I am the person who avoids the sausage rolls at parties, at least the cold mass produced variety. I have never been able to work up much enthusiasm for them. However, a freshly home baked sausage roll – or plait, which is just a larger version of the same item – can be delicious. There are some rules which I feel must be obeyed for the best results. First, buy good quality sausagemeat. If your butcher or supermarket sells the type that they put in their best quality sausages, all the better. I never buy the value brand and skimp on meat products. They usually contain a lesser quality product. I would rather have a small amount of good quality meat than lots of a lesser grade. Around Christmas, at least one supermarket makes a type which is a combination of pork sausagement with chestnut, which would be delicious, although I would be careful not to mask the flavour of the nuts with a strong flavoured chutney, in fact would probably leave it out altogether. My second rule is simpler: unless you really must make it yourself, please go ahead and cheat by buying a pack of ready made puff pastry from the supermarket. It’s one little thing that makes life so much easier, especially if you are mass catering for an occasion. Part packs of pastry can easily be frozen, but need to be fully defrosted before use.
Some time ago I was watching chef Peter Sidwell in a cooking programe based in the English Lake District: Lakes on a Plate. One particular recipe, for Sausage Rolls, used home made Fennel & Apple Chutney which I made some time ago. I opted for a sausage plait, as a quickly made weekday meal, but I like the idea of making larger individual portion rolls or even bite sized ones for a buffet, as in the original instructions. Simply roll the pastry into long thin rectangles before filling and cutting into the size required. I am sure that this plait – or the rolls – would be equally good made with other chutneys. Try Tomato Relish, Beetroot Chutney or, for a spicy version, Indian Lime Pickle or around Christmas try spicy Christmas Chutney. Leftover plait is delicious eaten cold the next day and ideal in a packed lunch, in place of the usual boring sandwich. On New Year’s Day I am feeding the extended family (there will be ten of us) and I am planning to serve slices of Sausagemeat & Fennel Chutney Plait as an ‘extra’ alongside the Roast Pork we will be eating. Any leftovers can be eaten at tea time on the cold buffet.
Readers might also be interested in the sausage roll ideas at The Evening Hérault. Fennel seeds are suggested there too as a flavouring plus using marmalade in place of chutney. Another good use for that home made chunky Seville Marmalade: I expect Ginger Marmalade would be good too!
250g packet puff pastry
a little flour (plain or self-raising) for rolling out – just a few tbsp
500g good quality sausagemeat, Cumberland if possible (original recipe)
1 egg, cracked & lightly whisked
1 tbsp fennel seeds (choose another topping for a different chutney if you wish)
2tbsp Fennel & Apple Chutney (or another chutney/relish of your choice)
1. Preheat oven to 190oC/370oF/Gas 5.
2. Roll the puff pastry into a long rectangle on a floured surface. Spoon the chutney evenly in a line lengthways along the centre third of the pastry, but do not take right to each end.
3. The sausagement should be almost the same length as the pastry – about 2cm/1inch shorter lengthwise to allow for tucking in. It will help to roll the sausagement into a sausage shape, if it has not been bought like this. If it needs to be shaped or made longer use a little flour on the surface and on your hands to stop it from sticking, though try to keep this extra flour to a minimum. Place on top of the chutney, lengthways along the central third of the pastry.
4. For a plait, score 2cm/1inch lines from the centre to the outside edges of the pastry at right angles to the sausagement, giving an equal number of strips on each side.
5. Start the plait by folding one end of the pastry over the sausagemeat. Lift the first pastry strip on the left side. Gently place it slightly diagonally across the filling making sure it also overlaps the end fold. Take a strip from the right side and cross the meat from the other direction, overlapping slightly the previous strip from the left. Continue like this, alternating sides and making sure each strip slightly overlaps the one that has gone before, until all but the final two strips are folded over. Either tuck up the end pastry before overlapping the final two strips or, if you prefer, when all the strips are folded tuck the end of the pastry neatly underneath. There should be as few gaps in the pastry as possible but there will be some which will act as vents for the steam. (If this all seems too complicated then fold up both ends of the pastry as a seal. Then draw up the sides of the pastry and fold over, or pinch together to make a decorative finish along the length of the sausage. Add few diagonal slits as vents if using this second method.)
6. Flour a sufficiently long tin for the plait or roll and gently lift it on. Carefully paint the entire roll with either beaten egg or milk. Sprinkle generously with fennel seeds. If fennel seeds are not available, or an alternative chutney is used then another seed could be substituted: for example sesame, linseed, black or white poppy. The flavour of kalonji seed (nigella), available from ethnic grocery stores, whilst not spicy in itself, would complement a spicy or Indian style chutney.
7. Bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes, or until golden brown. A thicker shorter sausage plait will take longer to cook than a longer thinner one, and it is very important that pork sausagement is thoroughly cooked before eating.