June 11, 2009
A suitably British meal for my first few days in England: bangers and mash with a gravy of caramelised onions, wholegrain mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Only my mash is really crushed and lightly buttered Jersey Royals, the princelings of English new potatoes, with skins so tender the machines used to harvest them are first tested on eggs. My sausages are local too: peppery pork Cumberlands, made in this area for centuries (although usually in long coils) and more highly spiced than other English sausages.
And all this local goodness is not because I set out deliberately to be gourmet or virtuous, but because these good ingredients were what was available at my local supermarket. This supermarket filled me with dismay initially, because it's the kind of tiny place in a tiny town that's designed for tourists and therefore heavy on alcohol and light on fresh produce. This will be a challenge during the summer, when I'm dreaming of bok choi and saffron, but when the available potatoes are Jersey Royals (only in season for a few more weeks) and the home-brand mustard is this grainy and good, I think I'll manage to make do.
The onion gravy is tart and full-bodied without being heavy. It uses white wine, rather than red, and next time I'm going to try using a pale ale. Don't be tempted to use a smooth mustard, because you really need the subtle punch of the whole grains. Most importantly, it's incredibly easy to make. The onions need to be cooked long and slow, and then everything else simmers away while the potatoes and sausages cook. We licked our plates clean of this gravy; it's that good.
Onion & Mustard Gravy for Sausages
serves 4 (but it's so delicious you might want it to serve 2)
2 large or 3 smaller onions, sliced thinly into rings
50g butter (just under 1/2 stick)
300ml chicken stock
100ml white wine
2 tsp wholegrain mustard
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
pepper & salt, if needed
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, from 1/2 to 1 hour (the longer the better). Try to keep them from colouring. About 15 minutes before you're ready to eat, turn up the heat to medium high and, when the pan is hot, add the wine. Allow it to sizzle and reduce in volume for 5 minutes, then add the stock, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to a low boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Taste for seasoning - you probably won't need to add salt. Serve hot.
To prepare crushed Jersey Royals: don't peel them, but do scrub them gently to remove any flaking skin. Halve larger potatoes, keep smaller ones intact. Cook in already boiling water for 10-15 minutes, testing with the point of a knife to check for tenderness inside the largest pieces. Drain. Crush lightly with a fork, then return to the hot pan with a knob of butter and some salt and pepper. Mix gently until the butter is melted, then serve.
To grill (broil) sausages: I love sausages baked and fried (and of course barbecued), but grilling is healthier and fast and can be just as delicious. I prick the sausages lightly once or twice and par-boil them for 5-10 minutes, then remove them from the water and prick them again on both sides. I sit them on a tray in the grill (broiler) pan and let the fat run underneath, where it's caught in aluminium foil and easy to clean up. The par-boiling keeps the interior plump and juicy and means you need only grill long enough at a medium heat to brown but not shrivel the skin, about 10 minutes.