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What Are Bangers and Mash?

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  • Written By: C. K. Lanz
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 19 August 2016
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Bangers and mash is a simple but classic British dish consisting of one of a variety of flavored sausages, or bangers; mashed potatoes, or mash; and sometimes onion gravy or fried onions. This comfort food, also known as sausages and mash, is easy to prepare and is commonly served in pubs throughout England, Scotland, and Ireland. Regional variations of bangers and mash add green onions, black pudding, and baked beans, often creating what is called a full breakfast.

The bangers, or fried sausages, are served with mash or mashed potatoes. The mash can be plain or include green onions or parsley. The dish is typically topped with fried onions or onion gravy. Upscale gastropubs typically offer gourmet versions of this dish that include exotic sausages or mashes made with non-traditional types of potatoes or other atypical ingredients.

Preparing bangers and mash is a simple task. Fry two large thinly sliced onions in a pan with lard or olive oil until caramelized or golden brown. If gravy is desired, add stock and cornstarch after cooking the onions and then stir and set aside. Prick the sausages and fry them over low heat until fully cooked.

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The sausages and onions are served over peeled potatoes boiled and mashed with milk or cream and butter. Fried onions can be used as a topping instead of caramelized onions. In Ireland, grated cheese is often added to the hot potatoes, while vinegar is used with oil when frying the onions in Scotland.

The key ingredient in this type of hearty and easy-to-prepare pub grub is the sausage. The bangers are made of pork or beef and are often a Cumberland sausage. This form of sausage was originally made in Cumberland, England, which is now part of Cumbria. Sold in very long coils rather than links, Cumberland sausages are made with chopped pork and seasoned with white or black pepper and sometimes additional herbs and spices.

A traditional Cumberland sausage boasts a meat content of as much as 98 percent, while mass-produced varieties can be made with only 45 percent meat. Rather than coarsely chopped pork, they contain emulsified meat and are often sold in links. To combat the devaluation of Cumberland sausages, the European Union (EU) granted special protection to this food product in March 2011. As a result, only Cumberland sausages made in Cumbria that conform to specific standards can be sold as traditional in the EU.

The origin of the term banger as slang for sausage is not entirely clear. Despite the common belief that the slang was first used during World War II, bangers appears in print as early as 1919. It is believed that the term became common slang during World War II because sausages were then made with water and were therefore more likely to explode, or bang, when exposed to high heat while cooking.

There are references to bangers and mash throughout popular culture in music, books, and film. For example, Radiohead, a British band, included a track called “Bangers + Mash” on the bonus disc sold with the 2007 album In Rainbows. The dish has also appeared in films like King Ralph and Get Him to the Greek, and Bangers and Mash were two mischievous chimpanzees on a late 1980s children’s cartoon series.

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