Sausage Rolls are treats in England and I make some for Dan every year, sometimes for Boxing Day and sometimes for his birthday. I have tried and tried to make good sausage rolls, handicapped by never having actually eaten one on its home turf. For several years I labored over the New York Times version which involves making one’s own puff pastry. I finally abandoned my unrewarding efforts when I saw that one of Dan’s ex-pat friends brought sausage rolls clearly made from store-bought puff pastry. They were gobbled up with pleasure by all the Brits.
I found a recipe on RecipeTin Eats, an Australian food blog by Nagi, and adapted it to U.S. ingredients. It turned out well and thanks to Nagi, our Boxing Day sausage rolls were a big hit.
When I asked the Harris-Teeter butcher to grind some pork for this recipe, he laughed at such a ridiculous request and assured me they couldn’t possibly do that. Instead I found some store-brand sausage that looked as if it had no seasoning at all and used that. If you do use a mild sausage, omit the salt.
For the pastry
2 sheets Pepperidge Farm puff pastry (one 17.3-ounce package)
1 egg lightly whisked.
For the sausage filling
1 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 rib celery, finely chopped
5 ounces uncooked bacon, finely chopped (streaky and fatty, not the lean stuff!)
2 teaspoons whole fennel seeds, toasted (optional)
1 pound ground pork, not lean
3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon salt (omit if you use sausage instead of plain ground pork)
Remove puff pastry from freezer to thaw. Allow to sit out for no more than 20 minutes.
Heat oil in a nonstick fry pan over medium high heat. Sauté garlic, onion and celery for 2 minutes, then add bacon. Cook for a further 2 minutes (don’t brown) then transfer to bowl and allow to cool slightly.
Add remaining filling ingredients into the bowl. Use your hands to mix well.
Putting together the rolls
Open the puff pastry package and remove the folded sheets. The sheets are folded into thirds. Unfold the sheets so they are lying flat. Cut each of the two 10 x 10-inch sheet in half. Now you have four 5 x 10-inch sheets. If the sheets are almost broken where the folds are, go ahead and cut them there. If you cut them into thirds, you have twelve 5 x 3 1/3-inch sheets.
Lay out a 5 x 10 rectangle of pastry, long edge closest to you. Brush egg along one long edge. (If you have cut each half-sheet into thirds, brush the egg along one short edge.)
Shape a fourth of the filling into a long log down the middle of the pastry. (If you have cut each half-sheet into thirds, take a third of this log and put it on each third.) Ensure the meat is tight and compact, without gaps. Roll up, sealing on the edge with egg wash on it.
If you have time and patience, refrigerate for 1 hour to make it easier and neater to cut. (I have never had either time or patience.)
Preheat oven to 350F°.
If you didn’t cut the half-sheets into thirds, cut each log into four equal lengths, or just two if you want full-size sausage rolls. Brush with egg.
Place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper or sprayed with oil. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, turning the tray around halfway, or until the pastry is deep golden brown. Note: The filling will still look pink because of the bacon, but it’s easy to tell from texture that it’s cooked.
Cool on tray. Serve warm or at room temperature, with ketchup.
To toast fennel seeds, heat a small frying pan over medium heat and add fennel. Shake pan and toast for 1 – 2 minutes until you can smell the fragrance of the fennel seeds.
To make ahead: Best assembled, cut, then frozen unbaked. Place in an airtight container in single layers with parchment paper between each layer. Brush with egg. Freeze. When ready to eat, bake for 40 minutes.