If something goes with a bang, it is very exciting, and has a successful, auspicious start. “That champagne cocktail, with all the hidden vodka in it, should make the party go with a bang!” [ I remember that cocktail, Nicer Kate. Just. KC]
As the autumn approaches, I am always rather excited about Bonfire Night, or Fireworks Night, or, more traditionally, Guy Fawkes’ Night.
“Remember, remember, the fifth of November,
Gunpowder, treason and plot,
I see no reason why gunpowder treason should ever be forgot”
(17th Century traditional poem)
[And those of you wondering…yes, of course the final word should be the past participle forgotten, rather than forgot. But it’s poetry. Apparently.]
It seems odd that 400 years later, we are still celebrating the death of a Catholic conspirator, Guy Fawkes, who was one of a group who tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament, and the (mostly Protestant, if you didn’t look too closely) King James I. Fawkes was caught red-handed1, guarding the gunpowder. He was arrested; then he confessed and was put to death. He was going to be hung, drawn and quartered, which was any traitor’s punishment at the time and…(look away now if you don’t like horrible details) …this meant being hanged by the neck until nearly dead, then cut down and chopped into four pieces. Oh, and they cut your testicles off too. In actual fact, Guy Fawkes did not think this would be a marvellous way to die, and was quick enough to dodge the guards and leap off the gallows before they could hang him, which meant he actually died of a broken neck. But they still went ahead with cutting him up.
ANYWAY. It’s a celebration, remember?!
To commemorate this treason, generations of children have made a ‘Guy’, with newspaper stuffed into their Mum’s tights, and dressed in their Dad’s old clothes. The idea was then to make money out of it by asking adults for a ‘Penny for the Guy’, and before burning him on the bonfire on 5th November whilst everyone… err… cheered. Penny for the Guy is not so common these days, but up and down the country we are still throwing Guys on the fire and cheering while they burn.
(And if you want more, check out the Bonfire Night celebrations at Lewes where they burn effigies of real living people! It was David Cameron last year; ten foot high, naked, and holding a pig’s head. But that’s another story.) 3
The good old British banger, however, is not quite so incendiary.
We call sausages ‘bangers’, but only in certain circumstances. Don’t ask for a ‘banger sandwich’ – people will laugh. You don’t have a banger with your Full English Breakfast…no, no, no, then you have a sausage. But add mash (mashed potato) and suddenly – hurrah – you CAN finally call them bangers.
The name seems to appear in print just after the First World War, simply because of the noise that the sausages make in the pan if you fail to prick the skins, and they explode.
You will often find Bangers and Mash on the British dinner table, and a good pub menu. I have to serve mine with the sausages sticking out of the top, like they did in the Beano2. But I am a big child.
(We call other things ‘bangers’, too: an old car is an ‘old banger’ – again it is the noise that gives it the name. We also use it as a verb – to bang is another word for what a Mummy and a Daddy do when they really, really love each other… if you know what I mean…)
[Nicer Kate, is THAT what Ricky Martin meant with that song “She Bangs?”! I always wondered…KC]
B A N G E R S A N D M A S H (W I T H O N I O N G R A V Y)
I N G R E D I E N T S
For the Bangers and Mash
- 8 good quality pork sausages
- 8 medium floury potatoes (King Edward or similar)
- 15g butter
- 2-3 tbs milk (or cream if you are feeling fancy)
For the Gravy
- drizzle of sunflower oil
- 2 red onions, halved and thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp golden caster sugar
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbsp plain flour
- 250ml red wine
- 500ml chicken or beef stock
M E T H O D
- Cut the red onions in half, and then slice thinly.
- Drizzle the oil in a saucepan. Add the sliced onions and cook slowly for 15 mins. Stir every now and then until they are soft and caramelised.
- Pre-heat the grill, and cook the sausages under a medium heat, turning occasionally, until golden brown and cooked all the way through.
- Peel and quarter the potatoes, and boil in salted water until soft.
- To finish the gravy, add the sugar and balsamic vinegar to the onions, and cook for 5 mins more until sticky. Stir the flour into the onions to make a paste, cooking for 1-2 mins. Continue stirring while you splash in the wine, a little at a time, until you have a smooth, thick sauce. Increase the heat and bubble for a few mins until reduced by about half. Add the stock and some seasoning, and continue bubbling for 10 mins while you finish the mash.
- Once the potatoes are soft, drain thoroughly, and mash until smooth. Add a good dollop of butter, a splash of milk and season with black pepper and a little salt. The mash should be smooth, and not too watery.
- Pile the mash into the middle of the plate, stick the sausages upright in the mash (OK, that bit isn’t compulsory), pour over the red onion and serve with some green vegetables.
1 – to be caught red-handed – to be caught in the act of doing something, usually something naughty, always something that you shouldn’t be doing
2 – Beano Magazine – a classic cartoon magazine for children.
3. See? Cameron. Just as a bonfire treat.
© 2016 Kayte & Nicer Kate – authors assert moral rights