Friday, October 29, 2010

England, Land of Funny Food Names

Fade-in: keys turning in a lock.  Pull back to see a shopkeeper unlocking the front door to his store.  The windows are dusty and there is a pile of wind-blown leaves and papers in the doorway.  The shopkeeper opens the door and steps into his store, obviously left closed for quite some time -- cobwebs are in the corners and a thick layer of dust covers all the shelves.  He sighs, grabs a broom from a corner, and starts sweeping.

And welcome back to Eating Like the World!  We've had quite a hiatus over the summer and the kids' school athletics season, but we're back, and we've been eating like England for the past week.  So far I can say that the names of the dishes alone are worth the price of entry -- we've had Toad In The Hole, Bangers & Mash, Bubbles & Squeak and (ahem) Faggots.  Granted, from here they get less amusing...Beef & Cheese Pie doesn't have the same comedic impact.

Okay, I have to get this out of my head:  "If you don't eat yer meat, you can't have any pudding!  HOW do you expect to get any PUDDING, if you don't eat yer meat!?"  Sorry.  Better.  I loathe Pink Floyd, but I've had that line rattling around in my head for this entire week, and it feels good to finally purge it.

Toad in a Hole

Onward.  We opened on Monday with Toad In The Hole.  Sounds gross, I have no idea why it got that name, but in practice, it's sausage links cooked in Yorkshire Pudding...which itself is essentially a really eggy pancake batter.  It was a hectic evening, so the kids and I sat down to our meal of Toad In The Hole with a side of Angel's home-made applesauce, while she ran out to do a bit of evening work.

Piece of Toad in a Hole, with applesauce.

I liked this dish.  The sausages were done to perfection, and the pudding reminded me of the "apple pancakes" my mom used to make on occasion, very eggy and dense, with huge, puffy crust.  Dipped in the applesauce, this just melted in my mouth.  Initially the kids loved it, but as they ate they started turning their thumbs down to the pudding.  The best explanation I got was that they started out liking it, but it "built up" on them.  They loved the sausages, though.  When Angel got home she had hers and deemed it surprisingly good -- better than she thought it'd be.

Bangers'n Mash

Next up, Tuesday night we had Bangers'n Mash -- the amusing way to say sausages and mashed potatoes.  Oo, this was yummy.  Nicely crispy dinner sausages, mashed potatoes and a savory onion gravy over all of it.  Add a side of spinach.  Oh, and enjoy with a nice pint of ale like I did. (local drinking ages and laws apply, void where prohibited, etc...)  In a rare instance of karma, everyone at the table liked something about this meal.  Leftovers?  None, sorry.

What struck us about both Monday and Tuesday's dinners is that we expected them to be greasy and heavy, what with all the sausages, eggs and gravies, but they really weren't heavy at all.  We left the table nicely satisfied both nights, without that "ick" one gets after eating a load of squidgy foods.

Wednesday was busy.  Angel worked all day and didn't get home until 7pm or so.  We ate Banquet Pot Pies.  I guess there's a tenuous link there...you could tilt your head, squint really hard, and call them "meatpies," but it'd be a reach.

Last night, we ate...um...*cough* (ahem).... FaggotsWhat was that you said?  Um...we ate faggotsWhat?  Speak up, you're mumbling.  Fa-- we ate Faggots, all right?  Faggots.  Yes, that's what I said, and it's the real name for these things.  If you read the Wikipedia link up there, it describes them as meatballs made from "meat off-cuts and offal," mixed with onions, spices and breadcrumbs, wrapped in caul fat (or bacon in our case) and baked.


Oh, God were these disgusting to make.  Angel "let" me help her.  (she refused to handle the meats involved)  So I had to chop up liver, pork-belly (unsmoked bacon), pork shoulder and bacon -- all raw.  Since we don't own a "mincer,"* I tossed the pieces into the food processor.  Unfortunately, bacon fat doesn't food-process.  It wraps around the blades, keeps them from cutting, and ends up flailing around and tossing chunks of pork around inside the device...while pureeing the liver into a paste.  I ended up pulling the liver-smelling mess out of the processor and splacking it into a bowl, then pulling out hands-full, trying to chop the ropes of hard fat, putting it back into the processor in smaller lumps and trying to chop it down that way.  I was sort of successful.


After the debacle of the food processor, I got to squish the lumpy meat-paste around in a bowl with the breadcrumbs, onions and spices until it was all mixed together.  It was then formed into 16 meatballs, which were wrapped individually with bacon, loaded onto a broiler pan so the fat could run off, and baked for an hour at -- not 450 degrees, but 445.  As I was doing this, Angel was preparing onion gravy and the Bubble and Squeak: mashed potatoes and cabbage, formed into patties and fried in bacon fat.

