“Bangers & Mustard Mash” and “Garlic-Roasted Cauliflower” from “How Easy Is That?”

Dear Mrs. Contessa:

Can I call you Barefoot? No, I won’t. That’s just silly. I’ve never met you, so I’m going to stay formal.

First of all, please don’t take anything that I say here personally. I’m sure you’re a lovely person. Hey, anyone who guest stars on “30 Rock”, my favourite TV show, totally rates in my book. But what I’m about to say might be a bit harsh.

When I saw your recipe for “Bangers & Mustard Mash” in your “How Easy Is That?” cookbook, I thought, “Great. That’s perfect. We eat that all the time, so that truly will be, ‘How Easy Is That?” But it was a TOTAL disaster, and would have been even worse if I had followed your instructions to the letter.

In your introduction, you say that you went to a wedding in London where they served “bangers and mash” at their wedding reception. You said, “It was the best wedding food I’d ever eaten and it had so much style.”


Style? Bangers and mash? Maybe I’ve really gone native, having lived in England now for 14 years, but I don’t see it. Don’t get me wrong, I love bangers and mash. They just don’t seem particularly stylish to me.

Also, I totally understand being beguiled by mustard mash. It seems so exotic for an American. Mashed Potatoes! With Mustard! How interesting! The exact same thing happened to me as I had my first mustard mash when I was reviewing London restaurants for Lonely Planet. I thought they were the Best. Thing. Ever. At the time, I had only been a Londoner for 9 months, so I felt the same as you. But what I didn’t appreciate then, but do now, is that mustard mash is a pretty bog standard mash offering.

Where did things go wrong, Mrs. Contessa? Bangers and mash. Trust me, it couldn’t be easier. I’m willing to bet this is one of the dishes they teach in Home Ec or Food Tech or whatever they call it these days. Let me take a moment to provide a recipe autopsy, perhaps so you can see the error of your ways.

First, you call for fresh veal or chicken sausages to make your bangers. Are you kidding me? No. No. No. If you’re going to call them bangers, they have to be pork sausages. If you want to get fancy, you could always go off-piste and get some flavours, such as Cumberland or a Drings Sausage of the Month. A veal or chicken sausage is not a sausage. I’m sorry. And being brutally frank, it’s difficult to find a veal or chicken sausage here in Merry Old England, so why not get the real thing?

Also, now that we’ve got the type of sausage out of the way, we also need to discuss how you want us to cook them. Sure, it’s fine to put them under the grill/broiler. But frankly, the best way to do it is on a medium-low heat on the hob with a splatter screen over the top of it and cook it slowly and evenly– with occasional turnings– for about 20 minutes. That’s the way you do it.

Finally, we need to talk about the mash, Mrs. Contessa. Given that I ignored your direction on the type of bangers (only pork sausages in this house, thanks) and how to cook them, this is where things really got ugly. You advise your faithful followers to “beat the potatoes with a hand-held mixer.” Really? Can I say again, “Are you kidding me?” Everybody knows the only way to true mash perfection is to get a masher and do it yourself. Again, I disregarded your advice and did it the old fashioned way.

The central problem was the amount of butter and milk and creme fraiche you told me to add. Our beloved mash became a glutenous mess, which was an utter disaster. The way I was taught to make mash by my Irish-American father, who certainly is an expert on all things potato, was to eyeball the amount of butter and milk that you add. If I had done that here, perhaps the potato disaster could have been avoided, but maybe the problem for you is how to explain that method in a recipe, where exact measurements are the order of the day.

“What’s wrong with the mash?” the boys asked as they put the first fork in their mouth. I had to apologise. Sure, as their mother, I’m used to apologising for things. But honestly, I like to avoid that if I can, and having to do it for mash– something that I make with ease all the time– seemed beyond the pale.

For what it’s worth, the roasted cauliflower seemed overly complicated. It was a good idea to roast the cauliflower florets with the garlic, but then you got fancy and decided to add parsley and pine nuts and lemon juice at the end, which was totally unnecessary. Again, it just didn’t work.

So in summary, Mrs. Contessa can I advise you to stick with what you know: good food using healthy ingredients with an American bent. Please leave the bangers and mash to the limeys who love them.

Yours in Food Goodness,


“Bangers & Mustard Mash” and “Garlic-Roasted Cauliflower” from “How Easy Is That?”

8 thoughts on ““Bangers & Mustard Mash” and “Garlic-Roasted Cauliflower” from “How Easy Is That?”

  1. I couldn’t agree more! I have to admit I raised my eyebrows when I saw Ina had a recipe for bangers and mash..it’s not what you expect in one of her recipe books lol 🙂

  2. Maureen Stapleton says:

    It’s hardly worth even writing a recipe for, I think. Then again, like I said, as an American I can understand the appeal of bangers and mash. So maybe it’s a novelty thing for her. The problem for me is I’ve gone native, so I don’t see it.

    1. Maureen Stapleton says:

      I’ve never actually made mash using a ricer, though I have been tempted to try. I don’t own a ricer, but frankly, any reason to buy another kitchen gadget is good enough for me. I will give it a go and report back.

  3. Judy Hendershott says:

    OK, so Maureen has ‘gone native’, but maybe poor Mrs Contessa was trying to do an American take on bangers & mash. As a native born American who has lived in London for 31+ years, I still can’t bring myself to eat a traditional English sausage (banger) – too much filler and fat! A pure pork sausage from Tuscany, such as is available at Gennaro Delicatessen in Lewisham is fat free and well spiced, so much healthier and delicious than the trad English version. I agree that the Contessa version of mash is too complicated and has too many ingredients. Like Maureen, we mash our potatoes with a trad hand masher, adding olive oil for moisture and flavour.

  4. njba says:

    A fat free sausage would be inedible, surely? It is the fat in the sausage that gives both taste and juiciness.

    I would also take objection to the claim that traditional sausage having too much filler–a pork sausage from a fine butcher (such as the gentleman at the much revered Drings) would use very little (if any) filler, I imagine.

    1. Judy Hendershott says:

      Although the fat of, say, a good prime cut of beef or pork roast, is edible and in fact delicious, it is bad for the arteries and the heart. A good cut of meat trimmed of the fat, such as a filet steak, has just as much flavour, if it is cooked properly (ie not overcooked and dried out).

      Regarding the filler content of traditional English sausages, most of the sources I have consulted state that they usually contain around 25% filler. I have not asked Mssrs Dring about the filler content of their trad English sausages, but my sources also say that ‘European’ (not English) sausages may have some fat but no filler, as per the Tuscan ones we use. They are not only edible, they are incredibly delicious! Regarding the veal sausages that Mrs Contessa suggested, she may have meant the tasty ‘white’ German sausages made of veal – no filler and little fat. It’s really a matter of personal taste…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.