It was Chris Evans’ fault really. I happened to catch the tail end of an interview with, er someone (I missed the intro), about butter. English, single origin – i.e. not blended – pure and perfect butter. I’d not heard this phrase used before in the context of butter; chocolate, coffee, wine – yes, but not butter. I can only guess that the interviewee was from a dairy company, or smaller scale farm, that produced said product, but in any event my interest wasn’t really piqued until the topic turned to the question of ‘How do you like to eat butter?’.
This prompted a barrage of responses from ‘the general public’ and Oh My, I couldn’t stop thinking about it all day. (This might be a slight exaggeration, but you get my drift.) Responses ranged from risotto and porridge, to thickly spread in a bacon sarnie. Butter’s best friend is basically a comforting form of carb – be it a hot crumpet, crunchy toast, teacake, hot cross bun…someone even claimed to enjoy it on a ginger biscuit which was a bit bizarre, but each to their own.
It got me thinking about flaky buttery pastry. Freshly made, warm crisp and melting…preferably with some form of pig inside…
I love to eat sausage rolls at Christmas and have used Delia Smith’s recipe several times because the pastry is just perfect and so easy!
But it’s ingrained in my head as a Christmas treat and, much like the delectable crepe that I promise faithfully every February to make throughout the whole year and not just on pancake day, I never think to do so.
Fortunately, this ludicrous state of affairs has now been remedied and all by the simple act of Making Sausage Rolls. I feel I have unlocked a door: I can breathe a sigh of relief and continue my life completely unhindered by unconscious limiting beliefs. It wasn’t so difficult actually. The most important step is just admitting the problem – the rest is easy!
…mince pie anyone?
Naturally, I’ve been inspired to lighten up the filling a bit and spring onions are the perfect inclusion for this. Spring onions, in turn, go hand in hand with my favourite Asian ingredients of ginger, garlic and soy sauce (for the salty kick). I wanted to play these flavours off a lighter meat so chose chicken thigh, mixed with just a little sausage meat for added fat and texture.
I also wanted to incorporate a barbecue element…after all, it is the season for them, so made a second filling of char siu pork and prawn. The light spicy note of spring onions works so well with both fillings – they truly are the un-sung hero of the veg world. I use them a lot, both in cooking and raw in salads; versatile is their middle name…I shall call them Spring Versatile Onions!
Delia makes her pastry first and then whips up her sausage filling while the dough is resting. I prefer to make the fillings first and keep them in the fridge until needed. Everyone’s taste it different so I like to cook a little mouthful of each filling quickly in a frying pan, to check for seasoning – if you under season you’ll have a lackluster result and your efforts will have been wasted somewhat. Sad story, huh. So heed my cautionary tale and do it my way 😉 (You can enjoy a nice coffee while the dough rests instead.)
Cooks note: I made my own char siu sauce from a recipe adapted from Rasa Malaysia, because I have all the ingredients to hand and it’s easy to do: just a case of mixing them together and heating them through for a few minutes. However, I believe you can easily buy a pre-made jar of Chinese barbecue sauce, or Char Siu sauce, from any large supermarket. The recipe below, however, makes the exact amount you’ll need for the sausage rolls – about half a cup.
Similarly, the very essence of home made sausage rolls is the buttery flaky pastry, and so I wanted to make my own, using good quality butter. As I mentioned, I used Delia’s recipe, but you can obviously use pre-bought all-butter puff pastry if you prefer.
Char Siu Sauce: Recipe adapted from Rasa Malaysia
- 1 1/2 tablespoons light muscovado sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons honey
- 1 1/2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
- 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine
- 3 dashes white pepper
- 1 tsp five-spice powder
- 1 tsp sesame oil
Quick Flaky Pastry: Recipe followed to the letter from Delia Smith’s Christmas
- 225g plain flour
- 175g unsalted good quality butter
- Pinch of salt
- Cold water (a small tea cup, or so)
Char Siu Pork and Prawn filling:
- 130g raw king prawns
- 160g good quality pork sausagemeat
- ½ cup of char siu sauce
- 3-4 large spring onions, finely sliced
- Garlic powder – a few dashes
- Salt and Pepper to taste
Chinese Chicken and Pork filling:
- 125g raw chicken thigh, skinned and de-boned
- 50g good quality pork sausagemeat
- 6cm length of root ginger
- 4 large spring onions, finely sliced
- 2-3 tbsp light soy sauce
- 2 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
- 2-3 tsp toasted sesame oil
- Garlic powder – few dashes
- ½ tsp caster sugar
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- 1 medium egg, beaten
- Sesame seeds to decorate
If you are making your own char siu sauce, simply combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan, mix thoroughly, then put on a medium heat and cook for a few minutes until it’s bubbled and thickened. It will continue to thicken as it cools so don’t go overboard. Remove from the heat and leave to one side to cool thoroughly. Or you can make the day before and leave in the fridge until you want to use it.
Measure out the butter for the pastry and wrap in some foil or greaseproof paper, then pop it in the freezer until you begin making the pastry.
To make the char siu pork and prawn filling, finely chop the prawns and add to a mixing bowl. Season with a little salt and pepper and stir briefly.
Add the remaining ingredients and give it a good mix until it’s combined. At this point you can fry a teaspoonful of the mixture to check the seasoning. Adjust if necessary.
To make the Chinese chicken and pork filling, begin by removing as much of the fat and sinew from the chicken meat as possible. Cut it into small dice and pop in a food processor with a tiny pinch of salt and a tablespoon of shaoxing rice wine.
Grind the meat well, but leave a little texture so it’s not just pulp.
Add the chicken to a medium sized mixing bowl with the remaining ingredients and stir thoroughly. Once again, test the seasoning as above. You want quite an intense flavour as it will become somewhat muted against the pastry, creating a perfect balance.
Refrigerate the fillings until needed.
To make the pastry, begin by sifting the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl.
Remove the butter from the freezer. Unwrap the butter but keep the foil and use it to hold the end. Dip the butter into the flour then simply grate the butter into the bowl on top of the flour.
When it’s all grated, use a small palette knife or blunt knife to stir the butter flakes into the flour, making sure all the fat is well coated.
Add enough of the cold water to make a dough – approximately half a cup measure, but add it a little at a time so you don’t overdo it. Bring the dough together by hand then wrap it in a plastic bag (or clingfilm) and leave to rest in the ‘fridge for 30 minutes. Don’t overwork the dough, as you don’t want to melt the butter, but keep the grated flakes distinct. These will create the flakiness when cooked.
When you’re ready to assemble the sausage rolls pre-heat your oven to 220 deg (200 deg FAN). Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and roll into a rectangle. Try to get the dough as thin as possible – a couple of millimetres is good.
Cut the rectangle into 3 strips so that it’s easier to work with.
Take the filling mixtures and place them along the middle of each strip, as per the photos.
Press the tines of a fork along the edge of the pastry lengths and paint the beaten egg over the indentations. This will help the dough to adhere to itself.
Fold the pastry over and seal it to the other end, pressing firmly. Roll the pastry over so that the ‘join’ is underneath, then cut the length into two-inch sections.
Use scissors to cut three small ‘Vs’ into the top of the sausage roll, then brush with the remaining egg and sprinkle with a few sesame seeds.
Bake for 20-25 minutes (check after 20) then remove from the oven and leave to cool a little before inserting into face, as Nigella would say.
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