I won’t bore you with excuses about why I haven’t written in so long. There’s no excuse! But I couldn’t let the festive season slip by without a mention of one of my favourite treats, and what is fast becoming a Christmas tradition in our household.
I suppose I should mention that baby number 2 is on the way, and due to arrive in May 2019, and now that I am over the early pregnancy joys of any-time-of-the-day sickness, I cannot stop thinking about hot, tasty sausage rolls. I have perused the offerings of the local delis but none of them come close to the goodness of a homemade sausage roll, still warm from the oven.
Growing up in our house, sausage rolls were always a staple breakfast food at Christmas, along with clementines, mince pies and something from your selection box. As an adult it is something I have tried to continue with my own family, although with my own modifications. While it is time consuming, it is relatively straightforward (and dare I say, foolproof) to make your own sausage rolls, and so worth the time and effort.
I will give you 3 tips to help you on your way. First, use shop-bought puff pastry. This is not the Great British Bake Off. You will not be rewarded for slaving over your own puff pastry. And it’s Christmas. You have a billion other things to do. Shop-bought pastry is perfect.
Number 2, my mother always used cocktail sausages but I prefer to use sausage meat so I can add different flavours and accompaniments to it. Sausage meat is readily available at this time of year as so many people use it to stuff their turkeys. Most supermarkets sell rolls of sausage meat for around €2. However, if you can’t find sausage meat you can use regular sausages. A very helpful butcher in FX Buckley’s once told me, if you drop the sausages into a bowl of cold water for a few minutes, the skins will slide right off them and you’ll be left with the meat inside. Works like a charm.
Tip number 3: don’t be afraid to experiment with different flavours. Once you have your pastry rolled up nice and tight to avoid any leaks, there is very little that can go wrong, so try to add flavours that have a particular Christmas meaning for you. Some flavour combinations I have tried in the past are leek and apple, red pepper, onion and chilli, sage and cranberry sauce, and smoked paprika and garlic (which turns out to be a bit like chorizo and is always a big hit!). If you do decide to add fruits or vegetables just remember to cook them first as the baking time in the oven won’t be enough to soften them. Sweat them in a little butter or oil until they are soft but not coloured.
Below is my guide to making your own sausage rolls. It’s a good one to get the children involved in so just put on some Christmas music, have fun, and don’t worry too much – you’ll soon have some delicious savoury treats to enjoy.
Ingredients (makes about 18 bite-size sausage rolls)
1 roll ready-rolled puff pastry
1 roll sausage meat (usually 454g)
1 bag of fresh breadcrumbs (200g)
1 egg, beaten
Sesame or poppy seeds for decoration, optional
1. Pre-heat your oven to 180⁰C.
2. In a large bowl place your sausage meat and breadcrumbs and any additional ingredients you want to add. If you are adding some cooked vegetables or fruit like leeks, peppers, onions or apples, make sure they are cold enough to handle and remember, less is more! This is also the time to add any dried herbs like sage or thyme, garlic or smoked paprika.
3. Get your hands into the bowl and mix everything together very well. If your sausage meat is at room temperature before you start your hands won’t freeze!
4. Next, take out your pastry and place it on a lightly floured surface. I like to roll my pastry out a little thinner so that my meat to pastry ratio leans more towards the meat. Take care not to make it too thin though.
5. Using a knife, gently score along the pastry to divide it into 3 columns. This will give you 3 long sausage rolls.
6. Take a good handful of the sausage mixture and roll it into a long snake (or sausage!) shape. Leaving a 1cm gap along the outside edge, place the sausage on one side of the first column making sure it is an even thickness throughout and comes right to each end. If you want to add sauce (cranberry, tomato or barbecue are all good options) spread this thinly along the side of the sausage remembering that less is more and leaks are to be avoided!
7. Cut the pastry along the scored line and fold the pastry over the sausage, bringing it right to the edge. Puff pastry is usually pretty stretchy so don’t be afraid to pull it right to the edge. Use a fork to crimp and seal the edges firmly. Brush the beaten egg lightly all over the pastry and sprinkle with seeds if using.
8. Using a sharp knife, slice across the pastry at regular intervals, dividing the sausage roll into about 6 sections. This allows the steam to escape and also makes it easier to cut the sausage roll into portions once cooked.
9. Repeat this process to fill all the pastry. (Don’t worry if you have some sausage meat left. You can shape it into little patties or rolls and bake it in the oven, which will make some delicious sandwiches.)
10. Line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper and place your long sausage rolls onto it. Put them in the oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes until the pastry is cooked through, puffed up and golden all over.
11. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before cutting into portions. These will keep well in an airtight container for up to 1 week. For best results, warm in the oven before serving.
Enjoy! Have a wonderful Christmas and I'll see you in the New Year!