After a snap poll of Standard Issue staffers, we came to the conclusion everyone has a signature dish they’re willing to brag about. Here’s Sarah Ledger. Her bangers and mash are absolutely hilarious. And life-saving.
Name: Sarah Ledger
I Make the Best: Comedy Bangers and Mash
Fuller dish description: You know when Dennis the Menace or Oor Wullie have a slap-up feed and it’s a mound of mashed potato with sausages sticking out it? It’s that.
When did you first make it? My friend came round one night in 1988 because his uni girlfriend – the one everyone thinks they’ll marry and then they split up two years later – had left him. I made it to cheer him up.
When did you realise it was the best? There and then. It saved a life that night.
How often do you make it? At times of heartbreak and sorrow. It’s a particular favourite with the older teen on the days when the US History exam turns out to be the Russian Revolution exam; when the job interview fails (“They asked, ‘what makes you tick?’ and I thought they meant ‘what pisses you off?’ so I shrugged and said ‘everything’. There was an uncomfortable silence and it ended there.”). Or when the exam results come out and there’s a text from a smug cousin saying “All A*s – can’t decide whether to accept the Cambridge offer or use the £5,000 Best Student of the Year Award to go to Cambodia for a year”; when it turns out the rumours are true and he HAS been shagging that lass who works behind the bar at Walkabout…
“Really good mashed potato can’t be rushed. If however, the sad teen is walking back in last night’s clothes, and is expecting to be fed the minute they get through the door, insist they have a bath and get changed first.”
Have you ever tasted anyone else’s version of this, which had you worried? I’ve heard Dennis the Menace’s mum makes a brilliant version. But she’s fictional so I’m not too worried about the competition.
Is this the only thing you make well? Well, of course, there’s my cheese and chilli bread… and my Doctor Who chicken is still spoken of with great affection, even if Doctor Who has lost his way.
Sausages. At least two and a half per person.
A large bag of floury potatoes. Maris Piper are best. I’d say about 200g per person – but honestly, this is no time to be frugal: it’s a crisis.
Two large onions
Gravy powder – I use Bisto powder, not granules.
A knob of butter
Semi skimmed milk
For the sake of form, some green beans or broccoli. But no one will eat them.
It helps if the disappointed teen is lying on the sofa watching one of the more harrowing episodes of Game of Thrones, or reading aloud someone else’s Twitter feed in ironic and bitter tones. This buys you time.
Really good mashed potato can’t be rushed. If however, the sad teen is walking back in last night’s clothes, and is expecting to be fed the minute they get through the door, insist they have a bath and get changed first.
Switch on the oven to 190°C (gas mark 5). Peel and roughly slice two large onions into thick rings. Arrange the onions in a heavy ovenproof roasting tin and place the sausages on top.
When the oven has heated, pop in the roasting tin. Peel the potatoes and cut into evenly sized chunks. Rinse the potatoes in cold water. Fill a large pan with cold water, add a hefty pinch of salt and put the spuds on to boil.
After about 20 minutes, check the sausages. If the onions look like they’re burning, turn the oven down a fraction and/or cover them with foil. By now, the potatoes should be cooked. Stick a fork in the potatoes. You want them soft all the way through but not falling apart.
Drain the potatoes and dry them. You don’t know how to? This is the reason your mashed potatoes are always watery. Keep the heat on beneath the pan of drained spuds and shake violently from time to time. The pan will make a scalding echo. When they are fluffy and dry (they must NOT change colour) turn off the heat and add the butter.
Wield the pepper grinder over the potatoes and shake in a generous amount of pepper.
Meanwhile, if you’re going ahead with the charade of serving green vegetables, now is the time to turn on the kettle and fill a small saucepan with boiling water. Stick the broccoli/green beans in there and cook for about five minutes. Drain. Save the water. Leave on the draining board accidentally on purpose: the goal of this meal is sympathy, comfort and mild juvenile comedy – not vitamins.
Put the saucepan with the potatoes in the (empty) sink to give you maximum purchase. Mash the potatoes vigorously. Often the teen will enjoy this part of the procedure as it releases significant tension. It’s possible though, they’ll give up halfway through and sit on the kitchen counter and watch you.
Add the milk slowly and beat in with a robust fork (warm milk is best, but frankly you’ve enough to deal with right now, so I wouldn’t bother).
Take the sausage pan out of the oven and put the sausages on a heated plate. Switch the oven off and put the sausages back in to keep warm.
Place the roasting tin with the onions in on the hob. Mix a tablespoon of gravy powder in a teacup full of cold water. Mix thoroughly until the lumps have gone.
Pour the gravy mixture into the onion pan – now on a gentle heat – and keep stirring until you have a smooth, rich dark brown gravy. If you need to loosen the mixture, add some of the saved vegetable water. Put the onion gravy into a warmed jug.
Now pile the potatoes onto a plate in a tall mound. Cut the sausages in half and stick them randomly into the pile of mash – an odd number looks better. Place in front of the sad teen and slide the gravy jug in their direction. A glimmer of a smile will flicker across their face, when just half an hour ago they said they’d never smile again.
Make sure there’s enough for seconds and/or guests. It could be the sad teen and their errant love have made up via text while you were cooking and he turns up on the doorstep to beg forgiveness.
Have jelly and ice cream for pudding.
Don’t expect any help with the washing up.
Find out what our other contributors make best of all here.
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Champion soup maker; of a surprisingly nervous disposition. @sezl & sezl.wordpress.com