At the risk of sounding as though I have fallen straight out of a Carry On film I will state categorically that I absolutely love a good sausage roll. One bite and everything is well with the world!
I am so proud of these sausage rolls: it is a recipe of mine, inspired initially by my gran, that I have been making for about 40 years, making the odd change here and there. They always go down very well when served and they are one of my favourite things to make, whether I am making the pastry as well or using good quality bought pastry.
Commercial sausage rolls
With very few exceptions, most commercial sausage rolls fall into one of two camps:
- those bone dry ones, like cardboard, that stick to the roof of your mouth
- those soggy, greasy ones that fill your mouth with a fatty film that lingers long after eating
And all too often there is a filling that tastes of very little and as you bite into it, it practically screams at you that you should be giving up meat! Cheap but really not cheerful.
And don’t get me started on that lurid pink, almost squeaky, filling that often lurks inside the pastry……. there is a certain “fast food” bakery outlet in the UK that prides itself on its sausage rolls, but there is absolutely no flavour in them whatsoever and even mass-produced, there is no reason why they cannot taste decent.
A modest bite
Granted, there may well be nothing fancy about a sausage roll – and for that no apologies are needed – but a batch of well made sausage rolls is a joy. Perfect with some cheese, good bread and a dollop of piccalilli. Simple foodie pleasures.
A batch of home-made sausage rolls, absolutely laden with a well-flavoured filling, is easy to make at a fraction of the cost of buying them!
If using good quality bought pastry, they can be made and ready to eat in about 45 minutes from start to finish. Even going at the most sedate of paces.
The filling is the star……..
This recipe is a slight variation of a recipe used by my gran who would add little extras to the meat depending on what she had to hand. Despite ringing the changes from time to time over years, the inclusion of onion, apple, some mature cheese and whatever pickle/chutney comes to hand remains constant and elevates the sausage rolls to something altogether more interesting and certainly packed with flavour.
As the cheese melts into the mixture during the bake, it gives a lovely tang without dominating the flavour of the meat: it acts more as a seasoning, but with an extra bit of welly, but it also means the filling cooks to a soft-set texture. The pickle and the apple works well with the richness of the cheese and the meat.
…but a great pastry is important!
Whilst a well-flavoured filling is crucial, the pastry still has to shine, and light, buttery and crisp is the way to go.
I usually make a quick rough-puff pastry, which gives enough of the lightness I seek in a sausage roll pastry, although I sometimes use bought all-butter puff pastry for speed. However, the bought puff pastry that is made with oil is best avoided: it has no flavour and I find it can carry a rather strange, claggy after-taste, so the all-butter pastry is the way to go.
Shortcrust pastry can be used but I think the particular lightness you get from a laminated pastry such as puff or rough-puff works best here.
Sausagemeat: quality is so important
It is crucial to go for the best quality sausagemeat (or skin any good quality sausages); sausagemeat with less than about 70% meat is best avoided and the less meaty sausages have a habit of oozing out too much fat and other “gunk” as the sausage rolls bake, resulting in an unpleasantly soggy affair.
You can, of course, make your own sausagemeat: roughly, it is belly pork, shoulder of pork and good quality streaky bacon (I often go for 2 parts, 2 parts, 1 part respectively), all minced up with some seasoning and a few fresh herbs such as thyme or sage.
Recipe: sausage rolls (makes about 36 small sausage rolls)
Rough-puff pastry (or use about 500g all-butter bought puff pastry):
- 250g strong plain flour
- 180g chilled unsalted butter, in small rough cubes
- 5g fine salt
- 2-3 teaspoons mustard powder or spices of choice (fennel powder, turmeric, ground pepper….)
- about 130-150ml cold water
- 500g very best quality sausagemeat (see my note above the recipe)
- 80g mature Cheddar cheese, grated (or use a hard cheese of choice: Lancashire is excellent, as is Wensleydale)
- 1 large onion, chopped very finely or blitzed in a food processor
- 1 medium cooking apple, peeled, cored and grated
- 2 tablespoons chutney or pickle, lightly crushed (almost any will do)
- 1-2 heaped teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme
- 1-2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh sage
- a little fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Dijon or English mustard
- egg, beaten with a little milk
NB: if you are using bought pastry, you can jump straight to step 4
(1) If making the pastry, mix the flour, mustard powder and salt in a bowl and stir in the butter pieces, coating them well with the flour. Add most of the cold water and stir to form a soft but not sticky dough, adding more if necessary. Ideally wrap the dough in clingfilm and then chill for about 30 minutes before proceeding but you can go straight to the next stage.
(2) Roll out the dough to a large, fairly thin rectangle and fold in three letter-style: you can gently stretch it to give a more perfect rectangle. Bring the bottom third up over the dough and bring the top third over this.
(3) Give a quarter turn and repeat the rolling and turning two more times, which will result in a smoother dough each time. Chill the dough for at least 30 minutes or freeze it at this stage. NB: if the dough is resisting when you roll it out, leave it on the work surface for 15 minutes or so to relax (or loosely roll it bakc up and chill it) before rolling further. Chill the dough for at least 30 minutes until you want to use it, or freeze it for later use.
(4) For the filling, mix together the sausagemeat, cheese, onion, apple, chutney, cheese, herbs and seasoning and set aside until you need to use this mixture. You can fry off a little of the mixture to check the seasoning and the overall flavours are as you like them.
(5) Roll the pastry out a little until it is a little thinner and then cut it into three lengthwise. Continue to roll out each piece to a long, thin rectangle (about 7cm or more wide). Cut these into manageable sizes so they fit on a chopping board. NB: You can simply roll out the whole piece of pastry but I prefer to do this in smaller pieces as I can then roll and cut on a large chopping board to about 45cm length, rather than cut onto the work surface.
(6) Spread a thin layer of mustard over the top of each piece of rolled-out pastry and mound the sausagemeat gently over the pastry, allowing for about 1cm pastry visible either side of the sausagemeat – as in the picture below. Trim the edges if you wish; the trimmings can be re-rolled and can be made into more sausage rolls is there is left-over sausagemeat.
(7) Brush one of the exposed pastry edges with the beaten egg and bring up the edges of each piece to make a roll, pinching together to form a seal at the top – if you feel it won’t surround the filling, either remove a little of the filling or gently stretch the pastry around it until it does surround it: it really does not matter either way! Turn the roll over so the seal is on the bottom.
(8) Brush the pastry with beaten egg and, with a sharp knife, cut into the desired size. Pop on a baking tray lined with greaseproof and rest in the fridge for about 20 minutes. During this time, preheat the oven to 190C(fan).NB: the resting is not essential but it does give a nicer flake.
(9) Score the tops lightly with a sharp knife or razor, or else leave them unscored. Bake for about 20-25 minutes until the pastry is nicely browned, and the sausagemeat filling is cooked. NB: Check the sausage rolls after about 15 minutes and turn the temperature down to about 170C if they seem to be browning too much.
Some of my other favourite flavours