The First Frosty Supper

Last night was the coldest night of the new winter so far. It called for emergency comfort food of the highest order. We have many cold days and nights ahead of us, many mornings spent scraping the windscreen and seeing our breath, like little puffs of smoke, against the chilly blue skies.
Curiously, my husband has been craving salad since the cold snap started but I have no such fancies. The more heavily laden with carbohydrates, the better. Give me suet pudding or give me death.
Our freezer is heaving with packs of diced beef for delicious French inspired stews and whole chickens for roasting and turning into stock, perfect for the world’s best risotto. I like to be prepared for all eventualities. I feel secure with a full stomach and a full freezer.
When it’s cold out, I generally think of two food types: potatoes and sausage. Usually prepared in the incarnation of bangers and mash, but for once discarded in favour of a potato and sausage pie. Good quality, skinned sausages crumbled into golden, sticky onions, then tossed with slices of starchy potato, encased in a shortcrust pastry jacket (made even shorter with a mixture of butter and lard) and daubed with egg wash.
I suppose if I had been a little more organised (I had already made the pastry at lunchtime, how much more organised do you have to be?), I could have made some additional potatoes to go on the side, in the form, of course, of mash, some cabbage and carrots. Instead, being lazy and really hungry, we opted for frozen peas and ketchup.
The pie is a true delight. I had never been a fan of the sausage until I discovered 100% pork meat sausages. This means paying more for your banger but it’s well worth it just to avoid cracking your teeth on, what you can only assume to be bone or gristle – the one thing that always put me off sausages in the past. The better quality the sausages, the higher ratio of meat compared to fat and other unmentionables. Sainsburys and Waitrose do excellent quality pure meat sausages as well as a large range of primped sausage fillings: chorizo and jalapeno are particularly good (especially with pasta) as are the plump Sicilian ones that are perfumed, almost imperceptibly with fennel.
After making Cabbage in the Troo style, my opinion of sausage was changed forever. It is now one of my favourite ingredients. I make a dish using sausage or sausage meat at least once a week. Fortunately, my husband is a mid-westerner so he doesn’t get sick of sausage.
So, if you want an unpretentious but tasty meal, here is the recipe for Sausage and Potato Pie:
175g Plain Flour
40g Lard, cold and diced
40g Butter, cold and diced
Some iced water
350g potato, peeled and thinly sliced
500g skinned sausages (about 6)
1 Large Onion, sliced
Salt and Pepper
Some Butter
A beaten egg

Try and make the pastry as far in advance as you can because this is an incredibly short mixture, which means that it will be very crumbly. Mix the fats into the flour, as promptly as possible, until it resembles oatmeal. Add a tablespoon of water at first to bind the mixture together, adding more if you need it. Form into a ball, wrap in clingfilm and chill for at least half an hour.
Preheat the oven to 200c.
In a pan of salted, boiling water, cook the potato slices for about 5 minutes. You just want to par-cook them. Any longer in the water and they’ll just break and turn to mush. Drain and pat dry.
In a frying pan, heat some oil, and fry the sliced onion gently until golden brown. Season the onion with a little salt. Once sizzingly golden and fragrant, add the sausage meat and sliced potatoes. Stir gently, season with a little more salt and some black pepper. Pour into a 23” pie plate (one with a rim).
Carefully roll out the chilled pastry to about ¼” thick.
Moisten the rim of the plate with some water or the egg wash and lay the rolled out pastry over the savoury filling and seal down gently. Brush with the egg wash, make two air holes and cook for about 30 minutes or until golden brown. Leave to cool for about 5 minutes then serve, either with some wintry veg or with frozen peas and ketchup.

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