Spiced rack of lamb with braised lettuce and herb mash

Generally when we think of roast lamb for a special meal, we picture a succulent slow-roast shoulder or leg; always delicious and a real crowd-pleaser too. But if you’re after something a little quicker but with equal pizzazz, then a rack of lamb is the way to go, with guaranteed oohs and aahs when you carve it into cutlets at the table.

Continue reading “Spiced rack of lamb with braised lettuce and herb mash”

Easy mashed potato cakes

easy potato cake2 text

Here’s one final recipe idea to tie in with British Sausage Week, plus a neat way to use up leftover mashed potato.

Ever so quick and easy to make, these potato cakes are a tasty accompaniment to your favourite bangers and are great as part of a traditional Full English cooked breakfast. I’ve served mine here with some delicious pork, apple and chive sausages, part of the ‘alternative sausage selection’ from online butchers, Donald Russell. Continue reading “Easy mashed potato cakes”

Spicy chana dal cottage pie

chana dal cottage pie

There are certain dishes I don’t play around with too much. When they’re easy winners with the family, what’s the point of trying to fix something that ain’t broke? Like spaghetti carbonara or bangers and mash. Sometimes simple is best.

Cottage pie had always been one of those kinds of meals for me. Cooked minced beef with onions, maybe a vegetable or two, in gravy and topped with creamy mashed potato. Why would you want to mess with that?

But the problem is I just do have this tendency to play with my food. I was thinking about ways to make cottage pie go further, you see. Since taking part in the Living Below the Line initiative, where we only had £1 a day for food and drink for five days, the cost of food has been on my mind and I keep looking for ways to make things stretch a bit. I always bulk cottage pie out with a few vegetables, so the idea of adding lentils (or in this case chana dal, split and polished chickpeas) seemed the natural next step. Of course, I could have gone completely vegetarian and left out the beef mince but we do rather like meat in our house, and I think it’s useful to have ways to get more meals out of good meat than have to omit it all together.

chana dal

Once I’d decided to add chana dal, it was a natural leap to add some spice, since chana dal is such a popular ingredient in Indian cookery. I added some cumin and mustard seeds to the mince and dal, and then a little turmeric to melted butter before mashing it into the potato. It could so easily have been one of those disastrous experiments but it worked an absolute treat and the whole family seemed to approve. Well, they asked for seconds. Always a good sign.

This is another of those incredibly adaptable dishes. Instead of chana dal, you can use pretty much any kind of lentils or pulses, and throw in whatever vegetables you happen to have in.

chana dal cottage pie

Spicy chana dal cottage pie

This recipe makes two large cottage pies, each yielding 4 to 6 portions. One for supper tonight and another for the freezer – perfect!

200g chana dal
1 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
½ tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp black mustard seeds
500g minced beef
4 large carrots, peeled and sliced
2 courgettes, halved lengthways and sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
200ml beef stock
salt and pepper
1kg potatoes, peeled and halved or quartered depending on size
50g butter
½ tsp turmeric
200ml milk

Soak the chana dal in cold water for at least an hour, and then drain.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6.

Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the onion until soft and golden. Add the cumin and mustard seeds and fry until the release their aroma.

Add the minced beef to the pan and cook for about 5 minutes until browned, stirring frequently. Next add in the carrots, courgettes and garlic and give it all a good mix before stirring in the chana dal, tinned tomatoes and stock.

Leave to simmer gently for 20 minutes or so until the liquid has thickened a little and the vegetables are tender. Taste and season.

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the potatoes until just tender, drain, and return to the pan.

Gently melt the butter in a small pan and stir in the turmeric. Pour the yellow butter onto the cooked potatoes, pour in the milk, season with salt and pepper and mash well.