Faggots with Bubbles & Squeak

When it was all done and assembled onto plates, the result was totally less disgusting than we thought it'd be.  The faggots verged on actually tasting good, depending on how much liver was in a particular bite.  The ropes of fat cooked down and infused the meat with flavor; the gravy moistened the crispy exterior and added savory goodness.  The potatoes were honestly delicious.  I thought the cabbage was unobtrusive, and the crispy edges were nice.  In the most surprising development of the night...the kids liked the faggots more than Angel and I did.  If we had to pick a food for our kids to scream at and throw across the room, this would've been it.  But no, they had seconds.  Evie had thirds.  Ellie (who sometimes won't voluntarily eat a bite of food for weeks on end) sat there nibbling the bacon off them after everyone else was done.

And yes, dinner conversation was a nonstop joke-fest centering around the more ribald meaning(s) of the main dish's name.


* Actually, upon looking for a link for a "mincer," I see that it's basically a meat grinder, and that we have that attachment for our ancient, 1967 Kitchenaid mixer.  If we'd only have known...



Recipes:

Toad-in-the-Hole

No one really knows the history behind the name of this traditional light supper dish.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups milk
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 pounds pork sausage links
  • Applesauce as accompaniment

Procedure

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Prick sausages all over with a fork.
  3. Place in lightly greased 13x9-inch baking dish.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes at 350°F.
  5. While sausages are baking, measure flour and salt into a medium bowl.
  6. In another bowl, combine milk with eggs, and beat lightly with a wire whisk or fork.
  7. Gradually stir milk and eggs into flour mixture, stirring to make a smooth batter.
  8. Let stand for 30 minutes.
  9. When the sausages have baked for about 15 minutes, turn them and return pan to oven for 15 minutes more.
  10. Remove sausages to paper towels, and drain fat from pan.
  11. Return sausages to pan.
  12. Increase oven temperature to 425°F.
  13. Stir batter and pour over baked sausages.
  14. Bake the combination for 25 to 30 minutes, or until puffed and golden.
  15. Serve immediately. 

Bangers & Mash

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 65 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 8 thick sausages (beef, pork, or flavored as you wish)
  • FOR THE MASH
  • 2 lb / 900g peeled potatoes, quartered
  • 6 tbsp milk
  • 1 stick/ 110g butter, cubed
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • FOR THE ONION GRAVY
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and thinky sliced
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 ¼ pint/700ml beef stock
  • 4 tsp corn starch/corn flour
  • 4 tsp cold water
  • Salt and black pepper

Preparation:

Serves 4
  • Heat the oil in a large frying pan, turn the heat to medium and add the sausages. Fry until the sausages are golden brown and firm, turning them from time to time - about 20 minutes. Once cooked place in an ovenproof dish and keep warm until the mash and gravy are ready.
  • Meanwhile start the mashed potato by boiling the potatoes in lightly salted water until soft. Drain, and keep warm until ready to mash.
  • While the potatoes are cooking make the gravy - melt the oil and butter in a large saucepan over a gentle heat. Add the onion and cover with a lid. Cook slowly for approx 10 mins or until the onions are soft and translucent.
  • Add the sugar and balsamic vinegar to the onions and stir well. Cover with the lid and continue to cook for a further 5 minutes.
  • Add the stock and boil gently uncovered for 5 minutes.
  • In a heatproof jug or bowl mix the corn starch/flour with the cold water to a thin paste. Pour a little of the hot gravy into the starch mixture and mix thoroughly. Pour the starch mixture back into the gravy, raise the heat to high and boil for 10 minutes or until the gravy is slightly thickened. Keep warm until ready to serve.
  • Finish the mash by placing the milk and butter in the pan used to boil the potatoes, return to the heat and warm gently until the butter has melted.
  • Add the potatoes and mash using either a potato masher, a fork or a potato ricer. Whip the mashed potato lightly with a wooden spoon. Season with salt and pepper.
To Serve: Spoon the mash onto 4 warmed dinner plates, place two fat sausages either on the top or at the side of the mash and pour the hot onion gravy over.

Faggots

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz/110g pork shoulder, roughly chopped
  • 4 oz/ 110g pig's iiver, roughly chopped
  • 8 oz/250g fatty belly pork, roughly choppped
  • 4 oz/110g bacon scraps
  • 4 oz/ 110g bread crumbs
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp mace
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 2 sage leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 small red chili, deseeded and finely chopped
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Caul fat*** or streaky bacon

Preparation:

Serves 4

Preheat the oven to 445°F/170°C/Gas 3
  • Mince all the roughly chopped meats, if you don't have a mincer, then chop in a food processor.
  • Place the minced meat into a large bowl. Add the breadcrumbs, onion, herbs, spices and a pinch of salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly.
  • Divide the mixture into 8 and shape into balls.
  • Wrap each ball in caul or streaky bacon. Make sure the caul or bacon overlaps as it will seal as it cooks and hold the faggots together.
  • Place the faggots onto a baking sheet and bake in the hot oven for 50 - 60 minutes.
Serve the faggots hot from the oven with mashed potatoes and peas, preferably mushy peas and onion gravy.

***Caul is the membrane which holds in animal organs and it makes a good container for the faggots. If you can't get caul, then use strips of streaky bacon.

From the Britishfoods.about.com website.

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