If you visit any British pub that serves food, chances are you will find a dish called ‘Bangers and Mash’ on the menu. The ‘mash’ part is fairly easy to figure out - mashed potatoes - but ‘bangers’? It sounds funny, but it is a colloquial name for sausages here in England. You see, after the outbreak of the First World War, food shortages meant that sausages here contained little, if any, proper meat. Producers had to fill them with scraps, cereal and water, which caused them to sizzle, pop and hiss when they were cooked, particularly when cooked by British soldiers on shovels over open fires in the trenches of northern Europe. They nicknamed them ‘bangers’ because of this. The soldiers who came home brought this nickname for sausages back with them, and it stuck.
Bangers and mash is a very simple supper that just about everyone loves here in England. However, it needs to be properly done to make it something really special. The key is to choose really good, meaty sausages, preferably from your butcher. Of course, vegetarians needn’t miss out - top quality veggie sausages can make this traditional meal a warming and delicious treat. Just cook them according to package directions and carry on with the rest of the recipe as normal, of course using vegetable stock instead of beef stock for the onion gravy.
I make the recipe extra easy by baking the sausages, so no standing around by a frying pan, and I find the sausages cook more evenly too. It is a very quick meal to cook; the whole process only takes about forty minutes. It is fairly hands on during that time, but everything is really easy to do so it is a relatively stress-free meal to prepare.
Allow two to three sausages per person depending on age and appetite. Although onions are not normally considered to be kid-friendly, these are slowly sautéed with balsamic vinegar and end up tasting really sweet, so if your kids like normal gravy they should love this.
This can be a very budget friendly meal as well, particularly if you buy good quality sausages in bulk. If you bake extra sausages, allow them to cool and refrigerate; they make wonderful sandwiches reheated the following day. Just warm them though and pop them into soft bread rolls with lashings of ketchup. Or if you have extra gravy, pop it in the fridge and serve the left-over sausages hot in crusty rolls with a bit of re-warmed gravy over top.
I’ve actually served this at dinner parties, having just added a bit of Madeira, port or sherry to the gravy and using light cream or half and half instead of milk in the mashed potatoes. It feels like cheating, but everyone always raves about how great it is to have “comfort food”!
2 to 3 good meaty (or vegetarian) sausages per person
2 tablespoons plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large potato (or 2 medium) per person
2 generous tablespoons of butter
enough milk or cream to moisten the potatoes (usually about ¼ to ½ cup)
salt and pepper to taste
2 large mild onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 generous tablespoons flour
1 to 1½ cups beef stock (you may need a little more or less)
¼ cup Madeira, port or sherry (purely optional!)
Place the sausages in a casserole dish (use two if you have lots of sausages) and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Bake at 350℉ or 170℃, turning at least once, until the sausages are cooked through. This usually takes thirty to forty minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a frying pan. Sauté the onions over medium heat. Keep an eye on them and stir frequently. You want them to cook slowly, and not brown, so if you need to, turn the heat down.
While the sausages and onions are cooking, peel the potatoes and cut in medium size pieces. Place in a saucepan and fill with cold water. Bring to the boil and cook for about fifteen to twenty minutes or until the potatoes are soft enough to mash.
Mash the potatoes with butter and milk or cream, adding salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm.
Now, back to the gravy. Turn the heat up a bit on the onions and add the balsamic vinegar. Stirring constantly, allow it to reduce a bit. Turn the heat back to medium and then sprinkle over the flour and stir through the onions. Cook for a couple moments. Now gradually add the beef stock, a bit at a time, stirring and allowing to thicken after each addition. If you are using the Madeira, port or sherry, stir it in after two or three additions of stock. You want a fairly thick, but still very pourable, gravy.
Check the sausages are done by cutting into one of them, or by using a meat thermometer. They should have an internal temperature of at least 320℉ or 160℃ with no pink remaining inside.
Serve the sausages beside (or on a bed of) mashed potatoes, topped with the gravy. I always like to have some gravy on the side in a gravy boat as well so people can add more. I usually serve a green vegetable too - peas or broccoli are both quick and easy, and are the perfect compliment to this traditional dish.