Spoon the meat and chana dal filling into two ovenproof dishes, and then cover with the mashed potato. Cook one in the oven for around 25 minutes until the top is golden. Cool the other one before covering with foil and placing in the freezer for a quick easy dinner another night.

chana dal cottage pie

As this is a great way to make a cottage pie go further, I’m entering it into this month’s Family Foodies challenge where the theme is Cheap & Cheerful.

family-foodies

I’m also entering it into the Credit Crunch Munch challenge, the brain child of Fab Food 4 All and Fuss Free Flavours, and this month hosted by Gingey Bites.

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How I make bangers and mash

bangers and mash

It’s only taken me a couple of years, but finally bangers and mash makes an appearance on my blog. There’s been a sausage pasta, sausage chilli, sausage bake, sausage and noodle soup,  and even a Star Wars sausage stew, but this is the first time that classic pairing of the humble sausage with mashed spuds has been allowed to take centre stage.

bangers and mash

It’s not really a recipe though, is it? I guess that’s why I’ve never featured it before, despite it being the namesake for my blog and a dish we eat almost every week. (In case you’re interested, here’s a blog post from 2011 on why I chose to call this blog Bangers & Mash.)

This month’s Family Foodies challenge, hosted by Lou over at Eat Your Veg and me, is all about the food you cook to show your family how much you love them, and I simply couldn’t not enter my good old bangers and mash. If my children are feeling low or have had a demanding day, then bangers and mash is one of those tried-and-tested dinners that is sure to put a big, beaming smile back on their faces. It works for my husband too. It’s a hug on a plate, all covered in gorgeous gravy.

Here’s how I make mine…

bangers and mash

The bangers

I tend to buy my sausages (and indeed most of my meat) from the local butcher, and I always go for the best I can possibly afford. I would rather spend more on good, free range, locally reared meat and eat less of it, than buy cheap, lower welfare meat which never tastes as good. While pork sausages must have a minimum meat content of 42 per cent pork, I try to make sure my sausages contain at least 70% meat. Fried sausages are of course quite delicious but I usually grill mine as it’s ever so slightly better for you.

The mash

It’s important to choose a good floury potato for your mash, such as King Edwards or Desirée. Peel and boil them until just tender, drain and then add a generous knob of butter to the hot potatoes and allow to melt before mashing them with a dash of milk, a dollup of wholegrain mustard and some salt and pepper. I rather like my mash to be a little lumpy. It’s not an excuse honest; in fact I have a slight aversion to the super smooth ‘creamed’ potato you get in restaurants – but each to their own!

The gravy

I must hold my hands up here and admit to using gravy granules fairly often. It’s different when you’re cooking a roast; there are lots of lovely meat juices from which to make your gravy. When you’re cooking sausages, it’s not quite the same. But it is still possible to make a delicious gravy from scratch (well, using a stock cube or frozen stock) and if you’ve got the time, it’s well worth that little extra effort. I like to make my gravy with red onions and redcurrant jelly for some sticky sweetness, which goes so well with sausage, although you could swap for white onions and Balsamic vinegar instead. Here’s my recipe…

Red onion gravy with redcurrant jelly

1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 large red onions, peeled, cut in half and sliced
1 tbsp corn flour
500ml hot beef stock
2 tsp redcurrant jelly
salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and add the onions. Turn the heat down low, cover with a lid and leave the onions to cook gently for around half an hour or so, until soft and translucent. Give them a quick stir every now and again.

Stir in the corn flour and cook for a few minutes, before pouring in the hot stock and redcurrant jelly. Cook for another 15 minutes to thicken. Check for seasoning before pouring into your gravy boat and then smothering all over your bangers and mash. Delicious!

bangers and mash

As I mentioned before, I’m entering this dish into February’s Family Foodies challenge (hosted by Eat Your Veg and me) where the theme this month is LOVE.

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Why bangers and mash?

A few people have asked why I called this blog Bangers & Mash. So here’s a sophisticated diagram to help explain.

Quite simply Bangers & Mash sums up the kind of food I like to cook and eat.

Simple and unpretentious.

Terrible if you use cheap sausages or don’t put butter in the mashed potato, but when you use quality ingredients it just can’t be beaten.

And that’s the kind of food you’ll find me talking about in this blog.