Thursday, 20 November 2014

Convent Dinner

Convent Dinner aka Bangers and Mash, but so much better!

This oddly named repast is warming, spicy and quick, based on hot Italian sausage, canned tomatos, vegetables and mashed potatoes.  My mother named it after the noon meal served to her as a child when she attended ‘The Little Flower Academy’ if you can believe it.  Because we’re talking almost 100 years ago, I suspect the nun who made this dish relied on her own preserved tomatoes, and probably her sausages were less spicy. 

My father recognized this meal as ‘bangers and mash’, and while I enjoyed my mother’s breakfast link sausage version as a child, I’ve enhanced it with extra vegetables and flavours.  This is ready in well under forty-five minutes, and it will serve four if you have four sausages. 

4 hot Italian sausages (maybe more if you’re really hungry)

4 potatoes, cut into chunks 
4 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon salt
water to just cover potatoes
¼ cup butter
¼ cup milk, or cream (approximately)

1 teaspoon canola oil
1 red onion, diced
10 to 15 mushrooms, sliced
15 grates fresh black pepper
1 teaspoon oregano
4 chili peppers, finely diced (or to taste)
¼ red cabbage, finely sliced
1 can tomatoes, (28 ounce size)

Poke sausages with a fork and grill them, either in a pan under the oven broiler or in a barbecue.  While they’re cooking (about ten minutes on each side) start potatoes.  When the sausages are done, let rest on a cutting board. 
Get these at a big box store or specialty shop.

Put the potatoes, garlic , salt and water into a large scratch proof pot and set on high heat.  Cover, when potatoes start to boil, uncover and bring heat down to medium high.  You want most of the water to boil off.

While the potatoes are cooking, add oil to a non-stick saucepan and place on medium high heat.  Cook onions till translucent and golden at some edges.  Add the mushrooms and cook them till they start to get golden here and there.  Add the black pepper, oregano and chilies and cook for a couple more minutes.  Add the cabbage, and cook for another five, stirring occasionally.  It’s important for these items to caramelise just a bit to get really good flavours. 

While the vegetables are gently cooking, check on the potatoes.  When they are very soft and tender, pour off remaining liquid and turn off heat.  People who like mashed potatoes fall into two categories.  Some like them super smooth, almost like wallpaper paste.  Those types use an electric beater to pulverize them into submission.  I am a texture person.  I leave the peels on and I use a hand masher.
You could skimp on butter, but why?

Either way, add the butter and perhaps a spoonful or two of the potato water if you’re cutting some calories.  Otherwise, add milk or cream, just a bit at a time.  Mash potatoes as you prefer.  Check for taste and consistency, adding a bit more salt or liquid.  Cover while continuing with vegetables and sausages.

Finally, open the tomatoes and carefully pour the liquid into the pan.  Using your fingers deep within the can, gently pry the tomatoes apart.  They will try to squirt, so keep the tomatoes below the top of the can.  The idea is to get them into manageable pieces.  Add to vegetables.

Browning all the veg a bit improves flavour.
When the sausages are cool enough to handle, slice them either into coins or angled pieces.  Add to the tomato mixture to reheat for a few minutes.

Dollop mashed potatoes into a big bowl, ladle tomato mixture over all, being generous with the sausage, and enjoy.  This is comfort food, heavy, yet spicy and full of healthy vegetables.  I like to think those Little Flower Academy nuns are watching down, drooling, and mum’s elbowing them out of the way for her fair share.

Gloriously good, hearty, warming, and reasonably healthy...

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