Friday, June 5, 2009

When Gardening Makes You Hungry :: British Comfort Food

Did you know that pulling up a garden full of plants can make a girl hungry? And when it does, there's nothing like some good old-fashioned comfort food to put a smile on your face and an extra fat roll on your bum.

I've been craving real English Sausage Rolls and decided to whip up a batch last night. I'm so glad I did. They're so close to the "real" thing that they're a perfect stand in when I want the taste of home. You can use fresh sage from your garden in the recipe if you want a really authentic taste to it. I have killed two sage plants in my garden and am determined to get one to grow at some point because sage is such a staple in many British recipes. Sage is a member of the mint family and since I have a mint bush the size of Godzilla I feel like I should be able to grow sage. Nevertheless, you can use dried sage if you want, or if you're a complete freak of nature, you can always omit the sage completely.

I thought I'd share this sausage rolls recipe because I think British food gets a bad rap. Anyone that balks at British food has never been to a village pub for a good pub lunch or savored a hand-made Scotch Egg, Cornish Pasty or Yorkshire pudding smothered in gravy. Real British food is some of the best-tasting food in the world and I'm determined that my boys will grow up with a taste for some of the classics.

On to the recipe. It's not-quite authentic because I don't make my pastry from scratch. However, I'm on a mission to find a good pastry recipe that's slightly healthier than the one in my 1972 Edition of the Yorkshire Women's Institute Cookbook, which seems to insist on a lot of lard in all of its pastry recipes. Until then, it's store-bought. But it'll do.

Almost-authentic British Sausage Rolls

:: 1 roll of pork sausage. I use Jimmy Dean Sage-flavored Pork Sausage.
:: 1 box of puff pastry. I'm partial to Pepperidge Farm.
:: A bunch of good-sized breadcrumbs. You don't want the little tiny ones - you want Panko sized breadcrumbs. You can also buy some Sage and Onion dry stuffing cubes and bash them up with a rolling pin if you want. I used Panko breadcrumbs this time around.
:: One beaten egg.
:: Some sage (dried or fresh) Freaks of nature can leave this out.

Thaw your puff pastry according to directions. It unfolds along two folds so it will look like you have three large rectangles per sheet. Use a pizza cutter to cut along the folds so you end up with 6 long rectangles of puff pastry.

Mix your pork-sausage in a bowl with a heaping amount of breadcrumbs. I'm not sure exactly how many breadcrumbs you want, but it's a good amount. It's about 3/4 cup, I'd say. My mom, who is one of the finest British cooks around, says that you want enough breadcrumbs so that the sausage isn't tough, but soft when bitten into, and enough to soak up any grease so you don't end up with greasy rolls. Sprinkle on some fresh or dried sage to taste and mix it in too. Sage has a strong flavor, so if you're not a huge sage fan, keep it light.

Grab one rectangle of pastry and lay it out in front of you. Get a handful of pork sausage and shape it into a long log o' pork in the middle of the pastry. It should go from end to end right down the middle of the pastry. You want about the circumference of a good sized hot dog.

Use a pastry brush to paint a line of egg down the bottom size of the pastry.

Get the top edge and fold it over the bottom side and sort of roll it. It should just barely overlap. Get your fingers and sort of smush it together a tiny bit so it looks like one long roll of pastry. The egg will seal it so don't get overzealous here.

Cut the sausage roll into thirds, or if you want bite-sized rolls for appetizers, you can always cut them smaller. I like to get three out of one of the rectangles.

With your fingers pinch the ends together a bit. It's fine if you still see sausage poking out of the ends. Then get a knife or your pizza cutter and make three slight angled cuts in the top of the pastry.

Repeat with all the other rectangles of pastry. You'll end up with about 18 sausage rolls if you cut them into thirds. Brush the tops of all of them with the remaining egg.

Put them on a cookie sheet and bung 'em in the oven on 400 for about 20 minutes. You want the tops a nice golden brown.

They are simply delicious and a huge huge hit around here. They're even good cold the next day for lunch. Farmer B has one (or two) in his lunchbox today as a matter of fact. I ate mine with mushy peas, but I don't expect many Americans are willing to take the mushy-peas-smothered-in-vinegar plunge with me.

