They are a mainstay of almost every hamper pulled out at elevenses. Perfect finger food, along with a cup of bullshot they’ll keep feeling satisfied even on the coldest day. But what makes a good sausage roll? The tracksuit brigade in towns across the country are happy with a Greggs sausage roll; but we should be looking to push the boat out on a shoot day and really make these something special. They should be moist and meaty. To my mind they should also have a nice sweetness which balances the savouriness of good pork.
Good quality sausage-meat is a must. If you have a local butcher with access to Gloucester Old Spot you are onto a winner. Other county breeds may suffice, but I’m lucky enough to be based near the birthplace of the best meat pig in the world. Of course, there’s no reason why you couldn’t swap out the pork for some wild boar… One shoot we work with shoots three or four of these menaces a week! This would be a perfect way to use up some of that delicious meat.
Ingredients (makes approx. 16 sausage rolls, plus a sausage-meat ‘pancake’)
- 400-500g pack of sausage-meat
- 2 rashers of smoked bacon
- 2 red onions
- 5 tablespoons vinegar (balsamic/red wine)
- 5 tablespoons brown sugar
- 320g pack of pre-rolled puff pastry
- 2 glasses of sloe gin (one for the sausage rolls, one for the chef)
- herbs, nutmeg, salt, and pepper to season
Preparation Time: 20 mins — Baking Time: 20 mins
- Chop the smoked bacon into small pieces and begin frying in a pan along with the red onions, sliced. Once the onions have begun to soften add the vinegar and sugar and stir together. At this stage add a small glass of sloe gin (a shot or two equivalent). Reduce the heat and cook slowly for 5-10 mins to allow the onions to soften more and the vinegar/sugar to reduce into a sticky glaze. Set aside to cool.
- Blitz up some breadcrumbs (approximately a small mug’s worth). Some old baguette or stale crusty bread is ideal. The breadcrumbs will soak up the fat from the sausagemeat as the rolls cook. This has two amazing benefits – less mess to clean up, and you end up with a super succulent and moist meaty middle rather than soggy pastry.
- Mix the breadcrumbs and cooled onion mixture into the sausagemeat. I heartily recommend using your hands – it’s much quicker. Also throw in a teaspoon or two of sage and oregano and a couple of grates of nutmeg. Season well with salt and pepper. Now you have your filling.
- You want a strip of pastry about 20cm deep to make your sausage rolls. A pre-rolled sheet sliced down the middle length-ways should be just about right. Pre-rolled is perfectly acceptable – even proper chefs recommend it unless you have your own pastry chef.
- Spoon your sausage-meat mix onto your pastry as per the photo above. Shape it into a cylinder which runs the length of your pastry, slightly offset towards the front. By offsetting the meat to the front it makes the next step a lot easier…
- Brush some milk or a beaten egg (or water at a push) along the front edge of your pastry, then pull the back half over the meat and join along the front. Press together to ensure it sticks – I often use a fork for this, which also gives the benefit of a nice pattern.
- Chop your long sausage rolls into individual portions. If you have milk or egg, brush some on the top of the rolls to help them attain a lovely golden colour whilst cooking. Whack the sausage rolls on a baking tray (on baking paper, if you’re sensible) and bake for 20-25 minutes at 200ºC (fan). Any excess sausage-meat can be baked at the same time in an oven-proof dish.
NB. If you want to keep things simple, you can use pre-made caramelised onion sausages instead of making the mix yourself. Simply squeeze the meat out of the skins, add some breadcrumbs and a splash of balsamic vinegar. I use this cheat occasionally and the result is almost as delicious.
TOP TIP… If you have some to hand I would highly recommend adding a minced pigeon breast. This adds a nice richness and depth of flavour. Plus, let’s be honest, it’s always nice to add something from around the shoot to the mix.