Lockdown Recipe of the Day: Onion Gravy, Bangers & Mash

Lockdown Recipe of the Day: Onion Gravy, Bangers & Mash
Lemon pork bangers from Cradock, mashed potato drizzled with garlic butter, and homemade onion gravy. (Photo and styling: Tony Jackman)

Note the order there. This recipe focuses on turning out a traditional onion gravy with the bang to go with the pork bangers, which are the heart of the dish to the mashed potato’s soul.

I have a farmer mate who has an arrangement with his mates whereby, once a year in winter, one of them provides a kudu, one a pig, and the meat is sent off to a good butcher to be turned into various kinds of venison and pork sausages. How perfect is that: you send the beasts off to a butcher and they come back sausages.

Which is how I found myself with a packet of lemon-flavoured pork sausages the other day, my mate being a generous sort, and consequently how I came to make onion gravy this week, from scratch, which meant first making a beef stock. Because a gift like that deserves to be honoured with a bit of effort.

This gravy is as British as Melton Mowbray pies, Women’s Institute AGMs and not eating gem squash. The hero is the onion, which needs plenty of caramelisation to bring out its full depth of flavour, while fresh thyme lends it a gentle herbiness without dominating (in the way that sage or rosemary would).

This recipe is my take on a traditional onion gravy, which would include Worcestershire sauce, but I prefer to add a dash of dark soy (a tip that came from that very same farmer mate, in fact), which gives it an interesting depth of flavour. To make the end product of bangers and mash zing even more, I made garlic butter to pour over the mash on the plate.

The mashed potato: Boil in well salted water until super soft, mash very thoroughly, drain, return to the empty pot and add a generous 2 or 3 Tbs butter (depending on the quantity of mash you’ve made) and a good dash of milk (cream if you like) and then use a strong whisk to complete the job until it has no lumps whatsoever. I find a whisk effective for this. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. 

The pork sausages: Fry them in a little butter and olive oil at a low to moderate heat, until cooked through and beautifully browned. If the heat is too high they will blacken on the outside, and may burst, and might not be quite cooked in the middle.

Onion Gravy


(Makes enough for 4 servings)

1 extra large or two medium onions, sliced into rounds

2 generous Tbs butter

1 tsp sugar

Fresh thyme leaves, picked from their stems (at least 4 or 5 sprigs)

800 ml beef stock (use Knorr stock pots or other if you like, diluted to the same quantity)

1 Tbs hot English mustard

80 ml marsala (or similar red fortified wine such as muscadel, or sherry or port)

1 Tbs dark soy sauce

Salt and pepper to taste

1 heaped tsp cornstarch dissolved in cold water, stirred until there are no lumps left


Make beef stock by boiling leftover beef bones and offcuts in plenty of water with chopped carrots, leeks, onion and celery for hours until there is about 800 ml of concentrated stock left. Or dilute 2 Knorr stock pots or similar with 800 ml boiling water.

Caramelise the sliced onions in butter slowly over a very low heat for up to half an hour, with the sugar and thyme leaves, until they are lightly browned and packed with caramelised flavour. Shortening the time and cooking at a higher heat will only reduce the depth of flavour.

Add the beef stock, marsala, mustard (stir it in, it will dissolve quickly), soy sauce and reduce gently until the gravy thickens and its flavours intensify significantly. Season with salt and pepper to taste, stir in the cornstarch and stir the gravy while it thickens, for about three minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

TGIFood Tip: Steaming pork sausages over boiling water, covered of course, cooks them through, after which they can be browned until golden in butter (or butter and olive oil) in a frying pan.

TGIFood Tip 2: Make some garlic butter and stir that into the mashed potato for deliciously garlicky mash. Or drizzle some over the top, as I do. DM/TGIFood

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