While cycling in the squidgy muddy roads in the lashing rain in Bolivia, I remember my mind wandering off to far off places where I’d eat virtual meals, thinking of the best possible starter, main course and dessert combination, imagining how I’d make it, what it would taste like and how the best way to cook it would be. Since the Bolivian food in that area wasn’t the very best, ususally a mush of old vegetables coupled with gooey pasta (since water boils at a lower temperature at altitude) and perhaps some leathery meat, this “best meal” question came up in the topic of conversation quite regularly. Fearghal went for Roast Beef with all the Trimmings and Frenchie Thomas (who we were cycling with at the time) went for Tartiflette, both of which are very good choices. After much deliberation, I came up with Bangers, Mash and Red Onion Gravy as being the best main I could be served at that time. I love the way the thick oniony gravy mixes up with the buttery mash, and the bite provided by the caramelised onion pieces and the sausage made with plenty of meat, fat, herbs and spices. It’s not the fanciest dish by any means, but when washed down with a pint of golden ale, provides pure homely comfort that quite possibly cannot be surpassed.
To make your’s first boil up some peeled floury potatoes (about 2-3 per person) until they are soft; drain and leave with the lid off until the excess moisture steams off. Add a good chunk of butter, parsley and some cream if you have it, then season with plenty of salt and pepper.
Fry off the sausages (2-3 per person, be sure to buy good sausages with a high meat content, Toulouse, Cumberland or Linconshire are my favorite) in a saucepan with a little butter or oil and once cooked through and golden brown, reserve on the side.
Add sliced red onion (1per person) into the same saucepan (the juice from the sausages adds flavour to the gravy) and cook very slowly in butter until soft and caramelised. If they begin to burn, add some more butter, or a dash of water to the pan. Add a little flour, beef or chicken stock if you have it (otherwise stock cube and water), a good dose of Worcester Sauce and cook until the required thickness is achieved. You can try replacing some of the liquid with wine or stout (be sure to cook off the alcohol), adding redcurrant jelly for sweetness or fresh herbs/ mustard for extra aromatics.
Depending on how you want to serve the dish, you can now add the sausages to the gravy or heat them in a separate pan. At home, I prefer to put them in the oven in a fresh frying pan or roasting dish and bang them in a hot oven which leaves the skin crispy. Serve them with a good dollop of onion gravy over the top, and a pile of steaming mash on the side.
Now sit somewhere comfortable and enjoy this humble dish with a glass of wine, stout or ale.