Thursday, 19 December 2013

Bangers, Mash, and Onion Gravy

Sausage and onion gravy (creative commons)
There is little that could be more British than a meal of Bangers and Mash.  These are good on their own, or with a chutney, but when it comes to accompaniments that make this dish even better, you just can't beat a ladle full of a caramelised onion gravy.

To make this gravy, you need to take a bit of time, at least an hour just to cook the onions down to a caramelised golden brown. Oh, you'll find recipes that claim you can make this gravy in less than 20 minutes. These are the same recipes that tell you to add a large spoonful of sugar to the onions. For absolute depth of flavour that brings out the natural colouring and sweetness of the onions, forget the sugar and spend that extra bit of time cooking.

Sausages are a British tradition

The Brits didn't invent the sausage, but I don't think you will find a nation who loves them more than the British do.

Some interesting Sausage Facts

  • The Sumerians were making sausages 5,000 years ago

  • In 320 A.D. the Catholic Church banned the eating of sausages due to their association with Pagan festivities

  • Sausages were first divided into links in Britain during the reign of Charles I (1600-1649)

  • 'Bangers' which is the British nickname for sausages, originated from the Second World War when the high water content made them tend to explode during cooking as the water turned to steam

  • Sausage machines can fill sausages at a rate of 1 ½ miles an hour

  • There are over 400 different varieties of sausages in the UK

  • The most expensive sausage in the UK was made from fillet steak with Champagne and truffles and cost £20 each!

According to the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board Meat Services:

  • 88% of British households have bought sausages

  • 50% buy sausages at least every four weeks

  • Every day, five million Britons will eat sausages

  • 46% of the total amount of pork sausages consumed are eaten in the evening.
British sausages (creative common)


Caramelised Onion Gravy Recipe

You will need:

3 - 4 large onions; use 1 - 2 red or sweet onions. I like to use 2 Spanish onions and 2 red onions - thinly sliced in rings
75 gm butter
400ml chicken or beef stock
100ml red wine - you could use 100ml of ale/bitter or Madeira instead, or substitute another 100ml stock
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp French mustard - English mustard would be too hot
Salt and pepper to taste

Cooking method:

Melt the butter in a heavy pan
Cook the onions over a medium heat for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently, until they are soft. You aren't frying them here. You're softening them down.
Decrease the heat to low.
Leave the pan uncovered and cook the onions down slowly until they are browned. This will take at least 1 hour, possibly longer. There is no rush. The slower the onions cook, the more their natural sugars will be released providing the golden brown caramelized colouring and flavour you are looking for. Go back in the kitchen and give them a stir round occasionally, but otherwise just leave them alone to cook.
When the onions are nicely cooked, add in the remaining ingredients. Increase the heat and bring it up to a simmer. Check the seasoning, and serve over a plate of mashed potatoes with sausages.

Cooking sausages

Lincolnshire Sausages
Pick a good sausage for this meal. I'm not talking about breakfast sausage links here. I'm referring to any of the varieties of traditional British sausages. In our house, we like Lincolnshire sausages though just about any will be enjoyed.

These sausages can be fried in a pan, cooked under a grill, or cooked in a moderately-hot oven. My preferred method is to grill them.

I place the sausages in 2 rows on the grill pan and place it under a moderate heat. This allows the sausages to brown nicely on each side as they are turned, and cook inside. Cooking time about 20 minutes.

You can find Lincolnshire sausages in any grocery store and most butchers. For a good authentic Lincolnshire sausage, I recommend buying them directly from Mountain's Boston Sausage Company. I've bought sausages and other meat products from this family run company in Boston, Lincolnshire before and highly recommend them.

Not in the UK? Check with your local traditional butcher. They just might be able to help you. Or, you could try making your own sausages at home.

Once you've gor your bangers and your onion gravy, you just need to cook up a big pile of creamy mashed potatoes, and your meal is sorted.