February 2010

British food

Posted on February 20, 2010 at 3:21 pm in

I would like to deal with an ongoing perception that British food is bad food.

This perception seems to be largely based on the state of British food seen by GIs during World War 2, when rationing was in effect. Food supplies were erratic, quality and freshness were erratic and sub-optimal, and this lead to food being boiled, fried, and generally horribly overcooked.

The habit of overcooking and badly cooking food has taken a couple of generations to break, lead by new chefs like Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsay, and the likes. They are returning British food to its historic roots of fresh, seasonal foods prepared simply and deliciously.

Sadly, there is not a lot that can be done to change the bad eating habits of people on low incomes, but the same can be said of low-income families in every country. Just give traditional British cooking a chance… you may be surprised!

And to deal with another myth… according to the OECD, the British have the best teeth in the entire OECD. So there!



Posted on February 20, 2010 at 3:07 pm in

Ahh, sausages. You’re not a real country unless you have a sausage. And a beer. And a cheese.

Moving swiftly on, bangers are simply British sausages. Bangers are as much a staple of British cuisine as baked beans on toast, but unless you’re in Britain they are hard to find.

To make bangers you need 5 things – (1) seasoning, which is mixed into the (2) ground meat, which is mixed with (3) the added fat, which is mixed with (4) rusk, which goes into (5) the sausage skins.

You can buy sausage skins online at amazon.com and sausagemaker.com amongst others. Your next decision is which kind of sausage skin – natural or artificial? Natural (also known as pig intestines) gives you the most authentic flavour and texture, but they are crazy perishable and some people squick at the thought. Artificial casings are made from collagen, are 100% edible, will last nearly indefinitely if you keep them dry, and don’t squick people out. I go with the artificial ones 🙂


* 5 teaspoons ground white pepper
* 2 1/2 teaspoon mace
* 2 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 2 teaspoon ground ginger
* 2 teaspoon rubbed sage
* 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

If you can’t find mace, start with half the quantity of ground nutmeg and tweak from there to suit your palate.

The proportions in a traditional banger recipe are about 80% visually lean pork (marbled but no big chunks of fat), 10% added fat, 8.5% rusk, 1.5% banger seasoning. After experimenting I found I preferred a more highly seasoned flavour, so I increased the seasoning to 3% and reduced the rusk to account for the changed proportions. I also had to tweak the seasoning recipe, as otherwise the sausages became almost inedibly salty – I doubled the weight of everything apart from the salt in the seasoning and that worked for me.

Rusk is just extremely dry stale bread – you can make rusk by leaving stale bread out in a well ventilated place to become completely dry, or stick it into your dehydrator. Its role is to retain fat inside the sausage, making it more lush and unctuous in mouthfeel.

You can get the added fat at the grocery store or butcher- look for “fat back” or “pork bellie”, which is pure fat without any seasonings or visible meat.

So, you have your seasoning, rusk, sausage casings, fat back, and a chunk of pork. Let’s make bangers!

For 1 kilo of bangers the way I like them:

1. Grind 800g pork on coarse setting.

2. Grind 100g fat likewise.

3. Feed 70g rusk through the grinder – this serves the dual purpose of pulverising the dried bread, and also cleaning out most of the meat and fat from the grinder, making cleaning easier.

4. Add 30g seasoning to the ground meat/fat/rusk mixture and mix thoroughly.

Once all this is mixed, store in your fridge for 2 hours to allow the meat to become thoroughly chilled and for the seasonings to flavour the entire mix.

After the 2 hour rest in the cooler, feed the mix through your grinder with sausage stuffer attached and feed into the casings. Make sure you tie off the leading edge of the casing or you will just dump all the sausage meat mix onto your counter. D’oh.

You don’t want to take too long as the meat could heat into the microbial danger zone – making bangers in winter is a lot easier than in summer. 1kg bangers should take about 30-40 minutes once you have done it a couple of times, but don’t hesitate to stop where you are and put everything back into the fridge if things become too warm.

Once all your mix is stuffed into the casings, you will have some 3 foot long strips of bangers. Take the casing in your hand, starting with the tied off end, and twist. I usually go slightly wider than my hand as the twist point, pinch in the meat, then twist several times. Repeat for the entire length then tie off the far end.

Back in the fridge for another couple of hours, and you’re ready to cook up some bangers and mash, pour yourself a British beer, and have a very civilised evening. Enjoy 🙂