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AIRFRYDAY

I’m not telling porkies, these were perfect — and done in an air fryer

I’m not telling porkies, these were perfect — and done in an air fryer
Beauties: Tony Jackman’s bangers and mash, airfryer style. June 2024. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

I had no great expectations of these pork sausages. I just wanted them cooked, and was curious to know how they would turn out in an air fryer. Well. I don’t think I’ll cook them any other way again.

Let’s try out bangers and mash in the air fryer. No, not the mashed potato, obviously that part has to be made in the usual way. But the pork sausages, and yes I do mean the good old Eskort ones that are a national treasure, not only can be done in an air fryer, it turns out to be the best method there is.

I did check the packaging by the way, and yes, they do give air fryer directions. Only, I think their directions can be improved, and I’ll explain how.

The packaging directions advise you to air fry them for 10 to 15 minutes at 180℃. I suppose that might have been good enough if all you wanted was for them to be cooked to the middle. But I found that they needed a higher heat.

Following my instincts, I ignored the 180℃ instruction and went right in at 200℃. And I’m glad I did.

The thing is: using an air fryer doesn’t mean you have to stop being a cook and using your cook’s instincts. It’s just a vessel, a pot, with an element in it. And one of the most important things you need to know about an air fryer basket is that, just like a saucepan on the stove, you’re in charge.

That basket can be pulled out at any time for you to shake the contents, just like you shake a frying pan. Then shove it back in and it will continue as before. And that’s what I did.

Consider: when you fry porkies in a pan on the stove, do you time them? Of course not. Ditto if they’re under an oven grill. You know they’re done when you can see that they’re done. So that’s the key to cooking a pork sausage in an air fryer. Shake, cook, watch. You’ll know when they’re perfect. (There is another way: steam or boil them gently until cooked, dry them thoroughly, then fry or grill until golden.)

To accompany the sausages, I cooked plenty of mashed potato and finished it with butter and milk. Seasoning of course, and always a fairly heavy hand with the salt when making mashed potato.

And I made a tomato-mustard sauce too, with onion, passata, garlic, and just a hint of honey. That sauce is a perfect match for bangers and mash.

This is what I wrote in a note when the sausages were done: “A revelation! I’ll never do porkies any other way again. Plump. (No they didn’t explode and no I didn’t prick them.) Golden. Moist. Bloody hell.”

Just the way I like them.

One more thing: I did defrost them first. In cold water. They thaw surprisingly quickly. Just be sure to drain them well and pat them thoroughly dry.

Tony’s bangers and tarragon mash with passata-mustard sauce

(Quantities serve 2… surely nobody is happy with only 2 porkies?)

Ingredients

6 Eskort pork sausages, thawed

A little olive oil, for brushing the sausages

3 or 4 medium to large potatoes, peeled and halved or quartered

Milk and butter for finishing the mash

Fresh tarragon, chopped, and some for garnish

For the sauce:

A splash of cooking oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped

200 ml passata

200 ml chicken or vegetable stock

2 Tbsp wholegrain mustard

1 tsp raw honey

Salt and black pepper

Cornflour dissolved in water to thicken (optional)

Method

Boil the potatoes in salted water until tender. Drain well and leave in the pot until needed. 

For the sauce, cook the onions and garlic, stirring, in a little oil until softened, then cook for five minutes more on a low heat, stirring. Add the passata and chicken stock, stir in the wholegrain mustard and a hint of raw honey, season with salt and pepper and cook gently for 10 minutes, stirring now and then. If needed, thicken with cornflour dissolved in a little cold water, and cook it through for a minute or two while it thickens.

For the sausages, preheat the air fryer to 200℃.

Brush the (dry) sausages lightly with olive oil, only enough to coat them. (Never use too much oil in an air fryer, or the element might catch fire.)

Put them in the air fryer, shut the drawer, and set it to cook at 200℃ for 15 minutes. After about three minutes, open the drawer, give the basket a good shake, and close it again. Repeat a few times more, checking every time to see how they’re doing. You want an end result of them being golden brown all over. At one point, I used tongs to turn over ones that were cooked more on one side. Remember that the element is on top, so the browned side needs to be turned to the bottom with the less cooked side facing upwards.

This process took about 15 to 18 minutes (but I wasn’t counting), but this includes a bit of time used for tossing and turning, so the recommendation of 15 minutes is not far out, really, but at 200℃ you’ll get a better result.

Bear in mind that all air fryer brands are different in size, space, behaviour, etc. I used my Instant Vortex Plus which, at 5.7 litres, is quite spacious. But they would have fit in a smaller one too.

They came out golden, shiny and beautiful.

To finish the potatoes, add a generous amount of butter and a good splash of milk to the mash in the pot, season with salt and black pepper, put the heat on, and stir vigorously while it combines and heats through. Stir the chopped tarragon through. Serve immediately, topped with pork sausages. Spoon the sauce along the centre. DM

Tony Jackman is Galliova Food Writer 2023, jointly with TGIFood columnist Anna Trapido. Order his book, foodSTUFF, here

Follow Tony Jackman on Instagram @tony_jackman_cooks.

This dish is photographed on a plate by Mervyn Gers Ceramics.

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