Food and Drinks

Sausage roll recipe

It is best to be cautious when handling sausage rolls. They are finger food for the gods when eaten straight out of the oven, ostensibly to help the hostess with a Christmas party. The pinkish meat in a cellophane bag on the garage forecourt is enough to make anyone want to become vegetarian. If you want to avoid eating your ration of sausage rolls by eating at other people’s houses over the holidays, it’s best to make them yourself.

The cheat

Simon Hopkinson, Lindsay Bareham, and others agree. In The Prawn Cocktail Years, they complain that “no one makes Sausage Rolls anymore” or, if they are still made, they use pre-made pastry. The sausage meat can be excellent, and it’s even better if you add onions, herbs, or both. I took them at their word and bought some frozen all-butter puff pastry and six Cumberland sausages, as a young Jamie Oliver recommended in Jamie’s Dinners.

It’s always disconcerting to split open a sausage. The skin shrinks, and the interior looks oddly pale. Jamie promised “fantastically flavored” sausagemeat, so I persevered. I spooned the meat into a bowl and added a “handful” (roughly chopped) of thyme. Then, I mixed it all. Roll out the neat parcel of pastry to a rectangle of 1/2 cm thickness, spoon the meat into the middle, egg wash it, roll it, press it with a fork, and cut it into individual rolls. Then they are brushed with another egg wash and baked at 220C for about 20 minutes until “golden crisp.” They’re still delicious, even though I last ate a warm sausage in January. They’re flaky, slightly rough, and satisfyingly porky. Someone asks how I made my pastry.

Quicken your pace

Delia, a practical cook on the ball, provides a recipe for “flaky pastry,” which she suggests for sausage rolls. I grated 175g of cold butter into the 225g of plain flour and stirred with a palette knife to coat all the fat. Then, I added just enough iced water to make a dough that can be rolled up, wrapped well, and chilled for 30 minutes. The dough is easy to roll out, and Delia’s recipe doesn’t disappoint. The rolls are crispy, buttery, and incredibly moreish. I understand why these are a “once in a lifetime treat” in the Smith family. They are served with crunchy pickled onion and celery. I eat them all in one go while putting them on the cooling rack.

Slow down

After allowing laziness to be acceptable, Simon and Lindsay give a time-consuming puff pastry recipe that requires endless rolling, folding, and chilling. The final instructions are deadly: “Put the pastry into a polythene and leave it overnight or for several hours in the refrigerator.” I can now roll out the puff pastry, bake it as usual, and be pleased with the results. They are light and fluffy. After it cooled, however, it was less appealing than Delia’s pastry the day before. It’s not forcemeat fatigue, but I preferred its crisp flakiness over this more delicate affair. Delia’s is still crisp after cooling, while these are limp.

The piggy

Leiths Cookery School’s recommendation for their sausage roll recipe is unique. They use a combination of lard/butter that is so thin it is difficult to roll. This pastry is excellent for quiches but too crumbly and dense to work well with sausage meat.

Sausages vs sausagemeat

I used to make the sausage rolls using sausagemeat that could be made into stuffing. This was because I didn’t want to sacrifice actual sausages. To make it fair for the contest, I add herbs and lemon peel to my batch. However, they taste incredibly salty in comparison. One of my guinea pigs says cruelly, “This tastes more like the kind you buy at a fair.” It doesn’t have texture.” The coarser filling of the sausage makes for a more satisfying and tasty roll. It also allows the herb flavors to stand out.

Roll your own

Simon and Lindsay are not satisfied. The recipe asks me to prepare my filling using 400g of lean belly meat, 300g of skinny pork shoulders, 150g of streaky bacon, and 100g of fat from the belly joint. Then I use a knife to mince the ingredients, though a mincing tool would be more accessible. I then add the grated lemon rind, finely chopped parsley, sage and thyme, salt, and lots of black and white pepper.

It’s a strangely enjoyable activity, similar to molding wet clay in school. The sausage meat has a characterful finish, varied colors, and a lumpy texture. The test comes in the eating, and my team’s reaction is a rich reward for all the chopping. You can taste the bacon! One person enthuses and takes a second, stating that the filling was “more interesting” in texture and taste. It is meatier, less salty, and crispier on the outside. This makes it the clear winner. The one I had left on the cooling rack for the photo was gone by the time the tasting ended.

Final touches

To balance out the richness in the pastry, I use 2 tsp of mustard powder. This gives the rolls some kick without overpowering the flavor of pork. I decided to reduce the amount of belly meat because I found it a bit chewy. I increased the bacon and minced shoulders and removed the extra fat. You can add herbs and spices to your taste. I chose to use a little nutmeg to pay homage to tradition, and I left out parsley because I thought the sage, thyme, and other herbs were enough to make the meat palatable. Try it! It does lift the dish.