When the clouds hang heavy in the sky, the rivers run fast and the earth is downright soggy, I crave English pub grub. I want to duck under a medieval doorway and feel the bumps and grooves of a worn slab of wood as I lean over the bar to order a pint. A fire would be crackling in the corner as I pull up a chair under a window pane to watch the drizzle, waiting for a generous serving of bangers and mash to complete the scene.
There are no wonderfully pokey, old pubs in Kyneton, but the weather is suitably English. So when I found a packet of beautiful pork and fennel sausages from a local farm in the fridge, I knew what was coming.
Sausages are an all-season food. They’re equally happy on the BBQ destined for a slice of thin white bread and a squirt of tomato sauce, as they are in a thick stew or pasta sauce. When paired with creamy mashed potato, winter is upon us and you can have no plans other than snuggling in to the couch after a plateful. This is not energising food, it’s lazy winter afternoon food.
This dish relies on excellent sausages. They will do most of their cooking in the oven, caressed by a bubbling gravy, which results in beautifully tender meat. You want to celebrate the full flavour that gentle cooking provides, so choose fat, butcher-made sausages, not those skinny, limp excuses you see in the supermarket.
The gravy is a combination of onions, dark beer and stock, thickened with a little flour and spiked with brown sugar. It cooks with the sausages in this one-pot wonder of a recipe and forms a thick, rich sauce. The robust flavour of the gravy belies how little effort it took to make.
Mashed potato forms the tasty base of the dish. Mash is wonderful and comforting mainly because it is such an excellent platform for butter. Whip in as much butter as your potatoes can hold and you won’t be able to resist a one-finger scoop of the mash straight into your mouth as you plate up the dish.
Serve the sausages on top of the mash with a generous helping of gravy spooned over the top. If you haven’t already drunk the left over beer in the 50 minutes it took to cook the sausages in the oven, drink it with the meal to help you conjure up images of the English countryside.
Bangers and Mash with Beer and Onion Gravy
- 4 great-quality pork sausages
- A little oil
- 1 large brown onion
- A knob of butter
- 1 lightly heaped tablespoon flour
- 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
- 200ml stock
- 100ml dark beer
- Mashed potato to serve
Pre-heat oven to 160C/320F.
In a non-stick pan that you can put in the oven (no plastic handles!), fry the sausages in a bit of oil till lightly coloured on all sides. Remove sausages from the pan and set aside.
Peel and slice the onion into thin circles. Melt the butter in the pan and add onions, cooking over a moderate heat until the onions take on some colour.
Stir in the flour and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally, then add the sugar. Put the sausages back in the pan, pour in the stock and beer then bring to the boil for a minute or so.
Cover the pan with a lid and place in the oven for 50 minutes. Drink the beer you didn’t use in the recipe, and prepare some creamy mash. Serve sausages on top of mash and spoon the rich, oniony gravy over the lot.
Recipe from my favourite English cook: The Kitchen Diaries II: A Year of Simple Suppers by Nigel Slater