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)


  1. Booya! Sausage and cabbage a heavenly combo, quite right Ma Walker.

    Been binging on Black Books on 4OD. I particularly like Bernard's ice lolly, which involved putting a stick in a bottle of rose, and bunging it in the freezer before smashing off the glass and licking away. Genius.

  2. Made this tonight. Bloody marvellous. Best thing involving cabbage that I have made for ages.

  3. Made it tonight with a few minimal changes. It was very good indeed. Great with a little Dijon.

  4. You're like my yoga teacher who's always telling us to relax our lips. How did you know I was going to not-skin the sausages? I really enjoyed reading your I really enjoy your blogs, and if my hips were smaller I would have definitely fallen off the chair laughing.

  5. How did I know? Because I AM you. Feckless, lazy, contrary and mindlessly rebellious enough to think "I'm not skinning no fool sausages".

    I would really benefit from being told at regular intevals to relax my lips and unclench my teeth.

  6. Yes yes yes, oh please yes! Must give this one a go Esther. So much better than frog- in-the-hole.

    Hope you are coping and relaxing your lips satisfactorily.

  7. I am soo going to try this. I adore sausages - so comforting, so non-judgmental a food - at the best of times but when pg I just devoured them. I gave birth to two very healthy little piggies.

  8. What is it with Mums and cabbage? My Mum has a similar recipe, I have no idea where she dreamt it up, but it is delicious, lovely cold weather comfort food:

    1 onion sliced into long strips then fried in a heavy bottomed pan. Slice enough potatoes to cover the pan a few times. Slice as thin as possible so they cook quickly.

    Fry the potatoes with the onions for about 5-7mins or until slightly coloured then add shredded sweetheart cabbage and cover with chicken stock. Season. Place foil over the pan and let it all simmer down to a gooey mess (about 25 mins).

    The final flourish is a sprinkling of sardines on top. This might sound incongruous, but actually is quite beautiful & brings all the flavours together. Hope you like it.

  9. Thank you Esther! You and your blog have kept me company through many hours of breastfeeding my baby. When she falls asleep I head for the kitchen to rustle up one of your recipes.

    I have to admit I was somewhat sceptical about this one and even re-read the entry a couple of times to make sure that it wasn't written tongue-in-cheek... I am so sorry. The hotpot was (of course) very good. The liquid that the cabbage, sausages and butter make was tasty and excellent over mashed potatoes. I promise I won't doubt you again.

  10. Christina! Great to hear from you.

    Not that you've accused me of it, but I'd never, EVER, stick a shit recipe up here.

    I make lots of things that don't work and I either post them and say "this is cack, don't make it" or more often I just don't write about it. I know I sound like I'm constantly taking the piss but trust is everything. So you can cook from here in confidence. And if something doesn't work, email me immediately so I can change it.


  11. Made this last night, very yummy! Thank you for sharing this recipe! Really enjoy the blog as well!!

  12. I already left one comment today but since I have started chattering about nothing I am like OF COURSE, now I know why I think this blog is brilliant because you have to be wonderful if your mother is Welsh. I know, I haven't lived in Wales for twenty years, just call me a hypocrite and be done with it. This is also useful to point out as please don't I am French and/or can particularly cook.

    Back to the point, cabbage and sausage is definitely going to work out, and my husband and sons will love me very much and it will be all thanks to you. OK, shall calm down now.

  13. Oh my god - I've just made this for the second time and I'm not sure what I did the first time, but this time it was absolutely amazing! I'm typing this while waiting for the first portion to start telling me I'm full - or I risk rushing into the kitchen and scoffing the lot! Best use of a savoy and 6 "on sale" sausages ever!!

  14. Just made this. Delicious. Thanks!