Whenever I ask the Other Penguin what he’d like me to cook, he wants things he can take to work for lunch. Whenever I think about cooking, I want to bake. Combining practicality and... escapism can be a tricky balancing act. It tends to involve making three different things in one evening, and then crashing in a heap. A bit like having eyes bigger than your stomach (which is something that could do with a term to describe it, other than workaholic perfectionist).
The combination of a shiny new food processor (a Christmas present from the trifle-eating cat’s mum and dad) and a hopeful-sounding passing remark from the Other Penguin presented a perfect middle-ground. Sausage rolls. Baking that you can take for lunch.
A long time ago, I found a good recipe for lamb and harissa sausage rolls in Gourmet Traveller, which I thought I’d give another try. Rather than use bought puff pastry, I decided to test out a new shortcrust pastry recipe (also from Gourmet Traveller). The speed with which the finished product was snaffled, still steaming, from the baking tray and made its way to a plate suggests they turned out quite well, and will be getting added to the regular repertoire, although with a few more tweaks.
1 egg yolk
500 g lamb, minced
2 tbsp (small handful) parsley
¼ cup walnuts (the original recipe uses pine nuts and, while this works well, I went with walnuts... because it was what was in the cupboard... and I couldn’t think what else to do with them!)
¼ cup currants
1¼ tbsp harissa (depending on how spicy you like your sausage rolls, this could be increased – I was keeping the chilli kick in these low)
½ tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp sesame seeds
Pepper (and salt, if you want it) to taste
1 egg, beaten
What you do
Start out by making the pastry, as it needs to chill for quite a while.
1. Place the flour and the roughly chopped (cold) butter in the bowl of a food processor, and pulse until the mixture resembles uneven breadcrumbs (leaving a few small lumps gives the pastry a flakier, buttery texture and makes it less likely you’ll over-process it... very tempting, when breaking in a shiny new kitchen gadget!).
2. Add the egg yolk to the butter and flour mixture and pulse until barely combined. Then add cold water, half a tablespoon at a time, until the mixture just comes together. The original recipe suggests 3-4 tablespoons may be required; I found 1½ was quite enough (and possibly less would’ve done, in retrospect). It probably depends how big your eggs are (I use 60 gram eggs, the largest you can get).
3. Shape the dough into a rough disc (kneading it very gently if required to get it into that form – mine didn’t need this doing), wrap in cling film and refrigerate for at least an hour. The original recipe requires 2-3 hours refrigeration – I gave mind about 1½ and it was fine.
While the pastry’s cooling, make the filling for the sausage rolls (if you do it at the beginning, the flavours have time to amalgamate, and there’ll still be time to make a quick dinner, a batch of something small or do something purposeful and not-too-distracting before the pastry’s rested. Or follow the lead of the pastry and... rest).
4. Finely chop the onion, parsley and walnuts (or whizz them in the food processor – it’s already going to need a wash so you might as well be a bit lazy after making pastry from scratch!).
5. Put the lamb in a large mixing bowl with the onion, parsley and walnuts and add the currants, harissa, cumin, sesame seeds and salt and pepper. According to the recipe, the sesame seeds are to go on the rolls, not in them, but as I put sesame seeds in home-made burgers, and also prefer the pastry to be un-sprinkled-on (there’s just something appealing, in taste, texture and appearance, about an expanse of golden glazed pastry), in they went.
6. Mix well and refrigerate until the pastry’s ready.
To assemble the sausage rolls
7. Preheat oven to 180C.
8. On a lightly floured surface (or some barely-floured-at-all baking paper – my new trick for rolling pastry), roll the pastry out to a rectangle about 3 millimetres thick.
9. Down the short side of the pastry (it makes sense to start on the left if you’re right-handed), at the very edge, place a long sausage of the lamb mixture (the amount to put on will depend on how fat you like the rolls to end up – I did an amount just under 3 cm wide).
10. Roll the end of the pastry over so that it wraps up the lamb mixture. Brush the line where the pastry will join with some lightly beaten egg to help it stick. Cut the sausage roll from the remaining pastry (as one long roll), and cut into smaller lengths (about 4 cm long works well for mini sausage rolls, or 10 cm for something a bit more substantial). Repeat the process with the remaining lamb mixture and pastry*.
11. Place the sausage rolls on a baking tray lined with a sheet of non-stick paper, and brush them lightly with the beaten egg. Bake for around 20 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through.
* With these quantities, I ended up with about 20 4-cm-long sausage rolls, plus enough lamb mixture left over to make a couple of small rissoles (also handy for lunches).
What I’d do next time
Arguably, I mightn’t need to change anything next time I make these, as they’ve been disappearing from the fridge faster than anything else has in a while. Clearly I should just bake more savoury things!
But I’d be tempted to try buying cuts of meat and making my own mince, as pre-bought lamb mince is quite a bit fattier than home-made mince (quite a bit of this cooks out during baking, so they don’t taste too greasy unless you particularly prefer the taste and texture of leaner meat (as I do).
The shortcrust pastry recipe produced a lovely golden finish, and was crisp (but not too hard) and buttery. I’m more used to pastries that use half fat to flour, and the higher amount of butter in the recipe was something I was a bit wary of when trying it. It would go well with a lighter-tasting filling (perhaps a fruit pie or a savoury tart), but combined with the lamb, I found the overall taste a little too rich, and prefer a slightly flakier consistency (although I should try it again before passing judgment, in case I got a bit trigger-happy with the excitement of the new food processor!).
If you're looking for something new to take for lunch for some added variety, these sausage rolls are worth a try. If you have some favourite make-ahead weekday lunch recipes, I'd love to hear about them...