And, while several of these alleged shepherd’s pies have been very agreeable plates of food, they’ve no more been shepherd’s pie than a vegetarian sausage is an actual sausage or Greek chickpea puree is humus.

The first and most serious error that the cooks of all these dishes make is basing their recipes on raw beef mince and the second is to call the dish after the keeper of sheep. Shepherd’s pie (yes, the clue is in the name) is always made with lamb or mutton – leftover roast lamb or mutton if possible, but lamb mince at the very least. There’s nothing wrong with a minced beef and mashed potato pie, but compared to a true cottage pie (for it is in in fact cottage pie that these ingenuous cooks are making) — made with leftover roast beef — it’s a sad imitation at best. Perhaps if we renamed Cottage Pie, Cowherd Pie (or Cowboy Pie in the States and Gaucho Pie in Argentina) it would clear up some of the apparent confusion. In fact, here in Spain when I’m lucky enough to have roast kid scraps I call the resulting dish Goatherd Pie – and very delicious it is to.

Unfortunately, the error has been exacerbated by a plethora of British cookbooks, often penned by famous British chefs, who for reasons to do with things like “convenience” and the pace of “modern life” disseminate shepherd’s pie recipes based upon raw beef mince.

The point is, as I hope the recipe below for Cottage Pie will demonstrate, the superiority in flavour, texture and sheer pleasure of eating a meat and mashed potato pie made from roast meat scraps, over one made from raw mince is worth the extra 10 minutes it takes to prepare.

Cottage Pie 1

COTTAGE PIE

(Serves 2 as a single dish meal or 4 as part of a three course dinner  / Preparation time: 1 hour 45 minutes / Cooking time 30 minutes)

Ingredients for mash

  1. 1½ lbs floury potatoes – peeled and cut up into medium dice for boiling
  2. 2 oz unsalted butter
  3. 5 fl oz single cream or full fat milk
  4. freshly ground black pepper
  5. 2 tbsp coarsely grated cheddar cheese

Ingredients for pie

  • 2 tbsp cooking oil (rapeseed, corn or nut but not olive or sunflower)
  • 12 – 14 oz of roast beef meat  –   finely chopped (not minced or blitzed!!)
  • 1 large carrot                            –   finely chopped
  • 1 stick of celery                        –   finely chopped
  • 1 brown onion                        –  finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 12 fl oz beef gravy or rich stock (a stock made from a cube will do)
  • 1 tbsp brown sauce (HP, OK or similar)
  • ½ tbsp Worcester Sauce
  • salt and ground white pepper

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 190° c (170° c fan)
  2. Make the mash potato, being sure to end up with a light and creamy texture – season to taste. Leave to cool.
  3. Heat the oil in a large skillet or frying pan over a medium/high heat.
  4. Sauté the vegetables until beginning to brown – about 10 minutes.
  5. Add the meat to the pan, mix thoroughly with the veg and cook for about 2 minutes.
  6. Add the flour and mix well, cooking for a further 2 minutes.
  7. Add the stock, brown sauce, Worcester Sauce and season well.
  8. Cook on a high heat until until the stock has reduced somewhat and the pan contents resemble a ragout.
  9. Check the seasoning and pour ingredients from the pan into a well buttered 2 pint oven dish.
  10. Leave to cool for about an hour, until a skin has formed on the surface of the ragout.
  11. Carefully spoon the mash onto the ragout – be careful not to push the potato into the ragout – then spread out with the back of a fork until the potato is level and neatly ridged.
  12. Sprinkle the grated cheese over the top.
  13. Place in the centre of the oven for 25 – 30 minutes until the pie is bubbling.
  14. Serve with a heap of fresh or frozen peas and wash down with a mug of strong English tea, a glass of good ale or a spicy Côtes du Rhône…

(For shepherd’s pie simply substitute the beef for lamb or mutton, use a lamb gravy or rich lamb stock, or a rich chicken stock, and omit the cheese topping.)