But you should at least try the sausage rolls so you can experience some real British comfort food and find a good use for that sage you have growing in your garden.

**I should add that before cooking you can freeze these on a tray then pop them into freezer baggies or containers. Just thaw overnight and cook as normal and they're a quick and delicious treat!


Kelly said...

Tell me more about the mushy pea and vinegar thing, I am intrigued...and now I am hungry for sausage rolls, it is a cold and rainy day here in Massachusetts.

Kate and Crew said...

Kelly - I left some leek growing tips for you on that "remnants" thread...

Soo...mushy peas. They're unique to England as far as I can tell and it's pretty much mashed up Marrowfat Peas that are about the consistency of porridge. I think people started putting vinegar on them for several reasons:

1) They're often served with fish and chips and the Brit's LOVE to put vinegar on fish and chips, so it only makes sense some would get on the pease.

2) The British put vinegar on almost anything. LOL.

I'll admit to only liking them with a good splash of vinegar on top. My dad always served them when we made fish and chips. It's like having garlic bread with pasta... it's just meant to be there. Here are some sites for you to peek at:

They sell them canned and I'll admit to taking the shortcut and eating some canned mushy peas with my dinner last night. The boys don't like them and Farmer B was at work, so it was much easier to pop open a can and heat them up. I buy them in the British section of our grocery store.

Hope this gives you a good mushy pea education!

Erin said...

Yum! I will pass on the mushy peas, but I think I will make those the day our home brew is ready to sample! I am a sucker for pub fare, and am Irish so I am down with the English food as well...people underestimate both cuisines! thanx for the detailed recipie!

Engineeredgarden said...

Mushy peas? Is that kinda like mashed taters???? Ha! Oh...I don't know if I can eat green peas (mashed) with vinegar on top. The sausage roll isn't a problem, though! Thanks for the recipe...

PS - I don't know about the other readers, but I would love to see a post or two about your upbringing in Great Britain, how life was there, and things you miss the most.

Melissa said...

I'd love to hear your story too. How did you end of in the US? I lived 17 years in New Zealand with my NZ hubby - it's a long way from England, but there are many similarities. Oh, sausage rolls - delish! We've never done the mushy peas though - might have to try it.

Cheryl said...

The sausage rolls look soooo good. I like Jimmy Dean's sausage too. They're less greasy than others I've tried.

I like split pea soup with a thicker consistency. Do Marrowfat peas taste anything like that?

James A-S said...

I warms my heart to see that good old British lard based/high cholestrol cooking is thriving even in the humidity and sunshine of Florida.
Mushy peas are one of those things that, in theory really shouldn't work but - provided you get a good batch from somewhere where they care - are actually delicious.
We have lots of things like that in Britain: eg Haggis, Pork pies, Lardy cake, Toad-in-the-Hole, Bubble and Squeak etc

Sue said...

I myself will pass on the sausage, but can I make the mushy peas from a can of regular peas?

I have made one of those on your list, but my memory is so bad, that I forgot already.

Elizabeth said...

I found this post as I was searcing the internet for an authetic Britsh sausage rolls recipe. I actually made this exact recipe last night (from a recipe found on another site). They were ok but did not taste the way I remember true sausage rolls tasting. Its the Jimmy Dean sausage--it just didn't taste like the sausage in England. Also I think your mother had a good point about the bread crumbs. I didn't use enough bread crumbs and the meat was not soft, but rather crumbly. What are your thoughts about the sausage in the US compared to British sausage? Do you think they are at all similar?

Kate and Crew said...

Elizabeth - No, US sausage and UK sausage don't taste the same to me. I've found that adding a bit of sage helps get a more authentic taste. Also, most Americans seem to associate sausage with breakfast or with a spicey italian flavor. I have some british friends who have the butcher in the local supermarket grind up a combination of meats to get close to the UK sausage version.

Adding plenty of Panko breadcrumbs can really help though! I've made these for plenty of British family members and they all say they're very very close to the real deal.

Good luck!

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