Saturday, 4 September 2010

Mamgu's sausage and cabbage hotpot

(Looks unpromising, but this is actually nice)

I've promised before not to go on about my mother in that tedious way that a lot of people do when they talk about food. I'm doubly not going to because my mother is Welsh. And to talk about her is to talk about where she comes from, and with it comes all that bogus teary nostalgia of the person who willingly fled their birth country years ago for a better life, barely to return, only to get all wistful about not returning.

There is a moment in Black Books when the Irish Bernard Black, now living in London and drunk, says to a 5 year old "Let me tell you about the old country, son. The songs! The songs! They'd... melt your face." That sums it up for me.

Having said all that, my mother did used to feed us so cheaply, despite my Dad earning a eyesmacking wack as some kind of City suit, on food so remeniscent of what you might get on a very dark farm in wartime Wales, that it's worth remarking on. The BSE crisis was paydirt for my mother, as no-one was buying beef on the bone, the price plummeted and we ate like kings until everyone else caught on that BSE isn't really a thing and then the price went up again. And so we went back to sausage and cabbage hotpot.

Which, it turns out, is absolutely delicious. I always dreaded it when I was a teenager, because I didn't have any inkling of how bad food could be in the real world when you have to buy it and cook it yourself. I went back home recently because my husband is away and I'm scared of the dark and get night terrors, like Kingsley Amis, and had this. I saw it and thought "Oh boring" but then tasted it and thought "Oh my God. How could I not have realised that this was delicious?" Then I became anxious and fearful at the thought of raising a child, which might become a similarly vile and ungrateful teenager as I am must have been.

Anyway honestly honestly, no really listen to me, this is a nice thing. It is. It's also a piece of piss. I can't explain how some cabbage leaves and skinned sausages can become something so rich and complex in the oven but it works. It's not a Welsh thing - Welsh food is exclusively leeks and stringy old mutton - just something cheap my mother found in a cookbook.

I gave it to my husband last night and I could tell he was dreading it from the sheer surprise in his voice when he took a mouthful and went "My word!". Like Y blydi Sais** he is.

Mamgu's* Sausage and Cabbage hotpot

1 savoy cabbage
however many sausages you want - probably 2 for girls and 3 for boys - the more expensive and rustic the better. my mother used to get them on special offer because of imminent sell-by dates

Pre-heat the oven to 150C

1 Blanch the cabbage leaves in boiling, salted water for 5 minutes. What you are going to do is layer the cabbage and the sausage together and you need about 2-3 cabbage leaves per layer.

2 Meanwhile skin the sausages. Yes, you must do this.

3 Butter a casserole dish and then start with a layer of cabbage leaves. Add a dot of butter, salt and pepper and 2 or 3 sausages.

4 Continue to layer sausage and cabbage, seasoning each layer with salt, pepper and butter. Go easy on the butter though because too much can be a bit vomity.

5 Finish with a layer of cabbage and then give a foil hat, then put the lid on and put in the oven for 2 hours at least. 2.5 hours ideally.

Eat with red camargue rice (or just dirt scooped up from the garden with your gnarled peasant fingers) and ketchup. Yeh-chid dah!***

* pronounced "Mam-gee", meaning grandmother
**the bloody Englishman
*** Cheers! (Obviously)

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