Sausages are one of the great British institutions: what other cooking smell simultaneously conjures up sunset on a beach, a bonfire at dusk, the delicious stupor of a post-hunting supper by the fire-preferably with claret in hand-‘Famous Five’-type innocence and the relief of a mighty breakfast after a heavy night. We’re not talking about the mass-manufactured, characterless pink slugs that look more factory than farmyard, but lovingly mixed and seasoned creations, often made from secret recipes perfected by generations of family butchers, that look like, well, meat.
It was to this end that Country Life joined forces with Bar Boulud, the new restaurant fronted by multi-starred French chef Daniel Boulud at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, to find the best British banger. M. Boulud is something of a sausage expert, reared on the home-produced bangers made by his father on their farm outside Lyon, and has created an entire menu based around international sausage-cooking styles. ‘No matter what country I’m in, I always go for the local sausage,’ he enthuses.
The judges, headed by M. Boulud, with Country Life Editor Mark Hedges, celebrated butcher Jack O’Shea, Mandarin Oriental general manager Anthony McHale and Bar Boulud’s general manager Stephen Macintosh and head chef Dean Yasharian, were served the six shortlisted sausages with palate-cleansing, creamy mashed potato. Their verdict, after much thoughtful savouring, was a convincing victory for butcher Michael Thomas from Malmesbury, Wiltshire, who made a passionate declaration on behalf of his Malmesbury King.
This, the only coarse-cut sausage to make the shortlist, is made to Mr Thomas’s own recipe, using a shoulder-cut of pork (specially sourced from pigs with good conformation), minced just once and hand-mixed with rosemary, thyme, parsley and a sprinkling of ginger, before being piped into natural hog casings. The judges deemed the Malmesbury King to have the most pleasing, rustic, herby appearance and a satisfying, piquant taste. Mr Thomas now has the honour of the Malmesbury King being served in Bar Boulud.
Also finding favour were the smooth texture and gentle aftertaste of Porky Whites’ Porky White Surrey, which is made to a secret 75-year-old recipe; the Sausage Shed’s entry, which was the favourite of M. Boulud and Country Life’s Managing Editor Kate Green; Aubrey Allen’s appetising Blythburgh Bumble-Bee Banger, made with sweet mustard; and The Cumberland Sausage Company’s traditional breakfast sausage, which has already won a Great Taste award.
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Country Life’s Architectural Editor John Goodall particularly liked the unusual ‘bready’ consistency of the hotel’s head chef’s in-house recipe, and all agreed that Spinney Abbey’s Upware Banger, made from the company’s own Gloucester Old Spot pigs and laced with a spicy kick and Demerara sugar, was easily the most original.
To reserve a table at Bar Boulud, London SW1, call 020-7201 3899 or visit www.barboulud.com